Should lawmakers be 'locked up' conclave-style for big decisions?
The Sistine Chapel will be closed off to outsiders for the upcoming papal election, which was sparked by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. (Osservatore Romano/Associated Press)
Picture this: A divided group of lawmakers are locked up together -- no cell phones, no internet access, no fundraisers or enjoyable social events. They are also deprived of most creature comforts until an important decision is made.
If you think no group of people could reach consensus under these conditions, consider the College of Cardinals presently in conclave to select a new pope.
Thomas Reese, an analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, mused about putting politicians under similar pressure in a column posted today from Rome.
"It has worked for hundreds of years in the Catholic Church, it might even work in Washington," he wrote in his reflection.
The word conclave, he explains, comes from the Latin for "locked with a key." But this boiler-room approach hasn't always been the norm.
'The United States could learn from the Catholic Church on how to get leaders to do their duty.'-- Thomas Reese, analyst with the National Catholic Reporter
In the 13th century, Reese explains, the College of Cardinals struggled to appoint a successor to St. Peter under the two-thirds rule -- a situation that was further hindered by outside power struggles, ideological differences and social events.
A decision that now takes a matter of days took over a year in 1243 and over three years in 1271.
"Needless to say, the people in the pews were no happier with the cardinals than American citizens are happy with members of [U.S.] Congress," wrote Reese, adding that citizens eventually revolted and locked the cardinals up in one case, and put the cardinals on a bread and water diet and tore off the roof in another.
This year, behind sealed doors and cut of from the world by electronic jamming equipment, the same decision is likely to take the cardinals a few days.
"[By] the time the conclave is over, Congress may still be deadlocked in its efforts to pass a budget, much to the embarrassment of the nation," said Reese, suggesting that budgetary crisis caused by sequestration could be alleviated if Congress itself was literally sequestered.
"The United States could learn from the Catholic Church on how to get leaders to do their duty."
What do you think of Reese's thought experiment?
Would you like to see politicians and lawmakers cut off from the outside world - much like jurors and cardinals - and put under increased pressure when making on major decisions?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies)
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