This month’s Atlantic brings an interesting article on papal succession. Paul Elie discusses (paid subscription required) the politics, factional infighting, and expectations governing papal succession — a topic which may be becoming increasingly relevant, nearly thirty years after the election of John Paul II. Elie, however, concludes by discounting all of the other factors and suggesting that:
The cardinal electors . . . will ask first of all how authentic the faith of that man of faith is — how high his hopes, how deep his depths. They will ponder his character . . . . They will ask, What kind of believer is he?
We believe, of course, that there are worlds of theological difference between the election of a Pope and the choice of a new apostle. But it seems to me that, when the church leaders meet to select two new apostles, many of the same questions will be asked. Politics may be relevant, and factional support may play a role, but the key question will be, What kind of believer is he?