Stephen, the Vatican is denying the reports of the Pope’s death, and since at this stage they have no reason to conceal it, I tend to believe them. Still, the Pope obviously has very little time left.
On your question regarding the conclave, truly anything is possible, partly because of changes that John Paul himself made to the rules. A two-thirds majority of the eligible cardinals used to be the requirement to elect a new pope. Now the rule is that if after a week the cardinals have not been able to secure a two-thirds majority for any one candidate, then they can change the procedure to allow the election of the pope on the basis of a mere simple majority. And while a hard leftist like Milan’s (former) Cardinal Martini would have no hope with the 2/3 rule, it’s not impossible that he could get a simple majority.
Despite my own criticisms of John Paul, I do believe he hastened the Soviet Empire’s decline and did much good in the world. I am dedicating my next book to him; Fr. Vincent Miceli, an old traditionalist, dedicated his book The Gods of Atheism to Paul VI in spite of his own concerns about that pope. We owe the man the honor that his office demands.1:18 pm on April 1, 2005 Email Thomas E. Woods Jr.