Scola could become Pope by mid-week


Tonight the cardinals hold the first vote of the conclave, and at dinner they will be able to discuss what kind of conclave they are facing.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan

In the type of conclave that has been the more typical in the last century, one candidate emerges beforehand as the most probable pope.  The first vote confirms his strength, and subsequent ballots move quickly toward the two-thirds majority required.  That happened in 2005 with Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), in 1963 with Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI) and 1939 with Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII).

The second type of conclave has no early dominant candidate or, if so, he fails to make quick progress toward the two-thirds threshold.  Perhaps there are two candidates who have a significant plurality of votes, but neither can garner further votes.  The conclave then turns toward a third candidate who gets enough from the first two camps to be elected.  This happened in 1922 (Pius XI), 1958 (John XXIII) and 1978 (John Paul II).

As best as I can determine, this conclave will open as the first type.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan is widely considered to be enough of an intellectual heavyweight to be pope.  He has led two of Italy's most senior dioceses — Venice, which produced three popes in the 20th century, and Milan, which produced two.  And while an Italian, he is considered enough of an outsider to the Vatican bureaucracy to be able to reform it, rather than be beholden to it.

The cardinals will first decide whether they want Cardinal Scola or not.  That should take, at most, five or six ballots, meaning he could be pope by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

If not Cardinal Scola, then the conclave may repeat the process with the second principal candidate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of Quebec.

Cardinal Scola's candidacy would have failed by this point because it was thought an Italian pope would be unable to reform the Vatican bureaucracy, or because of doubts about his own governance, which was generally considered to be weak in his first diocese of Grosseto.

In that case, Cardinal Ouellet's "foreign" status and demonstrated capacity for tough decisions at the Vatican department for bishops, which he currently heads, would make him attractive, in addition to his acknowledged status as a first-rate scholar.  If he proves to be attractive enough on those grounds to be elected, it would likely be on Thursday.

If we get to Friday, meaning a 10th ballot without a pope, then several more candidates enter the fray.

The most surprising is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who even a week ago would have been considered implausible.  What has attracted attention to Cardinal O'Malley are several factors and one key voting bloc.

He is a Franciscan, a man of simple holiness and gentleness.  Franciscans are popular in Italy where St. Francis is the patron saint and where Padre Pio has a huge devotional following.  Being an American, Cardinal O'Malley is assumed to do what Americans are reputed to do well, namely run the shop efficiently according to modern best practices.

He is the Roman Catholic Church's most compelling response to the sexual abuse crisis, having been sent to ground zero, Boston, in 2003 after the wickedness revealed there in 2002.

He is the Roman Catholic Church's most compelling response to the sexual abuse crisis, having been sent to ground zero, Boston, in 2003 after the wickedness revealed there in 2002.  Having spent much of his life before being made a bishop in Hispanic ministry, he speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently, and is considered by many Latin American bishops to be one of their own.

The last consideration could be decisive.  The Latin Americans feel, justifiably, they have been neglected by Benedict XVI in the college of cardinals.  Despite having almost half of the world's Catholics, they have only 19 cardinal electors (the Italians have 28; the U.S. and Canada 14 together).

Someone who understands their situation and is sympathetic to it, who speaks to them in their own languages and seeks to advance their prominence in the Church universal could be elected with almost all their votes.

With only 19 votes, the Latin Americans by themselves would not be able to stop any candidate from reaching the necessary 77 votes.  Where the bloc may prove decisive is in generating momentum for either Cardinal Ouellet or Cardinal O'Malley, putting the conclave on course to elect their preferred candidate.

All three candidates here are acceptable enough to be elected, so a forceful push from any group — even the under-represented Latin Americans — might be sufficient to push one or the other onto the balcony.

If there is no election by Friday, the cardinals would take Saturday as a day for prayer, and resume voting on Sunday.  And if there is no pope by Friday, any number of scenarios beyond the ones sketched here would be in play.




Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Scola could become Pope by mid-week." National Post, (Canada) March 12, 2013.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.


Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2013 National Post

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