The choice will depend on whether the 117 Cardinals voting will lean more toward seriously reforming the Catholic Church -- notably as it relates to the continuing problem of pedophilia and lack of transparency -- or roughly keeping to the status quo.
Whoever succeeds Pope Benedict faces challenges that will impact Catholics everywhere, but will the choice have any impact on Catholic doctrine, which many believe is suspended somewhere between the Council of Trent counter-reformation and Vatican II.
I'm no theologian, but I have heard for a lifetime, from Catholic preachers and teachers of all stripes, that "the least" matter the most in the eyes of God.
As the conclave begins on Tuesday, much of the Muslim world looks at the future of the papacy with a hope that the new pope will build on the positive aspects of the previous two papacies and create a relationship of deeper dialogue and mutual understanding with the Muslim community.
How about a trans-Atlantic task swap? Simply have the Cardinals hammer out a deficit reduction deal and let the U.S. Congress select the next pope. Remove the political context in both cases, reason and compromise prevail and everybody's home in one day.
As the cardinals prepare for the conclave to elect the next pope this week, I would like to recommend a candidate they may have overlooked. Someone I think would be the perfect pope successor. Father Duty.
Pope Benedict's resignation and the conclave that will convene to name his successor spark hope for a Catholic Spring that might bring the Vatican into the modern world.
No surprise, transparency has no place in the conclave; all participants must take a pledge of secrecy. Indeed, how can we even expect transparency when many of the cardinal electors stand accused of the very behavior they claim to deplore?
As the world's foremost religious figure, no one can do more to address carnal repression in religion than the new pope whom, if he chooses to ignore the sexual crisis facing the Church, will be absconding on the responsibility of leadership.
Machiavelli plotted to obliterate "this swarm of scoundrels." Perhaps the current governing Cardinals are in conflict how to institutionally cope with two mortal sins, adultery and theft, both of which were cited by Benedict. The true believers of the Church deserve a pure slate.
Grasped in its fullness, Evangelical Catholicism invites Catholics (and indeed all who are interested in the Catholic Church) to move beyond the left/right surface arguments of past decade and learn a new way of looking at the recent Catholic past.
Even if my dire assessment were completely off base, it would take nothing short of a miracle to avert failure for the next pope and a crisis of faith for believers.
As the conclave gets underway I hope the Cardinals understand it is time for moral, compassionate and truly healing leadership at the Vatican. There is no better time than now.
Frankly, the most important part of this affair is that it's another reminder of why the troupe of old men playing pajama dress up, known as the "Tea Party", are so perpetually angry.
Catholics are taught not to question Church authority, but how can a Catholic stay silent when its leadership advocates policy that counters basic human rights?