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Originally published Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: Pope Francis and the House of Cardinals

The Roman Catholic Church chose a new leader with all the politicking and intrigue of a corporate board or cable drama.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis surprised many because it only took five rounds of ballots.

Brisk voting was seen as a pre-emptive strike by Vatican insiders against the presumptive favorite, an Italian cardinal who attracted reformers.

Selection of the Argentine spoke in part to an awareness of market share outside of Europe and geographical detachment from traditional paths to church leadership. Maybe even some awareness of branding, with a new name for a pope.

Administrative challenges, a euphemism for what the new pope is facing, may persist because the organizational problems run deep.

The Institute for Works of Religion, better known as the Vatican Bank, has been under investigation because of issues over money laundering, financing practices and regulatory opacity.

The clergy sexual-abuse scandal is decades old, unabated and global in reach. The view is of a cozy fraternity protecting its members. Accountability? Virtually none.

The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See, with dozens and dozens of agencies, commissions and councils with their own turf and perquisites.

A vested bureaucracy is awash in accusations of corruption.

The new pope, the first Jesuit selected, heads a denomination with 1.2 billion members, and eroding loyalty across continents and generations.

Pope Francis, 76, chose a name linked to serving the poor, and that is his reputation in Argentina. He is praised for his administrative skills.

His history during Argentina’s political turmoil is cloudy, but not his record of service. His theology is as conservative as his public persona is generous.

His doctrinal views on homosexuality, contraception, abortion, women in the church and clergy roles clearly won him votes, but new CEOs move in surprising directions.


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