Dudes with red hats deadlocked on pope winner

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The religion news world remains on pope watch, awaiting the selection of Benedict XVI’s successor.

Or, as a Twitter post by Religion News Service put it Tuesday afternoon:


Winner winner chicken dinner?

Even though I am no expert on the Roman Catholic Church or the papal selection process, the use of the term “winner” made me chuckle.

It’s as if the cardinals were picking lottery numbers rather than choosing a spiritual leader for a worldwide church. Alas, click the link to the RNS story now, and that wording no longer appears. Apparently, someone thought better of the original terminology.

Meanwhile, a GetReligion reader shared this headline from the BBC:

Cardinals deadlocked over next Pope

That reader noted:

Leave it to the Brits to give this dire headline. Everyone else is just reporting “black smoke.” How do they know it’s “deadlocked?” Do they have something that’s getting past the jamming devices?

At some point, the BBC changed “deadlocked” to “undecided.” Long live the Brits!

As a non-Catholic, my first recollection of the papal selection process dates back to 1978. That’s when smoke started billowing from the Vatican on all three major networks. Suddenly, the cartoons I enjoyed watching as a kid were replaced with somber-looking dudes with red hats (although I’m not entirely certain that my family owned a color television at that point).

Then Pope John Paul I died after just 33 days in office, and the process started all over again! What a traumatic experience for a 1o-year-old boy. Remember, we didn’t have 150 channels back then.

Surely I jest. A little.

Two decades later, I got my first major experience covering the Roman Catholic Church, as I shared in my introductory post for GetReligion three years ago:

My baptism into the exciting and complicated world of religion writing — baptism by fire, you might say — came in 1999 when top editors at The Oklahoman assigned me to cover Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis.

After nearly 10 years in the newspaper business, I knew how to chase fire trucks and police cars and burn the midnight oil with city councils and school boards. But my knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church was scant. Honestly, I had no idea what a diocese was. I didn’t know the difference between a bishop and a cardinal. I had heard of the pope.

Despite a mild case of fear and trembling, I researched the basics of Catholic faith and prepared to handle the assignment. I wrote three or four Page 1 stories the week of the pope’s visit. My favorite focused on a youth event where Catholic teens jammed to the ear-piercing beat of DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” before welcoming to the stage a gray-haired pontiff who walked with a cane.

Alas, non-insiders reporting on the papal selection process have my sympathy. On any story, taking the time to verify even seemingly simple facts and word choices makes sense.

On this particular story — with all its history and intricacies — it makes even more sense, right?

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Julia

    Drudge Report: Calling Holy Spirit : Cardinals fail after 3 ballots.

    http://www.drudgereport.com/

    Nuff said.

    The linked Reuters article is nowhere near as bad as that stupid headline, even though its headline also contained the word “fail”.

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      Well, Julia, it sure didn’t take you long to trump the headlines in my post! :-)

  • Jerry

    Then, of course, there’s the importance of the betting markets and prognosticators. So don’t forget the odds makers in all of this hoopla: Election of a Pope Tests Betting Markets http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/election-of-a-pope-tests-betting-markets/

  • Julia

    Sad.

    Just for grins: I saw a taped interview of the Canadian Oullete (sp?) the other day. I swear he sounded a bit like the MacKenzie brothers of SNL fame. I kept expecting him to say “beauty” and talk about doughnuts. If he’s elected I’m expecting lots of jokes and headlines featuring “eh?”

  • http://blogs.courier-journal.com/faith/ Peter Smith

    Cardinals 115, Seagulls 2

    • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

      I think the Seagulls are now at 3.

  • Martha

    Waiting for the result since now we do have a pope!

    Watching online coverage from the Vatican website and listening to news coverage on our national radio and television station; it’s pretty decent, although they did manage to get in the “The cardinals are all old white guys and so don’t represent the majority of Catholics” part, but we got a good response from the guys doing the punditry.

    How’s the American and other coverage? I’ve done some quick skipping around for reaction online and the mentions I’ve seen of CBS sound bad?

  • Martha

    New pope is a Jesuit – the conspiracy theories will be off the scale! :-)

    Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who will be Pope Francis I and the first Jesuit pope; son of Italian immigrants to Argentina.

  • FW Ken

    How much dirt will the New York Times have dug up on him by midnight? Will Maureen Dowd declare him a failure tomorrow?

    • Patrick

      None, and yes.

    • Martha

      If Wikipedia is to be believed (yes, yes, I know) there is a ready-made scandal: Jesuit assassination plots!

      “Critics have accused him of ignoring the plight of victims during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983, despite victims and their relatives relating first-hand accounts of torture, death and kidnappings to the priests he supervised as leader of the Jesuit Order.

      On 15 April 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the kidnapping by the Navy in May 1976 (during the military dictatorship) of two Jesuit priests. The priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, were found alive five months later, drugged and semi-nude. Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery. Horacio Verbitsky, an Argentine investigative journalist and author, wrote a book about this and other related events titled El Silencio: de Paulo VI a Bergoglio: las relaciones secretas de la Iglesia con la ESMA.”

      This has been edited since I first read it; the earlier version claimed that some members of the Argentinian Jesuits advocated violent action against the regime and that he expelled them from the order, leading to the military picking them up.

      But since he’s not pro-gay rights and pro-abortion (and I presume, not pro-women’s ordination as well), then yes – expect the Liberation Theology advocates who were disciplined for politicising the movement and for quasi-Marxism to start popping up with accusations of cosy collusion with the regime and ignoring the poor and the disappeared.

  • Patrick

    Also, Francis I is way late to the game. He’s only the second Pope elected today! http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/03/12/coptic-catholic-patriarch-inaugurated/

    • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

      Patrick, you’re confusing the Coptic Catholic Patriarch with the Coptic Orthodox Pope. The Catholic Patriarch is in communion with the Bishop of Rome, while the Coptic Pope is not. Here’s a pretty decent explanation of the differences, though there are some details that aren’t quite there: http://people.opposingviews.com/coptic-pope-vs-catholic-pope-5418.html


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