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As far as I know, there were no hanging chads or dimpled ballots back in 217, but a recount probably wouldn’t have made any difference in the outcome of the disputed papal election between Hippolytus and Callistus. Check out historian Gary Macy’s rundown of that early church version of the Florida saga. No single winner for a long time in that one -- and there was no supreme court. Both Hippolytus and Callistus were declared winners by their supporters and eventually both were banished.

And there’s more: this coincidence just in from Bethlehem, Pa., where Bill Lewellis reports that a seventh-century Christian bishop, a candidate in a contested election, was named -- we are not making this up -- Chad. Chad, elected and installed as archbishop of York, in what is now England, relinquished the position when other bishops objected, according to Lewellis, the communication minister for the Bethlehem, Pa., Episcopal diocese. Sensing a rift ahead, Chad stepped aside and took a lesser see. He had his reward in death. St. Chad is honored March 2 in the Episcopal church.

So in the history of the United States, which will it be? St. George or St. Al?

It has also occurred to me in recent weeks that the church, on a more practical level, might have the answer to post-election controversies. In a papal election, you know, they declare the winner by burning the ballots.

Joan F. Neal has been elected chair of The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company board of directors. She follows Ann Weick, who held the position since November 1988.

Neal is associate director of Leadership Greater Chicago, a Chicago-based civic education organization, and president of J.F. Neal & Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm that focuses on providing assistance to non-profit organizations. A member of the Catholic Theological Union board of trustees, she has also served on a number of local and national Catholic commissions and committees. Weick is the director of the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas.

The NCR board also announced three new additions: Jesuit Fr. Julio Giulietti, director of the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University; Donald A. Brennan, president of Ascension Health in St. Louis; and Sister of Mercy Theresa Kane, adjunct professor at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

-- Tom Roberts

My email address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, December 8, 2000