Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Papal Election - it is all about politics

So why would Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) resign as pope?   Sure he might not be in great health but to resign would be such a break with tradition that it does not ring true that he would do it for health reasons.   What could his motives be?

The pope is an elected monarch/CEO.   The process of choosing a new pope is a very political process, it is not anything spiritual.   This is an election where the campaigning is all done in private and the public is not allowed to know the results other than who won.    This is an election among the 118 eligible voting cardinals.   The era of Rodriga Borgia (Alexander VI) in the 15th century may be over, but do not doubt that there is serious long term campaigning and scheming going about who will be pope.  The papal enclaves leave bad blood between the winners and losers.

Joseph Ratzinger was the right hand man to Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) and they together fought a campaign to end the liberalization of the Catholic church    The path set out in Vatican II has effectively been stopped and even reversed.    We no longer hear about liberation theology within the Catholic church.   There is no discussion about the church accepting women as priests.   Contraception is still a no-no etc.

During his term as pope Karol Wojtyla appointed all the cardinals in the 2005 papal enclave save two, he had effectively stacked the house with a more conservative set of electors and I do not think anyone was shocked his right hand man won, though not as easily as one would have thought according to the rumours.   Liberal Carlo Maria Martini was apparently close to winning.  Almost losing taught Joseph Ratzinger some lessons on papal politics.

Joseph Ratzinger is one of only two people alive to have been through more than one papal enclave.   He was there for both 1978 elections to saw how they played out.  In both those enclacves the front runners did not win.   He was also there when he won in 2005.  He knows what it takes to build the 2/3s majority needed to win because he managed to do so to last time.   This insight means he can give guidance to someone wanting to win the throne.

I have no doubt that the current pope has someone in mind to take over as pope.  It is interesting that he resigned only a few months after Carlo Maria Martini died, his primary rival in 2005 and a strong liberal figure in the church.

By resigning he has control over the timing of the new pope being chosen.   He likely has let his favoured candidate know ahead of everyone else so that he could begin organizing support first.   The October 1978 papal enclave caught everyone off guard and taught him that unlikely candidates that are well organized can win.

Joseph Ratzinger has appointed 84 cardinals of which 15 will be too old to vote in the papal enclave.   This means 69 of the 118 eligible voters were appointed by Ratzinger, 58.5% of the total.   His appointments of cardinals has been even more conservative than those of Karol Wojtyla.   Since he was elected at age 75 and not 58 like his predecessor, from day one he has had to consider his morality and the coming end of his papacy    I suspect that since the start he has been deliberate in many of his choices of cardinal to ensure that they would likely elect a conservative pope.

The timing of the enclave will mean several more liberal cardinals like Javier Lozano Barragan and Walter Kasper will have just turned 80 and not be able to vote.   I suspect there are more factors at play as to why this week was the right week to resign though I am certain they are all very political reasons.

If I were to hazard a guess who the preferred candidate of the pontiff is, I would lean towards Peter Turkson from Ghana:

  • He has worked closely with the pope and been resident in Rome for the last three and a half years, enough time for the pope to know this is his man
  • He is a Vatican insider but not an Italian
  • He is very socially conservative
  • He is young enough (64) to have a long reign and therefore cement the agenda of the last two popes
  • He comes from Africa and there have been strong calls for an African pope but as an black African he can get more liberal cardinals to vote for him

There could be others that Joseph Ratzinger could be orchestrating events for.   The lack of openness in the election of the pope means were unlikely to ever know how much scheming is going on and by whom.

I use the real names of the popes and not their affected regnal names because this is all about politics and has nothing to do with faith or spirituality
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