A pilgrim-journalist reports from Rome.
(Page 2 of 2)
That surfaces the third point. Does someone from North America stand a legitimate chance at election? If the College of Cardinals chooses a North American, that man must be able to collect votes from the Europeans and the Latin Americans, since two-thirds of the college’s vote is needed to secure election. The absence of a clear front-runner suggests that could still be accomplished. An individual able to respond to the challenges and concerns of both the global north and the global south might be able to attract votes from the two largest bodies in the college.
Inside the Sala Stampa and across St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican’s Media Center, one floor below where the cardinals have been meeting for their general congregations, there is a lot of speculation about who might fit that bill. Two names continue to circulate: Dolan and Ouellet.
While it is best to avoid making predictions about the next pope, since such predictions almost never pan out, it is worth noting that Blessed Pope John Paul II often called New York the “capital of the world.” With its numerous vibrant ethnic communities, it sits at the crossroads of the globe.
The current archbishop of New York is Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, aged 63. He has served as the President of Catholic Relief Services, American Catholicism’s charitable arm to the Church in need in the developing world. While that might make him an appealing candidate to cardinals from the global south, the fact that he does not speak Spanish could make him an unattractive choice. To boot, it is well known that Dolan’s Italian is mediocre at best. With 28 cardinals, the Italians constitute the largest bloc within the European college.
In his favor, Dolan is gregarious and well-liked. He is a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Councils of Social Communication and the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Back home in the states, he is the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has a strong background in ecclesial management and he is known for his pastoral zeal. Both of those things are important to the Church at this hour.
At 68, Cardinal Marc Ouellet is the Archbishop Emeritus of Quebec, the Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, and the President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He is an accomplished and well-respected ecclesiastic. Under Pope Benedict, he served as a member of the second section of the Secretariat of State, the Congregations for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Catholic Education, Clergy, the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Oriental Churches, the Councils of Culture, Promotion of the New Evangelization, and Legislative Texts, and the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
Like Dolan, Ouellet is well-liked. But, he also brings intellectual accomplishment. He is a serious theologian in camp with Ratzinger. Yet some think he is too close to the Roman Curia at a time when it needs to be reformed. It is often claimed that the Church does not need another theologian-pope, but a pastor capable of reforming the Curia from the outside.
Regardless of the real chances of either Dolan or Ouellet being elected pope, let alone other North Americans like Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, there remains a lot of speculation about the age of the best candidate.
That’s the fourth point to bear in mind. It is rumored that the cardinals will avoid the election of an older pope. Time will tell. But, there are just six cardinals aged 60 or under. Europe has four of them. And, Asia/Oceania has the other two. Among them are Péter Erdö (Hungarian, 60), Wim Eijk (Dutch, 59), Reinhard Marx (German, 59), Rainer Maria Woelki (German, 56), Luis Antonio Tagle (Filipino, 55), and Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal (Indian, 53). Most of the cardinals are older than 70. Just 52 of the 115 cardinals are under 70. Europe has 26 of them, North America has seven, Latin America has nine, Africa has five and Asia/Oceania has the remaining five.
The cardinals could elect someone who sits in between the two major age groups – someone, that is, who is neither too old nor too fresh. On the one hand, Dolan could be considered too unseasoned. He has been a cardinal since 2012 and archbishop of New York since 2009.
But, he has the backing of Cardinals Rigali, aged 77, and Harvey, aged 63. Cardinal Harvey served under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Papal Household. And Cardinal Rigali served as the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, Rome’s all important school for the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. Both men speak perfect Italian and command the respect of the Italian cardinals. Those connections might give Dolan a certain amount of gravitas in important quarters.
An interesting vignette: Heading into the Pope Paul VI Hall for one of the General Congregations, Rigali was spotted introducing Dolan to an important Italian cardinal. In Rome, the capital of Europe’s largest voting bloc, and among cardinals old enough to remember a statelier church, that’s how deals are made. Perhaps the exchange was a subtle manifestation of Romanità (or, Roman diplomatic polish). Time will tell.
But for now, one thing remains certain: At this hour, the Catholic Church finds herself in the midst of a crisis. Europe has forsaken its Christian heritage; the United States continues to become more and more post-Christian, post-modern, and secular; international financial crises continue to destabilize global markets and economies; and an Arab Spring situates global politics on shifting sands. Global Catholicism needs a shepherd who can confront challenges in both the global north and the global south. The Church needs another mediator pope.
In 1978, following the death of Pope John Paul I, the cardinals discerned God was calling them to make a bold decision and to take on the challenges of Communism in Eastern Europe. The cardinals discerned the Church needed someone who could mediate between Western and Eastern Europe. John Paul II was their man. After his surprising election, he presented himself to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square as a man “from a faraway country.”
This afternoon, I talked with a journalist from New York who was in that square when John Paul II was elected. We spoke just outside St. Peter’s Basilica, strolling beneath the central loggia where the next pope will make his first appearance. My friend told me that the atmosphere in Rome this week is not altogether different from the one that surrounded the square back in 1978.
Perhaps, that’s telling. Maybe we’ll soon have another mediator pope—a man “from a faraway country.”
Image courtesy Dfmalan.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online