A Different Theory for why the Pope Resigned

by Erik Voeten on February 11, 2013 · 4 comments

in Blogs

I am teaching causal inference today and was reminded of this article from the British Medical Journal. Below is the abstract:


Objective To explore the perceived wisdom that papal mortality is related to the success of the Welsh rugby union team.


Design Retrospective observational study of historical Vatican and sporting data.


Main outcome measure Papal deaths between 1883 and the present day.


Results There is no evidence of a link between papal deaths and any home nation grand slams (when one nation succeeds in beating all other competing teams in every match). There was, however, weak statistical evidence to support an association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths.


Conclusion Given the dominant Welsh performances of 2008, the Vatican medical team should take special care of the pontiff this Christmas.



The pope implausibly survived Wales 2012 win. The 2013 version is going on with Wales expected to do well….

{ 4 comments }

Matt G February 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Not sure you can write that Wales are expected to do well this year. They did just beat France in Paris, but that ended a run of 8 successive defeats (almost a record for them).

Chris February 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Some German blogger presented his personal theory as to the pope’s resignation: The VatiLeaks guy (he didn’t buy that “amnesty” thing around christmas). He suggests that in the aftermath of the VatiLeaks scandal, the curia might have tallied and found one of their folders of embarrassing documents missing. Thereupon, said guy promptly was granted “amnesty”, and after an appropriate safety margin of 6 weeks the pope suddenly finds himself too weak and frail for the job.

A mere coincidence, I suppose. ;-)

Shanna Carson February 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Can we expect the Catholic change with the next Pope? I don’t really think so. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, formerly the archbishop of Quebec City, has the best odds of replacing Pope Benedict XVI, but he is an extremely conservative man who will definitely not want the Catholic church to change. He is expected to be a carbon copy Pope Benedict XVI.

Sam Waterburry February 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

As I understand it he resigned after viewing this YouTube video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfNJWOZPbSw

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