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Interregnum report, March 11

On the last day before the conclave, most observers have concluded that there is no clear favorite to succeed Benedict, with this pronouncement from Andrea Gagliarducci perhaps summing things up: Now more than ever, each cardinal has approximately the same odds of becoming Pope. Not that that stops anyone from continuing to float the possibilities (welcome to the Top Ten, Peter Erdo), or from identifying emerging coalitions (more cardinals are backing Scola. No, Ouellet. Scherer?). Or from touting Americans.Or from simply breaking it down to a battle between the Romans and the reformersor between the curia and the world. All of which means its probably best to heed the reminder from Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera on Sunday, after he celebrated Mass at his titular church of San Francesco di Ripa Grande: Its not journalists that vote in the conclave. Its cardinals.One prediction likely to bear out: Vatican spokesman Francisco Lombardi sees black smoke on the horizon for Tuesday. Meteorologists see rain, for Tuesday and beyond. PaddyPower puts the odds of atwo-day conclave at 2:1 but is also taking bets on an Ides of March election.Regardless of who becomes pope, writes John Allen, his first days are likely to offer clues as to the kind of papacy that will follow:

The first bit of business for the new pope usually comes on the second day after his election, when its customary to reconfirm the heads of Vatican offices who temporarily lost their jobs during the interregnum. This time, if the new pope doesnt issue that order right away, it could be the first hint that the cardinals got their wish for someone who truly intends to clean house in the Vaticans bureaucracy.

Noting the confluence of International Womens Day and the gathering of cardinals in Rome, Elizabeth Drescher uses Cardinal Ouellets characterization of womens status in the Catholic church as a secondary concern to examine how welcome women really are in Christian churches across the denominational spectrum. Meanwhile, Vatican Insider features a lengthy report on women and the conclave, with in-depth testimonies from a number of women religious, including Sister Maria Barbagallo, General Superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

If I had been able to talk during the congregations, I would have said that women are essential to the new evangelization started by Benedict XVI We feel we are a living part of the Church even when our role is recognized. Women are freer from powers and special interests. We do not chase after positions of power. I would have wanted to say to the cardinals that women in the church can do more. [I]f there were women in positions of power there would be fewer scandals in the church, whether child abuses or Vatileaks.

Writing at the First Things blog, Seth Chalmers posits what he says is a realistic agenda for Catholic-Jewish relations once the new pope is elected. Excerpts follow, but read it in its entirety here.

Different organizations will highlight different issues: Some Jewish leaders will be most concerned with anti-Semitism, Vatican relations with Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; others will focus on interfaith dialogue on theology and history; others will discuss social and economic policy, and the place of religion in politics and the public square. But whatever concerns are mentioned, this much is certain: The organized Jewish community will present a long wish list to the chief cleric of a religion in which it does not believe. We in the Jewish community should resist the urge to tell Christians how to be Christian. To do so is neither valid interfaith dialogue, which respects the other groups right to define its own beliefs, nor valid proselytism, which is honest enough to seek the other partys conversion forthrightly. Instead of lecturing the new pope on how best to be Catholic, Jews should identify the maximum we can reasonably ask from the Catholic Church, without asking it to stop being the Catholic Church.

The Christian Science Monitor asks how much you really know about the Catholic Church, with a twenty-five question eve-of-conclave quiz. Contestants are asked (among other things) to name the maker of the current pope-mobile and the city--outside Vatican City--that is home to the greatest number of holy relics (the answer to the latter may, as they say, surprise you). 

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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  • All physic, pomp;Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,And show the heavens more just.

For the gamblers among you: Intrade, the web gambling site located in Ireland, has halted trading, including on the next pope. Very mysterious!!!

The Vatican bank must have placed a bet.

Dominic Preziosi, thank you for these Interregnum Reports. They bring together a lot of helpful information.Front runners? I begin to think they are all fading fast. I suspect that someone who has gotten minor attention will move forward in the next couple of days, as happened in 1922 and October 1978. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz?

Matt Malone the editor of America write on Twitter that talk of O'Malley is everywhere in Rome and wonders whether it is real.

Just saw this on Twitter.Psychologists at Wm & Mary ask 575 ppl to choose #pope based on headshots. They chose +Sean O'Malley. There is some science behind this. There are well known experiments where people are shown quick photos of candidates in elections. Based on nothing but the face, people are able to predict with 70% accuracy who will win the election.From the article from William and Mary

Much prior research has established that face appearance often influences assessments of othersand decisions about them. For instance, the Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, and Hall (2005)presented participants with images of faces from competing electoral candidates and asked themto rate them on a variety of features, such as trustworthiness and competence. Participants had noknowledge of the candidates except for the face images, but their ratings enabled better thanchance predictions of election outcomes. The differences in ratings were even linearly related tothe winning candidates margin of victory. The information involved in these types ofassessments seem to be gathered from even very brief exposures to the stimuli (Ballew &Todorov, 2007; Willis & Todorov, 2006).

This case is a bit different in that all of the cardinals know each other and are deeply engaged in the process. Still:

The goal of the current study was to assess whether this strategy could be used to predict the outcome of the cardinal conclave tasked with selecting the next Pope. It provides a good test case, because the selection of a Pope is a decision based on detailed information by a group ofexperts. Congressional elections are decided by many thousands of votes from a popularelectorate exposed to media-driven campaigns that can provide conflicting, misleading, and oftennegative information. In such an environment, there may be no clearly preferential candidate,such that the appearance of the face may be all that is needed to tip the scales. If the sameprinciples apply to the decisions of a conclave of highly educated, experienced, senior leaders, itwould suggest that the power of a face to drive decisions is truly powerful.

A less specific prediction is that one of the top scoring cardinals will be chosen as the next Pope. Thus, if not OMalley, then Erdo, or Sandri will be chosen. If none of these three is chosen then perhaps face appearance does not play as big a role in this selection process as in others.

Sorry I cannot provide link as all I had was pdf from Tweet. I expect that you might find it in Google search though. BRIEF TECHNICAL REPORT - WORKING DOCUMENT - DRAFTPredicting the Selection of the Next Pope Based on Face PhotosPeter M. Vishton & Jennifer A. StevensPsychology DepartmentCollege of William and Mary

George D.: How many of those polled will be voting in the conclave?

I think that the general level of belief in the need for substantial stuctural and personnel changes dictates that someone such as O'Malley is too low-key and most likely ineffectual on the scale of action that is desired. A lack of visible sign of change in the first instant may indeed precipitate an even faster rush to the "smaller purer" size of Roman Catholicism, particularly in the US. Europe has already voted with its feet.The church may think that it has benefited from the creation of the Orneryariate, but Anglican and Episcopal (and UCC, UMC, UU, ECLA, etc.) churches in the US are seeing noticeable increases in their ranks in the form of disgruntled ex-Romans.Caveat emptor!

Fr. K0. But that is the point. In other social experiments, they polled people who had no knowledge of the candidates as they were in other districts or even countries. Similar results have occurred when showing random people faces of Fortune 500 executives and asking which was most successful.This is a unique situation in that all of the Cardinals know each other (somewhat) and there are different dynamics at play. That said, if their results stand and one of those three is elected, then that certainly adds further reliability to studies around how people arrive at judgements.

The people in Rome might not know this. I didn't until I read today's (March 11) Washington Post reports on the three Donilin brothers from Rhode Island who are advisers to Cardinal O'Malley, President Obama, and Vice President Biden.Tom is a national security advisor to President Obama. Terry is communications director for Cardinal O'Malley. While Tom is expected to step down this year, there is a third brother, Michael A., who is a longtime political aide to Vice President Biden.More support against an American Pope. Here is a link to the story.

Perhaps the lack of even a potential 'front runner' is the best blessing we can hope for. If these churchmen are really ready to see change, growth and the church to flourish, they must find a new and totally loving, pastoral approach. The past 'inquisitions' must cease, the perpetrators of sexual crimes and coverups must be sent packing, and the entire church opened up to the fresh air of the Spirit. In my lifetime? This conclave is my last hope...

Here's a Wash Post story that at least is clear that there will be no progressives in the Sistine Chapel--unless it's the cooks.

For the record, I was quite interested by the description here and at Religion Dispatches of Cardinal Ouellet's view of women as of "secondary concern" and I went and actually watched the whole video of his remarks and I think he has been badly misquoted. Here is the link to the interview.

All the papal contenders seem to have ideas that are so far from mine. I don't know if it can be bridged, or if I am condemned, for the rest of my life, to hear bishops, cardinals and popes saying things about life that have no connection with the reality of the life that I live. On sexuality in particular, we are worlds apart. The most daring of them will tentatively offer the possibility that in exceptional cases contraception might be tolerable. They cannot imagine that contraception is firstly a good thing! They cannot conceive that it has liberated the students' sexuality, and that that is mostly good. They do not dare voice what we all know, what is obvious to the rest of us: that women and men are equal in dignity and potential, and that no qualified person ought to be kept out of a position solely because of their gender. We are patient with their outdated views, as with grandparents who are stuck behind the times and who can no longer understand the modern world, but this is how we treat them: like old relatives who have interesting memories and knowledge of things of the past, but who are not at all qualified to give us authoritative advice, because they do not understand our lives. We respect their knowledge of certain things, but only for very restricted questions. For the rest - the bulk of our lives, really-, we are on our own. Sometimes I wonder if it is not a mistake to try to pay them a modicum of attention and to keep listening to their speeches about our lives as though they had something relevant to say. By censoring myself from directly contradicting them, by always trying to find something positive in their words, I am stifling discussions also with other Catholics around me and preventing learning from the people with whom I am in direct contact, and then I am truly alone on my own. What if I just threw caution to the wind, stopped forcing myself to try (unsuccessfully) to adopt the frame of mind that leads to a condemnation of contraception (among other things), and instead of wasting my time defending their indefensible views, focused on understanding reality?

Claire:Contraception aside, I think the Church has a uniquely female appreciation of the unitive nature of sexuality and what it means. I studied it and, in my experience, even with women who have not grounding in the theology, it intuitively resonates.There is a great scene in Vanilla Sky which is, for some reason, one of my favourite movies where the Cameron Diaz character says to Tom Cruise "When you sleep with someone your body makes a promise whether you do or not". Although, she is portrayed as a bit on the unstable side since she crashes the car, there is, at least, some degree of truth there.I would post the clip but the dialogue is a bit on the crude side. But if you want to see it google, The Car Crash - Vanilla Sky

Claire: "All the papal contenders seem to have ideas that are so far from mine. I dont know if it can be bridged, or if I am condemned, for the rest of my life, to hear bishops, cardinals and popes saying things about life that have no connection with the reality of the life that I live.""Sometimes I wonder if it is not a mistake to try to pay them a modicum of attention and to keep listening to their speeches about our lives as though they had something relevant to say."Irrelevance is the byword, dear friend. There is a life to be lived, and let's be about living our faith as best we can. Institutional machinations will grind on; as for the rest, we have many resources to draw upon besides episcopal statements.

As a recovering Catholic, all I hope for is someone with the courage to "clean house" by getting rid of everyone who covered up the sexual abuse of children and all those involved in other crimes like money laundering.End the corruption, bishops; practice what you preach or stop preaching!

Jerry Slevin surpasses himself in this devastating piece:'Malley would be a good choice.

This piece suggests that we've been eying the wrong Americans. Headline: "Dare We Hope for Burke?"

Thanks George and Carolyn.

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