For anyone who’s interested, here are a couple of very helpful resources. Robert Moynihan’s website The Moynihan Letters covers what’s being talked about in Rome, and is frequently updated with current gossip. (Today’s dispatch is one of the meatiest and most interesting.) And the National Catholic Reporter is flooding the zone with conclave coverage: Check out the “Latest Posts” in the lower right-hand corner, and also John Allen’s series of “Papabile of the Day” articles — detailed analyses of the pros and cons of the candidates.
Allen’s enemies won’t let him live down the fact that he got 2005 wrong; he didn’t think Ratzinger was going to win. Don’t let that mislead you: He’s a fantastic reporter with good sources, who happened to get beat to that story by the guy from Time magazine. (The story here. Also, be sure to mention this story every time somebody tries to tell you that the process is fundamentally secret, mysterious, and unknowable; or that “he who enters the conclave a pope leaves it a cardinal.” Wrong! Game, set, and match. The truth is out there, and a journalist can sometimes get at it.)
Finally, I only recently discovered the New Advent Buzz Meter. Not a very sophisticated instrument, to be sure, but it offers some interesting insight into which cardinals are being discussed more than others. Note especially the change in rank over a week’s time: Some cardinals have risen a couple of points, some declined a couple — but Robert Cardinal Sarah has risen +26! I think this is a sign that people are interested in an African (Sarah is from Guinea) but may think that the supposed African frontrunner, the much-better-known Peter Cardinal Turkson, is flaming out because of various impolitic statements he has made, and the consequent loose-cannon impression the cardinals want to avoid. (There is precedent for the cardinals’ choosing a “junior senator” from a particular region: Remember that in 1978, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski was the “famous” Polish cardinal, but the more obscure one, Wojtyla, was elected.) And it’s important to watch out for the cardinals who are more talked about closer to the election, as opposed to those who are on the earlier papabili lists. In 1978, Albino Cardinal Luciani was not on many of the initial lists, but I remember reading a newsmagazine article a few days before the election in which it was reported that the powerful Giovanni Cardinal Benelli was attracting attention by talking up Luciani. Whoever wins this time will almost certainly have been “floated” in this manner . . .
PS. Heh, heh. Courtesy of a Facebook friend: Sweet Sistine brackets! I must say, in my line of work I come across a lot of religious “satire” that shows its authors to be woefully ignorant of the subject they are trying to satirize; but these Sweet Sistine choices look like the work of people who have a pretty sophisticated understanding of what they’re talking about.