Political Animal


February 11, 2013 3:17 PM Early Papal Line

By Ed Kilgore

It’s a bit early for any serious speculation—much less red-hat-counting—about the likely identity of Benedict XVI’s successor as Pope. But there is one fascinating bit of earlier analysis, via the Duck of Minerva, from a young political scientist best known as the guy who started the Sarah Palin for Veep talk in 2008, Adam Brickley. The same year he indulged in that extracurricular activity, Brickley wrote a senior thesis at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs addressing a hypothetical 2013 election of a Pope to succeed Benedict XVI.

Based on others’ accounts of the strength and dynamics of various factions in the College of Cardinals, Brickley suggested the most likely 2013-vintage Pope would be a relatively young theological conservative from somewhere other than Europe or the United States. He doesn’t name names, but keep that early line in mind when the white smoke goes up, and if Brickley’s right again, it might be time to consult him for gambling advice.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • marty on February 11, 2013 3:40 PM:

    And it matters NOT ONE BIT who they select because unless he was willing to deal decisively, honestly and morally with the centuries-long (Yes, I said CENTURIES) rape and sexual abuse of children by thousands of priests and likely continuing to this very day, it will make no difference to anyone.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 11, 2013 3:52 PM:

    Okay, so I'm reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, so this is a little interesting. Especially since back in the good ol' days, who the Pope was actually mattered because the Pope had his own political power and could threaten to excommunicate secular leaders and burn heretics at the stake...

    Well, then... Aren't we lucky them days are over with!!!!

    On to the next one!!!

  • c u n d gulag on February 11, 2013 4:06 PM:

    You're 100% right.

    I read an unapproved history of the Vatican years and years ago, and in it, there was a disturbing discription of an event that happened under one of the Borgia Popes (which one, I can't remember - sorry).

    After a sumptuous dinner, the Pope and the higher-up who were with him, grabbed handfuls of coins, and some naked young boys and girls were called into the dining area.

    The old pedorasts and pedophiles then rolled their coins, which the young children, being poor, scurried to grab, and then the Pope and his crew chased after the children, and while they were bent over, or on their knees, to pick-up the coins, they would then stick their old meat-mitre's in whatever orifice of whatever young child pleased them.

    And I seem to recall, that this was not a one-time occurance.*

    The Catholic Church has long been a repository for sick, twisted men, with every sexual deviency known to man - AND THEN SOME!!!

    *The story didn't say whether or not the children were allowed to keep the coins - but I wouldn't put it past the old money-grubbing feckin' devients to make the children give the coins back, and then make them say a ton of "Hail Mary's" and "Our Fathers," for the grievous moral sins they'd just committed.

  • Josef K on February 11, 2013 4:06 PM:

    a relatively young theological conservative from somewhere other than Europe or the United States

    "Relatively young" in this case probably means someone in their mid-50s. "Somewhere other than Europe or the United States" is probably going to be the only interesting thing about the guy, whoever it ultimately is. Hopefully their english is proficient enough to be understood; I doubt many American Catholics will be interested in listing to him outside of the novelty factor.

  • c u n d gulag on February 11, 2013 4:32 PM:

    I still think something in this 'Pope's Retiring' story stinks - and I don't mean like the Pope's old Prada shoes, or the feet of the paupers he's supposed to wash.

    He announced his retirement at the end of this month.
    Why a less than a month?

    Why not stick around for one last Easter bash, and be the center of attention, "one mo' time!"?

    And this coming not too long after of that story about his secretacy?


  • Anonymous on February 11, 2013 5:14 PM:

    @c u n d gulag

    You're referring to is the Banquet of Chestnuts, when Alexander VI was Pope and his son Cesare was inspiring Machiavelli to write The Prince. Although there is some doubt as to whether or not the Banquet happened. The Borgias were some "interesting" individuals, though it's almost certain that they weren't quite as heinous as their later detractors made them out to be. By modern standard, though, nearly all of the Renaissance clergy were outright evil.

    Catholic defenders like to claim that the nonstop sex abuse scandals are a result of modern decadence (some, like Mel Gibson, blame it directly on Vatican II). However, all evidence does seem to support that this problem has been going on for many decades if not centuries.

    Gerald Fitzgerald (a priest who founded a group, Servants of the Paraclete, to help troubled priests) refused to help child molesting priests back in 1948. In 1957 he wrote, “Experience has taught us these men are too dangerous to the children of the parish and neighborhood for us to be justified in receiving them here.”

    That's right, the Catholic Church has been blowing off warnings about this for well over half a century.

    There are anecdotes, of course, throughout the entire history of the Catholic church. Indeed through most of the Christian Era the stereotypical lusty priest/monk was a stock character.

    Oh, and the Didache (written around 100 CE) warns specifically "Thou shalt not seduce young boys."

    The Council of Elvira (309 CE) ""Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune, even when death approaches."

    St. Bede (ca 700 CE) wrote that child abusers should be condemned to bread & water diets for as long as 12 years. In 1051 St. Peter Damian condemned Pope Leo IX for child sexual abuse (rather graphically, for the time) in the Book of Gommorah (Liber Gomorrhianus).

    The Sacramentum Poenitentiae was issued in 1741, by the soon-to-be-retired pope's direct namesake, Benedict XV. And it warned priests not to use the Confession to proposition people (including but not limited to children) for sexual favors. Although it seems to indicate that the modern way of transferring/promoting guilty priests and "dealing" with the problem internally (instead of in public, where it might hurt the Church's reputation) existed nearly 300 years ago.

    I'd imagine that it's been going on forever. Considering the iron grip that the Roman Church had on the Western World, it's no surprise that they behave as though they are above the law. For more than one thousand years, they were.

  • John B. on February 11, 2013 5:20 PM:

    cundgulag is on to something, unlike the alleged mainstream journalists (including the AP and NPR) who are uncritically embracing the same Vatican-seal-of-approval excuse of "age" and "infirmity." The Papal state may no longer be a counter-weight to the world's larger nation-states, but it hasn't lost its penchant for political intrigue.

    Especially interesting, I think, is that the first papal "resignation" in 600 years comes but a month or so after (1) the pardon, release from a prison sentence, and reemployment (as a hospital administrator) of the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele; and (2) after the unexpected promotion of Archbishiop Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's supposed "right-hand man."

    Gabriele had stolen "hundreds of thousands" of secret documents (not to mention heirlooms and gold jewelry) and shared an estimated thousand documents with a book author who was writing an expose to cleanse the Vatican of deep-seated corruption. "Bel Georg," as he known, had to be at the center of subsequent decisions to prosecture, pardon, and reemploy Gabriele.

    I don't mean to sound conspiratorial -- oops! too late -- but it's impossible to avoid it when speaking of the Vatican. The Pope's "resignation" deal sounds like the final term in a settlement agreement drawn by moster lawyers and the prosecutor's office. Gabriele gets his reward, and no prison time. The Vatican gets the documents back, including the thumb drives with all copies. The Pope is told to resign by both sides. He's a discard. And the Archbishop is now in the driver's seat.

    And all of these birds think they can be the moral leaders of the world. What a hoot.

  • Mitch on February 11, 2013 5:20 PM:

    Anonymous above was me. I'm a fan of history, especially religious history.

  • Al on February 11, 2013 5:30 PM:

    While all this is true, I notice how nobody seems to rage in equal righteous anger at OTHER religious organizations from OTHER religions (orthodox jews, muslims, protestants) with about equal or larger rate of sexual abuse in their ranks.

    I watch the news, I read every now and then about such stories, latest from the really Orthodox sections of New York for example (without the Rabbi's permission, nobody is even allowed to report a crime, go figure).

    I'm all for burning down the Vatican with everyone in there (the only good priest is the POOR priest, you know, who actually lives like Christ lived, or like most of today's nuns live, the bishops and pope don't seem to like them much), but I get kinda bothered that Christianity is singled out as if it was the source of all evils, OR AS IF OTHER RELIGIONS DON'T HAVE THEIR OWN SKELETONS IN THEIR ALL MALE THOUSAND YEAR OLD INSTITUTIONS.

    Maybe because the Vatican doesn't go around accusing any detractor of anticatholicism, defamation or whatever?

  • Mitch on February 11, 2013 5:41 PM:


    Or maybe it's because of the scope of the problem. Or maybe it's due to the way that the Roman Catholic Church acts as though they still rule the world. Or maybe it's somehow more upsetting that someone claims to be infallible and the single greatest representative of God on Earth, yet participates in the coverup of child abuse.

    I'll gladly fight against any group (religion or otherwise) that has such an evil institutionalized legacy of child abuse. But few groups on Earth is as dominated by hubris and self-entitlement as the Roman Catholic Church.

  • c u n d gulat on February 11, 2013 5:53 PM:

    Thanks for the additional info!

  • Al on February 11, 2013 6:01 PM:


    You mean THE VATICAN.

    The Church are actually the followers. You sure it's OK to paint them all with the same brush? Kinda like blaming all Jews for the Sanhedrin's actions in Jesus' time, don't you think?

  • Mimikatz on February 11, 2013 6:19 PM:

    For the one person amused by my earlier reference to the Prophecies of St Malachy see http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/20116 that the next (and ladt) pope would bem "Peter Romanus", it appears that Peter Turkson of Ghana is being mentioned as one of those fulfilling Adam Brickley's criteria, although I heard this a.m. that Ratzinger's choice is the Archbishop of Milan.

    At least we don't have to wait 4 years to see how this one goes.

  • Mitch on February 11, 2013 6:39 PM:


    Actually, I mean the Church. Mostly the hierarchy but also to some extent the believers who still blindly support the same people who defend the predators of children.

    Just like I, to a certain extent, blame Islamic society for the severe abuse of girls common (and Al-Qaida, modern-day slavery, etc.) in their corner of the world.

    Much as, "I was only following orders," was not justification for the actions of Nazis; "I'm just a member," is no justification for meekly allowing horrible evil to continue in the Catholic Church.

    If the population took a stand against such things, then they might end. Kind of like I attempt to take a stand when my own government crosses ethical lines (like drone killings, even if it does upset other Dems that I vocally disagree with such things).

    And, no, it's not the same as the antisemitism that used to be common in the Christian world (and still is, among some). How is it not the same, you may ask (probably in all caps).

    Easy: Blaming the entire population of Jerusalem during the Crucifixion for the death of Jesus could logically make sense, I suppose. But blaming Jewish folk of different nations, generations and centuries is just plain stupid. I prefer logical consistency in my ethical judgements; and I do not believe that one carries the guilt of their parents.

    Blaming the people who follow their leaders NOW, while the abuse and coverups ARE STILL HAPPENING (see, I can do all caps, too) does make sense and is logically, ethically proper. Especially when those leaders like to go on and on about being the "defenders of innocent lives" and act ethically superior to, say, women who would like to take contraception.

    That's not to say that all Catholics are guilty, even passively. Some are bold crusaders against the corruption in their Church. But the faith as a whole has not stepped up and made it UNACCEPTABLE for the clergy to protect predators. Rather it is still verboten to question the word from on high, and I will ALWAYS find fault with blind obedience to dogma of any kind.

    Of course, I deal in nuance and subtlety, and don't really judge people by their "group"—I prefer to think of people as individuals first and foremost. Whereas you seem to deal in moral absolutes. And all caps. You deal in those a lot, too.

  • cmdicely on February 11, 2013 7:21 PM:

    "Relatively young" in this case probably means someone in their mid-50s.

    No, it probably means someone in their (probably mid-to-late) 60s rather than somewhere in the their 70s.

    "Somewhere other than Europe or the United States" is probably going to be the only interesting thing about the guy, whoever it ultimately is.

    "Theological conservative", if correct relative to College of Cardinals overall, would be interesting. Basically, Brickley's prediction covers the three axes that most of the discussion of this (and the last) conclave focussed on younger/older, north/south (approximately, the odd "other than Europe or the US" formulation would include Cardinal Ouellet, who is a Canadian), and conservative/moderate (there may be a couple of theologically liberal cardinal electors, but no one talks about a liberal pope.)

    It could, perhaps, stand to be mentioned that Brickley's prediction essentially repeats what most observers were predicting about the next conclave from about the day after Cardinal Ratzinger's election to the Papacy was announced. (And quite a few before that election had predict that it would produce a transitional -- older, Vatican insider -- Pope, followed by one matching the same features that Brickley predicted.) About the only point on which the predictions have tended to disagree is that there has been some prediction of a theological moderate, particularly in earlier predictions.

  • MikeN on February 11, 2013 10:14 PM:

    Always check with the professionals, in this case the British bookies.

    Top 3 bets:
    "Nigeria’s Francis Arinze, 80, is the 2-1 favorite at London-based William Hill Plc, meaning a 1-euro ($1.34) winning wager would return a 2-euro profit. Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana is second favorite at 5-2. At Paddy Power Plc, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, is the 5-2 frontrunner, while Turkson is 3-1 and Arinze is 7-2."

    I figure they'll go for one of the Africans, so anytime people complain about gays and women they'll be able to scream about racist liberals imposing evil Western secular cultural values on Godly conservative Third World true believers.

  • marty on February 12, 2013 8:20 AM:

    "Catholic defenders like to claim that the nonstop sex abuse scandals are a result of modern decadence (some, like Mel Gibson, blame it directly on Vatican II). However, all evidence does seem to support that this problem has been going on for many decades if not centuries."

    It has been BOTH going on for centuries and been known about by the highest authorities for centuries-

    See this video:


    I knew it had a long history, but had no idea it went as far back as 3 digit years!

  • AL on February 12, 2013 10:25 AM:


    good reply, some good points and bad ones (moral absolutes? which ones exactly?).

    And although it's too late to reply (hey, I got busy), I will:
    1.- Name ONE instance where the believers condone/sanction shielding of priests accused of crimes by the clergy. I'm yet to see one.
    2.- By your logic, then the US population is guilty of W's crimes, and Israelies guilty of Bibi's and Sharon's crimes (since they all elected and relected them). Want to guess what's the logical conclusion to that (imagine a Nuremberg type of trial on every US city for both city officials and civilians)?

  • John on February 12, 2013 12:29 PM:


    Thanks for giving us the what the current British bookies odds are. Being a nominal Catholic, and not knowing much about nearly all of the 117 or 118 (depending on what media source one reads or tunes into)I do think the bookies are somewhat off. The Italian clacque of Cardinals which is a significant voting bloc, have been clamering for sometime now of reverting the Papacy back to an Italian. If the College of Cardinals do indeed to the historic move of electing someone outside of Europe and the First World, I suspect they will visit Latin America first before Africa. As the Roman Catholic Church is dangerously close to irrelevancy anyway, if it hasn't already reached that point, I would think it would behove the College of Cardinals to nominate someone who considerably younger to Benedict, more vigorous, a speaker of multiple languages, and with at least one toe in the 21st century and can handle social media. I suspect Cardinal Arinze would be too old. I also seem to remember decades ago in the ending days of Pope Paul's and Pope John Paul II papacy remember reading articles with Cardinal candidates being speculated. None of the Cardinals named in these articles were elected Pope. I suspect this will be the case again in the coming weeks.