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How do cardinals pick a pope? "You don’t pick your buddy"

February 27th, 2013
05:19 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Becoming the pope is not a popularity contest.

When 115 cardinals from around the world sit down to choose a new pope, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, they are thinking about only one thing: what God wants.

“You have your ballot in your hand,” he said. “You’re going to put it in the urn, this ballot in which you have written a name down of one of the cardinals.”

Looming above the voting cardinal is Michelangelo's imposing fresco, “the Last Judgment.”

“Every time you do it,” Cardinal McCarrick said, “you feel that same thing. ‘Lord, am I doing the right thing? Have I picked the right man?’”

In other words, he told Amanpour, “You don’t pick your buddy.”

Cardinal McCarrick is the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C. Though he attended Pope Benedict XVI’s packed final public address today, he will not be able to cast a vote for the next pope. He is, to put it politely, of a certain age – only cardinals under age 80 may vote.

Through those many decades in the Church, he has seen the ups and downs. As the Vatican prepares for a new leader, many Catholics around the world believe that the child-sex abuse scandal, among others, spell a reckoning for the Church as it has rarely seen before.

“I accept there is a crisis, but I don’t think this is the only crisis. The crisis is the world that we deal with,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “There’s a secularism in our society. That’s the crisis that maybe more than anything else the Church is facing today.”

But for Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who is facing fresh allegations of covering up abuse, the crisis is unavoidable. Thousands of pages of Church documents detailing the alleged cover-up were recently unsealed by court order.

Despite petitions from many American Catholics, he has decided to attend the conclave in Rome.

“We make mistakes,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “But I know Cardinal Mahoney, and I think this is a good man who wanted to do the right thing, and who felt at the time this was the right thing to do. Turned out he was wrong.”

For Catholics like American writer Mary Elizabeth Williams, with whom Amanpour spoke on Tuesday, the Church leadership in Rome has grown hopelessly out of touch with believers on a range of issues.

Chief among those is the leadership roles, or lack thereof, available to female Catholics. Cardinal McCarrick, however, held out little hope for women hoping to become ordained.

“I’m a man of faith, and I’m a man of the Church, and I don’t see that that’s going to happen,” he said.

Another concern for Catholics hoping for a more representative Church is demographics. A growing number of the faithful are from Africa, Asia and Latin America, but the Church has seldom strayed from Europe in choosing a pope.

“I think there are so many wonderful bishops and cardinals from the third world,” Cardinal McCarrick said of choosing a non-European pontiff. “It would be certainly a beautiful thing to have, to show the universality of the church in that particular, personal way.”

READ MORE: American writer: “No matter what, I’m still Catholic”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. DY Dyprositos

    The sight of a lot of old pedophiles dressed in long robes, secretly sodomizing young boys whilst reciting Gregorian chants is a little strange to normal people.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:49 am | Reply
    • Bob Dobbs

      Unless you're a altar boy (are girls allowed that role?)

      February 28, 2013 at 2:14 am | Reply
      • jac

        Yes girls can be alter servers. They started being allowed I think sometime in the 1980s.

        February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • aces2jokers

        my old church allowed altar girls.

        February 28, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • mike

      generalize much?

      February 28, 2013 at 6:01 am | Reply
    • jonline

      Stop it. The entire Catholic Church is not pedophiles. It's rude to suggest so. Yes, there is a significant problem. Yes, the problem may have paused or ceased to exist but the cover up is still hanging over the Church. I have always been taught to be believe that the faith of the Church is infallible. It's leader are not.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:07 am | Reply
      • aarrgghh

        Fact: the story (new testament) was written in ancient roman bath houses by men who enjoyed the company of young boys IN PUBLIC,..

        February 28, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • TSB8C

        The whole church is not, just the old guys in robes selecting the next "vicar of Christ".

        February 28, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • rickinmo

        Just like the comment, "I'm Catholic no matter what," you fail to grasp the significance of the pedophile cover-up. The cover-up has been conducted by the highest levels of the church. Sure they're not all pedophiles but, the cover-up is proof that the church as an organization is more important to church leaders than its members. Just like inquisitions, Crusades and selling out the Jews during WWII, the church has done whatever it needs to do to grow and thrive. The church will and has always lied, deceived, tortured and murdered the people it claims to protect to maintain its position. The church is no better than a Corrupt Government, Criminal Corporation, the Mafia or Common Criminal who steals and murders for his own benefit. You can say, "They're not all pedophiles," as many Catholics do but, are those who protect and defend them and cover-up their crimes any less guilty?

        February 28, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • aarrgghhresp

        @aarrgghh FACT: Your wrong. Good Lord, at least use Google to get facts straight.

        February 28, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • jefnvk

        aarrgghh – most Western concepts evolved in Roman or Greek civilizations in which those things happened. Doesn't mean because you are democratic or use geometry, you agree with those ideals.

        March 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jeff S

      People using generalizations to cast judgment on a large group of individuals based on the actions of a few is strange to logical people.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:24 am | Reply
      • aarrgghh

        Really Jeff?? isnt that what religion IS and does? name one religion that doesnt DO those things.. poor z3al0t, can not see the forest through the trees

        February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • rickinmo

        Generalizations? The Catholic Church has conducted a World Class cover-up. The cover-up is not the action of a handful of misguided church flunkies. The cover-up involves hundreds if not thousands of church leaders from Priests to Bishops to Cardinals to Popes over decades. That's not a generalization. The church doesn't deserve defending. If you want to defend someone, defend the thousands of victims whose faith in the Catholic church was abused by the very people they were taught had a special relationship with god.

        February 28, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • jefnvk

        As a logical person, I agree.

        March 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • anthonyhantonh

      Sad. You are just another anti catholic bigot.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • marti123

      Quite a fantasy you have there, and so social media / blog ready at that. Or, an overwhelming majority of men who've spent their lives organizing and doing work for children, the poor and those in need in many respects (helping people and their families through crises, disease, death, miscarriage, divorce, etc etc) while praying and leading prayers in ever practical English. Good thing no crisis, adverse event, or need for healing or inspiration will ever happen to you! Best to you my friend. And for your other antagonizing friend, yes, many altar servers are girls as well. Not that ignorance or inexperience with the subject matter ever prevented someone from posting their opinion online.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • BoogerFree

      And people who post negative hateful comments are actually sad angry individuals. Generalize much?

      February 28, 2013 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • Norm

      So then don't go to the Republican National Conventions if it bothers you so much...

      February 28, 2013 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • Jay

      Such a thing is strange to everyone, particularly the 96% of Catholic priests who faithfully live out their ministry amidst a torrent of gross caricatures, ignorance, and stupidity. Why don't you characterize school-teachers in that way? Way bigger percentage of them abuse children than priests... Your ignorance only makes the problem worse.

      March 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  2. Roman Romano


    The real question facing the leadership is to get back onto doing the Will of God; doing what Jesus expects; converting souls; baptising and preaching the Gospel.

    There is nothing less and nothing more.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:03 am | Reply
    • aarrgghh

      the will of god is what man wrote it was,,, and Man (the author) changes the story all the time, get over it

      February 28, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
  3. So Easy

    It's so easy for you guys to pick on the Pope while hiding behind a computer screen. This humble man and the church he serves has done more for humanity than you could ever comprehend or achieve. Perhaps you need to take a long look in the mirror before judging someone you've never met, and casting judgement when a) you have no authority/right to judge, and b) a hundred or so priests out of 409,000+ around the world committed these crimes. How dare you judge a group of achieved and holy men from the actions of a few.

    With your way of thinking, we shouldn't let teachers be around kids since so many have been caught molesting kids. Nor should we trust cops since we've had a fair share betray the public trust and some even murder our own people. Think about what your saying!

    February 28, 2013 at 4:35 am | Reply
    • OB

      Unfortunately the Catholic Church has made it easy to make jokes about it. The manner in which they have handled the abuse scandals has been a joke in itself. As a former Catholic in the Boston area the fact that John Paul II promoted Cardinal Law to protect him from local prosecution is beyond ridiculous. Responses like this to a problem where children's lives were ruined makes the Catholic Church a joke and prompts people to pick on the Pope. It's no different in business or politics, when there is one colossal screw up after another, the man at the top has to take the heat. It's no different with how Democrats reacted to Bush and how Republicans are currently acting towards Obama. If you take the job and bad things go during your watch people are going to, and have the right, to criticize your performance. Deal with it.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:36 am | Reply
    • Hellscreamgold

      Done more for humanity? You mean, like, for the longest time, telling people they can't read the Bible and that their salvation comes through the church alone?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • Dude

      Did I forget to send a thank you card for brutally torturing so many of my ancestors? Hate to think of the horror of them never getting to hear of Jesus.

      And the Inquisitions.

      And I loved the Papal decree to determine if Native Americans could be enslaved. A bunch of men in robes approach a group who had never seen white people. They banged on a huge drums while screaming in Latin that anyone who accepted Jesus should come forward. Anyone who, for any odd reason, ran away was rejecting Jesus and could be captured and enslaved.

      And lets not forget the 100,000 or so women burned at the stake in Europe for being witches.

      And so on. . .

      February 28, 2013 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • archchuzzlewit

      As far as people critcizing him from behind a computer screen, I'd be happy to do so to his face. I don't even mean that in an angry or violent way, but I would have absolutely zero issue with telling him how and why the church has completely and utterly failed humanity in a number of large ways. That doesn't mean that individual members haven't done good things, some absolutely have. But if you really think people aren't willing to publicly make those same comments, you'd be wrong.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:28 am | Reply
  4. Petrus Romanus

    I will be the new Pope. Wait until you get to know me.

    February 28, 2013 at 7:43 am | Reply
  5. chiangshih

    Why the Pope Really Resigned

    February 28, 2013 at 8:33 am | Reply
    • Dude

      He is tired of people calling him "Pope George Ringo".
      He wants to be released from his vows so he can marry Anna Nichol Smith.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • aarrgghh

      and another thing,,,, when a Pope does it it called "renouncing" he renounced his position and his god.....

      February 28, 2013 at 8:56 am | Reply
  6. MT

    Well, this is what happens when you take your directions from an imaginary being who lives in the sky. Everyone hears something different.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:05 am | Reply
    • anthonyhantonh

      Right. The real lord and master is Obama right? Worship the state not "some imaginary being."

      February 28, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
      • MT

        How you got from "gods are imaginary" to "you must worship Obama" is beyond me. Perhaps the problem is you continue to try either invest your moral self in another being (god), or blame someone else for your misfortunes (obama). In no case do you seem to accept responsibility for your own course. That's a very interesting personality trait.

        February 28, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  7. Mary

    This comment "you don't pick your buddy" is hilarious. Of COURSE they pick their "buddy"! The Catholic Church has a long, long, LONG history of political intrigue, and most popes have been chosen on the basis of things other than their religious fervor. Honestly, boys, at least be honest.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • John S

      There's only 117 of them voting and even though they don't have to, they are only going to vote for men among that 117. You are so right, how can they NOT vote for their buddy.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Obladyno

      Well since they where 118(there was on english that gave his place out since there are accusations that he attacked some boy in 1975... and someone just remembered that some days ago) but they are kinda like a company. They are only together once or twice per year and only for 1 to 2 days.
      Most of them doesn´t even talked with half of the group. So they are starting to talk now. That´s why they have 12 days to talk between them before getting placed on the chapel and start to vote.

      February 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Reply
  8. Kent

    Question: if the Pope was supposedly infallible when he held office, he is now just a man since he is an Emeritus Pope? What a bizarre and unbiblical infallible man.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  9. WachetAuf

    The f... they don't pick their buddies. They are driven by their primitive lizard brains. Their cerebral cortex functions only to justify their choice. The Catholic church is united by the primitive herding instinct which bonds all of us, especially them. They see themselves as god's chosen, the elect. The safest place in the herd is at its center. So, yes, they will vote for their buddy because if their buddy is elected they will be closest to the center of the herd.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
  10. Do the Right Thing

    Of course you pick your buddy. That's the most effective means of keeping the conspiracy moving forward. Any mafioso will tell you that.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:41 am | Reply
  11. lolrepublicans

    My uncle (a devout catholic) passed away last year; he had a traditional Catholic service that we attended, while none of us are catholic. It was horrifying; his son went up and read a bunch of verses from the bible, the priest singsang some latin crap, and his daughter read some more bible verses. Not one word about the man, what he loved to do, how he lived his life, nothing...just promotion of the catholic church and the lead priest prancing around in his robes with a microphone like a freakin rock star. Now the #1 priest in the biggest hat decides this job isn't for him and steps down..juust another hole poked in the fairy tale of organized religion.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Obladyno

      At least they don´t ask you to give away everything he had... for the sake of some "spiritual leader" that has a ferrari, have 6 wifes and ignores his sons.... like many other congregations/religions that exists all around the world.

      February 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  12. shtick

    You don't pick your buddy? Anyone who believes that, I have a bridge for sale...

    February 28, 2013 at 9:56 am | Reply
  13. Blameless Canadian

    I'm not your friend buddy!
    I'm not your buddy guy!
    I'm not your guy buddy!
    I'm not your buddy friend!
    I'm not your friend buddy!
    I'm not your buddy guy!
    I'm not your guy buddy!
    I'm not your buddy friend!
    I'm not your friend buddy!
    I'm not your buddy guy!
    I'm not your guy buddy!
    I'm not your buddy friend!
    I'm not your friend buddy!
    I'm not your buddy guy!
    I'm not your guy buddy!
    I'm not your buddy friend!
    I'm not your friend buddy!
    I'm not your buddy guy!
    I'm not your guy buddy!
    I'm not your buddy friend!

    February 28, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
  14. Jason

    I have been wondering about the jurisdiction of the Church, and of the United States government, or state government when they are dealing with these cases. Considering that the Vatican is a city state, and a sovereign power, with its own laws, and jurisdiction, it also owns the churches and cathedrals and each of those properties could be construed as being embassies of the church on foreign soil. So basically what I am wondering is: Does the clergy of the Catholic Church have diplomatic immunity?

    February 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • Obladyno

      Nothing like that.
      The churchs are, normally, from the local govern or some group of people that bought the space and construct it.
      The few people that have Vatican passport are: The pope, the swiss guard and his 5 helpers.
      Nobody else have the "protection" of the Vatican.
      The priest have there own citizenship and the church are like your home. They are not embassies.

      February 28, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Reply
    • jefnvk

      Very few churches outside of the Vatican are considered to be Vatican "soil". There are a few, though, mostly located in other parts of Rome. As far as I recall, there is nothing outside of Italy.

      March 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Reply

    Jesus Christ said "I will build my Church upon the Rock". Jesus Christ ordains ordinary people from different parts of the world to be used for His Glory. Not for waving hands and legs. Not for sitting in the golden throne. But to preach the gospel. We cant see whit in us, till Christ comes in our heart. That is why John 3:3 says "YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN" . BIBLE MEANS.....BASIC INSTRUCTION BEFORE LEAVING EARTH. My dear fellows Know your Bible, that lesds you to heaven. OUR POPE IS JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, NO ONE ELSE. " JESUS SAID, "I AM THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE, NO MAN COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME" . WWW,FJCMINSITRIES.ORG

    March 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  16. george


    March 2, 2013 at 7:58 am | Reply
  17. russell lee

    North Korea has it. Then, why can't Iran have it?

    March 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  18. Gilbert D'Souza

    I am a die hard Catholic. There are significant problems in the Cathilic Church. One being that there is no co-relation between preaching and practice. The British Cardinal did well by resigning. Hope other Cardinals, whose concience is not clear, shall follow his path. It is time to clean up the Vatican before JESUS comes with a wip !

    March 5, 2013 at 6:05 am | Reply
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    Good luck with this one

    March 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Reply
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