Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Ents of St. Peter's Square

If you're familiar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then you know how slow ents can be. In the scene in which Pippen and Merry thought the council of the ents were trying to decide whether to go to war against Isengard, after hours of deliberation Treebeard turns to the hobbits and says (very slowly), "We've made a decision. . . . we've decided that you are not orcs." When the hobbits said, "yes, but what about the war?", Treebeard responded--again, very slowly:

"Patience, little hobbits. It takes a long time to say anything in old Entish, and we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say."

If you watched the coverage of the conclave procession yesterday, then you probably realized that the election of the new pope was not going to be a quick process. First of all, no one walking through the door of the Sistine Chapel (save the priest-servants who accompanied them) was a young man. But to make matters worse, these elderly men must follow the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the event, such as each one individually having to walk down to the podium, place his hand on "the gospel," and swear his oath to secrecy. Whatever happened to "let your yes be yes and your no, no"? Is there an implicit assumption that these men are not to be trusted with a simple request not to divulge their knowledge of the proceedings?

In any case, if you;re wondering why black smoke has once again risen from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, keep in mind that Roman Catholic cardinals are much more like ents than hobbits. In the spirit of Treebeard (read very slowly): "It takes a long time to do anything in a conclave, and we never do anything unless it is worth taking a long time to do."