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Interregnum report, March 5

Welcome to the first of our regular conclave updates. Well be rounding up items of interest, from various sources, for the duration. As ever, youre welcome to comment (subject to our usual guidelines) or point us to the pertinent links we might have missed.For now its morning-sessions-only in Rome, with the Vatican having announced there will be no meetings Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. In a sign the election is nearing, the Sistine Chapel is as of this moment closed to pilgrims and tourists, but some say that preparing the chapel for the conclave will take at least seven more days and that the general pace of things looks to be slow and deliberate.A number of reports have noted the pre-conclave discussions centering on governance of the Roman Curia in light of ongoing scandals, and the stated request of some cardinals to see the secret VatiLeaks dossier. John Thavis provides a good synopsis, while also touching on a question many are asking: Why, three weeks after Benedicts resignation, are there still some cardinals who havent yet managed to make it to Rome? Scroll down in the same story for his list of late arrivals. (As it happens, weve also just posted Thomas J. Reeses review of Thaviss The Vatican Diaries here.)On the horse-race front, Aljazeera and other outlets note what they call a push for Brazils Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo, to be the next pope. Said to work in his favor: He leads the third-largest congregation in the world in the largest Catholic country in the world; hes of mixed Brazilian and German heritage, which would appease both the developing world and European wings of the church; hes familiar with the inner workings of the hierarchy, having spent seven years at the Vatican; and at 63 hes relatively young (andwait for ithe tweets, under the handle of @DomOdiloScherer). John Allen reports that Scherer could be part of an envisioned South America ticket with Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as secretary of state. Still, most observers say there is no noticeable coalescing around any single candidate the way there was for Joseph Ratzinger eight years ago. Maybe these students in Alexandria, Va., will prove more prescient than the experts.At National Catholic Reporter, Joshua J. McElwee has a piece on the issues the new global theologian in chief will have to face, with interviews of professors of theology from around the world. At Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo writes on three electors in the context of American Catholicisms growth in Texas and southern California and how the shifts from the traditional power centers of the northeast might come into play in selecting the next pope. (And whats it like being Rocco, anyway? See this profile on the blogger.) Speaking of southern California: Cardinal Roger Mahony, in Rome, has given an interview to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in which he defends his record on dealing with sexual abuse in the church.And though these come a little late in the cycle, theyre worth a look if only for comparisons sake: competing ads for the open position of pontiff, one from Joshua E. Keating at Foreign Policy, the other from Mark Silk at Religion News Service.At McSweenys, John Ortved posts a cover letter for his application; spot the potentially disqualifying misstep in the salutation.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Here, from "Le Figaro" and in French, is a piece on my candidate:

At 2 a.m. on Monday I awoke and could not get back to sleep. So, I reached for my iPhone and went to the several websites that I had bookmarked. One was Radio Vatican. There in the upper left was a headline that said the cardinals had decided that the conclave would begin on March 11. Now I remembered that the cardinals were going to meet at 9:30 their time, a 6 hour time difference from Philadelphia. A quick math calculation told me that it was only 8:30 in Rome. Oh well, back to sleep.Next morning, the article was nowhere to be seen. My guess is that the editors were trying for a scoop. We may see a lot of that in the next weeks.

In their February 19th editorial, "After Benedict," the editors of "Commonweal" quote approvingly theologian Joseph Komonchak's caution about the "hullabaloo over the upcoming conclave."I note with a smile this new feature -- "the first of our regular conclave updates" -- and the first comment made to it.I know, I know: "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!"

Correction:I was the website Vatican Insider, not Radio Vatican.

I meant Vatican RadioGood night!

Ah so! I was going to ask Fr. K. whether by "favorite candidate" he meant he was offering a friendly wager, or whether the phrase had some other meaning. Here's the meat, roughly 2/3 of the way through the Figaro article:Il [meaning Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines] y travaille sous l'gide d'un des thologiens amricains les plus rputs, Joseph Komonchak. C'est l'un des meilleurs tudiants que j'aie eus en quarante annes d'enseignement, a confi ce dernier, il aurait pu devenir l'un des plus grands thologiens d'Asie. (He [meaning Tagle] worked there [Catholic U.] under the auspices of one of the most respected American theologians, Joseph Komonchak. "He's one of the best students I've in forty years of teaching," said the latter, "and he's capable of becoming one of greatest Asian theologians.")If he's as good as you say he is, let us hope he makes it; even though he might pluck his old teacher out of his deserved retirement, and put him to work in what the press is coming to see as the Augean stables.

Here's another article in French, from some disreputable-looking website, about Cardinal Scherer, complete with gossip and rumors. (Summary: a creature of Re and Sodano who has now gathered the support of Bertone as well!)

What the hay.....I'll offer my largely uninformed guess and go with Marc Ouellete. One because he is Canadian and two because I did not know how to pronounce his name until a friend and non practicing Catholic explained it. Wah-lett and not Ooolet. But might be a longshot as the church in Quebec is not exactly bursting at the seams.But the pragmatic side of me thinks it is going to be a courtesy election and hand it back to an Italian.

Claire:Cardinal Scherer's middle name is Pedro, if that's an omen.

George D: How's this for Cardinal Ouellete's campaign song? Ah Wah-lette, gentil Ah Wah-lette .

Apropos this fascination with the non-race race to the top, I am reading Tom Grace's 2007 novel "The Secret Cardinal."Good old fashioned spy fiction that I won't spoil. It's pulpy enough to fascinate the least discerning amongst us and has a fast pace with lots of intrigue.Note: it does NOT have an Imprimatur or Nihil Obstat (I liked his voice in the 1960s when he was at the height of his career, but he hasn't done much recently.)

Helen =Groan #2 :-)

More negatives:SNAP: "Based largely on news accounts, legal filings and victims experiences, here are the 12 papabile we considers to be the worst choices in terms of protecting kids, healing victims, and exposing corruption. []They are Maradiaga (Honduras), Rivera (Mexico), Ouellet (Canada), Turkson (Ghana), Pell (Australia), Bertone (Italy), Scola (Italy), Sandri (Argentina), Duke (Czech Republic), O'Malley (United States), Dolan (United States), and Wuerl (United States) []Earlier this week, we opposed the election of any member of the Roman Curia. We feel no current Vatican insider has the will to truly clean house in the Vatican and elsewhere. We also maintain that promoting a Curia member would discourage victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and advocates from reporting wrongdoing. (This includes papabiles Ouellet, Turkson, Sandri, Bertone, and Pell. "

Mark, gender is superficial or it is not. Your choice. You don't get to claim that gender is superficial so it doesn't matter if you exclude women because men will represent their interests well enough. The inherent tension in that position rips apart the seams of any logic that one might try to use to sew those two thoughts together. Having said that with reference to the Catholic Church, however, in the case of the U.S. Senate, where women are not outright excluded from participation, one might make the following observation: gender is or ought to be superficial, thus, in a population pool that is made up of more than 50% women, one would expect to see robust participation among women at all levels. We know that there is a time lag in effect that explains a lot of the lower numbers, as Nancy Pelosi so graciously explained to Luke Russert when he asked why she wasn't too old to continue serving as leader of the Democratic delegation in the House. Nonetheless, we would expect more and more newer senators to be both women and men. This is happening among Democrats, but not so much Republicans. Why THAT is, that is the matter that is ripe for discussion.

The top paragraph from John Thavis' article referenced above:"We learned today that the cardinals meeting ahead of the conclave focused this morning on three general topics: the Roman Curia and its relationship with bishops around the world, renewal in light of the Second Vatican Council and the demands of new evangelization in various cultural contexts."I don't think I could pick three better topics to focus on. This is a hopeful sign.

Dominic, can you please check the Mark Silk link in the post? It seems to go to

Here are a few paragraphs from an article by Enzo Bianchi, the founder and prior of the ecumenical monastery of Bose:

More than ever is it necessary to remember what Benedict XVI has brought us to know with his last acts: a penitential climate, sober, without temptations to triumphalism, a simplicity that leaves no room for self-celebrations or arrogant displays. Very human acts, in which a shepherd, tired and old, gives way to a new shepherd, for the good of the flock. From now on the Bishop of Rome emeritus will pray as a monk, in the conviction that prayer is a component of history and that to be capable of it means struggling, working, deciding with God.The cardinals gathered in Rome now must simply listen to one another with the respect that a brother owes to a brother; they have to listen to the Lord and to the signs of the times that are germinating in todays world; they have to shun tactics and strategies; and, above all, they must not lie. In my simple opinion from the margins, the crisis that the Churchand especially its Roman center-- is passing through is caused by lying and not by other, more scandalous problems. Its time for boldness, frankness, honesty toward one another; its time to say what one thinks in complete sincerity. Otherwise every word is polluted, and where there is lying, there is blackmail and fear.If there is an urgent battle, it is the one against lying because if lies are present in communications, there no longer is trust in the other, faith in the other. And how can we have faith in God whom we do not see, if we are incapable of trusting the brother whom we do see? Tomorrow, with the general congregations, exercises in frankness begin.

For the entire piece (in Italian), go to:

Helen: I am suspecting that there is as much truth in the Pedro omen as in the "islam-contre-occident" website that I linked to yesterday - on second thoughts, judging from the lack of hard facts, it probably contains more disinformation than information.

Jim P. @ 10:46: Thanks for spotting; the Mark Silk link is now fixed. Or just click here:

Mark: gender is superficial so it doesnt matter if you exclude men because women will represent their interests well enough - and most likely better.

they have to shun tactics and strategies; and, above all, they must not lie.That is really hard to do when working towards something that everyone cares about very much. Others will lie. Others will employ tactics and strategies. Honesty may disarm some people of goodwill, but not the ones who are obsessed by their goal. Those will take the information freely given to them and use it against the ones who are trying to observe "complete sincerity". Someone who refuses to protect their ideas, who is willing to expose its flaws out of their own initiative even if others were not previously aware of those flaws - well, politically they're just being stupid. It's like being a pacifist: refusing to take up arms, refusing to protect oneself (or one's ideas, or one's church...), and hoping against hope that the others, disconcerted by such naivete, will, instead of rushing to take advantage of it, be swayed out of their usual mode of thinking, so that a more healthy discussion may prevail. It's counter cultural, like Jesus delivering himself into the hands of those who will crucify him and not making any effort to defend himself efficiently in word or deed. Realistically, it's doomed: only a miracle would change the other people's attitudes. It's good enough for a monk, but for someone who is in the world and of the world, it's almost unthinkable. So, if someone really wants some papal candidates and really does not want certain others, for the greater good of the church (as always), should they follow their principles of "complete sincerity", with the knowledge that, barring a miracle, it will result in a choice that is most likely to go severely against the best interests of the Church? That is, if men of goodwill refuse to take up tactical weapons, and willingly present their own weakness instead, then the others will crush them: the more evil, the more effective. "Complete sincerity" is a radical choice: holy, admirable, but not prudent... Each of us every day finds a compromise between radical vulnerability on the one hand, and tactical plotting and scheming on the other hand. It's a matter of survival.

Claire --It sounds like you've been too long in Academe.

Ann, true, the examples I have in mind are from that world, but it's no worse than any other community, I hope. At least we know that truth matters.

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