by Anura Guruge
Papal election dynamics — the unsaid and even subliminal factors, Nov. 1, 2010 post (updated Nov. 9).
Dec. 11, 2008 post stating that the next pope is unlikely to be from the USA.
December 2008 papabili list prepared for ‘The Next Pope‘ book.
Oct. 25, 2010 papabili list by a U.S. Knights of Columbus member.
Ever since I started trying to predict papabili in 2008, I have been consistently adamant that it is extremely unlikely that the next pope will be from the U.S.A.
This has nothing to do personally with any of the US prelates, in particular the cardinals — with possible exceptions, however, in the case of Cardinal O’Malley with his beard and Cardinal Law who tried to skirt the law. [I have written separately about the issue with Cardinal O'Malley's beard, given it has now been 300 years since we have had a pope with a beard.] Ironically, it is not even the far-reaching, yet simmering US clergy scandal that is the real impediment when it comes to talking about potential papabili from the US.
It has all to do with the US being the world’s only superpower. PERIOD.
Having a pope from America is seen as been tantamount to having a ‘White House in Rome’. And that does not sit well with many Europeans, let alone the rest.
Post 9-11, the US has, justifiably, been super-cop to the world. Suffice to say that during this period there has been more than once instance when there were disagreements and contretemps with one of more of the major European nations. Just try to imagine how those scenarios would have worked if the pope had been American. Most gently put, there would have been an inescapable added layer of tension. There would have been suspicion and skepticism in any and all scenarios. There would be trepidation among leaders of the nations with large Catholic populations. Catholics themselves would feel unsure. Even if he was the most pious of souls, a pope from America would never be able to avoid doubts as to his impartiality. Most simply put, it is a fear of a conflict of interest — with the US’ sphere of influence been so pervasive and powerful.
Now, you also need to factor in the laws of papal elections and the ‘hidden’ dynamics of them that I point out in this post. Basically, the electors have total anonymity, and one-third of the electorate (41 if there is a full-house of 120 electors at the conclave), voting in absolute secrecy, can always, without exception, preclude a candidate from being elected — irrespective of how long it drags out. It is also an one-elector, one-vote ‘popular vote’ election with no bloc votes, formulas or vote allocations.
[John Paul II (#265) in his 1996 Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, enabled a absolute majority to be used to elect the pope following 33 or 34 inconclusive rounds of balloting. 25 months into his papacy Benedict XVI (#266), in June 2007, changed the absolute majority back to the two-thirds majority.]
In my experience, it is only Americans (and even then, Americans who have not had much experience overseas), that put forward American prelates at papabili. They somehow do not seem to appreciate the difficulty in getting a two-third majority win (which is even greater than what is required to get a 60-40 filibuster-proof motion through the US Senate). In 1984, Ronald Regan became president by a ‘landslide.’ But, in terms of the popular vote he only got 59% of the votes cast around the country. On that margin he could not have become pope. You need a 67% of the votes cast by the cardinal electors to become pope — and that is the problem with trying to get an American elected pope. The bar is high. Barack Obama is also considered to have prevailed over his nemesis John McCain by a healthy, even heady, margin. But in terms of the popular vote he only got 53%.
Now we can start counting votes. But, we need keep in mind the ebb-and-tide of global politics, the Middle East, the 3rd-world debt, global warming, immigration policies, trade wars and even slights such as jokes about the resoluteness of the French and attempts to call ‘French Fries,’ ‘Freedom Fries.’ Why? Because after the November 20, 2010 consistory, France will have 5 electors, Germany 6, Italy 25, Spain 5 and Portugal 2. So these five European countries alone have 43 votes. Lets us say that only half of these European cardinals decide to vote against a US pope. That, rounded down, is 21 votes. But, as I will explain shortly, saying only half will vote against an American candidate is a fallacy.
You now only need another 20 to block a US candidate. Venezuela has one vote, as does Cuba. So we are down to 18. Africa has 12 votes. Asia 10. Again, let us say, only half vote against a US candidate. That is 11. Only 7 more required. Mexico has 4, Brazil has 5, Poland has 3, Ukraine has 1, Latvia has one.
Now, for the absolute kicker. That John Paul II was against communism goes without saying. That he was a committed conservative is well known. What many may not have appreciated was that he was also passionately against ‘consumerism’ [i.e., reckless consumption by the 'rich' at the expense of the poor]. His own life experience in Poland may have had a lasting influence on his views on this. When it came to anti-consumerism, the pope say the U.S.A., the richest nation in the world, as the worst culprit. It is claimed that he said: “America’s poor compared to the rest of the world lives very rich.” Folks like Andrew Greeley, the pseudo-priest who has spent 30 years watching the popes, now believe that when it came to creating cardinals, John Paul II looked for those who were conservative (naturally) AND shared his anti-USA feelings based on consumerism. Once Cardinal Pujats turns 80 on Nov. 14, 2010, 35 of the European cardinal electors would still be the creations of John Paul II. Per Greeley, most of these, deep down at least, harbor anti-USA sentiment! The bottom line is that it is not hard to work out how there will be at least 41 votes against any American hopeful.
Marc Ouellet of Canada, #3 in my 2008 papabili list, is the one that benefits the most from the probable in-electability of an American candidate. As a Canadian he enjoys the best of all worlds when it comes to global politics. He can be a token-American by proximity without actually being American. But, we should also not forget that Marc Ouellet had quite a lot more going for him — even prior to his recent, high profile posting as the Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops. Ouellet, who has worked with the current pope for over 20 years, is like John Paul II and Benedict XVI an unashamed conservative. But that is also true of at least 65% of the cardinal electors. So that, though unappealing to many a Catholic, will not be an impediment come the next conclave. Hence, his #1 spot in the latest papabili list posted on this blog, i.e., October 25.
It is also possible that the next pope could be from Latin America.
Thus, the bottom line here is that the next pope definitely could be from the Americas, but not from America.
Thank you. Peace.