Vatican officials are anxious to get their hands on an advance copy of The Next Pope, a survey of 19 leading contenders to succeed Pope Francis scheduled for publication next month. The author, Edward Pentin, discusses these papabile cardinals in today’s episode of Holy Smoke.

The full list is still under wraps, but inevitably we talk about Cardinal Robert Sarah, the African-born apocalyptic visionary whom liberals most fear. (If you doubt that, read this despicable and semi-literate hatchet job on Sarah by Christopher Lamb in the Tablet.) Equally inevitably, we talk about the charismatic and ambitious Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, formerly Archbishop of Manila and now one of Francis’s main allies in the Vatican.

But the candidate I was most anxious to ask Edward about is Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who as Secretary of State negotiated the secret and sinister pact with China, staged a coup d’état against the Order of Malta and now faces urgent questions about corrupt property deals.

How could such a man possibly be acceptable to the college of cardinals? He’s even spoken of as the front-runner. Has the Catholic Church — now on the brink of financial catastrophe — simply thrown away its moral compass?

It’s a lively episode. Don’t miss it.

Jane Stannus reviews The Next Pope in the August issue of The Spectator. Subscribe here to get your copy.