It is no big surprise that the world witnessed black smoke emerging from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel today. It would be strange and unseemly if the college of Cardinals met for a few hours on the first afternoon and chosen our new Pope. It would suggest that they've had someone in mind for years. Of course, they probably have.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been discussed here and there as a likely successor and the OC Chronicle agrees with this speculation. Here a re a couple of good reasons:
1. Doctrine, doctrine doctrine. Cardinal Ratzinger's chief responsibility for the past few years has been to properly articulate and enforce the Church's doctrine. As much as people would like to believe that Pope John Paul II's popularity and success was due to his personality and charisma, the fact is he was a successful pope because he was orthodox and unwavering in his support of and interpretation of the Church's teachings on faith and morals. This is a pope's chief function and Cardinal Ratzinger was the pope's number one advisor on subjects of faith and morals.
After the second Vatican council and the pontificates of John XXIII and Paul VI, there was much uncertainty about the direction and foundation of the Church. Vatican 2 has been misinterpreted as a reformation. It was not, in terms of faith and morals, it was in terms of the worship and practice, as well as the participation of the laity. John Paul II's rock solid stance on what the Church believes has pretty much quieted any confusion in local parishes.
Ratzinger is part of the foundation on which this message was built and he is the best man to continue it.
2. His age. Cardinal Ratzinger is 78 years old. This makes him perfect as a "transitional" pope. Our Church needs powerful and charismatic men on throne of St. Peter, but there should also be space between dynamic reigns for reflection and perspective. Cardinal Ratzinger will be Pope for a relatively brief period, and that's OK. We should not try to follow John Paul II's pontificate with another long and dynamic reign.
3. He's German. This sends strong messages.
a. "The Polish Pope" was not a fluke, but a trend.
b. We have moved on from Martin Luther
c. Perhaps a German Pope will do for the questionable society of Germany what the Polish Pope did for the government of Poland.
Finally, why the decision will come tomorrow or the next: Because they know. They've known for a while. And, I believe, they know because John Paul II let them know.