Despite any thoughts of an orderly selection, guided by God for the next pope, the reality is far different.   Serious political forces are in place in order to place the next pope.   With such a historically strong Italian root, the Papacy is going to have a lot of heavyweight contenders with very different ideologies.   Using the current betting odds, I decided to lay out who's in contention and what it means if any of them get the nod.

The Front Runners:

Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64 Line: 7 to 2 Country: Ghana
Elevated to cardlinalate by Pope John Paul II

Some have said that Cardinal Turkson would be a very progressive, forward moving Pope.  This is not assured.  Cardinal Turkson was ordained to the priesthood in the US, in 1975.  Educated in the US, Cardinal Turkson would be the first African Pope, and has said - as cited frequently - that he MAY support use of condoms inside a marriage if one partner is shown infected with HIV.   That having been said, Turkson largely modified his belief on this in the past few years, and has advocated abstinence for those with HIV/AIDs, and gave one public interview to this effect:

The question of HIV/Aids … I think in Africa there are so very, very many various scenarios involving the HIV/Aids question. There is a situation in Southern Africa which is tragic, which is very pressing and that's where most of the references about the situation of HIV refers to. I personally have an experience of this in Botswana where I spent some time and I witnessed the fact that almost every weekend, about four-five people are buried, young people and not. It's like … it's dissipating the work-force of the Nation and the effect is bad. So the treatment of it: I mean, there are two prevailing … I suppose this, in this regard: there is the discovery now of the antiretrovirus, and it is either the antiretrovirus or it is the use of condom to stop the spread of HIV/Aids, unless we go with the abstinence, you know, and fidelity to partners and things like that.

And from my own, you know, we've learned from Ghana we've not done a total and thorough research on this, but the small titbits that we have from our hospitals, because in Ghana the Catholic Church is small, about 30 per cent, of all the health institutions in the Country; next to the government, we provided the biggest number of health facilities, so from this small survey we've discovered in our hospitals, when even people propose, you know, the use of condom, it becomes effective only in families where they resolve also to be faithful. The ordinary use of condoms, just as a stop of Aids, it is not the given, appreciable resort in our case.

When young people resort to condom, it is only also when it goes with fidelity, in that situation where one of the partners may be suffering from HIV/Aids themselves. When that is the case, let's talk it over plainly here: we are talking about a product of a factory, and there are different qualities. There are condoms which arrive in Ghana (where in the heat they burst during sex), and when that is the case, then it gives the poor a false sense of security which rather facilitates the spread of Hiv/Aids. And when that is the case, then we are reluctant even in the case of, you know, conjugal relation and people who are faithful, people are reluctant to talk about it.

But still our primary concern and our priority are such that what we will talk first about will probably be this: the abstinence and loyalty and fidelity and you refrain from sex when it is not the case. And as once I suggested to somebody: if anybody came to me ever with Hiv/Aids and wanted my view, I know that in all situations of pastoral counseling the pastor never decides what a candidate must do. It's the same in psychological counseling situations: you just expose the issues, discuss the issues with the candidate and allow the person to decide, take his own decision. And when that is the case, I would not undervalue the possibility that somebody who has Aids, recognizing his own Christian commitment, would simply just decide to refrain from sex. I have not come across too many, but I have come across a few; a few Christians and Catholics, who recognizing that they have Aids, have just refrained or refused to have … because of fear of spreading it. Some would, in such a situation, have advised the use of condom by the partner who has Hiv/Aids so it doesn't spread. But again, in our part of the world, even the use of condom is sometimes risky: risky in the sense that will we have cases of condoms that have burst during sex and it is they themselves who have come to talk about it otherwise we would not have known it in our hospitals.


Turkson would be in this situation the one of the more potentially progressive of all the front-runner candidates out there, though not by much.

The next in line by the odds makers,

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, Canada Line: 4:1
Elevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul II
Significant views: Belief that abortion is unjustifiable, even in cases of rape.

There is a very strong push behind Cardinal Ouellet.  Currently the head of the Congregation for Bishops, he would be seen by several as the Pope of the New World.   But the real push to enable Oullet to get this high in the odds is that many of the conservative wings are lining up behind him as their best shot to stop Turkson.  Ouellet had been climbing the list for the last few years, but in the last few days his odds have found real gas.  Conservative wings within Italy who believe that the odds of an Italian Pope are diminished might be swayed to take Ouellet over Turkson and some odds now have him as a frontrunner.

Cardinal Ouellet has been a major backer of the idea that abortion in all cases (including Rape and some cases of Life of the Mother) are abhorrent and mortal sin.   Ouellet has also been an advocate of the belief that the rise in sexual cases regarding the church is due to a lapse in who gets admitted to the priesthood.  Though not as forcefully backed as others, Ouellet would be the conservative front runner, and that may get him the papacy.

For most liberal Catholics, the appointment of Ouellet would be a body blow.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, 80 Country: Nigeria Line: 6:1
Elevated to cardlinalate by Pope John Paul II

Odds makers had originally put Arinze higher, but his age looks to be a serious factor here as well as the trend lines backing the top two.  Arinze would be your other potential African nominee for Pope, but unlike Turkson Arinze would be considered one of the most conservative nominees imaginable.

Having turned 80, he cannot vote for the next pope, unlike his fellow options.  If selected, his age would be the biggest factor.. a decision to elect an older pope to table the issue again for later.   Arinze Papacy would very well duplicate the terms and ideals of the current See, and his views on Abortion, Birth Control would be considered extremely conservative.  Selecting of Arinze would be a sign that the Cardinals want to "kick the can" and nominate another short term custodian of the papacy.

Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71 line: 8 to 1Country: Italy
Elevated to become Archbishop of Milan by Benedict XVI

Scola would be considered one of the most progressive potential nominees.   Italy would love to lobby behind him, but it's that fact that may put him on the outside.  Scola became head of the Church related studies of Marriage, Youth Education, Sex, and Bio-Ethics.  He's published several articles, including a US published novel "The Nuptial Mystery", and was seen by many as the Cardinal most looking for a broad solution to the Sex/Pedophilia scandal in the US and elsewhere.

Scola's views on many issues are "cloudy" but he tips his hands somewhat.  In 1995, Scola referred to changes in Church Policy, especially in regards to stem cell and bio-ethical research.


At 20, Italian cardinals comprise the largest national voting bloc. Many cardinals lean toward tapping an Italian because they have centuries of experience running the Rome-based church bureaucracy. Milan Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi backs condom distribution and has spoken supportively to anti-globalization rioters. Venice Patriarch Angelo Scola thinks the church should loosen up bioethical rules on issues such as stem-cell research. Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, the most powerful prelate behind the pope, handpicked a majority of the bishops responsible for covering up clerical sex abuse.
If there were to be real potential liberalization in the Church, this would be a bold pick.   But it's doubtful.   Really doubtful.   Still, if there was a move to truly liberalize the church, this would be the front runner.

And beyond this, everyone goes to 10 to 1 and below.

Of those, I just want to highlight a few:

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78 Line: 13 to 1 Country: Italy
Elevated to cardinalate by Pope John Paul II

This would be one of the most disastrous picks for anyone with a liberal viewpoint who is a member of the Catholic Church.  But despite the odds makers putting him so  high, I don't see a path for Bertone to become Pope in any vote.  Bertone's career is stacked with real controversy, from concerns over his publications regarding Fatima to claims in the press that it was the fault of admitting gay priests that resulted in the incidents of pedophilia.  

Bertone has been adamant in maintaining his belief that Gays have no place in the church and has extended this to include complete excommunication of those who have dealt drugs or used extensively for their role in idolatry.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 70 Country: Italy Line: 15:1
Elevated to cardinalate by Pope Benedict XVI

Another VERY strong conservative on the list, thus putting him on the outside.   Bagnasco has professed the belief that abortion in all cases is wrong (Rape & Life of the Mother not acceptable).   But Bagnasco's anti-gay approach earned him a series of protests and threats, which gives you an idea of how far he went.  Most famous for this statement:

"Why say 'no' to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say 'no' to incest? Why say 'no' to the paedophile party in Holland?"
Bagnasco would be the MOST conservative on this list, advocating that Catholics cannot in good spirit allow state money to pay for health care, support or means to endorse "the gay lifestyle".

He's a longshot and really has no shot.. however, those who would back him are quickly lining up behind Cardinal Ouellet.  So, his collapsing candidacy may turn to the benefit of other conservatives.

Odds are provided by the Irish Paddy Exchange.  (seriously) and the British Line.

Please note: during the time writing this, the odds for Ouellet have continued to move up, putting him in a tie to ahead in the polling.  If conservatives drop out and line up behind him.. especially if the Italians split and back him, he will have the inside track.

Originally posted to tmservo433 on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 07:29 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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