Free the cardinals!

Yesterday tmatt asked readers to submit links to papal coverage that was particularly good or bad. I’m going to go ahead and put my responses in a separate post.

It begins, as all our best material does, with a comment thread from last week:

Julia says:

Can’t find it now, but there was an article on MSNBC.com (I think) that said JPII, in the 1990s, changed the ancient conclave rules so that the Cardinals could be let out of the Sistine Chapel now and then to sleep and eat, if necessary. I’m not kidding.

And it said that in the new hotel/residence on the grounds, the Cardinals are locked into their rooms!!! Where do the get this stuff? There are plenty of reliable sources, people and authoritative websites with the basic information.

And then there was this:

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz says:

I couldn’t quite believe what you were saying, Julia, so I went looking — and you were right!It’s the last paragraph. Yikes!

Here it is, and it’s actually from NBC:

The conclave process, in which cardinals are locked into their rooms until reaching a decision, was a tradition that began in 1271 following frustration at the failure of the church to agree on a replacement for Pope Clement IV, who died in 1268. Eventually, cardinals were locked inside the papal palace in Viterbo by exasperated magistrates.

Pope John Paul II changed the conclave rules in 1996, allowing cardinals to leave the Sistine Chapel during conclaves to eat and sleep if necessary.

Wow is that quite the collection of Dan Brown-level conspiracy thinking and attention to historical detail.

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Media fallibility on papal infallibility

YouTube Preview ImageLast week in my post “Turkson wouldn’t be first African pope,” I quoted from an humorous guide for journalists covering the election. The last tip:

  • Yes, the next Pope will be a man and a Catholic.

So obvious that it was barely funny, right? And yet … you can view here New York magazine contributing editor Chris Smith suggest on an MSNBC panel that the next pope be … Sonia Sotomayor. The Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne humbly notes that the Holy Spirit is running behind him — see, Dionne is ready for a female pope.

These are both instances of opinion journalists offering their opinions. We’re more interested in straight journalists writing up the news. But I still think these opinions are quite telling. And sometimes the straight news guys go into the more transparent opinion business and reveal what you probably suspected knew all along. Speaking of, the New York Times‘ former executive editor Bill Keller — who describes himself as a “collapsed Catholic” (get it?) — has some advice for the Roman Catholic Church. It begins:

Behold a global business in distress — incoherently managed, resistant to the modernizing forces of the Internet age, tainted by scandal and corruption. It needs to tweak its marketing, straighten out its finances, up its recruiting game and repair its battered brand. Ecce Catholicism Inc.

Because when you want business advice, you get it from the folks who are running the New York Times, amiright? I mean, God bless ‘em but they are seriously not the group to be offering business advice. Ever.

Anyway, let’s move on to the news pages. This piece, which also ran in the New York Times, is headlined “When a Pope Retires, Is He Still Infallible?” I was alerted to this piece via Twitter, where various people were mocking it relentlessly. It’s not a piece about how people who are uninformed or confused about the Catholic teaching on infallibility view what’s about to happen. No, it’s an earnest look at the topic, as if it’s a totally legitimate idea. And it somehow rounds up people who agree that this is a very tough question. The second paragraph:

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