Archive for the ‘Conclave’ Category

Francis shapes the College


John Allen writes about the meaning of the new consistory, “It may be election season in America, but that’s definitely not the vibe one gets in ecclesiastical Rome these days. Pope Francis is in good health, he remains fully in charge and operating at a breakneck pace, and there’s no sense that a transition is imminent. As a result, no one’s spending a great deal of time thinking about papabili, meaning potential candidates for the papacy, because most people don’t believe the job is going to be available anytime soon. On the other hand, there’s a consistory, meaning the event in which a pope creates new cardinals, so at least in theory the candidate pool is getting fresh blood. Moreover, virtually all the cardinals of the world will be in Rome for the event, which makes a consistory the closest thing in the Catholic Church to the Iowa Caucus – an early campaign milestone, when all the candidates are on display and anything seems possible Granted, from a faith point of view there’s something far more important than a political cattle call that will be happening on Nov. 19″.

He writes “Seen through the eyes of belief, it’s about men donning garments whose very colour symbolizes their willingness to shed their blood to protect the papacy and the Church, it’s about the continuity of the Church through time, and about the role of the papacy as the symbol and instrument of unity of the universal family of faith. However, all of that doesn’t mean there isn’t a political subtext too – grace builds on nature, after all, it doesn’t replace it – and so here are three things to look for on the political level as we prepare for Iowa on the Tiber”.

The first of these Allen says is the new pababili, “Generally the first thing Vatican-watchers will ask is whether a given consistory injects an obvious new candidate to be pope into the mix, and in this case, the early consensus would seem to be, “probably not.” Scanning the list, it seems clear that Francis chose many of these cardinals to lift up neglected corners of the world such as Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, and Bangladesh, which is a great boon for the local church, but it also means those prelates are relatively unknown. In other cases, Francis appeared to choose men in sync with his pastoral vision of the Church, which is clearly the case, for instance, with his picks in the United States – Archbishops Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, Blase Cupich of Chicago and Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas and now heading the Vatican’s department for Family, Laity and Life. For now there still seem to be other cardinals with the same profile who are more plausible contenders. Among the Americans, for instance, that’s likely Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has the spirituality, balance and languages voters often want, and, as a bonus, as a member of the pope’s C-9 council, now has a deep knowledge of the inner workings of the Vatican and what it takes to lead. If you were to put guns to the heads of most Vatican-watchers today and demand they cough up a pick for the next pope, the names you would most likely hear are already cardinals”.

Crucially he writes “On the “keep it up” side of debates over Pope Francis, beyond O’Malley, you’d probably hear Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, or perhaps Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines; on the “time for a change” side, you’d probably get Robert Sarah of Guinea, or Marc Ouellet of Canada, or Péter Erdő of Hungary, who’s also the president of the council of European bishops’ conferences. In terms of a compromise satisfying some of what each camp might be looking for, and who has the added attraction of being the smartest kid in class, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria is still a popular pick. If you were forced to select a possible pope just from this new crop on Nov. 19, however, two names seem the most likely bets: Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain, and Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico. Both are Francis-style pastors in the sense of personal simplicity and closeness to ordinary people, but both also have reputations for being a bit more doctrinally firm, which may be a quality many cardinals see as desirable the next time”.

Allen writes about a continuity vote with Francis aving not appointed 44 electors, Benedict having appointed 56 and John Paul, 21 electors, “In other words, Francis will have more then twice as many of his own picks in the College of Cardinals as those he inherited from John Paul II, and is approaching numerical parity with Benedict XVI. Let’s assume the next consistory takes place in the fall of 2018, by which time 15 more cardinals will have turned 80, thereby creating another 15 vacancies, and let’s assume Pope Francis is still going strong and fills them. Four of the cardinals who will age out by then are John Paul II appointees and 9 by Benedict, while two are actually men Francis elevated in 2015. At that point, the new breakdown would be: John Paul II: 17, Benedict: 47, Francis: 57 To put the point differently, by next time Francis likely will have appointed roughly half the men who will choose his successor. More and more, this is becoming “his” College of Cardinals. That, of course, is no guarantee that the cardinals will elect a clone of Pope Francis. Benedict had named a majority of the College of Cardinals by March 2013, and clearly they opted for something different by turning to Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. However, as in most conclaves, the pivotal issue next time is likely to be continuity or change vis-à-vis the papacy that just ended, and the more Francis has the chance to name men who share his own broad outlook, the more the odds of a basic “continuity” vote go up”.

The other point he raises is about demographics, “Americans know that the shifting demographics of this country, especially the burgeoning Latino/a constituency, are a major reason why the electoral math has shifted in favour of the Democrats. In the College of Cardinals too, Pope Francis is promoting something of a demographic inversion, naming progressively fewer Vatican officials and “Westerners,” especially Europeans, and more Princes of the Church from the developing world. One key take-away is this: When Francis was elected, 35 percent of the college was made up of officials of the Roman Curia. If a conclave were to happen right after Nov. 19, the curia’s share would be only 28 percent. Even within the developing world, Francis often prefers to lift up new cardinals from out-of-the-way places, reflected this time in his choice of another cardinal from an island nation – last time it was Tonga, this time Mauritius”.

Crucially Allen writes that “Unlike the United States, however, it’s far from clear that simply by virtue of overhauling the demography of the college, Francis is ipso facto promoting his own reform-oriented, mildly progressive agenda, at least on some fronts. If anything – and this is, naturally a broad generalization to which there are many exceptions, since we’re talking about a pool of roughly 800 million people – Catholics across the developing world tend to be more traditional, both in terms of faith and practice, than their Western peers. (A political scientist might inject an observation here about a longstanding paradox for the Catholic left. It’s a core principle for most Catholic progressives to celebrate diversity, and yet in terms of policy, that diversity may not always quite take the Church where its most ardent advocates would like it to go.) Perhaps the most immediate effect of the pope’s demographic shift is simply to foster a greater degree of uncertainty about how things might shake out in a future conclave. He’s creating a cohort of cardinals who have never been part of the usual theological and political controversies in the West, who may look at them with either boredom or frustration, and who may bring a wildly different set of priorities and “voting issues”. In other words, what Francis is doing by shaking up the usual suspects is to make the next papal election far more difficult to handicap – and therefore, of course, far more fascinating to watch”.


The inevitable rise of Tagle?


After the recent election of Luis Cardinal Tagle as president of Caritas Internationalis, John Allen writes that he will dominate Catholic politics for decades, “Right now, the Irish betting firm Paddy Power has Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle of the Philippines as the favuorite to be the next pope, giving him 11/2 odds. Already dubbed the “Asian Francis,” Tagle got another boost this week with his election to lead a global federation of Catholic charities. (For the record, Paddy Power has Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston as the American with the best odds, at 10-1.) Granted, such forecasts don’t have a particularly good track record. Papal elections occur only when the incumbent either dies or resigns, and at the moment Francis seems perfectly healthy with no sign of slowing down. Between today and whenever a conclave might occur, any number of things can happen to change the landscape. That dose of caution, however, rarely stops “next pope” rumours from being the Church’s favorite parlor game. So if we’re going to go down that route, there’s a great deal to be said for Tagle, who would make a strong runner if the key issue next time is continuity with Francis”.

Allen goes on to make the point “Seen as the Catholic rock star of Asia because of his high media profile and wildly successful TV and internet broadcasts, Tagle on Thursday was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, a network 165 Catholic charitable organizations around the world based in Rome. Building a “poor church for the poor” is the motto of the Francis era, and from his perch at Caritas, Tagle is now poised to become one of the most influential architects of that push after the pontiff himself. Serving as president of Caritas doesn’t mean Tagle will move to Rome, or abandon his position in Manila. It does mean, however, that he’ll often be asked to visit disaster zones or conflict areas, articulating a Catholic response. He’ll be more in demand on the lecture circuit, more sought after by the media, and generally will enjoy an ever higher degree of visibility”.

Allen notes the point that “Inside the Vatican, it means that Tagle will be more involved at the big-picture level in terms of fleshing out the pope’s broad social, political, and humanitarian agenda. Tagle won the May 14 ballot at the Caritas General Assembly by a wide margin, a reflection of two points: First, that he enjoys great respect and affection among the Church’s charity leaders; and second, those leaders are smart enough to know that Tagle has the pope’s ear and can move the ball. The Filipino cardinal wasn’t in Rome on the day of his election, because he was in Chicago to receive an honorary doctorate from the Catholic Theological Union. He knows the United States well, among other things having earned a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of America in 1991”.

He adds that “Having hosted a triumphant papal visit to the Philippines in January that drew an eye-popping six to seven million people to the final Mass – in the teeth of a typhoon, no less – Tagle is a lock as the pope’s most important ally in Asia. The parallels with Francis are indeed eerie. Before taking over in Manila in 2011, Tagle served as bishop of the smaller Philippine diocese of Imus, where he was famous for not owning a car, preferring to either walk or to hop on one of the cheap minibuses known as a “jeepneys” working-class Filipinos use. He was also renowned for inviting beggars in the square outside his cathedral to eat with him. Theologically and politically, Tagle is a moderate. He’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to communion on a case-by-case basis, and he also resisted calls to take a more pugnacious line during a recent national debate in the Philippines over a controversial “Reproductive Health” law featuring public support for contraception”.

Yet, caution should be drawn about the equating Francis with Cardinal Tagle. Firstly, there is a saying, “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. This means that the new pope is nothing like the old pope. As Benedict XVI was a shy academic and curialist who chose his words carefully, Francis is the opposite of all of this. Therefore, in order to look for the next pope starting with what Pope Francis is not is a good place to start. Secondly, the issues of the next conclave will not be known. In 2013 it was governance and the Curia. Next time it could be relations with Africa or Islam which would lead to a dramatically different outcome. This is not to say that Tagle could not become pope but it is less likely.

Allen ends “Nobody at Tagle’s level is without critics, and he’s drawn fire on multiple fronts. Some question Tagle’s theological pedigree, noting that he was a member of the editorial board for a controversial progressive history of the Second Vatican Council criticized by Pope Benedict XVI. Last month Tagle blasted what he called the “harsh words” the Church sometimes has used for gays, unwed mothers and divorced and remarried Catholics. That remark drew blowback from pro-life Catholic groups. Whatever one makes of Tagle, because of his young age, 57, as well as the multiple leadership posts he holds, he will be a force in Catholicism for a long time”.

“The Pope’s favourite peripheries”


An article notes that Pope Francis has chosen the new cardinals from the peripheries. He opens “Since becoming pope, Francis has asked the Church repeatedly to reach outward toward the peripheries, and he immediately began to show his preference for them. His first papal trip was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a periphery of the Mediterranean and an asylum for refugees. His first European trip outside Italy was to Albania, a country that is still not a member of the European Union. And the big reform of the Church seems to be oriented to giving more weight and power to the peripheries of the Church. But which are the peripheries that Pope Francis prefers? To which peripheries does the Pope want to give the keys of the Church? This question occurs as Pope Francis is leaving on his trip to Asia (another periphery), because his plan for the Church may be better understood by understanding which are his preferred peripheries”.

He goes on to make the point “Pope Francis’ choices of new Cardinals for the next Consistory have surprised many. In general, he respected some non-written rules for the creation of new Cardinals; yet he interpreted these rules his own way, mixing up the cards as he usually does. In the end, his picks not only tilted the balance of influence in the College toward the Church’s peripheries, more importantly, they showed that some peripheries are more significant than others”.

He adds “Among the new picks, there are only two African bishops who will be able to vote in a conclave, from Ethiopia and Cape Verde. No new Cardinals hail from North America. Just four come from Europe. In general, all the new Cardinals come from peripheral countries. They are characterized by a strong pastoral commitment, especially on social issues. And most of them do not get along well with the Church’s central governing institution, or at least they do not know it very well. Some of them are anti-Roman, or at least they see Rome as an impediment for their pastoral activity. An exception is number two on the papal list, Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon. He is not a progressive, but a scholar, a pretty conservative one. Nevertheless, Patriarch Clemente was able to set the bar for his church in tune with Pope Francis, for example, by organizing a missionary synod for 2016 and by positioning himself in the mainstream during the last synod of bishops. Even if deemed a traditionalist, he knows which way the wind is blowing. An 18th-century agreement between Pope Clement XI and King John V of Portugal requires that the Patriarch of Lisbon be created Cardinal at the first consistory that occurs after his appointment. Patriarch Clemente had to wait an additional consistory before making the cut. This may not have been just by chance”.

He goes on to make the point that “Among the most anti-Roman peripheries is New Zealand. At a first sight, the choice of Archbishop John Atcherley Dew seemed to be a tribute to Cardinal George Pell, in an effort to give the College of Cardinals a new residential representative from Oceania, since Pell’s successor in Sydney was not going to receive a red hat. This interpretation was tempting, but it proved wrong. New Zealand is one of the most secularized countries in the world, and the Catholic Church there has drifted toward desacralisation. New Zealand is the ‘Holland of Oceania’. The last liturgical reform there dropped the requirement that the faithful should kneel during the consecration”.

Interestingly he notes “No wonder that the Archbishop of Wellington joined Cardinal Walter Kasper’s side at the synod of bishops. In the end he even admitted that New Zealand had already adopted the direction proposed by Kasper. Dew did not state this out of opportunism; he insisted out of personal conviction that Kasper’s proposals were right”.

He continues “On the other side of the ocean, beyond the surprise of a Cardinal hailing from Paranà, Pope Francis will create the Archbishop of Montevideo (Uruguay), Daniel Fernando Sturla, a Cardinal. He comes from the most atheistic country in South America, and he probably thinks that the antidote to the hemorrhage of the faithful is for the Church to move closer toward their positions: some of his declaration have been read as a real change of pace, especially for what concern doctrinal stances. What a pity, then, that a Pew Forum survey suggests instead that this approach may not be helpful. In a survey on reasons why Catholics leave to join Protestant sects, the Pew Forum established as the first three reasons the search for a personal connection with God, participation in a particular style of worship and, finally, a felt need for a greater emphasis on morality”.

Pointedly the writer makes the point that “While Leonardo Boff continues to celebrate para-religious rites although he quit the priesthood and lives with female partner, his brother, Clodovis, has come around to understand that putting the poor, and not Christ, at the center of the Church’s preaching has turned the Church in Brazil into a sort of merciful NGO. This is exactly what Pope Francis says he does not want. Yet the Pope seemingly prefers bishops with this kind of orientation, bishops who perhaps possess a very strong pastoral sensitivity, but one that is little supported by Catholic teachings. Pope Francis’ choices concretise the bias found in some ecclesial peripheries that view Rome as an obstacle and an impedment to their development”.

He goes on to make the valid point that “it seems that the Pope’s favourite peripheries are those that perceive any central institution with suspicion and that seek a pastoral autonomy unbound from the doctrine of the Church. Step by step, the final outcome may involve the dismantling of the Roman Curia’s structures, and even the dismantling of the weight of some bishops’ posts. The Pope does not respect traditional balances, he simply de-legitimizes and undermines existing church institutions this way. Pope Francis’ plan does not seem to be long term. Reasoning in the short term he sees the need for Cardinals from peripheries who are able to carry forward his reforms and even quietly drive the Synod of Bishops toward his wished-for change in direction. The secret battle for the next Synod has already begun, as has the battle for advancing curial reforms“.

Worryingly for the Church he writes that “if the Pope does not have a long term plan in mind, is there anyone out there who does? According the Austen Ivereigh’s book “The Great Reformer,” the team of Cardinals who backed Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election convinced skeptical Cardinals to support him by arguing that Benedict XVI’s resignation established the principle that from now on a pope could leave office at the right time. These Cardinals certainly had in mind a plan for the Church. All of the Cardinals in the alleged ‘team Bergoglio’ are promoters of a progressivist agenda, one that favors a less doctrinal and more pastoral Church, an agenda of mercy that could not care less about justice. All of these Cardinals knew that Bergoglio, filled with the Latin American periphery’s anti-Roman sentiment, would back the reforms they hoped to see enacted. Nevertheless, they probably already have someone in mind for the next conclave. A very strong pretender to the throne may be Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Filipino, young, esteemed in progressivist circles for his contribution to the “History of the Second Vatican Council”, an account of the Council drafted by the group of scholars belonging to the so-called ‘Bologna School’ who interpret it as a rupture, and not as a continuity, in the Church’s tradition”.

The author goes on to note the other theory “The other future contender for the papacy is Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State. He worked hard demonstrating the full weight of the Secretariat of State, which was originally supposed to be dismantled or at least divided into two large secretariats. With diplomatic finesse, Cardinal Parolin has earned a prominent position, and he is now moving the Vatican’s diplomatic apparatus toward a limited global interventionism (he recently stressed that “there are so many conflicts that we cannot stay silent”), while still maintaining a certain realpolitik. If he wins the battle over curial reform, he may have a chance”.

However, it has been said before that “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. Therefore as Francis was from a diocese and is progressive, the successor may come from the Curia and have a more orthodox streak. However this seems slightly less likely the way Francis continues to choose his cardinals. Yet, any suggestion that Cardinal Tagle is the crown prince should not be taken seriously.

He ends “For his part, Pope Francis does not seem to be a part of this war; he is mostly a pawn in it. But his unpredictability together with his impulsivity and improvisation constitute real contributions to the war effort. In the end, everybody knew which were the peripheries the Pope loved the most. And everybody knew about his resentment toward Rome and central church structures. Many of his latest choices prove it”.

The new contenders?


In an interesting piece on the recent consistory, John Allen mentions that “One bit of proof that this consistory belonged to the whole world, and not just the West, is that the Lebanese contingent celebrating Raï’s red hat included a delegation from Hezbollah, which is seen in the West as a terrorist group but which functions in Lebanon as a political party and mainstream social movement. Each consistory tends to have its rock star cardinal, the one guy who towers over the others in terms of media appeal, the size of the crowds he draws, and so on. This time the rock star was probably Tagle, mostly because he’s seen as ‘the great Asian hope,’ meaning the most credible contender from his part of the world to become pope someday”.

This is perhaps a tad optimistic as Cardinal Tagle’s age is discounts him, for now. Allen goes on to note “the reception was a celebration of the 68-year-old Onaiyekan’s career. Appointed to lead the church in Abuja, the national capital, in 1992, Onaiyekan has long been seen as among the best and brightest of the African bishops – not only a spiritual leader but a tribune of the African people, a de facto voice for civil society in African affairs”.

Meanwhile Rocco notes that the College of Cardinals is becoming ever more Benedictine. He mentions a piece he wrote in 2010 about the growing number of cardinals Pope Benedict is appointing, he writes, “This rapid turnover of the College presents the specter of a scenario that could end up being a rather pointed last word on John Paul’s legacy: the distinct — and, with time, ever-growing — possibility that one of Karol Wojtyla’s chosen cardinals will never don the papal white”.

This idea is however tempered by the fact that two of the leading candidates, Angelo Cardinal Scola and Marc Cardinal Ouellet are both cardinals appointed by John Paul II.

Rocco then brings it up to the present day “the master-count now stands at 53 electors chosen by John Paul, to 67 by Benedict.  On age-outs alone – read: barring deaths – fifteen more voting slots will open by the end of March 2014, giving Joseph Ratzinger the potential of filling at least 82 seats in a hypothetical Conclave by that point. (For the less numerical, that’s all of 15 months away.)
In an electoral college numbering the statutory maximum of 120, a supermajority of 80 – two-thirds, without the former plus-one – is required to elect a Pope. Should no new red hats be made by then and the dreaded, rightly fearful need arise, the requisite margin to pick Peter’s successor would be 70 or less”.

He ends, fascinatingly , “That said, it bears recalling how, at February’s intake – clearly seeing the number of impending vacancies ahead – a Papa Ratzinger who had previously been a rigid follower of Paul VI’s 1975 Conclave-cap expanded the potential electorate to 125 cardinals, a full eleven of whose spots would come open before the most recent Consistory was held, before quickly being replenished in this go-round. In other words, as Popes get older, they tend to get bolder… and over the next 18 months, even more than usual, anything is possible”.

Harvey as pope?


Some have naively speculated that Cardinal Harvey could be elected pope. There is however much against him.

Possible contenders


After the post on the noteworthy Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, John Allen, updates some of the main contenders on who could be elected the next pope only after the death of Pope Benedict.

AFP have reported that the Vatican leaks scandal that rumbles on could diminsh the chances of an Italian pope. The report mentions that “While revealing deep discord within the Vatican administration, the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal has also shown Pope Benedict XVI’s concern with the day-to-day running of the Church despite the 85-year-old’s physical frailty. That has not stopped rumours about a possible successor, however. A quarter of the cardinals that can elect a new pope are Italian and the general view before the scandal broke was that they would help elect one of their own, reverting to a centuries-long tradition of Italian popes. The last non-Italian pope before the German Benedict and his Polish predecessor John Paul II was Adrian VI, who died in 1523”.

Added to this there is the fact that the Italian electors are famously divided into different camps. However, this would not stop certain Italian cardinals that could appeal to all Italian cardinals. The report adds that “that logic is looking increasingly improbable as the scandal has created an impression that the Roman Curia is dominated by Italians more concerned with their ambitions than the greater good of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. ‘The side effect of Vatileaks is that it has seriously damaged the prospects for an Italian candidature to the papacy,’ Marco Politi, a Vatican expert who writes for Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, told AFP. ‘Many cardinals and bishops abroad see the incident as an unpleasant Italian affair although it really affects the whole Church,’ he said, adding: ‘A lot will depend on whether Benedict XVI can get a firm handle on the situation.'”

The expert knowledge of John Allen comes to the fore here when he mentions a few of the more obvious papal candidates. He writes about four prominent people in the Church and goes through their pros and cons. Firstly he takes the obvious, Angelo Cardinal Scola, archbishop of Milan who served as patriach of Venice. Allen writes that Scola is “a veteran academic whose interest is theological anthropology, is very much in sync with Benedict XVI, but he’s personally more of an extrovert with a somewhat greater optimism about the church’s prospects in the here and now. One signature initiative is the “Oasis” project, designed to foster dialogue with Islam and to support Christians in the Middle East”. He adds that “Fans say that Scola blends John Paul’s swagger with Benedict’s intellectual heft”. Scola’s negatives he argues are principally that “perceived problems of governance. Scola can also occasionally come off as a bit theoretical and dense, prompting the question of whether it’s wise to follow one teaching pontificate with another”.

Allen goes on to mention Marc Cardinal Ouellet, PSS serving as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Ouellet has both Curial and pastoral experience making him a lead contender but Allen writes that “Some might argue that Ouellet is too much like Benedict XVI for his own good – cerebral, retiring, uncomfortable in the spotlight and more passionate about the life of the mind”.

Allen then discusses the most likely candidate from the governance wing of the Church, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Electing Cardinal Sandri, a PEA graduate, and former susbsitute for General Affairs, would build on the work done by Pope Benedict and make sure the “trains run on time”. Allen mentions that “he’s the best of both worlds – an Argentine by birth, so he could be touted as a “Third World pope,” yet he comes from an Italian family and has spent most of his career in the Vatican so he knows its workings from the inside. Sandri might draw some American support, since one of his assignments as a diplomat was in the papal embassy in Washington”. Yet, Sandri has no pastoral experience and Allen says that “might be tainted by some of the scandals of the Sodano era – especially those involving the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Moreover, the Congregation for Eastern Churches may not be the best Vatican post from which to win friends among the king-maker cardinals in a future conclave”.

Also mentioned by Allen are Peter Cardinal Erdo and Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco. Expectedly, Allen mentions Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paolo, the biggest diocese, in the world’s most populous Catholic country. Allen cites his work in Rome at the Congregation for Bishops and his conservative credentials but also says that “elsewhere his views often come off as moderate, meaning he could potentially attract support from different currents”. A negative against him Allen writes that Cardinal Hummes and Joao Cardinal Braz de Aviz are both seen as “nice guys but perhaps not quite tough enough, so Scherer might have to overcome that question mark”. Cardinal Scherer could easily dispell this view should he get the chance.

Interestingly, Allen puts Peter Cardinal Turkson and Robert Cardinal Sarah in the long shot category. Both have obvious advantages but he notices that “Turkson hasn’t fully laid to rest questions about his ability to govern. Sarah, meanwhile, hasn’t yet demonstrated the comfort level in the public spotlight that will be expected of any 21st century pope”.

Lastly, Allen mentions Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as a distinct possibility. Tagle will be a cardinal either in 2013 or shortly after that. In a seperate post Allen mentions Tagle’s prospects. Allen finally notes Fernando Cardinal Filoni as someone who could deal with the governance issues, push the New Evangelisation and have a global perspective of the Church.

Allen does not mention a slew of others but it would be foolish to discount any of these  immediately.

An American pope?


In a post from some time ago, John Allen writes that at the end of the reign of John Paul II, “Many cardinals who elected Benedict XVI thought they were buying an end to the crisis of governance in the twilight of John Paul’s reign, only to find they’d simply traded it in for a newer model. In the abstract, Joseph Ratzinger seemed the man to put things right. As the saying went, Ratzinger was in the curia but not of it — he knew where the bodies were buried, but he was never the stereotypical Vatican potentate”.

Indeed, it was difficult to argue against this narrative, the reality of course, after seven years, is quite different as has been noted here elsewhere. Allen implies that Benedict’s gradual push for better governance is not working and goes on to question, “is it time for the Jacobins to wrest control from the moderates? Benedict’s limited reform is based on setting a moral tone and the idea that ‘personnel is policy,’ rather than any violent purge or direct overhaul of systems and structures. It began with the ultra-powerful Secretariat of State, where the stereotype of the ‘prelate as Renaissance prince’ tends still to have the most legs”.

Allen continues saying that Benedict’s lack of good oversight have meant that others are free to pursue their own agenda. From this Allen goes on to note that “the Vatican is always going to have its careerists and its schemers, it’s always going to have a subtext of petty turf wars and personal squabbles, so the trick is to put someone in charge who knows that world and is capable of keeping it under control. In other words, don’t waste energy trying to change the place; settle for making it work”. He then says the ideal candidate would be Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches who is known as a competent administrator.

Allen ends arguing that Timothy Cardinal Dolan could be the Jacobin pope. Allen mentions how “given the way Dolan took Rome by storm, the ‘American pope’ question is in the air. Normally, the hypothesis gets knocked down almost as soon as it’s raised on the basis of the longstanding taboo against a ‘superpower pope'”, with the Church unwilling to hand the papacy to the world’s most powerful and broadly benevolent, country.

Allen concludes “Can you think of a better way to get the attention of the White House — no matter who the occupant might be — than to elect an American pope? There is the risk, of course, that U.S.-Vatican relations could be hijacked by domestic politics under an American pope, but it wouldn’t have to play out that way. In any event, it certainly would ensure that Washington keeps Rome on the radar”, adding lastly “The real choice for a ‘superpower pope’ would therefore be putting the papacy back in Italian hands, while an American (or, for that matter, any non-European) would actually represent evolution toward a more ‘multi-polar’ church”.

While the reality of an American pope is still infanticimal, the fact that such seasoned watchers as Allen are even suggesting it says much.

More isolated


Following on from a previous post relating to Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, SDB more scandal has emerged.

A Reuters piece notes that high ranking officials “said almost daily embarrassments that have put the Vatican on the defensive could force Pope Benedict to act to clean up the image of its administration – at a time when the church faces a deeper crisis of authority and relevance in the wider world”. It goes on to note that “Some of those sources said the outcome of a power struggle inside the Holy See may even have a longer-term effect, on the choice of the man to succeed Benedict when he dies”. It goes on to say that, “The sources agreed that the leaks were part of an internal campaign – a sort of ‘mutiny of the monsignors’ – against the pope’s right-hand man, Secretary of State”.

Unsurprisingly it mentions that “Vatican sources say the rebels have the tacit backing of a former secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano”. Other scandals that are reported is at “the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), is aiming to comply fully with international norms and has applied for the Vatican’s inclusion on the European Commission’s approved “white list” of states that meet EU standards for total financial transparency. Bertone was instrumental in putting the bank’s current executives in place and any lingering suspicion about it reflects badly on him. The Commission will decide in June and failure to make the list would be an embarrassment for Bertone”.

In a similar vein John Allen discusses the letters leaked by the nuncio to the US, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Allen writes that “Viganò reportedly warned Benedict that his exit from that position, either to Washington or anyplace else, would send exactly the wrong signal”. Allen goes on to note that “Revealed by an Italian TV program called ‘The Untouchables,’ Viganò wrote the letters in early 2011. In one, Viganò reportedly told the pope that his removal would ‘provoke confusion among all those who’ve believed that it’s possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and dishonesty.’ In another, addressed to Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Viganò said that the management of Vatican investments had been entrusted to a group of Italian bankers ‘who look after their interests more than ours.’ He complained that contracts are ‘always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican,’ on the basis of personal connections and patronage ties”.

He concludes that “In the wake of the disclosed letters, a Vatican official insisted in a Jan. 31 statement that Viganò continues to enjoy the pope’s ‘unquestionable esteem and trust.’ The statement also asserted that Benedict and his aides are committed to ‘ever greater transparency and trustworthiness, and to attentive control of economic activity.’ It cited the fact that the same day the Viganò story broke, the Vatican announced it had ratified three U.N. conventions intended to curb illegal currency flows and transactions. The story took another turn with a Feb. 4 statement from the top brass at the government of the city-state. It was cosigned by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the former president of the city-state (and thus Viganò’s former boss), and the current top man, Cardinal-designate Giuseppe Bertello, along with two other officials”.

So where does this leave the scandal prone Cardinal Bertone? Some sources indicate that the Secretary of State is distrusted and in some cases loathed. The current set of leaks are simply a method of embarrassing Bertone into resigning, or to put it more accuratley Pope Benedict asking him to leave. Apparently, Archbishop Vigano “had dangled before him the prospect of a position in the Curia, a promise which he [Bertone] was then unable or unwilling to keep. Rightly or wrongly, Viganò holds him responsible for what he sees as an exile”. Tellingly, the report notes that Vigano’s “enemies speak of a chest of letters that was supposedly sent to America, which is allegedly being guarded jealously. This could all be fantasy, but it still gives an idea of the climate in recent days”. The report notes that Vigano has recieved support against Bertone from Giovanni Battista Cardinal ReAgostino Cardinal CacciavillanPaolo Cardinal Sardi, and notably former Secretary of State, Angelo Cardinal Sodano. The rivaly between Sodano and Bertone goes back years. Sodano refused to leave his Secretary of State’s apartments for months after Bertone took up the top job, which meant Bertone had to stay in St John’s Tower instead.

Even foreign cardinals are against Bertone. All this makes Bertone more isolated and more trusting of fewer and fewer people.


Not serious but


Pope reported to have arthrosis.

Seven short years?


First papal abdication in 600 years to occur in April? It just might happen, but not this April.

You stratch my back….


Two days ago, in a suprise move,  Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S. having only been a cardinal since November 2010 had his resignation accepted as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. In his stead was named Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, since May 2007. Versaldi had served as vicar general to then Archbishop Bertone of Vercelli. The resignation of Cardinal De Paolis makes him the first of the 2010 consistory to retire after his creation.

In 2010 an Italian newspaper attacked the way Cardinal Bertone was running the Curia. Versaldi came to his former master’s defence. Bertone has obviously not forgotten the defence. Bishop Versaldi had been mentioned to take the archdiocese of Turin  but in the end it is thought that Benedict vetoed such a move.

The appointment of Versaldi to Rome shows either one of two things. Either Pope Benedict let Cardinal Bertone name his former vicar general in order that Bertone’s  power in the Curia be clear to all and further re-enforced, or Benedict has lost interest in all but the most important of curial and diocesan appointments.

The appointed of Versaldi follows quickly on the the heels of the new president of the APSA, Archbishop Domenico Calcagno, also close to Cardinal Bertone. As should be expected, there has been talk of Versaldi being almost certain to be included among the list of new cardinals that will be created sometime next year. The same article notes that Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, 74, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, should take over from Cardinal Baldelli, 76, who has served since June 2009 and had previously been nuncio to France for ten years.

This still leaves the prestigious post of nuncio to Italy vacant. Recent talk has suggested that Archbishop Beniamino Stella, 70, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is the most likely candidate. Though there is still talk of Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri or Archbishop Adriano Bernardini of being appointed.

Today it was also announced that Benedict, instead of waiting for the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, imposed the new pallium on Cardinal Scola of Milan, which Rocco says “effectively anoints newly-named Milan abp as chosen successor”.

The discussions begin


In an interesting piece written by John Allen he examines the new archbishop of Milan, Angelo Cardinal Scola, formerly, patriarch of Venice.

Allen notes that “no health scare flared up around Pope Benedict XVI, and there’s no other reason to believe his papacy is nearing an end”. Indeed as has been said before, Pope Benedict is in excellent health for a man in his mid 80s, that doesn’t mean that a conclave might be closer some people think. He argues, not unreasonably that the see of Milan is “one of a handful of pace-setter dioceses, such as Paris or Westminster or New York, whose occupant automatically is a worldwide point of reference”. Allen goes on to note that sending Cardinal Scola back to his home town was an unmistakable nod of respect by Benedict to one of his closest advisers. Not only that but Scola is an intecullal heavyweight and this latest move along with Cardinal Scola being recently appointed as among the first members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evanglisation, along with other Church notables including Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, who was also being considered for Milan, and Tim Dolan, archbishop of New York. In addition to this Benedict and Scola have know each other for decades as both were heavily involved in the conservative theological journal, Communio.

As Allen says “From now on, Scola will be the lead paragraph of every speculative piece about the next conclave, and everything he does or says will be scrutinized with one eye toward a papal election”. Allen concludes his piece arguing that “Love him or hate him, however, Scola is now firmly ensconced as the Crown Prince of Catholicism. Regardless of what might happen in a future conclave, it will be fascinating to watch how he chooses to spend that political capital in the here-and-now.”

There is however a second Crown Prince of Catholicism that Allen didn’t mention. Recently Marc Cardinal Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and formerly primate of Canada and archbishop of Quebec has also made news. Cardinal Ouellet was asked about the prospect of being elected pope. He replied that being Pope “would be a nightmare.” Cardinal Ouellet went on to say that seeing the work Pope Benedict does makes the job “not very enviable”. Finally he notably said that, “It’s the kind of thing you don’t campaign for.”

All of this is strictly true yet, what Cardinal Ouellet did was not to categorically exclude himself from the running. Such an instance occured when Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, SJ then archbishop emeritus of Milan during the 2005 conclave that he did not want to be considered due to his age and the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

What Cardinal Ouellet really said was that while the papacy might not be “very enivable”, he implies that it is a little enivable. If he were elected he would be the first Canadian elected.

Bishop Emeritus of Rome


A book length conversation between Pope Benedict and journalist Peter Seewald, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times, has been published recently and has received worldwide coverage for comments made by Pope Benedict on matters relating to sexual ethics. 

However, comments of greater long term significance were hardly covered by most news outlets. Canon 401 §1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “A diocesan bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances”. There is however one exception to this rule, generally the bishop of Rome holds his position for life and does not retire.

Pope Benedict said in the interview that “if a pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation, to resign”. The article notes how  “Benedict seems to be in relatively good health but confesses in the book that he feels his forces diminishing”. The code as made provision for this as Canon 332 §2 states “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone”.

Such a move would do the Church a great deal of good. Pope John Paul II was in poor health from at least 2003, if not much earlier, and as such major decisions were postponed with a small group consisting of Angelo Cardinal Sodano, then-Archbishops Leonardo Sandri and Stanislaw Dziwisz and one or two others effectively running the Church. If the pope were to resign after his successor was chosen then long periods of stagnation would be avoided. This would lead to better governance generally in such a vast institution.