Yes, the United State is a Constitutional republic of long standing, and yet, long before the Framers envisioned the Electoral College, there was the College of Cardinals in conclave assembled to elect popes.

It is not the case that the Electoral College was inspired by the College of Cardinals.

And yet, the cardinals, and the Vatican bureaucracy, and influential Italian families, could probably teach secular politicians, even Chicago politicians of the Irish Catholic persuasion, a few things.

Even if on occasion the Vatican came up with some clinkers, such as selling indulgences to build St. Peter's and losing Germany in the bargain.

That's an Andrew Greeley line, and he's back in Book Review No. 31, along with Sean Cardinal Cronin, auxiliary bishop John Blackwood Ryan, and some of the North Wabash Irregulars.  They're not finding missing L trains or murders covered up for a half century, rather they're caught up in the ultimate palace intrigue in White Smoke: A Novel About the Next Papal Conclave.

It's part a wish for the papacy to come.  The book appears in the middle 1990s.  Pope John Paul II serves for another ten years in real life, to be replaced first by a German cardinal and then an Argentine.  Whether those elections reflected the changes Reverend Greeley desired (and used his characters to express) or not I cannot say.  There are some interesting observations about Catholicism, and I suspect more than a little questioning of church doctrine on celibacy, chastity, and poverty.

It's part about reconciliation (the domestic discord of two secular protagonists serving as an allegory for Humanity, Sinning, yet Forgiven) and part current affairs (sex scandals and bad investments.)

The machinations of church politicians?  We have true believers, page 149.  "They are not very bright ... They will overreach."  There are cover-ups, page 203.  "For too many centuries we have hidden the truth in the name of protecting the Church.  That has corrupted us."  There are partial revelations of potentially disqualifying information, page 245.  "There is apparently no trickery too vile, too dishonest, too evil for his opponents."  It's a front-runner for the papacy being slimed.  There's media influence, page 304.  "Turner Broadcasting Systems and all affiliates will do everything possible to drive you from public office and hound you out of the company of decent, civilized human beings."  That's after a CNN reporter is kidnapped.  Read the book for the details.

And yet, the Roman Catholic Church carries on (yes, sans Moscow, sans Constantinople, sans Germany, sans Canterbury) as it has for well over a thousand years.  As long as the priests and the assorted Higher Ranks minister to the congregants, it is likely to continue to carry on.  The extension to secular life and secular orders, such as the governance structures of the United States, remain as an exercise.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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