The answer is probably not, but with all the scandals circulating about cardinals’ sins on the eve of voting for a new pope, this question doesn’t quite have the left-field feel it might once have had.
Rumors of wrongdoing dogged the cardinals as they set about picking a new head of the Catholic Church and it was (almost) possible to imagine that corruption could distort the result. That by the way is the centre of the plot of Stones of Judgment, a book of fiction I finished before the Pope resigned and hope to have available on Amazon in a few days!
Let’s just recap some of those scandals. The Vatican Bank, for example, is now on a black list for its poor money laundering controls and on top of that one of its bankers died under very curious circumstances a few years back. One Scottish cardinal recently admitted inappropriate behavior and didn’t go to Rome, and others face questions about the conduct of priests in their diocese. Might not an unscrupulous villain have an opportunity to call the shots?
I think a lot of it comes down to trust, or lack of it. All the professions once considered hallmarks of an upright society are suffering. Bankers have disgraced themselves by earning too much while taking risks that jeopardized their banks and the livelihoods of ordinary people. In some cases they committed crimes on their way to those gains.
Doctors have had their image tarnished recently for succumbing to drug industry largesse and misrepresenting trial results. The number of priests in the dock and the cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy is destroying many people’s faith in clergy.
When the doors closed behind the cardinals eligible to vote in the Sistine Chapel this week, we can only trust that they voted with clear consciences and honest hearts. Perhaps they are the confessors for the men around them and avoided picking anyone that might be tinged with controversy. Although Pope Francis’s past during the times of the Argentine dictatorship is coming in for scrutiny now.
The evil villain in my book leverages the cardinals’ secrets to put his man on the papal throne. His choice won’t fit any serious person’s best pope pick, but his goal is the same: to unify and strengthen Catholic Church. My villain also has access to a very old biblical artefact, The Breastplate of Judgment (Exodus 28), just in case the cardinals prove stubborn.
It’s a Dan Brown-type twist that, I hope, proves more exciting than watching 115 men praying silently for divine guidance underneath Michelangelo’s masterpiece.