Going conclave crazy: Join us in choosing the next pope!
OK, we know that the editors and readers of U.S. Catholic have about as much say in the papal conclave as any other outside observer--in other words, absolutely none. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun speculating and throwing out our own papal picks and wish lists.
Last week, we posted two polls on our website to ask readers who they'd vote for as the next pope. One had some "real" contenders, that is actual cardinals who could legitimately be elected (though many were unlikely options). The other was just some fun famous names we came up with, from notable Catholics like Stephen Colbert to super celebs like Oprah. (Our own blogger Bryan Cones also got in on the fun  by handicapping some papal picks of his own.)
We got such a good response to our first polls that we decided to keep things going, especially now that the chair of Peter is officially empty. Currently up is "round two" of the polls (just glance over to the right-hand column of the page to find them) with six fresh candidates in both the "real" and celeb categories. In a few days we'll switch the names again, starting up a third round, and then we'll take the two top vote getters from each of the three polls and have them face off in a final papal showdown (our own March miter madness, if you will). Then, just for fun, we'll have the celeb winner and the cardinal winner square off to let readers choose who would really make the best pope.
So now, a recap of the results so far. For actual papal contenders, readers clearly gave the nod to Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley (though some argue that having a beard might work against him ). The full results are included in the pie chart on the left.
So O'Malley and Dolan, the two Americans, move on to the finals. You can vote right now for the next group of candidates, which includes the popular Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Philippines, Argentina native Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, current Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Brazil's Cardinal Odilo Scherer, and two more unlikely Americans: Washington Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.
On the celeb side, popular Jesuit author Jim Martin dominated the field that included his own famous Catholic pal Stephen Colbert. I was a bit surprised to also see Sister Helen Prejean, the tireless opponent of the death penalty best known from the book and film Dead Man Walking, finish a strong second with 25% of the vote. And while candidates like Oprah and Bono may be popular with certain audiences (and Oprah even earned a Twitter hashtag--#Poprah--from fans who think she'd be good for the job) they didn't fare quite as well with our readers. Full results are on the right.
The next group of celebrity candidates features some famous Catholics from the world of politics: Vice President Joe Biden and his opponent in last November's election, Rep. Paul Ryan, each of whom represents their own view of Catholicism (not to mention some pretty opposite political views, no doubt influenced by their understanding of the Catholic faith). We've also thrown in two well-known Catholic figures in Jesuit Father John Dear and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, as well as actor Martin Sheen (who has been very outspoken about his personal faith life as a Catholic) and Melinda Gates, a Catholic who takes issue with some church teachings, particularly when it comes to contraception.
Voting is now open in the new polls on the right-hand side of the page. And be sure to add in the comments section any names that you'd like to see us add in round three!