Arnoldus Pontifex?

By Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Although Pope Gregory XIV banned betting on papal elections in 1591, the practice continues: Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker (www.paddypower.com), is risking the ire of the Catholic Church by offering wagers on the next Pope. Who are some of the best bets? Many gamblers and Vatican watchers are predicting a Third World Pope. One factor to take into account before placing your bet is age. The College of Cardinals will probably be looking for a Pope who is neither too old (John Paul I's death after a month in office still rankles) nor too young (many feel that John Paul II's twenty-six-year pontificate has been too long). Paddy Power has not limited its betting options to real people; two of the longest shots (at 5,000 to 1) are fictional churchmen: Father Dougal McGuire, the dim-witted priest on the discontinued British comedy Father Ted, and Reverend Lovejoy, from The Simpsons. Below is some of the recent action on the flesh-and-blood candidates. The odds are those being given by Paddy Power. —ELIZABETH SHELBURNE

Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy): 2 to 1. If an Italian is to occupy the papal throne again, the odds are on this "wee fat guy," as Tettamanzi was once called by a Scottish cardinal.

Cláudio Hummes (Brazil): 5 to 2. A progressive in his youth who has become a traditionalist (albeit with a soft spot for the landless) in his old age, Hummes might appeal to those who would like a more moderate Third World Pope.

Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino (Cuba): 11 to 2. Like John Paul II, Ortega y Alamino comes from a Communist country; he has argued against rampant capitalism.

Francis Arinze (Nigeria): 6 to 1. A convert from animism to Catholicism at the age of nine, the conservative Arinze is on everyone's short list.

Giovanni Battista Re (Italy): 8 to 1. A creature of the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy), Re is considered a moderate.

Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga (Honduras): 10 to 1. This fierce advocate for Third World debt relief might—at age sixty-one—be deemed too young.

Giacomo Biffi (Italy): 10 to 1. An extremely conservative cardinal, Biffi gets better odds from Paddy Power than most Vatican watchers would give him.

Ennio Antonelli (Italy): 12 to 1. These odds, too, are surprisingly good; Antonelli barely registers on the Vaticanista radar. Then again, neither did Karol Wojtyla, better known as John Paul II.

Angelo Scola (Italy): 12 to 1. Three Popes since 1900 have come from Venice; Scola could be the fourth.

Christoph Schönborn (Austria): 12 to 1. Touted as papabile outside Austria, Schönborn is not as well respected inside it.

Crescenzio Sepe (Italy): 14 to 1. Sepe, who is sixty-one, is a young (again, probably too young) rising star inside the Vatican, known for his success in leading the year-long Jubilee celebration in 2000.

Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne (Peru): 14 to 1. The first cardinal from Opus Dei (the group infamously portrayed in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code), Cipriani took the Peruvian basketball team to a Latin American championship when he was young.

Carlo Maria Martini (Italy): 16 to 1. Many think this very liberal Jesuit's time has passed.

Godfried Danneels (Belgium): 20 to 1. A reformer who has considered appointing women to curial agencies, Danneels would be likely to allow local churches more power.

Joseph Ratzinger (Germany): 25 to 1. A longtime member of the Curia, and probably a stronger candidate than the odds here would suggest, Ratzinger has been a stern traditionalist in his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (USA): 1,500 to 1, according to the Paddy Power Web site. (Well, he is Catholic.)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/10/arnoldus-pontifex/303501/