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So it may come as a surprise that, as the Levada choice has illustrated, the best description of Benedict from the political lexicon is a rather standard moderate, by which is meant that he is more than capable of factoring Church politics into his decisions.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN HIS pontificate will be like the presidency of Richard Nixon, full of half-measures, bobbing and weaving. But it is how to explain the Levada choice, which has baffled some who expected a tougher man.
My theory: during the conclave, Cardinal Ruini of Rome, said to have been the kingmaker, suggested to the crucially important American cardinals that the time had come for one of their own to be in one of Rome’s top two dicasteries. Naturally, Ruini would go on, the new Holy Father had to decide the details and it would be wrong, very wrong, for him to even mention this to his man during the conclave.
Were this arrangement to have taken hold in the imaginations of the American cardinals, they could well imagine that Ruini would also deliver the Italian vote. Not being a dumb man, Cardinal Ratzinger would have caught wind of these thoughts without ever speaking to Ruini and without ever feeling bound in conscience to implement any such plan.
And as long as none of those involved in the recent conclave felt bound or pressured, such arrangements are human and perfectly proper.
Ten years ago I had a long conversation with Cardinal Silvio Oddi, a power in the Vatican during the 1980s whose career was made by John XXIII and Paul VI. Oddi had participated in both 1978 conclaves and left little doubt that in the end he voted for Karol Wojtyla — but little doubt that he had others he voted for in previous ballots too. By the time we spoke, Oddi had retired, and among other things expressed his displeasure at having been frozen out of the next conclave (he was nearing 80). As long as we were being so frank, I put it to him bluntly about his mentor John XXIII’s election: had a deal been brokered whereby John would name X as his secretary of state?
“It is not forbidden,” Oddi replied in that wonderful Italian deadpan, confirming everything.
It is not forbidden. It is not terribly inspiring, either. But Benedict still is. More anon.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?