This week my students and I started tracking the odds for various potential papal candidates now that the conclave has convened and the College of Cardinals are busy praying and, I’m sure, negotiating and discussing to determine who will be the next Pope. Evidently, bookies have given odds and taken bets on papal elections for more than five hundred years and this month’s election is no exception — just a quick google turns up loads of articles on the odds and loads more bookie websites where a person could lay money on this or that candidate.
My favorite candidate right now is Cardinal Peter Turkson, who has a lot going for him: he’s non-European, he’s conservative, he’s highly involved in social justice, and he’s not as old as Father Time, which helps. A close second is 68-year-old French-Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, whose academic background and advanced degrees in philosophy and dogmatics give him some intellectual appeal; he seems to have a good grasp of repentance for the wrongs of the Roman Catholic Church without groveling or compromise. The youngest candidate, Philipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, in addition to being an advocate for the poor and an outspoken defender of sexual abuse victims, also happens to be non-European, which I think is a much, much-needed move for this era.
Of course, it’s not like these men run for office! They’re just prominent men who seem likely, for whatever reason, to be elected by the College of Cardinals. It’s fun to watch it unfold, and more than a little comical to watch bookies make odds on various candidates. Have a look at this list and read down almost to the bottom. There’s a little surprise there for the observant and well-informed reader.