Reflections on ‘Tettamanzi lesson’ for handicapping papal elections

Crux | 8/8/2017 | Staff
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Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, who died on Saturday at 83, was an important figure in Catholicism for most of his adult life, for a variety of reasons, and you can read all about it in the obituary published on Crux by our own Claire Giangravé.

For those of us periodically called upon to handicap papal elections, however, Tettamanzi is significant in yet another sense: He’s a permanent reminder that candidates who seem slam-dunk obvious, who check all the boxes and meet all the conventional criteria, can nevertheless basically vanish from consideration when the time comes.

Ways - Tettamanzi - John - Glenn - Catholic

In many ways, I’ve long thought of Tettamanzi as the John Glenn of the Catholic Church.

Remember the brief Glenn boomlet back in 1984, when he ran for president? He was an authentic American hero, a former astronaut, and a moderate Democrat who seemed ideally poised to take on President Ronald Reagan. To sweeten the pot, the popular movie “The Right Stuff” came out during the primaries, celebrating his heroism and providing countless millions in free PR.

End - Glenn - Campaign - Democrats - Walter

In the end, however, Glenn’s campaign went nowhere, the Democrats nominated Walter Mondale, and they ended up on the wrong end of one of the greatest electoral college landslides in American history.

Similarly, I remember asking the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago after the conclave of 2005, which elected Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, what his greatest surprise was. He said it was that alleged candidates who got a huge amount of buzz in the press, especially Tettamanzi, had little traction once the cardinals actually got down to business.

Italians - Tettamanzi - Confirmation - Sayings - Elections

Many Italians, naturally, see Tettamanzi as confirmation of one of their best-loved sayings about papal elections: Chi entra papa in conclave, ne esce cardinale, meaning, “Who enters a conclave as pope, exits as a cardinal.”

The problem is that like so many bits of Italian conventional...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Crux
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