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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Papal Conclave 2013: Countdown to the next old white guy

Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church being their deliberations today that will ultimately lead to a (new) old white guy to run the Church.  Yes, this gets a lot of media attention, but remember that we have a dozen or so 24 hour news channels, so pretty much anything gets news coverage these days.  What's more, the Papal Conclave has three things going for it that make great fodder for cable news:

1.  Lots of men dressed in red, which makes for great video.
2.  Lots of cloak-n-dagger secrecy.
3.  That "foreign/European" vibe that Americans find so fascinating.

It all makes for great theatrics.  Then they pick a new Pope, who will be:  a man, old, with a 99% chance he will be a white and about a 98% he will be European.  Don't by the "Pope from Africa" stories.  That's just hype.  Trust is a function of credibility and intimacy, and never forget that more than half of the Church's Cardinals come from Europe (reference HERE).

As American, we also are at a disadvantage when it comes to Papal elections.  Yes, I'm already conceding that the next Pope will not come from the United States.  That's a given.  No, I'm talking about the fact that Americans are, at their heart (and regardless of political ideology) a fair-minded people.  We have an almost inherent sense of propriety, so much so that fight wars over it.  This makes it difficult for us to understand a process by which the outcome is a forgone conclusion, but yet the process continues as if it were not.  Think about it:  we have presidential conventions every 4 years and the attendees are absolutely certain that their candidate will win.  Presidential elections have no such certainty though.  In over 200 years the United States has elected Presidents of different races, ethnic backgrounds and religions.  In less than 4 years we may in fact elect a woman to be the next President.  It's amazing.

Papal elections, on the other hand, have a sense of certainty. Every Pope has been white.  Every Pope has been a European.  Every Pope has been a man.  There is no sense of "endless possibilities here".  The notion of "anything can happen" does not apply.  The conclave is over before it begins.

Now could I be wrong?  Sure. The next Pope could come from Latin America.  I could also find a suitcase full of $100 bills on the way to work.  Both, however, are unlikely.

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