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“We Need a Miracle,” Says Catholic Leader

February 11, 2013

“It will be nothing short of a miracle if the next papal conclave produces a good leader,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II stacked the College of Cardinals with ultraconservatives. This means that it is highly likely that they will elect somebody very like them.

“The Catholic church and the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide would like a pope who better reflects the way that they live their faith. We want a pope who understands the needs of Catholics—and the rest of the world—today. He would be a leader with a vision, one that Catholics and all the world’s citizens so desperately need.

“Instead, we are likely to get a leader who runs the Vatican as it has been run for the past few decades—a business-as-usual leader, who will continue to condemn contraception, abortion, LGBT individuals and all those who support them. We expect another pontiff who gives no backing for policymakers who rightfully serve all their constituents equally and do not feel compelled to enshrine Catholic teachings into civil codes. It would be refreshing if we moved away from the culture of impunity that has not held bishops to account for shielding sex-abusing priests, but I do not hold out much hope for that, either.

“It is, however, reassuring that the pope has taken the mature decision to resign. While Benedict has not gone against the grain during his papacy, the fact that he is the first pope in 600 years to choose to leave office is perhaps a sign of a maturing approach to governance.”

NB: The vote to elect a pope is called a conclave. A maximum of 120 cardinals under the age of 80 are the only eligible participants in the conclave, during which time they will be sequestered within the Vatican walls and vote in the Sistine Chapel until the new pope is elected. Candidates are not restricted to the College of Cardinals, as other men may also be elected. Normally two votes a day occur until one candidate emerges with a two-thirds majority (or, if the conclave decides after multiple votes, a simple majority). After each vote, the ballots are burned, with damp straw or other materials added to unsuccessful votes to produce black smoke. When the new pope has been decided, the ballots are burned with chemicals producing white smoke, signaling the beginning of a new papal reign.