The closer the conclave gets, the more sure I feel about how it's going to go. I had been thinking the election would occur on day three until yesterday, but I've changed my mind. This is how it will be, and while you are free to disagree, you'd be wrong if you do. Here goes...
The 1st ballot (tomorrow evening) reveals two things:
1. Who most cardinals are tapping for pope
2. Whether there really is a "curial bloc" candidate, and if so, who it really is
While we may never know (it's supposed to be kept secret), I suspect we one day will find out how it went on day one. My sense is that the cardinal who gets the most votes on day one will be either Scola or Ouellet. If there is a "curial bloc" candidate, the numbers will be mostly inconsequential and will not be enough to stymie what will follow on day two.
The 2nd ballot (Wed. morning) will see Scola and Ouellet votes snowballing, while the curial candidate, if he exists, remains largely stagnant and falls further behind.
The 3rd ballot (also Wed. morning) will see curial support going to one of the two leading vote-getters (their version of a "compromise" toward the one they perceive is the least damaging to their agenda).
Whichever candidate, Ouellet or Scola has the most votes at that point will be elected on the 4th ballot (late Wed. afternoon).
The reason there will be no need for a "compromise candidate" between Scola and Ouellet is that both men are similar, safe, and sound. They are both "Benedictine" in their understanding of the nature of the Church (which renews and reforms in continuity with Tradition), brilliant men with global vision and concern for the new evangelization, and sufficiently close to curial workings (Scola's Italian connections will help in this regard and Ouellet is in the curia) while remaining outsiders (Scola is not in the curia and Ouellet is not mixed up in the curial "establishment") to bring about change in governance. If I were a cardinal who voted for one and saw the writing on the wall for the other... I'd happily go with the Spirit and move my vote toward the emerging choice.
I really don't know which one it will be, but if I were forced to choose, my gut tells me Scola. It's hard to bet against the Milan/Venice propensity for producing popes. And this one would be as good as choice as there's ever been in that regard.
As for a name for either man... How about Pope Joseph (Giuseppe)? There's never been one. Many, at Cardinal Dolan's request, will be praying a novena to St. Joseph, whose feast is in nine days. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, and the name Joseph would be a way of signaling continuity with Pope Benedict XVI (whose baptismal name is Joseph) - while allowing for a difference in style.
Cardinal Scola/Cardinal Ouellet - Papa Joe? I'm good with that.
If it doesn't break this way and lasts, say... beyond Thursday... I'm with John Allen and all bets are off!