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Fr. Lombardi Scratching Head

For those who are old enough to remember the kid’s TV show Romper Room, allow me to remind you that … “it’s time to put your thinking caps on.”  And this is fair warning!

As promised in the last post titled The Prisoners’ Dilemma, today we will define a hypothetical situation that we will put through a Game Theory methodology. What we will try to obtain with today’s exercise are insights into not only the motivation and past behavior of our players, but also insights into the different choices of the respective players and what could be a reasonable course of action to expect from these players going forward.


What we will first do is define the two players. The first player in our lineup is the bishop of Rome, Francis. The skinny with respect to Francis’ motivation and optimal outcomes for this game can be summed up as follows:


Francis’ motivation will be one of pride and legacy. He is determined to not only transform the Catholic Church from the way in which Our Lord founded it, but to one more aligned with his way of thinking, i.e. FrancisChurch and to make the changes permanent. Therefore, the optimal outcome for Francis is to endure in the Chair of St. Peter until he can appoint as many remote controlled sheep cardinals as are needed to change the institution of the Church to conform to his vision of the REAL “spirit of Vatican II”. Yes, it’s a humble goal.

The second player in our lineup is the cardinal of “Bling”, Herr Reinhard Marx. Marx will actually act as our proxy for the German Bishops’ Conference whose interests he is representing. The skinny with respect to “Bling” Marx’s motivation and optimal outcome for this game can be summed up as follows:


Marx’s motivation will be one of money. He is determined not only to re-construct the Catholic Church as Our Lord founded it, but to make the changes permanent. Therefore, the optimal outcome for Marx is to endure in the positions of authority as President of Germans Bishops’ Conference and member of Council of Cardinals (C9) until he can influence the changing of the institution of the Church to always conform to the momentary whims of the internal politics of the German state, so that the German Church will always be “relevant” to the political and cultural zeitgeist. Being in the good graces of the political establishment allows for a secure and continuous source of funding for the the German Catholic Church irrespective of the actual number of Faithful that are needed to actually financially support the institution. (see here)

And now to define the game.

Game On!

The threat to the above two player of obtaining their optimal outcomes as defined above, is the allegations that were made by Dr. Austen Ivereigh in his book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope. In the book, Ivereigh alleges that there was a group of anywhere from 8 to 30 cardinals who secured Bergoglio’s agreement and then canvassed for votes to support Bergoglio’s candidacy. (see here) This vote canvasing operation violated the papal law on elections, the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis paragraph 81 and these cardinals found themselves excommunicated under UDG 81. To rectify the situation, (see here) what is needed is for one of the elector cardinals at the upcoming consistory to request an investigation. (see here) Here is the situation as it could (actually should – but that is for a future post) develop in the consistory:

Thus, it is sufficient that the Cardinals gather together, deliberate the matter of the “Team Bergoglio” scandal, and decide the case.  They would discuss whether the allegations are true and investigate them by asking the eye-witnesses, one another,

So this will be the starting point of our Game Theory exercise. A very famous game is the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, as I mentioned in the previous post. In this game, just as in our hypothetical situation, the two players are partners in a crime. In the normal case, the players would have been captured by the police.  In our case, the cardinals will be entering into the consistory, and one of the cardinal elector not implicated in the “Team Bergoglio” group will raise the issue of investigating the “Team Bergoglio” scandal, asking for an official investigation. The non-implicated cardinal electors will then undertake an investigation as per above passage quoted. Each cardinal is asked “whether UDG 81 was violated by vote-canvassing conducted by the supporters of Cardinal Bergoglio.” and offered the opportunity to confess to the crime. The universe of results can be represented by the following matrix of payoffs:

Payout Matrix

What we have done above is listed the players (or individuals) participating in the game. In the above table, the rows represent Francis’ decision payout, while the columns represent Marx’s decision payout. An upper limit of 10 units can be amassed. The table represents a listing of the alternative choices (called actions or strategies) available to that player.  The entries in the matrix are two numbers representing the “utility or payoff” to the first and second player respectively.

Here is how the figures were assigned:

If the status quo was maintained, each player would get 5 units. However, the status quo can only be maintained if both players do not confess. This will result in the respective player telling a lie, in which case they will be punished due to them being excommunicated (that is not to say that they will be removed, since they are already excommunicated by the UDG 81), therefore the excommunication will have a cost associated with it. That cost will be 1 unit…. since the untruthful party will be going to ahemmm in the here after.


If both confess, can’t accomplish goal : -5
If both confess, mercy will be shown and will not be removed: +1 and excommunication lifted +1
If both confess, might just avoid burning in hell for eternity: +1
Total: -2 (-5+1+1+1)

If both do not confess, both might accomplish goal, therefore split the 10 points: + 5
If both do not confess, will be in state of excommunication and burn in hell for eternity:  – 1
Total: 4

If one confesses, and opponent does not confess: confessor not attain goal: -5
If one confess, and opponent does not confesses: confessor will be shown mercy, i.e. not removed and not excommunicated keep his: 1+1
If one confesses, will not burn in hell for eternity: +1
Total: -2

If one does not confess, and opponent confesses: non- confessor will not attain goal: -5
If one does not confess, and opponent confesses: non- confessor will be removed/ is excommunicated: -1 + -1
If one does not confesses, will not burn in hell for eternity: -1
Total: –8

So here are the optimal choices from best to worst for the respective players:

Francis: 4 (NC: NC) >-2 (C:C, C:NC) >-8 (NC:C)

Marx: 4 (NC:NC) >-2 (C:NC,C:C) >-8 (C:NC)

So what do the results infer?

1) Optimal scenario: The best results are obtained when both players do not confess. However, the individual actions of the opposite player are out of the control of player making the decision. This is due to the fact that one of the alleged co-conspirators in “Team Bergoglio” (please keep in mind that Marx is a proxy) could place a higher value of “not going to hell”, therefore, he could break the optimal decision paradigm, confess, get himself the better payout (-2) and leave the opponent with the worst possible outcome (-8).

2) Second best scenario: Confessing would be the safest scenario for both parties. There is no difference in outcome between one player confessing and both players confessing for the confessing party. The down side is that the confessing party gives up his right to execute his agenda. But in return, he gets excommunication lifted, keeps his title and privileges, and gets a reprieve from going straight to hell.

3) The worst scenario: Is where the decision making party does risk “not confessing” , but the other party confesses. This would be the most irrational position, since by not confessing, the decision maker risked obtaining a -8 result, i.e. not accomplish his agenda, excommunication, removal and  going to hell.

Therefore, the scenario demonstrates that a rational person (Prisoners’ Dilemma assume rational behavior), with the knowledge of the above payout matrix (which both parties have as per rules of the game), however not knowing what the decision of the opposite party would be (the real God could intervene), would always choose to confess. The only loss would be that he doesn’t get to accomplish his agenda, but he keeps his power and prestige and avoids going to hell.

A player who makes the decision to “not confess”, must have an “expected value” outside of this framework, that would make taking the risk and possibly obtaining the worst possible outcome acceptable. This “irrational risk taker” values the potential optimal scenario so highly (+4), that he literally risks everything in order to obtain it (-8).

And this is where we begin to see the proof of hidden agendas come into play.

I will leave you dear reader with this thought in mind.

Oh and one more thing, I told you that you would need to put your thinking caps on.