Trial balloon

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jan 03, 2005

Time magazine announces that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is now a leading candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II.

What a wonderful idea!

But there's a problem with the Time story: It's based on not one single discernible fact. The Time story is based on perceptions offered by a few "Vatican sources." But Time's quirky selection of two other alleged "front runners" does not inspire much confidence in the quality of the magazine's sources.

In a word, this looks very much like a case in which someone has floated a story, to see how other people will react.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 9:40 PM ET USA

    St Augustine said it best: "What is Time?"

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 3:47 PM ET USA

    Lord, please give us a 20 or 25 younger Ratzinger for our next pope. What a great blessing that would be!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2005 9:32 PM ET USA

    If I had a "vote" I'd cast mine for Cardinal Arinze, but I've heard he's getting a bit too old for serious consideration.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2005 9:43 AM ET USA

    If the story were circulated to test the waters so to speak, it has been a success, but perhaps not in the way Time magazine intended. Maybe we need der panzerkardinal to restore the discipline that was forced out the windows opened by VCII when the smoke of Satan entered the sanctuary.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2005 7:49 AM ET USA

    Most interesting. I have read many of Ratzinger's early publications --available from Ignatius Press--and his insights are totally different from those his expresses out of his extreme loyalty to JPII. It is interesting to speculate on what he would propound once his obedience to JPII was no longer a factor. I suggest others might read his immediate post-Vat II writings to gain an insight into Ratzinger's "inner core." However, his reliance on precedence is disturbing. AMDG

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2005 6:22 PM ET USA

    May our Holy Father live one day longer than every single heterodox Cardinal in the College!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2005 4:03 PM ET USA

    In spite of the fact that Cdl Ratzinger was all of 12 when the war started liberals persist in accusing him of being a Nazi. In what the editors of Time proffer as a news story they oh so innocently give tongue to these vicious accusations ("panzercardinal", and so forth), without, of course, giving credence. Neither do they withold it. This is not a "fake news" story. It's yellow journalism in the finest Time tradition. And so it begins.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2005 2:17 PM ET USA

    Yes, it certainly had the appearance of a "slow news day" at Time. While it is idle to speculate, their listing of Tettamanzi as one of the other papabili brings into question their credibility. Whoever the next Pope is, it will NOT be Tettamanzi - in my view (and I would put money on that!).

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2005 1:16 PM ET USA

    In regard to the other two "quirky" selections of Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan and Claudio Hummes of Sao Paolo. I do not know of Cardinal Hummes but I have read very favorable things of Cardinal Tettamanzi, such as he is an Italian John Paul II in regard to his intellectual prowess in presenting the Church's teachings to the contemporay world. I think Tettamanzi is an excellent choice. Leonard

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 03, 2005 12:23 PM ET USA

    Calling him the "frontrunner" is a certain way to insure that he will not be elected by the Cardinals. "He who goes into the conclave a pope emerges as a cardinal" is the quotation.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 03, 2005 12:08 PM ET USA

    My thoughts exactly Phil. It's what I call fake news. Fabricate a story to see what people will say and voila', the reaction to the story becomes more news. On the other hand though, it has been a good 4-6 months hasn't it since anyone has speculated on the next Pope? The "next pope" story must be on their "Reminders" in outlook.