In Rome, as the College of Cardinals enters the conclave this evening to begin its work electing a new pope, in the United States, Congress continues to be incapable of resolving the political and budgetary crisis caused by sequestration. The cardinals will probably only take a few days to elect a pope, but by the time the conclave is over, Congress may still be deadlocked in its efforts to pass a budget, much to the embarrassment of the nation.
Many of the cardinals are looking for a pope who can reform the Vatican curia, but it is not clear what they mean by “reform.” “Reform” is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
I would distinguish between two types of reform: 1) Better management, 2) Comprehensive reform.
Much of the scandals surrounding the curia recently are simple management problems: financial corruption, sexual impropriety, petty infighting among factions, leaking of documents. Dealing with these issues is neither rocket science nor theology.
In my 1990 book, The Greening of the Church, I argued that concern for God's creation was low on the list of Catholic priorities. In the intervening years, concerns for the planet have increased at the level of papal teaching and in local churches.
Our March 15-28, 2013, issue is in the mail and on its way to subscribers. The issue features more stories from our team in Rome, but now that conclave has begun, those stories could be behind by the time they hit your mailboxes.
To help you stay on top of all things Vatican, conclave and Pope Benedict's resignation, here are those stories:
Final days of Benedict full of unclear calls for change, by Joshua J. McElwee and Dennis Coday
Now that my "Papabile of the Day" series is over, several readers have asked if there were cardinals who just missed the cut, meaning contenders I would have liked to profile if time had permitted, even if I regard them as long shots.
At one level, I'm tempted to say I would have liked to profile all 115 electors, so no matter what happens I can't possibly be wrong!
Seriously, however, there are a few plausible candidates I would have liked to get into the mix had not the clock run out.
To the media, reduced to "Dancing with the Stars" after the Super Bowl and the Oscars until re-entering Eden as the Masters Golf Tournament blooms again, the gods have suddenly delivered a gift seemingly from heaven, a surprise papal resignation and a conclave to elect a new pope.
There will be a new pope by St. Patrick's Day, but the timing was so good for the media that you would think that, for his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI had the same reporter adviser who told Pancho Villa to postpone his revolution until after the World Series.
And then there were five.
Three weeks ago, we started with 117 eligible cardinals in the College of Cardinals. Now with three rounds of voting under our belts, we have our top five of the cardinals that you, the readers, think will become the next pope.
Below are the five cardinals who received the most votes in round two. Of those five, choose the man you think will be voted to become the next pope (not the person you would like to see become the next pope).
Parish Diary: We Catholics need to step back from the pomp and power and consider the image we project. Perhaps it is time for us to downsize.
Rome dispatch: Today, the cardinals focused on the rituals involved with conclave, including what the smoke announcing the new pope's election will look like.
In the opening days of the general congregations, the series of meetings the College of Cardinals convene in the lead-up to the conclave that will choose the next pope, an idea was floated in the Italian press about a way to clean up the governance issues that have plagued the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI’s reign. The idea was to elect one of the over-80-year-old cardinals as pope. Such a pope, a curial old hand, would have a clear understanding of how the Curia actual works and could rein it in.