Handicapping the next pontiff
Lawrence Cunningham is a professor emeritus of theology at Notre Dame. He spoke to the Trib about possible successors to Pope Benedict XVI, who announced on Monday he is resigning effective Feb. 28.
Q: An Irish bookmaker already has made Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana the odds-on favorite to become the next pope. Would you agree with that assessment?
A: There's an old saying in Rome — it's very terse in Italian, I'll give it to you in English — about the conclave: “The one who goes in as pope usually comes out as a cardinal.” I also heard someone say on the radio that the sequence is fat pope, thin pope, fat pope, thin pope. I don't think that's very useful, either. For all of the speculation and all of the odds-making, we just don't know who the next pope is going to be.
Q: What characteristics do you think the College of Cardinals will be looking for in the candidates?
A: First, it's a given that the (next pope) is going to be, doctrinally, a traditionalist. Secondly, they are going to look for someone who has some worldwide experience and probably is going to be a polyglot (well-versed in multiple languages). Third, they are going to look for someone of deep piety. They also are going to look for someone who can take up the task of administration.
Q: Do the most prominently mentioned cardinals meet those qualifications?
A: Turkson, for example, he's a Ghanaian. He speaks six or seven languages. He has experience in Rome. You could see why he might be a likely candidate. Another name that has been mentioned is (Milan Archbishop) Angelo Scola, who is a theologian and bioethicist. If they're going to go Latin American, Cardinal (Oscar Andres) Rodriguez (Maradiaga, of Honduras) was mentioned in the previous selection. So you can see how names like these kind of bubble to the top.
Q: What about an American cardinal?
A: I think you can safely bet a month's salary they will not elect a pope from the United States.
A: Two reasons: One, I think an organization as international as the Catholic Church doesn't want to elect a pope from a superpower country, doesn't want the power of the American presence to be that prominent in the church. Second, I can't think of any (U.S.) cardinal who has the power and gravitas to undertake that job.
Now if you are thinking about someone from North America, that's a different story. (Cardinal) Marc Ouellet is from Quebec. He speaks many languages. He has a very powerful position in Rome as head of the Congregation for Bishops. He's an extremely well-trained theologian and he enjoys the favor of Pope Benedict, who brought him (to Rome). I think he actually comes up on that Irish bookmaker's list as well.
Q: Do you expect a quick election?
A: Under Pope John Paul II, if the cardinals couldn't get a two-thirds majority vote after 13 days, they could elect a compromise candidate who got a simple majority. Pope Benedict changed the rule and now they can only elect someone who gets a two-thirds majority. So it could be a long conclave, but it won't be as long as the one in which they elected poor old Celestine V (in 1294). That conclave lasted nearly two years. Oh yeah. It will happen eventually.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- Mercer’s improved defense at shortstop gives Pirates a boost
- Body found in Allegheny River near Clemente Bridge
- At least $100,000 in appliances stolen from new homes around Western Pa.
- Gunfire plagues New Kensington
- Latest loss has Panthers looking for answers
- Corbett: Downtown project will ‘make a huge difference’ in Pittsburgh
- 20 improbable Pirates wins in 2014
- No one way to fix Western Pennsylvania’s heroin problem, report says