The October conclave
The last great medieval rite of the modern world is about to be reinacted as over a hundred aged bachelor men of similiarly confined and blinkered backgrounds meet in secret to appoint from among themselves the leader of the world's largest religious community.
That they do so for the second time in as many months is hardly as surprising as it has been represented, for the desired age of the chosen candidate is that at which most people nowadays retire.
The new Pope will again be selected by the same 110 or so cardinals who in effect represent little more than themselves. All but six of these were created cardinals by Pope Paul, more thari half of thein are over 70 years of age and all but 16 of them are over 60.
Ofthe 116 cardinals eligible to vote 27 are Italian, there are 31 other Europeans, 18 are Latin Americans, 13 North Americans, 10 are Africans, 12 are Asiatics and 5 Oceanics (Australia, New Zealand and the South Sea Islands).
While the Italian element is weaker now than at any previous conclave, bar of course the August one, II non-Italian cardinals live in Rome permanently and, apart from perhaps three (Garrone and Vilot of France and Pironio of Argentina), they we indesipherable from the Italian bloc. A further twelve cardinals from around the world have identified.zhemmselves 50 closely with this element that the bloc must be estimated at about 47.
While there is an obvious geographical dispersal among the College of Cardinals there is an amazing similarity of backk. ground among its members. Nearly all entered seminaries at a very early age and thus were isolated from the normal influuences of human experience and were immmersed in a homogenised ecclesiastical culture.
Almost all went through narrow stultifyying intellectual formation in their seminaries or at one of the Roman institutes for higher learning-institutes which admitted the possibility of doubt grudgingly only after Vatican II. About one third of the cardinals won their red hat through service in the Curia and a half of them were created Cardinals because of the prestigious Sees they occupied. In both cases the highly selective processes of the Curia operated to secure their elevaation-ie. only "safe" men got the job.
Of the 102 cardinals who studied in Rome, 46 took degrees in theology, 23 in philosophy and 33 in cannon law. One observer has written of the inevitable consequences of such training- "a legalistic, casuistic, hair-splitting mentality, remote from the flesh and blood of real life" (Garry MacEoin in The Inner Elite). Only 11 cardinals have degrees in subjects other than theology, philosophy and cannon law.
Electors come from very similar backkgrounds and view the world from the same narrow perspective of their similarly cloistered backgrounds. This is not to contend that many of them are not men of considerable intellectual and administraative abilities or that some of them haven't overcome the rigidities of their formative experiences. It is rather to suggest that in their age, backgrounds, education and careers they hardly represent at all the 700 million members of the Catholic Church, not even the clergy or the bishops who have been drawn from a much broader base. Nor can they be expected to compreehend adequately the concerns and the needs of the church members or of the world at large.
Furthermore, there will be no women electors at the conclave.
Thus while there may be a demand in the Church throughout the world for a radical, non-Italian ecumenical leader of the church, the liklihood of one emerging from the conclave is negligible.
An authorative Italian reporter on Vatican affairs, Giancarlo Zizola, estimated before the first conclave that there were 27 radicals, 45 moderates, and 45 conservatives among the Cardinal electors, which makes it certain that either a conservative or a moderate gets elected - indeed because of the two thirds rule, it means that the successful candidate must almost inevitably be a conservative or a moderate conservative-categories which are almost indistinguishable.
THE election of Albino Luciani was orchestrated by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Carlo Confalonieri, who was excluded from the conclave because he is over 80. He was ~nabled to play such a central role because as Dean he chaired the daily meetings of the cardinals which take place between the death of a Pope and the election of his successor. Also, as former head of the Congregation of Bishops he was instrumental in having many of the cardinal electors appointed first as bishop and then as cardinal, thereefore his influence was bound to be considerable.
He again chairs the daily meetings of cardinals and while it seems no formal disscussion takes place at these meetings on the election of a new Pope, it does present a useful occasion for informal soundings.
It appears that it was Confalonieri who established the criteria by which the latest Pope was chosen-i.e. an Italian with pastoral experience and in his mid sixties - rather than this being the expressed definite wish of a majority of the electors. No doubt he will attempt to play a similar role on this occassion but it is by no means certain that the criteria will be the same or that he will be as successful.
The other major Pope maker of last August was Cardinal Giovani Benelli (left) of Florence who championed the cause of Luciani and who on this occasion could himself emerge as the new Pope.
Benelli is widely if reluctantly acknowledged as the most formidable of the cardinals. He formed an early associaation with Giovani Montini, later Pope Paul VI. He had a spectactual career in the Vatican diplomatic service, during which time he served in the Apostolic Nunciature in Dublin, and he was brought back to Rome by Pope Paul to the central position of substuuto to the Secretary of State-a position more important, as it turned out, than that of Secretary of State. I Benelli virtually ran the church from 1967 I to '74 and in the process made many enemies. As has been written before, he more than anyone else attempted to stifle the spirit of Vatican II, although he is a far way from regarding it as the disaster which other papal contenders view it.
Benelli would not be quite the catasstrophe that is generally forecast. He is much more outgoing than was Pope Paul. He can be charmingly conciliatory when . he chooses and he undoubtedly has the intellectual and administrative capacities for the position.
His deficiencies as a papal candidate are (a) he lacks adequate pastoral experience, having been Archbishop of Florence since only June 27, 1977 and (b) his age, which is only 57. However this latter factor could be to his advantage now as the cardinals may wish to make as sure as possible that there won't be another papal election for some years.
In any event Benelli will surely play a decisive part in the election process and whoever he backs must emerge at least as a prime contender. He has by far the most intimate knowledge of the workings of the church, he knows most of the cardinal electors personally and he has the energy and political acumen to divise a successful stragegy for the election of a new Pope.
The likelihood of the new Pope again being an Italian is overwhelming. Quite apart from the Italian faction being the most sizeable single group and having within it most of the possible candidates for the Papacy, the College of Cardinals is not radical enough to choose a non-Italian. The precariousness of the Italian political situation, as they see it, with the possibility of the communists getting into Governnment, is enough to convince the vast majority of them that only an Italian could cope with the delicacy of that situation. In addition, the Vatican concordat with the Italian State is up for renegotiation and that too will dictate to many that the new Pope should be an Italian.
It seems probable however that the nonnItalians will attempt to exert some concerted influence on the choice-the Latin Americans will be particularly anxious to do this-so its likely that again they will insist on a non-Curial candidate, which, apart from Benelli, reduces the choice effectively to the following:
Giovani Colombo Archbishop of Milan, aged 76. He took a lively and progressive part in Vatican II, although he later strongly supported Humanae Vitae. Relatively radical politically, he partook in the enthusiastic reception for the Chilean communist leader Luis Corvolan when he visited Milan two years ago.
Salvatore Pappalardo. Archbishop of Palermo. Aged 60. One of the few Italian cardinals amenable to the communists taking or sharing power in Italy. Worked in the Curia and in the Vatican diplomatic service until 1970 when he was sent to Palermo. More liberal than most of the other Italians he could be the surprise choice of this new conclave. All depends on whether Benelli supports him.
Michele Pe'llegrino. Archbishop of Turin. Aged 75. Where it not for his age and poor health, he might well be the new Pope although he would have won few votes from his fellow Italian cardinals. Liberal, courageous, and tolerant, he has consistently spoken out on such issues as the need for more democracy in the church, the reform of the Curia, and on the right of Catholics to choose for which party they will vote, by which comment he was distancing himself from most of the other Italian bishops who had insisted that Catholics may not vote for the communists.
Ugo Poletti The Vicar-general of Rome. Aged 64. His entire background has been pastoral, having previously been archhbishop of Spoleto. He too has been moderately liberal and socially-conscious although he has been implicated in some of the highly suspicious Vatican involveements in property development in Rome. He too must be considered a very likely though little known candidate.
Antonio Poma Archbishop of Bologna. Aged 68. He holds the prestigious position of President of the Italian Bishops' Connference and therefore has a strong base of support. One of Pope Paul's favourite sons, he has taken an extreme line on the communist issue, favouring the excommmunication of catholics who stand as commmunist candidates. He is another "unknown" not to be overlooked. Giuseppe Siri Archbishop of Genoa. Aged 72. He reportedly led on the first ballot at the last conclave. Then all his votes swung to Luciani as the conservatives backed the latter in preference to the liberal curialist, Pignedoli. He was the bitterest opponent of the reforms of Varican II and is quoted as having said, "It will take 40 years to undo the harm John did to the church in a few years." Reputedly the choice of Pope Pius XII to succeed him, the fact that he commands such considerable support in the College of Cardinals is an indication of how shallow the commitment to Vatican II is among the electors. While it is unlikely that Siri will be elected, he and his followers will have a decisive say in the fmal choice and he could be the stalking horse for a traditionalist of a less strident mould, for instance Felici.
Carrado Ursi Archbishop of Naples. Aged 70. His education and experience is limited entirely to the south of Italy but such provincialism didn't hinder the candidature of Albino Luciani. He is noted for his outstanding service of the poor in his impoverished diocesce but theologically conservative.
There are three other Italian contenders who because of their abilities cannot be overlooked but whose experience is limited entirely to the curia and the diplomatic service.
Sebastiano Baggio Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops. Aged 65.
Favoured by the moderate conservative element in the Curia and were it not for the non-Italian preference for a non-curial, pastoral candidate, he would surely emerge as Pope. However there is bitter rivlary between he and Benelli and the combination of that and his exclusively curial experience would tend to rule him out.
Pericle Felici President of the Commmission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law. Aged 67. An urbane tradiitionalist who acted as secretary general to the Vatican Council and fully utilised the procedural technicalities to obstruct reforms. He is opposed to collegiality, theological pluralism, ecunemism and liturgical innovation. His support for Luciani was critical in, the last election. Again his support could be critical but it is unlikely that he himself will emerge as Pope, instead he will appear on the balcony at St. Peter's to announce to the world the name of the new Pontiff-if someone else appears, then Felici is the choice.
Sergio Pignedoli President of the Secreetariat for Non-Christains. Aged 68. The Liberal curial candidate and the most colourful of the contenders. He is believed to have canvassed hard for the job over the last few years but was guilty of a major gaffe in early 1976 when at an IslamiccChristian seminar in Libya he agreed to a statement which characterised zionism as a form of racialism-a sentiment apparently regarded as outrageous within the context of catholic church politics.