Conclave: Now Only A Formality?
I know men are fallible and prone to all the mistakes and sins caused by their fallen nature, but I always thought the Church has disposed a series of measures meant to minimise, in the most varied circumstances, the effect of our impulses on our decisions.
One beautiful example of this is the Conclave. Isolation. Times for prayer. Total immersion in the task at hand. A kind of spiritual retreat aimed at electing a Pope.
Exactly this seems now what at least some Cardinals want to avoid, with the recent calls for postponement of the Conclave because no strong candidate has allegedly emerged from the “preparatory talks”. This means, in plain English, that the Conclave should only be little more than a formality, and the real game already decided at the moment of the extra omnes.
I allow myself to disagree. Exactly why we all know how fallible human nature is, the Cardinals should insist that the decision process takes place, to as big an extent as possible, during and not before the Conclave. I can't see why even the “meet and great” should not take place there.
Of course, this would mean that Conclaves go on for longer; but I fail to see the difference with preliminary talks going on for longer.
Also, please consider Cardinals and Archbishops aren't indispensable. Past Conclaves weren't exactly short, and whenever an Archbishop or Curial Cardinal dies suddenly, the structure he leads is certainly not paralysed.
“Ahh, but the Press, the Press!” – you might say – “They expect a fast decision! Otherwise the Church will give the impression of being divided!”.
Seriously: the Press will always slander the Church whenever they want to, and it is fitting for every Catholic to be aware a Pope isn't elected by angels, either. Let the Press write what they want, and the Church do what is good for Her.
I personally can only see with worry a climate in which the pre-conclave is becoming the real conclave, and the actual conclave little more than an investiture ceremony. If you ask me, the Conclave should start sooner rather than later and he who hasn't time for it should not have any need for a red hat, either. If I were a Cardinal I would vastly prefer to get to know my colleagues in a spiritual and prayerful environment during the course of some weeks, than having this kind of primaries – at the very least – that are taking place now.
I have always been taught that you see a good leader when you know he could be run over by a bus and his structure would continue to run as a well-oiled mechanism at least for the ordinary administration, and that the value of a leader is in his ability to take decisions, not in his being a micro-controller and head bean counter. I can't see why a conclave should be an exception.
I hope the next Pope is elected in a more prayerful manner, with a strong conclave and with a press embargo from the start.