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Perceptive commentary: Guenois, Lott, Thavis

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 12, 2013

In the last days and hours before the opening of the conclave this afternoon, a few analysts added useful thoughts about what we should expect—and what we should not expect—during and after the papal election.

  • For those who read French, Jean-Marie Guenois of Le Figaro offers some important cautions. The cardinal-electors are not neatly divided, he says; it is misleading to think of national or ideological voting blocs. Journalists, and the public at large, can easily be entranced by an “exotic alternative” candidate, who will actually not command much support among the cardinals. Many of the rumors that circulate in the final hours before the conclave are misleading, he adds—sometimes intentionally so. Guenois remarks that the cardinals’ first ballot on Tuesday afternoon is the equivalent of a primary election, showing which candidates have support broad enough to remain in the running.
  • Jeremy Lott of RealClear Religion asks the unwelcome but important sobering question: What If You Get a Bad Pope? If you are unhappy with the conclave’s selection, don’t despair. Your assessment of the new Pontiff may be wrong. Even if you’re right—even if his pontificate is a disaster—the Church will survive. Citing the remarks of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1997, Lott points out that nothing in Church teaching guarantees that the cardinals will select the right man for the job. The Holy Spirit guides the Church, but (again quoting Cardinal Ratzinger) “probably the only assurance He offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”
  • Looking forward a few days, longtime Vatican correspondent John Thavis suggests Seven steps for a new pope in a USA Today column. Among his ideas: a thorough housecleaning, replacing most Vatican officials; regular weekly “cabinet” meetings with the heads of Roman dicasteries; 5-year term limits (renewable at the Pontiff’s discretion) for officials of the Roman Curia; and either the reform or the abolition of the Vatican bank.

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