Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope has Died and the Poping Process Now Begins (part 1)

As everyone now knows, the pope died over the weekend. The next step, of course, is to elect a new pope, which itself is a multi-step process. Over the next several days I will be doing a multi-part series on how this process is done, who is up for consideration, and my own analysis of who the likely choice will be. That choice will have far reaching ramifications on the direction of Roman Catholicism.

The Election Process
The election process consists of at least five steps (depending on how you count the proceedings, and just what you include), some of which are supplemented by other contingent actions. Here they are in a nutshell:

Step 1: The cardinals (the "princes of the church"--so much for Jesus' teaching on the greatest in the kingdom) will gather together at Vatican City later this month to pray for guidance. There are currently 183 cardinals, but only 117 (those under the age of 80) are actually allowed to vote.

Step 2: The cardinals gather together at the Sistine Chapel to begin the election process.

Step 3: The cardinals discuss election rules, and then takes oaths to uphold those rules and to maintian secrecy (sounds a bit like the secret society of the Masons--was Jack Chick right after all?). Also, the voting cardinals are identified at this time.

Step 4: An initial vote is taken. The names of all nominees are counted, written down, and read aloud; and then the ballots are burned (you'll see this white smoke coming out of the chapel during live news coverage).

Contingency step 4a: A nominee needs two-thirds vote to be elected pope. If no one gets that, another vote is immediately taken.

Contingency step 4b: If no nominee gets two-thirds the second round, all ballots are burned (you'll see this black smoke coming out of the chapel during live news coverage).

Contingency step 4c: Unsuccessful voting continues for three days. If no winner is selected at that time, the cardinals take a day-long time out to discuss the nominees.

Contingency step 4d: Up to seven more ballots are taken. If no nominee wins during this time, then the procedure moves from two-thirds vote to majority vote.

Step 5: The newly elected pope accepts the position, selects his new papal name, and the head cardinal ("prince of church princes"?) announces to the public that there is new pope, and the new pope is presented in St. Peter's Square.

Tomorrow's Blog: Who are the likely candidates for pope?