“There is no Martini,” said Robert Mickens, a Vatican expert for The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly.
But truth be told, there was hardly a Martini last time around either. The political center of gravity for the church had long shifted rightward, and the Italian giant of the College of Cardinals lost out, badly, to the conservative titan Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 election. As Benedict XVI, the church’s former doctrinal watchdog went on to create 66 of the total cardinal electors, the other 49 having been named by his ideological soul mate and predecessor, John Paul II. The resulting electorate does not seem amenable to any clandestinely progressive candidates.
The traditional fault line of the church’s ideological battles is the reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. This may still be the case among Catholics in America and around the world, many of whom feel strongly that the church needs to follow the modernizing spirit of Vatican II into taboo territories such as birth control, an end to clergy celibacy and the ordination of women. But within the hierarchy, and especially within the conclave, such ideas will be non-starters. None of them have come in the more than 100 speeches by cardinals in pre-conclave meetings, according to official Vatican updates and unofficial leaks to Italian reporters.
Instead, reform this week has had more to do with an outsider-insider spectrum than anything left or right. The differences in the room are matters of emphasis on who wants a pastor and who wants a manager, who wants to protect the Roman Curia and who wants to clean house.
There remain some moderates who talk more about social justice and including the laity. It is a stretch to refer to a progressive wing in the conclave, but to the extent that there is a minority bloc that will have sway, it is believed that Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn is its leader, and a potential kingmaker.
Schoenborn is hardly Saul Alinsky and was himself a student of Ratzinger. But if not a pure progressive, Schoenborn has something of an advocate streak. In April 2010, Angelo Sodano, the former Vatican second in command and now the dean of the College of Cardinals, dismissed concerns about the global explosion of child abuse in the church as “petty gossip.” Soon after, Schoenborn, apparently believing to be talking off the record, told reporters that Sodano had “deeply wronged” abuse victims and accused him of blocking investigations into a cardinal suspected of molesting children. He also made supportive remarks about reform of the Curia and homosexuals in stable relationships and floated a reexamination of mandatory celibacy. The Vatican admonished him.