|Always Bet On Black|
My money's going on the men marked with the Asterisk of the Beast. Now, let's get right to the blasphemy!
* * * * *
Peter Turkson (Ghana) 3/1 *
Angelo Scola (Italy) 3/1
Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) 4/1
Marc Ouellet (Canada) 7/1
Angelo Bagnasco (Italy) 9/1
Not a lot of value here in this group, frankly. Turkson seems to me to be the shock candidate, and being given too much run in a move to make sure that he's seen as a threat... but he could easily bring a strong enough bloc to hammer divergent Italians. Ouellet has some intrigue, in that no one ever hates the Canadian until it's too late. But to my eyes, the only bet here is Turkson, and even at 3 to 1, it's never fun to bet chalk. Look for the Italians to conduct an ineffectual war against themselves.
Outside but Strong
Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy) 12/1
Peter Erdo (Hungary) 14/1
Leonardo Sandri (Argentina) 16/1 *
Christoph Schonborn (Austria) 16/1
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras) 20/1
Luis Antonio Tagle (Phillipines) 20/1 *
Here's where it gets good. Ravasi gets the too many Italians worry, but Erdo could sneak through. I love Sandri's chances, since an Argentine Pope tells the emerging markets story without going into full third word. Schonborn's chances are hosed by the misery that was Pope Benedict (nee Ratzinger), and the fact that naming an Austrian to the position after a German is just not going to happen. Maradiaga is a fun exotic, but I don't see Latin America getting the slot this time around. Finally, Tagle is another excellent dark horse, and one that could rise in multiple voting cycles.
Timothy Dolan (US) 33/1
Robert Sarah (French Guinea) 50/1
Bechara Peter Rai (Lebanon) 50/1
Vincent Nichols (England) 66/1
Andre Vingt-Trois (France) 66/1
Dolan's the top American in the field and enough of a brand name to get some play, but anyone that shows a sense of humor about their chances, not to mention someone who comes from the world's last remaining military superpower, has absolutely no prayer of getting pull from the Third World cardinals. American Catholics aren't anywhere near devout enough to cover for the resentment, even though this might be the Vatican's best move on tourism and swag sales. Sarah's got crippling poverty and the hatred of the French working against him; dead money walking. Rai would be a Cinderella story to get the gig out of a war-torn region where Catholicism is an afterthought, and you just can't bet on Cinderella to take it all down. Nichols has the five hundred year absurdity that is Anglican practice, and Vingt-Trois is, well, French. Which means he's going to eat cheese and surrender when it comes to final voting. Moving on.
Deep Value Bets
Wilfrid Napier (South Africa) 100/1 *
Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino (Cuba) 100/1
Ivan Dias (India) 125/1
John Njue (Kenya) 150/1
Daniel DiNardo (USA) 200/1
How much of an about face could the Vatican deliver by elevating a black South African cardinal after the Hitler Youth years? Napier has the Vatican bona fides of going for abstinence and against condoms despite living in Ground Zero of the HIV crisis; you can do worse with your deep bet. Alamino has the subversive mojo of elevating a man who has managed to rail against both communism and capitalism; it' be fun and shocking. Dias would be a transition choice at 76 who would sugar-coat a new region for the Papacy with the old-school insanity that is how the gays can penance away their gayness, while Njue is from the secret cradle of all modern power. DiNardo is a sleeper candidate with southwestern US and Sioux City experience, which means he could bring American money while still appealing to the emerging nation cardinals. I like his chances a hell of a lot more than Dolan's.
Richard Dawkins (UK) 666/1
Bono (Ireland) 1000/1
Guido Sarducci (US) Off Board
Stephen Colbert (US) Off Board
Sean Connery (Scotland) Off Board *
Dawkins is just here, we are sure, for PR benefit, and to troll a quote out of him for that 666 number. Bono is probably wondering why the money isn't at least down to the 250 range, having forgotten about that whole "Turn Off The Dark" fiasco. Sarducci is just 70 (young for a Pope) and far too qualified to be the source of cheap comedy, really. Colbert would give the papacy the bump it clearly needs after the Ratzinger era, and would make the world far too surreal for 25 years or more. Just imagining it makes my heart sing.
And finally, there's Sir Sean, who will be forever known for Will Farrell's "Celebrity Jeopardy" impersonation than anything else to people under 35. Sure, Connery is 82, more than a little nuts, has a heart condition and is known more for deadly sins than his religious orientation. But we know he can fill the robe from "The Name of the Rose", you'd be able to slot in someone else in a couple of years, and there's a really good chance that he'd throw down with Benedict in the Best Pope Fight Ever. Make it happen, cardinals!