Monday, February 25, 2013

From San Francisco, The Inquisitor Speaks

Benedict XVI's first major appointee as Pope – Joseph Ratzinger's choice to succeed himself as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – as well as the first cardinal created in this pontificate, not until earlier today did we hear from the highest-ranking American in Vatican history: the now-retired Cardinal William Levada, who returned to San Francisco after leaving the helm of the historic "Holy Office of the Inquisition" last July....

YouTubed in six parts – and including a discussion of Vegas odds and Levada's 11th hour move on the leadership group representing most of the nation's women religious just before his retirement – the full presser is available here. 

The first impressions of the other Stateside electors were previously relayed in the wake of the resignation announcement.

While the US' delegation of 11 cardinal-electors is of a standard size for recent years – identical in number to the 2005 group – the "split" of the bunch is historic: an unprecedented four of the American electors (alongside Levada, Cardinals Raymond Burke, Edwin O'Brien and James Harvey) were given their red hats not at the helm of dioceses on these shores, but as holders of offices in the Roman Curia or other Rome-based posts. For purposes of context, last time, the diocesan-Curial split was 8-3. 

As noted earlier, however, thanks to an unprecedented level of churn in the ranks over his eight-year pontificate, Benedict has named fully eight of the voters in this Conclave's second-largest national bloc. But don't expect them to be voting together – as the colorful history shared by Wuerl and Burke has returned as a popular reference-point, the US group is looking set to at least initially split up between the likely Latin America/Third World bloc and one or another of the rival Italian factions. 

In other words, much as the world beyond can't get enough of talking "candidacies" that don't exist, at this stage, the matter at hand is far more rudimentary – namely, the shaping of the coalitions which, in time, will begin to reach that point. 

More on that in due course.