Following the success of Pope Francis’s initiative in circulating every parish in the Catholic Church with a questionnaire on attitudes to marriage and the family, the Church took a momentous step. It agreed that the next Pope would be elected, not by the College of Cardinals but by a popular vote of the entire membership.
Now the sudden and unexpected resignation of Pope Francis has precipitated a crisis in these new and untried arrangements. Bishops have been required to set up monitoring stations in every diocese where prospective voters can be verified as bona fide Catholics. Parishioners are required to recite the Nicene Creed (in Latin) and affirm the Tridentine Council’s decrees on Justification. After signing a declaration ‘That I am not and never have been, a Protestant’ they are stamped indelibly on the left foot with a Chi Rho.
This procedure has not been without controversy.
Of the four candidates for the Papacy, two have claimed that the electorate is being swamped by Lutheran infiltrators, loyal to front runner, Cardinal Walter Kasper. And alarm was raised when it was revealed that both Richard Dawkins and Diarmaid McCulloch had been allowed a vote.
Said Vatican spokesperson, Cardinal Luciano Pavarotti: ‘We are confident that the results of this election will be fair and trustworthy, and that the Pope elected will go unchallenged. We have teams of adjudicators on every continent, working to assess the suitability of each and every voter. Claims of bribery and corruption are hugely exaggerated. We are not anticipating a repeat of 1517.’