Panic hit the streets of Rome today, as thousands of Italians loitering in bistros for most of the afternoon, were shocked to learn that they have to wait more than two weeks, for the prospect of an Italian ever again becoming the next Successor of Saint Peter. Speculation continues as to whether this commotion was cause for the response by the Almighty Himself, that of a bolt of lightning striking the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, as first reported by Agence France-Presse ...
If the above sounds incredible to you, it's nothing compared to most of what you've heard or read in the last 48 hours. Speculation as to who the next pope will be is a favorite pastime of newsmakers and bookmakers around the world. At last report, there are 300 to 1 odds on Bono. That's right, the former singer of the Irish pop band U2 is a papabile (a contender for the papacy). It's come to that.
Actually, and in theory, any baptized and confirmed Catholic male can be elected pope, although he would first have to be ordained a deacon, priest, and bishop, all at the same time. In the case of a married man, he would have to separate from his wife, and she would have to enter seclusion, or a convent. (No, I'm not making this up. If history is any indication, that's what would most likely happen.)
Yes siree, Bob, that sounds incredible too, but for reasons stated above, the folks here at man with black hat are still way ahead of the pack at dear old Saint Blog's Parish.
our research assistant watched Fox News in utter disbelief, as they interviewed one of the newest fresh young faces in the Catholic blogosphere, who did not know that the skullcap worn by prelates is not a yarmulke, but a zucchetto. (I've been wondering for the longest time why that kid's always smiling in his pictures. Then I saw a photograph of his wife. That's gotta be it.) Others, from CMR to the Crescat, begin by appearing to be upset, that someone who is going to die eventually (which is not unusual, by the way) is one day not going to be the pope anymore. Maybe those of us who do this are just venting. Nothing wrong with that.
Or maybe we're just not reading between the lines.
Fortunately, the worst of times can bring out the best in a few of us. One example is Father Dwight Longenecker.
Now he surprises us again. Not for six hundred years has a pope stepped aside. He has done so quickly and unexpectedly. While his decision cannot have been sudden. The sudden effectiveness–he will be gone within a few weeks–is brilliant. There is scarcely time for the world’s cardinals to book their plane tickets–much less to be politicking and planning how to get the white soutane. The press has not had the chance to be picking papabile for months. The Vatican insiders have not had time to get “their man” in place.
Then there is a commentary by CNA reporter Louie Verrecchio, writing for RenewAmerica.com.
Mark my words: We will know what the immediate future holds for the Church based upon just one observation; namely, the liturgical mindset of Pope Benedict's successor.
This only makes sense, as “Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivandi.” (“The law of praying, the law of believing, the law of living.”) This has been on the forefront of Pope Benedict's agenda, and was among the many reasons for the restoration of the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite in the official worship of the Western church. But perhaps the most telling piece came from out of the wilderness, literally, in the form of a priest-hermit by the name of Father George David Byers.
Most of you Cardinals know what kind of hell went on during the last conclave. I was told by one who would know ...
... and you can believe him. This is not just about high drama for its own sake, but it is a big part of that to which Father Longenecker refers, which is about being “clever as snakes and meek as doves” (Matthew 10:16). When you've got "players" in any sort of palace intrigue, such as that which precedes a papal conclave, you basically have two kinds; you have poker players, and you have chess players. Most of the poseurs among the Sacred College of Cardinals are poker players. You can tell by the amount of face time they get on cable news channels. This is the least of many reasons why an American is extremely unlikely to ever be pope for the foreseeable future. (We'll get to the other one later.)
What you have, then, is a man who has spent nearly eight years, albeit with inexplicable moves (Levada, Müller, and so on), arranging his pieces, and waiting for the moment to call “checkmate!”
And that is NOT so inexplicable.
Something else we've noticed. Amidst the announcement that “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry ...” one high-priced know-it-all after another has been insisting that the Holy Father's health had nothing to do with his decision, which fails to explain his wearing a pacemaker. This was not something generally known, but which we here at mwbh have suspected for some time, just by watching him. (Yeah, we're that good.)
Once the call of "Extra omnes!" ("Everybody out!") is proclaimed, and the doors close behind the princes of Mother Church for them to choose amongst themselves, anything can happen, and already has. That said, the next Servant of the Servants of God will more likely than not fulfill at three criteria:
1. He will not be much over sixty years old. If you look at the list of popes over the last one hundred years, they more of less alternate between popes with short tenures and those with long ones. John XXIII reigned for only five years, while Paul VI was Vicar of Christ for fifteen years. John Paul I followed as pope for just over a month, while John Paul II was one of the longest reigning popes in history (26 1/2 years, second only to Pius IX, who reigned for 31 1/2 years in the mid- and late-19th century). The tenure of Benedict XVI will have been relatively short, at just under eight years. So the next one would most likely be expected to sit in the Chair of Peter for a long time. This is easier when you start out younger, which makes sense, don't you think? (Or don't you?)
2. He will come from a land near or below the equator. The era of European chauvinism (or specifically, Italian) is coming to an end, as the Sacred College becomes more representative of the planet as a whole, and the majority of the world Catholics now live in the Southern Hemisphere. We had already begun to explain the unlikelihood of an American pope. The other reason is that, to many in Rome, and to Catholics around the world, the perception is that Americans think everything is about them. For this reason alone, regardless of where you hear or read it, any pundit who suggests that an American is a contender is wasting your time, and if that isn't bad enough, probably getting paid for it.
3. He will be both theologically and liturgically in continuity with his predecessor. As Bob Dylan once wrote, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” A tired generation of aging adolescents who promoted "the spirit of Vatican II" while barely reading its documents is witnessing their last hurrah. No one with the sense that the good Lord gave a duck -- of course, as we all know, the good Lord didn't give a duck a whole lot of sense -- will attach their legacy to a falling star. Many of the "chess pieces" in the next conclave know how they got there, and will not view it lightly.
You will notice that we have failed to mention any names among the red hats. No, no, dear reader, we're way too smart to fall for that old trick. We would just as soon have fun and games with the Prophecies of Saint Malachy. Meanwhile, a Vatican spokesperson says Pope Benedict XVI will be moving to a monastery on the grounds of the Vatican when he resigns. He'll also get a new title once his resignation takes effect on the 28th of February -- the fifth anniversary of the death of his dear friend, Dom Gérard Calvet, OSB, founding abbot of Sainte Madeleine du Barroux Abbey in Le Barroux, France.
Or so we are told.