Maybe it’s just me. Reviewing the list of papal elections since I was born (five, not counting this one), it appears that none of them made the slightest difference in my spiritual outlook or standard of living. Only one pope had any impact at all on yours truly: Pope John Paul I, who inconveniently expired right after deadline and forced me to work later that night because we had to remake the front page. From that day forward, those of us on the news desk always invoked the phrase “Better see if the pope died” before calling it a shift.
This isn’t Catholic-bashing, by the way. Far from it. I have great respect for all religions except that one with Tom Cruise in it. I just think it’s a little late in the day to be pretending that a papal election has much relevance to anybody but the cardinals conducting it. By now even devout Catholics know that popes are emphatically fallible. And it’s hard to think of any recent news story regarding a cardinal that is not about some heinous impropriety. The Catholics I know adhere to the faith not because of church leaders, but in spite of them.
A papal election matters these days only because it is the minting of a new celebrity. Somehow we never get enough of those. We never get enough coverage of celebrities saying and doing things that are completely expected. I can confidently predict a few things about the next pope right now: he (pretty sure of the pronoun) will be somebody we’ve never heard of, he will favor world peace, and he will vaguely favor the status quo while making vague pronouncements about vague reforms. He will visit at least one third-world nation to great fanfare — like Ted Nugent, you go where the fans are.
Finally, he will wear white in public. And the world will go on pretty much as before.
Oh, and here’s the best story on the conclave I’ve seen so far today.