Habemus papum (“We’ve got pap”)

That was the response of Time magazine to the papal election. They’re following through on their boast with yet another piece presenting the event as the outcome of a Machievellian campaign by Vatican insiders:

“In the days before the conclave, almost every Cardinal who deigned to speak to the press declared that he was praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance in choosing the successor to John Paul II. The Holy Spirit’s efforts in this particular case began 18 months ago, with a stealth campaign that in the end transfigured an unpalatable candidate into the inevitable Pontiff …”

To the pure all things are pure. It follows, I suppose, that to the manipulative all things must be manipulative. If somebody attains high office the editors at Time magazine are convinced he must have angled his way into it, even when it’s an office no sane man let alone a scholarly 78-year-old in doubtful health would want to undertake.

Whatever the plot line that’s been agreed on, the mark of a good journalist is that he can assemble the details to fill it out. That seems to be what the editors at Time have done. Ratzinger’s stealth campaign included things like looking healthy and energetic and giving a good sermon from time to time. Other people have mentioned his skill, fairness and tact running meetings among the cardinals after the pope’s death, so perhaps the Time piece will mention that maneuver too. Since it would be hard to pull off such a shrewd campaign without knowing the time of the election maybe we’ll start seeing speculations that Ratzinger did the old pope in when he thought the time was ripe. (It’s an old custom among Roman priest-kings, so why not?)

Not that we have to rely on know-nothing Time editors alone for what to think. To give some background, they’ve lined up experts Andrew Sullivan and Hans Kueng (who claimed the Ratzinger conspiracy was behind the cries of “Santo subito“). To avoid any hint of bias they’ve balanced the views of Sullivan and Kueng, who loathe the new pope for personal reasons, with comments from Rick Santorum and Tom Monaghan (founder of Domino’s Pizza) as well as Mario Cuomo and Helen Prejean. Isn’t it nice that responsible journalists work so hard to inform us?

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