How Much Worse Can the Next Pope Be? A Lot

As the 115-member College of Cardinals—otherwise known as the largest collection of enablers and cover-up artists on the face of the Warth—gather in conclave to select the 266th pope, the Vatican punditocracy has shifted into high gear.

It’s like the Republican presidential primary season all over again, with about as impressive a selection.

But unlike the talking-head jamboree of U.S. presidential politics, papal selections come at irregular intervals.  The commentators who want to explain just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin have to get their jollies now.

It could be a looong wait for the next time.

Of course, like any race, the leading candidates have already been handicapped, with their weaknesses and strengths discussed at length. Here are a few of the most mentioned names:

* Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who says that Ugandan laws that would criminalize homosexuality are just “a call to respect culture.”

* Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who led an amazingly ineffectual effort to defeat marriage equality in the state.

* Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, who has described marriage equality as“not only a moral crisis but an anthropological one.”

* Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, who has described feminism and homosexuality as related evils because, in the words of a reviewer of one of his books,“the more women act like men, the more men are likely to want to have sex with other men”

* Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paolo, who has argued strenuously against marriage equality in Brazil

We’re detecting a trend.

Of course, what do you expect when the current crop of candidates was appointed either by John Paul II or Benedict  XVI, the two men who gave us the doctrine of the intrinsically evil homosexual. As Eve noted, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The fact that so many names are being thrown around is a sign of how much disarray the Vatican is in. The level of backbiting, careerism and scandal currently at play would do the Borgias proud. No single candidate has emerged as the likely winner (if that’s the word). We could be in for several rounds of voting as factions form and melt away. And let’s face it: Whoever becomes Pope faces an unholy Mass mess. You could even call it a moral crisis. But we’re sure the next Bishop of Rome will reserve that language for all those intrinsically evil folks outside of the Vatican and not for the guys who voted for him.