Benedict has appointed 57 percent of the cardinal electors (John Paul II named the rest), so they will most likely elect someone with similar views. In American terms, that means someone to the right of Newt Gingrich on social issues and to the left of Nancy Pelosi on economic issues.
2. The next pope is likely to be African or Latin American.
Catholicism has been growing dramatically in the developing world, but with 52 percent of the cardinals coming from Europe, chances are the next pope will be European.
The Italians have the largest bloc of votes, almost one-fourth of the 117 electors. John Paul II, who was Polish, was elected because the Italian cardinals were divided. Current evidence, including documents leaked from the Vatican, indicates that the Italian cardinals are again split. A non-Italian is again possible.
Those who support a pope from Africa argue that the vibrant and growing African church is Catholicism’s future. Others say that the church in Africa is doing fine and that Catholics need a leader who can save the church in the developed world. In the United States, about one out of three people raised Catholic have left the church. The church in Europe has been in trouble since the 19th century. Today, more people in Paris go to mosques on Friday than go to Mass on Sunday.
Both John Paul and Benedict railed against secularism and relativism in Europe but were unable to turn the tide. If there is a cardinal who can turn the church around in Europe and the United States, he deserves the job.
3. The cardinals will elect a brilliant theologian like John Paul and Benedict.
At the past two conclaves, the cardinals elected the smartest man in the room. Now, it may be time to choose a man who will listen to all the other smart people in the church.