How do cardinals divine the will of God?

by on March 14, 2013 at 5:05 am in Political Science, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is an older 2004 paper from J.T. Toman (pdf):

In modern times, the College of Cardinals have been locked in the Sistine Chapel with the purported aim to divine the Will of God in the election of the Pope. Between 20 and 60 percent of cardinals vote for the same candidate throughout the conclave, depending on the length of the conclave.  For those cardinals that change their voting behavior, they are influenced by both the vote counts and the nightly conversations. However, in unifying the cardinals to one winner the dominant force is the observed vote counts.
There is a good summary of the paper here, and another recommended paper here.

For the pointer I thank Adriano.

Michael G Heller March 14, 2013 at 6:12 am

Sounds very secular. The churches are, after all, only another set of organisations in society. I did naughtily paraphrase a Reuter-quoted Vatican bishop on a recent tweet — “Brothers let us pray the Lord will embrace the noble mission of ridding the world of religion with a generous heart”. God riddance would certainly free up media space for earthly issues of real importance. But you know the Argentines are shouting in the streets already. Culturalists will be aware — a broadly infuriating but not inaccurate generalisation — that Argentine culture is represented by a tendency for people to blame everyone but themselves for their troubles. Now they will say at least The Lord will remember us again, and we shall be saved … again.

Michael G Heller March 14, 2013 at 6:42 am

Addendum: I have it on good earthly authority that when Pope Bergoglio (sorry, Francis) was the chief confessor in the Argentine city of Cordoba he listened sympathetically to the occasional or regular (who can really know the regularity of such things) confessions of Domingo Cavallo who has a doctorate from the University of Cordoba and located his important conservative think-tank in this same city. As a soundly and profoundly classically liberal (but by no means infallible) Minister of Economy, Domingo Cavallo was, of course, Argentina’s only *true* candidate for supremacy in the category of earthly saviour. And, since Cavallo was never a man to hold his tongue or mince his words, maybe there is some real hope for common sense in Vatican finances and politics over the next few years, to contrast with Italian political comedy. I’ve seen these confessional boxes in Cordoba churches, and noticed how long and apparently amiable and leisurely the conversations can be. If he listened carefully to the sermon of Cavallo, the imbroglio of Bergoglio might be short lived.

NAME REDACTED March 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Well, original sin: was gaining the knowledge of good and evil, aka religion.

James March 14, 2013 at 6:16 am

I think we should lock up the house and senate together and take away their cell phones until we get some type of budget reform. Congress of today is acting like the cardinals who took three years to elect a pope and the people tore the roof off. And you can really blame them because each side has no real opportunity cost of delay.

dan1111 March 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

When smoke rises, you will know they have passed a budget…or have resorted to setting each other on fire.

Rahul March 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

“Cardinals would only get one meal a day if the conclave went beyond three days, and just bread, water and wine if it went beyond eight”

I think we should replicate that part too!

Andrew' March 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

I always thought the black smoke was transubstantiated to white when God decided that they picked the right guy.

dearieme March 14, 2013 at 8:57 am

“How do cardinals divine the will of God?” Mostly they wet a finger and stick it up in the wind.

Andrew' March 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

Mostly they wet a finger and stick it up in the wind.

As opposed to the priests.

Bill March 14, 2013 at 9:04 am

I heard from an informed source that papal candidates offer to build new cathedrals in supporters districts, er, diocese, in exchange for the vote

My source is somewhat demonic, though.

But, what do you exchange for your vote to get elected?

Bill March 14, 2013 at 9:12 am

Also, in related news, a new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, is being installed. How does the heirarchical system of the Chinese communist party, and its choice of successor, differ from the College of Cardinals in the selection of the Pope? This is not to criticize the Catholic church, but it is interesting to note how heirarchical organizations perpetuate themselves. Since the new pope took the bus, rather than the popemobile, last night to his home, maybe there are changes in the heirarchical organization, and trappings, afoot.

mavery March 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

” This is not to criticize the Catholic church…”

I thought it was criticism of the Chinese system.

NAME REDACTED March 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

The Pope chooses hidden cardinals for the Chinese cardinals.

James March 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

That might actually work if the Vatican’s finances were centralized. In other words, Sunday collections go to Rome to be redistributed. However, Catholic Church finances are fairly decentralized and the Vatican’s budget is fairly small in the grand scheme of things.

Bill March 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

How about a Papal visit in exchange for your vote? Sainthood would probably be too far out of the question, though.

josh March 14, 2013 at 11:07 am

You know Bishops aren’t elected by their parishioners, right? And
Cardinals are elevated directly by the Pope.

Bill March 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

Nor are faculty hired by the students, which means you could get a department looking just like those who are already in it.

Josh, I think my point does not depend on Bishops being elected by the parishoners, but it does depend on Cardinals being elevated by the Pope. But, once you are elevated by the Pope, you can’t vote again for that Pope, can you. In the next round of Papal elections you can vote for a Pope, which means there is an opportunity for horse trading, or in this case, holy card trading.

anon March 14, 2013 at 11:17 am

Just curious – how many organizations on planet earth have been (or were) in existence for 2000 years?

zbicyclist March 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm

That’s the thing, isn’t it? If the first goal of an organization (particularly a bureaucratic organization) is to insure the continuation of the organization (and particularly the bureaucracy), it’s hard to find a better example of success.

Andrew' March 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Is that a good thing?

dearieme March 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm

“how many organizations on planet earth have been (or were) in existence for 2000 years?” Not the Roman Catholic Church, for starters.

So Much For Subtlety March 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Sure. 2013 if you don’t mind.

middle aged vet March 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Peter, the first apostolic leader in Rome and hence the first leader of the organization later called the Roman Catholic church, was close in age to Jesus and had a parent who was mentioned in the Bible. Assuming said parent was born in 20 BC,and giving said parent credit for raising a son in a good way, it has been, according to the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible, just about 2033 years since the world has lacked a saintly Roman Catholic’s parent. The apostolic succession is well recorded since then. Granted, that is only 40.66 times 50 years, and only enough time to develop 2033/12 successive bottles of good 12-year-old whisky, but, hey, its still a long time from certain points of view.

Bill Rich March 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm

The voting pattern of any one of them depends on whether and when they found the will of God. Those who thought they have found it before the conclave started may choose to vote consistently. Those who did not find it before the conclave would still be in a search pattern and change their votes accordingly. And so do those who didn’t know they have found it. And those who never even seek the will of God, of course would vote in any pattern.

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