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Pope Notebook: Dolan as Hilarius II? Mahony as Innocent XIV? Benedict’s ‘coup d’etat’; no Dennis Rodman yet

Pope Hilarius I, via Wikipedia Commons

Pope Hilarius I, via Wikipedia Commons

As everyone waits for white smoke – while under umbrellas in the chill of a wet Roman March – thoughts turn to many, many other things…

Such as rumors that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a relentless jokester, would take the name Hilarius II if elected – hat tip there to Robert Royal’s “dietrologia.” (And check out the biography of the real Pope Hilarius, who died in 468, from the Catholic Encyclopedia.)

At his Fordham panel on faith and humor last September, with Stephen Colbert and Father Jim Martin, Dolan said he’d actually like to be called Stephen if he were elected, Stephen III.

As our own Caleb Bell reports in his story on papal names, His Eminence is not infallible as the math on previous Stephens doesn’t add up – there have been 9 or 10 — but it’s hard to keep track even for professional historians.

And Colbert? “I’ve always liked Urban. I’d be Urban,” he told Father Martin last month when the Jesuit and chaplain to “the Colbert Report” was on. “Not SUBurban?” Martin shot back. Ouch. Who tells the jokes here, Father?

Martin’s choice should he be elected: “As for me I’d stick with my baptismal name,” he told me. “It’s the name with which God called me into the church, so I’m pretty partial to it.”

Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, on the other hand, is said to be a good bet to at least consider becoming Innocent XIV. You can spy the irony.

If you’re not too good at math and science, maybe you too could be papabile: Anthony Judge did the research and set up a chart that shows how few of the cardinals in the conclave have degrees in the sciences. It’s mostly theology and philosophy and canon law.

Andrew Sullivan pounces:

“The kind of priesthood that would include that kind of experience would not insist on celibacy. If women and married priests were admitted, the range of skills, backgrounds and experience would definitely help the church convey its message more effectively.”

Tom Jacobs sighs:

“These men—and one of them in particular—will be handing down decisions that spell out ethical rules impacting a variety of fields, including medicine. Wouldn’t it be nice if the group included some voices that could explain the latest scientific understanding of the workings of mind and body?”

Gibson shrugs. I mean, they’re leading the Roman Catholic Church, not IBM. I wonder how many executives as Microsoft or Apple – which does qualify as a religion, or at least a cult – have degrees in theology or philosophy? They should. If you need scientific or math expertise, you can hire it. It’s tough to outsource wisdom and faith.

Quotes of the Day are from Msgr. Charles Scicluna, who worked with Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for many years as his point man on sex abuse cases. Scicluna, who was promoted to auxiliary bishop in his home country of Malta last year, has been amazingly outspoken on what the church needs to do to protect children and restore its credibility.

He continues to be outspoken and interesting in a conversation recorded by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera (and translated by a Maltese paper), on why Ratzinger – now Benedict XVI – decided to resign, the first pope in 600 years to do so:

“To me it seems that he wants to give space to a person that can take the situation in hand in a way that he cannot presently ensure for the Church,” Scicluna is heard telling the journalist when asked about the investigations into child sex abuse inside Catholic churches.

When asked whether there were people around Benedict that (he) could not fully trust, Scicluna replies:

“If he goes, these people will also go. Maybe, not being able to decapitate everyone, he chose to go himself… it will be the next pope to handle the matter.”

Scicluna even entertains the prospect that Benedict, formerly his superior in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, might have “committed a coup d’etat”.

“Yes, he did a revolutionary thing. He anticipated his death,” Scicluna says, referring to the Vatileaks scandal and the involvement of unknown “third parties” in the leak of documents and other claims of blackmail of high-profile bishops.

Just in: The morning’s first ballot must have been inconclusive, as no smoke, white or black, on what would have been the second ballot of this conclave. We will definitely have smoke of some color around noon Rome time, as they burn all the ballots of the two rounds before lunch. If it’s still black at noon, back for ballots in the afternoon.

Oh, and still no Dennis Rodman sighting, least I haven’t seen him. Not sure what color smoke will signal his appearance.




About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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