updated 4/22/2005 2:47:13 PM ET 2005-04-22T18:47:13

Guest: John Palmer, William Donahue, Bob Shrum, Andrew Greeley, Salman Rushdie, Dianne Feinstein, Trent Lott

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, a HARDBALL special report, “Religion & Politics.”  Is the separation of church and state in America unseparating? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And this is a HARDBALL special report on religion and politics. 

A conservative religious group calls the traditional Senate filibuster a weapon against people of faith.  Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean enters the fray, saying Republicans made threatening comments about judges in the Terri Schiavo case.  And Tom DeLay takes heat on ethics.  I‘ll talk to two veterans of these Washington wars, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi. 

But, first, we go to Rome for papal politics and the latest on the election of a new pope with MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing. 

Chris, it‘s great to see you over there. 

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Great to be here.  I wish you were here with me, Chris, because for two-and-a-half hours today, 115 cardinals from 52 different countries were locked behind those massive doors of the Sistine Chapel while the world watched and waited, along with 40,000 people who had gathered on St. Peter‘s Square. 

It would have been remarkable had they chosen a new pope.  That hadn‘t happened on the first ballot throughout the 20th century, and it did not happen today.  But believe me, this was not without its heart-stopping moments, because when those first wisps of smoke came out, there was indeed confusion.  The Vatican radio reported, it looks white.  There was one Italian media outlet that said, it is white.  And people on the square were jumping up and down shouting (SPEAKING ITALIAN).  It‘s white.  It‘s white.

This huge roar came up from St. Peter‘s Square.  But it was only really a matter of seconds before the new system of chemicals and the blower went into play and we saw that it was indeed thick black smoke and the first day of this conclave had ended without the election of a new pope.  Now, before they went in there, they swore an oath of secrecy, all of these cardinals in a ceremony seen for the first time on television. 

But we just don‘t know anything else that happened after those doors were closed, lots of speculation.  Of course, the front-runner is still considered to be the German cardinal, Ratzinger, Joseph Ratzinger, who said the mass and also gave the homily, both today, preconclave, and the funeral mass for Pope John Paul II in his role as dean of the College of Cardinals. 

Most Vatican watchers I‘m speaking with tonight say, if it goes into a second and third day, the chances of a Ratzinger papacy diminish.  He is the early favorite, but, often, the early favorite burns out very early as well.  So, they are all back, 115 of them, in the $20 million residence that Pope John Paul II had built for them, sound asleep, we presume, after some politicking going on. 

This is the time really when they meet and talk later in the day.  When they‘re in the Sistine Chapel, this is a time for prayer, for reflection, and for the actual vote.  So, tonight was when we saw the politicking.  That will lead to a vote tomorrow morning.  We expect to see smoke again about 6:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow and then, if there is not a new pope, around 7:00 at night—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, thank you, Chris Jansing at the Vatican. 

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is coming under partisan attack for his upcoming video appearance before the Family Research Council‘s Justice Sunday telecast this coming Sunday.  But Republicans are firing back, calling the Democrats hypocrites because John Kerry preached politics from a church pulpit during the presidential race last year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  When you pray, move your feet.  And we‘ve got to go out there and move our feet.  We‘ve got to go out there and build what we need in this country, and we do it at the ballot box.  I‘ll tell you and all the rest of the people in this country struggling for fairness, struggling for justice, I‘ve got your back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m now joined by Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. 

Well, what‘s fair?  Is it—Senator Feinstein, you first.  What‘s fair here?  Can John Kerry campaign in churches, especially African-American churches, who are motivated to vote Democrat, motivate them some more and that‘s not politics, whereas, if a guy like Frist goes out to a conservative Christian group and pitches the Republican program, is that any different? 

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  I think it is different. 

I think it is expected that people in political office go to churches, speak about issues in churches.  I think this is very different.  This is saying that the opposition to certain candidates is an assault on basic religious belief.  And I do not believe it is.  That has nothing to do with it.  And I think, you know, religion is a very sensitive, very personal topic.

And I think, when it is used this way, in a way that is totally false, because I sat on that committee, Chris, for 12 years.  Religion has nothing to do with how we feel about any given judge, nothing to do with it.  And to make—if he in fact is going to make that accusation, I think it is just simply untrue. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott, let me ask you about this whole question of this—you know this group, Family Research Council.  They have put out a flier for Justice Sunday.  At the bottom of it, it says, “The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias.”  And we all know that.  “And now it is being used against people of faith.”

Is it? 

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, you‘re trying to attribute to Bill Frist something that was said by somebody that was involved in this event. 

I think that the Democrats are being hypocritical here.  You know, candidates for office, people in office, go to churches and synagogues and I presume mosques and they take advantage of all the groups they can to speak to.  Bill Frist was invited to speak to this group by videotape, a secular statement.  He is not getting into the division between church and state.  It is a perfectly legitimate thing for the majority leader of the Senate to do, in my opinion. 

Look, we are a very religious nation.  I want to comment on that.  I mean, just look like—how we‘re all following what‘s going on with the pope.  Look how we all were affected by the pope‘s funeral. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

LOTT:  We in America are a religious country of all kinds of religious backgrounds.  And we do have separation between church and state, but not from religion. 

And so I think maybe we‘re beginning to—maybe on both sides, Chris, get a little bit overheated here.  You want people of faith in government.  I think one of the things that appealed to Floridians, for instance, about Joe Lieberman was his Orthodox Jewish faith. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LOTT:  People respect that of all backgrounds. 

But on the point that you‘re touching on here, you can‘t have it one way.  Oh, it‘s OK to go talk to a church group.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you, do you believe any of the Democrat objections to any of the judgeships that come up on the lower courts, the federal courts, was based upon religion, the fact that somebody is a practicing Catholic?

LOTT:  I don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  And the person may have strong religious beliefs, you‘re—you‘re—you—you don‘t think that any of the Democratic objections had to do with religion, or do you? 

LOTT:  Well, I don‘t think so.  Some of my colleagues do, however. 

But here‘s the problem, Chris.  And this is the conundrum you get into on these issues.  If you are a devout Catholic, or if you are a really committed Southern Baptist, you have, you know, very strong views on certain things.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LOTT:  And if you reflect those views in your votes, then you‘re disqualified.  And I think that‘s wrong.  And it does quite often get into this question of abortions. 

You know, I don‘t have a litmus test.  I voted to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though I knew I would not agree with a lot of her decisions.  But she was well qualified by education, by experience, decorum.  And I do think that‘s what presidential elections are about.  The president won.  President Clinton won an election.  This was his choice.  Unless there was some strong reason to vote against her, I thought I should vote for her, and I did. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Senator Feinstein.

It seems to me this all comes down to Roe vs. Wade.  And Roe vs. Wade said that a woman‘s decision, at least before the fetus, the child becomes viable, is basically her decision and that it‘s a privacy matter.  And there‘s a penumbra of privacy, the court ruled.  Isn‘t that something that separates religion from politics? 

FEINSTEIN:  I think it does. 

MATTHEWS:  Then shouldn‘t it do it?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, if you‘re a Catholic, you can support the right of people to make other decisions than you would make. 

FEINSTEIN:  Yes, sir.

Look, we‘re talking about following the law regardless of what your faith holds.  And there are differences between what the law is and what some religions hold as part of their faith.  And that‘s the separation of church and state.  It‘s not to impose religion on the law.  You may have a religious view, and that‘s fine.  It doesn‘t bother me, as long as you can look at the law in an objective sense. 

Now what Roe did—and Roe is often misunderstood.  Roe said that, in the first trimester, a woman does have privacy.  In the second and third trimester, the state can enter the arena and set certain laws.  And states have in fact set—set certain laws about parental notification, judicial bypass, other things like that.  The states have moved.  And that‘s entirely right. 

Now, what Roe also does is establish that zone of privacy and protection in other cases, protection of the health of the mother.  Now, different religions have different views on that.  Nonetheless, I think it is appropriate to ask questions as to how an individual would hold on certain laws.  I think that where we‘re going is a very dangerous place.  And I‘ve watched evidence over the last year or so. 

And I‘ve seen this separation between church and state be eroded, be eroded through all kinds of different techniques.  And I believe it‘s a mistake, because, once you do that, you get into, whose religion?  What church are we talking about?  And that‘s not what this nation was set up to be.  It was set up to be freed from tyranny of various archaic church laws that existed and the tyranny that existed, the insurrection, all of those things that involved individuals. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FEINSTEIN:  So...

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back.  We‘ll come back, Senator.  We have to come back and take a break. 

We‘re going to come back and talk about Howard Dean and what he‘s been saying lately with Senator Trent Lott and Senator Dianne Feinstein.  We‘re also going to talk about Tom DeLay and what people are saying about him.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, who is winning the war of words between conservative Tom DeLay and liberal Howard Dean?  We‘ll be back with Senators Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein when our HARDBALL special report, “Religion & Politics,” returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Senator Trent Lott and Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

This week, Howard Dean—he‘s the chairman of the Democratic Party—responded to comments by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, which DeLay later said were inartful, that judges responsible for the Schiavo‘s ruling—quote—and this is DeLay‘s comment—“should answer for their behavior.” 

Let‘s listen to Howard Dean‘s response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  It is not a moral value to threaten judges of the United States of America because they made a decision that you don‘t agree with. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that back and forth?  You‘ve got Tom DeLay out there saying almost like a fatwa in the Mideast, saying the time will come when men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.  It sounds like a fatwa of the Middle East. 

LOTT:  Well, he was reflecting what a lot of people..

MATTHEWS:  Is he threatening...

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  No, I don‘t think so.  And he said—he apologized.  He said it was inartful, at the least.  And so, I don‘t think that he was really threatening them, although, let me tell you, Chris, a lot of people get really mad at judges across the board.  And I think that‘s a dangerous trend, quite frankly.  But one thing that Howard...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s the job of a judge?  To judge. 

LOTT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Not to do what Congress tells them to do. 

LOTT:  Well, that‘s true, too.  But when you‘re supposed to review a case de novo—that means from the beginning, in its entirely—and you don‘t do it, then, clearly, you did not do what a bill says.  Now, wait a minute.  I‘m not getting into the Schiavo thing.  I have not been into that issue. 

One of the things I want to emphasize, though, is, Howard Dean said we‘re going to demonize.  We‘re going to use the face of Tom DeLay in ‘06 and ‘08. 

MATTHEWS:  Poster me.

LOTT:  And that is what—one of the things that bothers me.  I‘ve seen it done before.  Democrats have done it to Republicans and vice-versa, Republicans to Democrats. 

Hey, how about talking about issue?  When I go home, people don‘t want to get into personalities.  They want to know, what are you going to do about the price of gasoline?  What are you guys going to do about a decent transportation system that keeps my children getting killed on a narrow two-lane, hilly road?  They want to know what we‘re going to do about immigration reform.  They‘re wanting us to deal with real issues, budget.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like you agree with Dianne Feinstein. 

Senator Feinstein, people left Europe to get away from these damn religious wars, one prince against another.  People left Europe to come to America to get away with religious—get away from religious wars.  How are we doing here? 

FEINSTEIN:  Well, I think, for the first time, we have seen the specter of injecting religion in government.  And I find that very dangerous. 

Now, I don‘t want to get into the Tom DeLay matter.  I think that‘s a matter between the House and Mr. DeLay and the courts in Texas and Mr.  DeLay.  But I think it is right.  Criticizing the court because you don‘t agree with the decision I don‘t think gets you anywhere.  The courts are supposed to be independent.  We‘re supposed to do our job and they interpret what we do.  If they find it unconstitutional, there‘s room to appeal and go up to the Supreme Court. 

And that‘s always been a final and respect judgment.  I would hate for that to change, because it is really the first step toward doing away, I think, with a weakening of democracy that has been a very good thing for this nation over the past 200 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

And thank you, as always, Senator Trent Lott, for coming over.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, author Salman Rushdie, a great man, says the Bush administration is helping terrorism by not doing enough to reach out to the Islamic world. 

You‘re watching a HARDBALL special, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this HARDBALL special report, “Religion & Politics.”

Novelist Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” speaks openly about the Islamic world and fights for freedom of speech for all artists.  He is currently the president of PEN American Center, a human rights literary organization that is sponsoring PEN World Voices, a festival of over 70 great international writers in New York City this month. 

Welcome, Mr. Rushdie.  Thank you for joining us.  It is an honor. 

SALMAN RUSHDIE, PRESIDENT, PEN AMERICAN CENTER:  Hello there.

MATTHEWS:  I mean that, and for your courage and for your views for freedom. 

RUSHDIE:  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this question.  I will get to the quick here.  If the United States—let me put it this way.  If the state of Israel were a small country with very little military, and it was almost like Switzerland, sort of tucked in there like Monaco or Switzerland in the Middle East, would it still be a thorn in the side of the Arab world? 

RUSHDIE:  You know, probably not. 

I mean, I‘ve always thought the problem in the Mideast has to do with

an obvious injustice that needs to be rectified.  And that can be

rectified.  And I think, given people of goodwill on both sides, it could

be rectified.  The problem is that the water is so muddy that it is really

·         it is hard to see how to get there.  And I think most people would say that the end result is, you know, a secure state of Israel, a Palestinian state and some kind of power-sharing arrangement about Jerusalem. 

But I don‘t know how to get there from here. 

MATTHEWS:  Would the Islamic world accept an Israel that had peace with its Palestinian neighbors? 

RUSHDIE:  You‘re asking the wrong person, in a way. 

But, I mean, I think it would take away an enormous rhetorical recruiting tool for the enemies of this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Because a lot of Israeli people, and not just on the right, and pro-Israeli people, which are most of Americans, feel that, once Israel gave a major concession in land or accepted some sort of finessing of the Jerusalem question, which I think could be finessed if both sides wanted to, that they would find themselves even in a smaller redoubt and, therefore, the fanatics would say, now let‘s go in for the kill and chase them to the sea. 

(CROSSTALK)

RUSHDIE:  I‘m not sure that‘s true. 

I mean, I‘m not a world expert on the Mideast, but I think my feeling is that a just settlement in Israel would take—would take an enormous amount of the heat out of the situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUSHDIE:  I don‘t see that it would be the beginning of a slippery slope. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the Christian world and the Islamic world, generally speaking.  I can‘t remember a time when it was so heated.  Of course, I didn‘t live through Crusades. 

RUSHDIE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But why is it so hot right now? 

RUSHDIE:  Well, I think it is very strange, you know, because I think, just in the aftermath of 9/11, there was a gigantic sympathy for this country all over the world, including in the Muslim world. 

And the squandering of that sympathy I think to be a really extraordinary fact.  I‘ve never—in a way, I come from too many places.  I come from India.  My family was in Pakistan some of the time.  I‘ve been in England a long time.  Now I have a home here. 

It gives me this perspective to see how people look at this country from outside.  And, in my life, I don‘t think I‘ve ever known a time where there was as much disagreement with the United States, going from polite disagreement to impolite dislike, as I see now.  And I think that‘s a real tragedy. 

MATTHEWS:  If we had not invaded Iraq, would that be the case? 

RUSHDIE:  I think if the invasion in Iraq had been done in a different way, we could have minimized this hostility. 

I mean, I do think that the precipitous nature of the invasion, the way in which it was done without trying to build a consensus and without allowing weapons inspectors to complete their task, and so on and so on, all that created a very bad atmosphere.  And now everyone sees in the aftermath the difficulties that have been engendered by knocking down a state without knowing how to put it back up. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you understand the difference between George Bush Sr.  and George Bush Jr.?  George Bush Sr., the first President Bush, was good friends with Hosni Mubarak.  He was good friends with Hussein, I believe. 

He would have them to baseball games.  There was a lot of conviviality that went way back to the time that Vice President Bush was vice president and Hosni Mubarak was vice president to Sadat.  They were friends.  There was a sense of America having friends in the Arab world.  Of course, there was always the rough edge of the Mideast issue, but there was a sense we had friends in that part of the world. 

RUSHDIE:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t sense that conviviality anymore.  What happened there? 

(CROSSTALK)

RUSHDIE:  I don‘t think it‘s there.

Well, I think what happened is what you said happened.  And I think there was a—I think American unilateralism has been a big problem.  And, you know, one of the reasons, frankly, while we‘re doing this literary festival is we feel that, somehow, in the aftermath of 9/11, America and the world seemed to have lost the ability to talk to each other.  It has become kind of a dialogue of the deaf. 

There‘s a lot of people sounding off and there‘s not many people listening.  And that seems to me to be bad for America.  And it seems to me to be bad for the rest of the world.  And it is one of the things I think that writers and artists can do, is, at least at the cultural level, to restart a conversation, so that people can begin to understand each other better, you know?

I think it is no accident that books about Afghanistan, books about Iran, like “The Kite Runner” or “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” have rocketed to the top of the best-seller list and stayed there for months.  It‘s because people are not getting what they need.  The public is not getting what it needs from the newspapers or from TV. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUSHDIE:  That tells you how many people got blown up today. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSHDIE:  But it doesn‘t give you the imaginative insight into these worlds with which this country is now deeply connected.  And this is something literature can do. 

That‘s one of the reasons, really the reason, we started this festival, is to restart an international dialogue that, at the political level, seems to broken down. 

MATTHEWS:  Again, it‘s an honor, Salman Rushdie.  Please come on some time again.  And we‘d love to have you back.

RUSHDIE:  I‘d love to.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  The College of Cardinals began its secret conclave today to select the next pope.  We‘ll get the latest from Rome and talk to Father Andrew Greeley.  He is an interesting fellow on this topic.  

And, tomorrow, 10 years after the deadly attack in Oklahoma City, former NBC News correspondent Robert Hager joins us for his first interview since leaving the network to talk about what it was like to cover that bombing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this HARDBALL special report. 

The historic conclave at the Vatican has begun.  At this hour, the 115 cardinal are back at the Casa Santa Maria, a dormitory inside the Vatican ground built for such occasions.  Earlier today, they conducted their first ballot and burned black smoke, a sign they have not yet selected a new pope. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports from Rome. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The day began inside St. Peter‘s Basilica with the mass for electing the pope.  One of the top contenders, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, used his homily to lash out at what he called the church‘s threats. 

“We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism,” he said, “which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one‘s own ego and one‘s own desires.”  Ratzinger, once a liberal, moved to the right following the Paris student riots of 1968.  Today, he seemed to be urging his fellow electors to pick a new pope who will uphold the doctrinal line followed by Pope John Paul II. 

Longtime Vatican analysts say the main anti-Ratzinger candidate is the retired archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Martini, a favorite of the reformed-minded liberal wing.  This afternoon, the cardinals gathered in the Hall of the Benediction.  They prayed and sang a hymn invoking guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Then they began their procession. 

The 115 cardinals from 52 different countries walked solemnly to the Sistine Chapel.  The chapel has been set up with two rows of tables and chairs.  The seating is based on seniority and protocol.  The conclave began with the master of liturgical ceremonies clearing the room of all assistants and aides, declaring in Latin, “Everyone out.”

Starting Tuesday, there will be as many as two ballots in the morning and two in the afternoon.  The top of each ballot card says in Latin, “I elect as supreme pontiff.”  Each cardinal will fill out the bottom using disguised handwriting.  Each cardinal will then deliver his ballot to a silver plate in front of the altar and then tip the plate so the ballot falls into a large urn. 

Three cardinals, randomly selected, will count the ballots.  Three more will check the count and three more will collect ballots from cardinals who are sick.  If no cardinal receives two-thirds, or 77 of the 115 votes, the conclave continues.  At the end of each two-ballot session, the ballots and all notes from the cardinals are burned in this furnace, which leads to this chimney. 

Like today, when the first ballot produced no selection, chemicals are added to make the smoke turn black.  When a pope is chosen, other chemicals will turn the smoke white and then bells will ring out.  If the last three conclaves are a guide, the selection should take two or three days and between four and eight ballots. 

(on camera):  In recent weeks, one of the cardinal involved in the 1978 conclave said, to observers, the sessions in the Sistine Chapel would seem boring.  The ballot rounds take about 90 minutes each.  And, according to this participant, the really intriguing discussions about preferences and issues only take place during the breaks. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Rome. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.

Father Andrew Greeley is the author of the book “The Making of the Popes 1978.”  He is presently in Rome. 

Father Greeley, thank you for joining us. 

What are your thoughts and predictions as of now, after one belch of black smoke from the Vatican? 

FATHER ANDREW GREELEY, AUTHOR, “THE MAKING OF THE POPES 1978”:  Well, I don‘t expect it to be anything but a conservative conclave. 

The progressive force that Cardinal Martini lead are I think pretty weak.  So, nothing—all the things that some American Catholics would like to see, ordination of women, married priests, respect for gays, those aren‘t going to happen.  We can just forget about that.  It will be more of the same. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any chance—we talked several weeks ago, before the funeral, that there might be a compromise.  But do you wonder whether the liberals have enough strength to force a compromise? 

GREELEY:  Well, they do if they control a little bit more than a third of the votes and they can delay the end of the election.  So, they might be able to force a compromise. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who would be a compromise?  Cardinal Hummes?  You mentioned Cardinal Hummes of Sao Paulo?

GREELEY:  He might be a compromise candidate.  So might the archbishop of Bombay and India, Cardinal Dias, though there have been attacks on his health on the Internet.  There‘s a lot of Internet stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make...

GREELEY:  Go ahead, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  What do make of the latest little sugar plum coming out of “The New York Times” the other day, that the—Cardinal Ratzinger was a member of the Communist Party as a kid, as a youth, I should say, in Germany? 

GREELEY:  Hitler youth.  Nazi Party.

MATTHEWS:  I mean Nazi Party, Nazi Party. 

GREELEY:  Yes. 

Well, I don‘t think that will affect his supporters.  I think the people that are determined to vote for Cardinal Ratzinger will vote for him. 

MATTHEWS:  Boy, you‘re—you give me—you are like Mike Mansfield, giving me these short answers.  It is driving me crazy here, Father.

(LAUGHTER)

GREELEY:  I‘m sorry.  I can talk a lot.

MATTHEWS:  But keep a little—make it a little more complicated. 

Let me ask you about the things that we‘ve been talking about here.  And I want to ask you to check us on facts.  Is this a battle between the old Europe, which is 50 percent of the cardinals who are voting, and the new world of Latin America, primarily?  Is that part of the thinking here or not? 

GREELEY:  I don‘t think so. 

I would like to see a South American pope.  And I think the present conclave are too conservative to take a risk like that unless they‘re forced to.  So, they will try to stick with the European.  It has been, as I said, a dirty campaign.  Some of the stuff that‘s happened in the last week matches anything that happens during an American presidential campaign, threats about people‘s health, accusations about their past. 

It is mind-boggling. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, besides Ratzinger, who else has faced smearing here? 

GREELEY:  Several have been smeared on health grounds.  Others have been accused of being cruel and insensitive to the people in their diocese.  And they come from authentic e-mails from their diocese.  You exclude the laypeople from the election, but now they‘re getting into it through the Internet. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Let me ask you about another issue.  You and I have talked—and I‘ve done some reading, thanks to you, on this subject, John Allen‘s book, for example, and others—that there is a kind of an economic issue within the church.  We talk a lot about abortion rights, not abortion.  We talk about birth control a lot.  We talk about how to treat gay Catholics and gay people generally, how to deal with the women, possible women in the priesthood and whether priests can marry, etcetera, etcetera.

But one issue that gets very little attention, but it is apparently an issue, which is the economic issues of the world, do you believe the next pontiff will be a man who is focused on the concerns of Third World people, especially in Latin America and Africa, with the huge debt load those countries have? 

GREELEY:  Well, John Paul was concerned about those countries, certainly.  I‘m not persuaded that the concern will increase with the next pope. 

I mean, I think the concerns we are—are what we heard from Cardinal Ratzinger today in his keynoted talk, relativism, secularism, liberalism, the same old chestnuts we‘ve been beating away for hundreds of years. 

Third World—unless there‘s a Third World pope, I don‘t think it will get any more attention. 

MATTHEWS:  How is birth control a relativism issue?  When—I don‘t know.  I guess I don‘t understand it, because it seems to me the technology of birth control is fairly new, given the Christian era of 2,000 years, and what was the precedent before?  Why is it wrong to have birth control?  I don‘t quite understand that.  Explain that to me, Father. 

GREELEY:  I would have a hard time defending it, Chris. 

But what happened was that, for most of the human history, you would need—a husband and wife would need seven kids to produce two adults. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREELEY:  And so contraception wasn‘t an issue. 

Now if you‘re having seven kids, you will, in a short period of time, have seven teenagers.  And so that‘s basically why the issue of contraception has arisen.  I‘m not sure that the issues have been clearly understood yet by the church, church leadership. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of these polls that show—we have a new CBS poll tonight that shows almost seven out of 10 Catholics believe that the church should legitimize artificial birth control, birth control. 

GREELEY:  That‘s lower than the data we got at the National Opinion Research Center, where it gets to about 80 percent—excuse me, 88 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  Actually, I personally think it is higher.  And based upon other polling, I agree with you, Father.

But what does the Vatican think of that disconnect between the beliefs of American Catholics and the Vatican on that issue, which is up to papal discussion?  It is not something that is written down in the Ten Commandments:  Thou shalt not practice birth control. 

GREELEY:  It certainly isn‘t.  And it‘s not just the United States.  It is being practiced all over the world, all through Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America, Africa. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREELEY:  And I think the people that run the church now are not interested in surveys.  They‘re not interested in what sociologists find.  They know the answer before the questions are raised. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s great having you on, Father.  We‘ll keep coming back to you as the black smoke continues to fume from the smokestack over there.  Looking for the white smoke.  What day do you think it will come, Father?  Want to pick? 

GREELEY:  Wednesday, Thursday, something like that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  I like...

GREELEY:  Buona notte.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very—buona notte to you.  Thank you, Father Andrew Greeley.

For the latest on the cardinals‘ conclave to select the next pope, go to our MSNBC Web site at—I can‘t believe we got one—pope.MSNBC.com.  We‘re so irreverent here. 

When we come back, our coverage of religion and politics will continue.  Former NBC News White House correspondent John Palmer is going to join us, along with veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and the Catholic League‘s William Donahue.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the cardinals have begun their conclave.  Which direction will they take in choosing the next pope?  Our HARDBALL special report returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Day one has ended at the Vatican conclave, with heavy black smoke clearly signifying that no new pope has been elected. 

One man who was there in 1978 during the election of John Paul II, when the smoke signal wasn‘t so clear, was NBC News veteran correspondent John Palmer.  He joins us now, along with Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who is also a Vatican observer, and president of the Catholic League, William Donahue. 

We‘ve got some interesting opinions here.  Let me start with some strict reporting. 

What happened?  They got confused about the black and white smoke last time? 

JOHN PALMER, FORMER NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I think there were two times, Chris, when we were confused.  I was there with Garrick Utley and a number of other reporters.

And people were standing next to each other, saying, no, that‘s black smoke.  No, it‘s white.  And even on one occasion, the network came up and broke into local programming.  It appears that a pope has been chosen in Rome.

MATTHEWS:  Was this wishful thinking by the mob? 

(LAUGHTER)

PALMER:  I don‘t know what it was.  But now, at least, the bells are going to ring.  There‘s going to be no question about who is pope...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A multimedia announcement. 

PALMER:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Bob Shrum. 

You heard Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the congregation of the College of Cardinals, today give his sermon.  Tough, conservative sermon, wasn‘t it?

BOB SHRUM, FORMER KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  It was. 

You know, I think people, even if they disagreed to some extent with Pope John Paul II, related to him as a pastor.  And I think what the church is looking for is a great pastor, not a grand inquisitor.  And the speech this morning which denounced the modern world, liberalism, individualism, contrasted very sharply for me with the speech with which Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, where he said, we must beware of the voices of doom and gloom that always we see evil in the modern world and in change.  We must encounter the modern world.  We must open up to it.  We must make the faith relevant for people. 

So, it was a campaign speech for a very conservative—in my view, very conservative candidacy, which I assume Cardinal Ratzinger believes absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Bill, is there any really room for any kind of—what is the room in play?  Let‘s talk now to the non-Catholics, as well as Catholics watching right now.  What is to discussion and dispute within the Catholic Church in terms of discipline and doctrine? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Well, clearly, celibacy.  That could be optional.  The first 1,000 years or so, it was the norm, but it wasn‘t codified.  And then, in the 12th century, they made it the norm that you had to be celibate.  But that‘s a discipline. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

DONAHUE:  It‘s not part of doctrine.  It‘s not like the Trinity. 

So, therefore, they could discuss at least making it optional.  They could discuss, I suppose, having women as deacons.  Certainly, back in 1968, Pope Paul VI asked a commission to advise him on the wisdom of the church‘s teachings on contraception.  Now, he turned down their advice.  But it is interesting.  No pope would ask for advice on what to do about the Trinity.  That would be off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DONAHUE:  So, certainly, you can see moments of reflection.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DONAHUE:  How are they going to emphasize things? 

MATTHEWS:  I love—that was well done.  I think that was a very objective assessment, wasn‘t it?  And I think the question before the church is, do they pick a pope who is likely to err even in the direction of liberalism or err in the direction of conservatism?

Your sense is, the whip was cracked today by Ratzinger, pick somebody that might err in the direction of conservatism.

SHRUM:  My sense is that he believes this very strongly.  And he said it and it was his message.  And it is very different, for example, from the emphasis that Pope John XXIII gave. 

But I want to say that we see this sometimes from an excessively American perspective. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SHRUM:  Liberal vs. conservative.  There are other issues going on here.  Should there be more collegiality?  Should bishops have more power?

MATTHEWS:  Define that term for people that don‘t know what it means. 

SHRUM:  That decision-making should be less centralized in the Vatican, which doesn‘t mean, for example, that you question basic doctrines like the Trinity.  And I would not expect a whole lot of other doctrines to be changed or major doctrines changed by any pope. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, let the United States—let the—leave the United States alone, Bill, in letting girls, young girls, girls of altar boy age be altar servers.  Don‘t let the whip be cracked against that by conservatives. 

What do you think, Bill?  Isn‘t that one of the smaller issues, whether girls can be treated equally with boys as they‘re growing up? 

DONAHUE:  Well, that‘s true.  And I think most people come to understand, there‘s nothing wrong with that. 

But, you know, this question of moral absolutes, I have a little bit different interpretation here than what Bob—what Ratzinger is saying is right out of J.P. II and “Veritatis Splendor,” that there are moral absolutes.  And, you know, it‘s interesting . If you ask the American Catholics, they‘re very conflicted.  On the one hand, they don‘t want the very strict guidelines that the Catholic Church is outlining on matters sexual. 

On the other hand, they love the idea that there is a black and white, that there are moral absolutes. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I agree.  I agree.

DONAHUE:  So, it‘s very, very interesting.

MATTHEWS:  But I think—I got to tell you, I now speak for all American Catholics.  OK.  I‘m going to do it right now.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll get in trouble for this.  They would love it if the pope would stop saying, it is a sin to practice birth control, because they all do. 

Coming up, why are no American names being floated to become the next pope?

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with John Palmer, William Donahue and Bob Shrum. 

Let‘s talk about the American role.  Everyone agrees, I think, that no American can become pope, because, we‘re just the big—just like we can‘t become, except for Bill Clinton, who might pull it off, become general-secretary of the U.N.  We‘re too much involved in world politics. 

But does that give—John, does that give the American—what, it‘s 11 or 12 -- 11 -- cardinals the ability to be the king maker here?  Can they throw their weight as a group for someone?

PALMER:  Not really the king maker, I don‘t think.  But they are influential.  Twenty-six years ago, it was Cardinal Krol who said, how about this fellow named Wojtyla? 

MATTHEWS:  Philadelphia.

PALMER:  We could perhaps go there. 

MATTHEWS:  They were not “Poles” apart, were they? 

PALMER:  No, they weren‘t “Poles” apart.

(LAUGHTER)

PALMER:  I‘ll ignore that.  We can move right along, folks. 

But it is so impossible.  We were talking about that earlier. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PALMER:  To talk about politics at this stage and how it is going to come down.  You do have a conservative in Ratzinger.  There, you had a conservative who threw in the towel after eight ballots last time.  And they—both the conservatives and the liberals then decided, well, let‘s go with Karol Wojtyla. 

The amazing thing to me was—and I was up on the colonnade that night just after the white smoke had come up and just when Cardinal Felice (ph), I guess, came out and said, do we have a pope?  And it is Karol Wojtyla, and even slightly pronounced the name wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PALMER:  And many people in the square thought that that was a black cardinal from Africa.  There had been talk about the cardinal from Ghana. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it must be him.  He‘s the one.

PALMER:  And it was amazing.  People don‘t realize.

MATTHEWS:  Shrummy, Shrummy, jump in here.  What is it?  What‘s your sense of the American role here?  If we can‘t win, can we influence? 

SHRUM:  Well, as he said, Cardinal Krol played a big role. 

Cardinal Koenig of Vienna was the person who really put the coalition together.  Cardinal Krol was his deputy.  He was called the grand elector, Cardinal Koenig.  What he really was was the Bill Daley of that conclave. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SHRUM:  I mean, he saw Karol Wojtyla and he said, this is the person we should elect. 

I think we all have to be a little bit humble about this, because I don‘t even think the cardinals know exactly what they‘re getting.  When they elected John XXIII, they walked up.  He was going to be a transitional figure.  They said, do you accept?  He said yes.  What name do you wish to be known by?  They all assumed he would say Pius XIII.  He said John XXIII, which was a first big signal that he was going to do some very different things. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he certainly wasn‘t one of the Piuses. 

Let me ask you, Bill Donahue, the American role.

DONAHUE:  The American role will not be influential. There‘s a fair amount of anti-Americanism in Europe.  And that—that is expressed against the Catholic Church in this country. 

I think the scandal is a source of embarrassment.  Now, you get different opinions as to whether the cardinals were responsible for this or whatever.  But there‘s still a stain there.  So, I don‘t see the Americans having a pivotal role here.  I do say this much, that whoever is elected is not likely someone who is going to be acceptable to the dissidents, to the left.  And they‘re going to have to make up their minds.  Are they going to walk or are they going to stay? 

MATTHEWS:  By the left, you mean liberal Catholics like me.

(LAUGHTER)

DONAHUE:  I don‘t mean liberal.  No, I mean the people—I mean the We Are Church people, who have been praying for Pope John Paul II to die. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DONAHUE:  That‘s the people I‘m talking about. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Well, that‘s pretty strong language. 

DONAHUE:  Well, Sister Maureen Fiedler in November of 1997 said exactly that in Detroit at a call to action meeting.  She said, we can‘t wait for someone to pass away. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Bill, you know, Bill, I can love people I disagree with.  Can‘t you? 

DONAHUE:  Oh, I can, too.  But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s one of the oddities of human nature. 

Anyway, thank you, John Palmer.  It‘s great.  Thanks for coming on for this. 

PALMER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Shrummy. 

And thank you, Bill Donahue, as always.

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  And on HARDBALL, we‘ll joined by another legendary correspondent who covered it for NBC News, the Bob Hager.  And we will not have bad weather tomorrow, his first interview since leaving the network.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END

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