It's been really interesting to see all the buzz this whole papal conclave business has generated. Notice that most of the speculation centers on the "who" — Angelo Scola, Peter Turkson, Marc Ouelett, Sean O'Malley — rather than the "what," as in, what policies will new pope have? That's because the "what" is already known.
The "what" of the next pope's tenure will closely mirror that of Benedict's: no reconsideration of the Church's position on women priests; continued condemnation of contraceptives, abortion, and sex for any purpose other than to procreate within the confines of marriage; and a furthering of the Church's virulently anti-gay agenda.
The "who" is merely window-dressing. If by some miracle, the white European-dominated College of Cardinals ventures off the continent to select a black or Latin pope, they will be endlessly lauded for making such a bold move in favor of diversity.
But that diversity would only be skin deep.
Take Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson. Last year, the National Catholic Register reported this year's contender for the title of His Holiness as saying,
"We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others; and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called 'an alternative lifestyle,' are those human rights? ... He [UN Secretary-General Ban ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified."
As one would expect, his fellow contenders hold the same view. Marc Ouelett, former Archbishop of Quebec City, has called same-sex marriage "pseudo-marriage, a fiction." The same goes for Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, and Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley, whose state of Massachusetts became the first to recognize same-sex marriages. Nine years ago, O'Malley in vain sounded the alarm against them:
"We are concerned with proposals to give same-sex couples identical benefits and protections to those given to husbands and wives that pose a grave threat to religious liberty and the freedom of conscience."
And on and on.
Which is why it doesn't really matter who the next pope is. It will be more of the same pontifications, only emanating from a different old celibate clergyman. And while given his exalted position the international press will automatically heap reverence upon the next Bishop of Rome, at the end of the day it ought to be remembered that the next man who occupies the Apostolic Palace will be just another religious homophobe and an agent of intolerance.