I read a lot, dozens of news articles every day. I'm used to being in the know. I think many of us are like that now. Let's face it, we've become so used to having information at our fingertips (literally) that I think we don't react very well the unknown. We've lost the ability to say, "God only knows."
So absent facts, we send for the prognosticators and "experts" to fill the void. This past week we've all seen, read, and heard from the guessing class about who the next Pope will be. "Papabile" is a word that's entered common usage on Catholic sites in the past two weeks. But the unbearable truth is that nobody knows anything.
So we read and watch things hoping to confirm our hopes. We all have our favorite "Papabile" but they are all just possibilities, not probabilities. The cardinals don't even know yet.
We seem incapable of simply waiting to learn who the next Vicar of Christ will be. No matter how much we Google or Bing the answer is not out there. Even Drudge doesn't have the answer.
We can read that all the American cardinals are in lockstep or that all the curia Cardinals have one person in mind. We can hear that Cardinal Dolan's chances are rising and Cardinal Burke is the longest of shots. We can be told about names we know little about like Scola and Turkson. It doesn't make it fact. But facts don't get in the way of experts declaring which man absolutely needs to be selected as the next Pope to save the Church. But all these monologues don't make it a conversation, never mind the truth.
But all this talk does have a life of its own. A lot has been made about the cardinals being banned from talking to the media. I'd feel better if the cardinals were banned from reading the press.
All the prognosticators want to pretend now that Josef Ratzinger was a slam dunk for the papacy about eight years ago but not many at the time actually predicted that. I seem to recall that Fr. Richard McBrien predicted that there's no way Josef Ratzinger would ever be Pope. But he was wrong. I'm not making fun of him although Dick Morris lost his job at Fox News for such poor prognostications but Fr. McBrien's wrongheaded prediction doesn't seem to have cooled the media's affection for the priest.
Perhaps this is all how we deal with the unknown. We pull disparate pieces together. We shape them into something we can make sense of. And if we have to plug a few rumors into the blank spots so be it.
We all come in to this process hoping and praying for a stronger Church, a great and prayerful leader. I'm willing to say I don't know who the next Pope will be. But it's likely that some time in the next 96 hours we'll all know. Whether he'll be a good or maybe even a great pope God only knows.