Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why an American has no chance of becoming Pope

Or, practically no chance, at least.

Much of the world's punditry is focussed on "where" in the world the next Pope is to come from. I am a big fan of the idea that the Pope should be elected based upon holiness and suitability to the needs of the time; but I also think that where someone is from and suitability are not entirely unrelated.

While Conclaves can be somewhat of a surprise, and a dark horse candidate can emerge after much indecision, I think that an American-- or anyone from a particular church that is newly evangelized, for that matter-- simply has no real chance of being Pope.

The reason for this follows upon my last post, on the "scandal" of abdication: It is simply that new world countries, although where Catholicism may be on the rise, do not really have a concept of Catholicism, and the monarchy that comes with it, that goes to their bones.

That is not to say that the Cardinals from new world countries aren't good, holy, devout men who would not make good popes. On the contrary, it is simply because the culture from which they come has Catholicism added on to it; either as an afterthought, or alongside of any number of other good options for filling the religious vacuum in a culture. And to have Catholicism in your bones is an important thing for a Pope.

In Europe, Catholicism built the culture. It is so engrained into the DNA of a European that they can't escape it-- and incidentally, why there is such a violent reaction against it in the secular movement.

Europe, although trying to tear away the last vestiges of it, is also a society that is built upon the aristocratic system that comes with monarchy; a system that is even mirrored in the Church with the College of Cardinals. In this light, it should not be surprising that there are European Cardinals that come from aristocratic families.

An evangelized culture will always have that tension between the culture it lives within, and the culture of the Church. It becomes a sub-culture, as it were. While this is also capable of being true in an historically Catholic culture, more importantly, the remains of old Catholic culture are still present, be it in the organization of cities around parishes, or Corpus Christi still being a holiday with a procession and feast, etc. Catholic cultures live Catholicism; whereas evangelized cultures can only strive for this as an ideal.

This contrast between old and new, a Catholic Culture and an Evangelized Culture, is why at least it is more suitable for there to be a European Pope-- one who can be seen to be relatable to all cultures, not simply a particular culture.

The Conclave will no doubt be an exciting one-- there is no apparent future leader of the Church that sticks out-- ironically, perhaps because Ratzinger is still in relatively good health and not in need of that sort of assistance that enabled himself to become a papal contender in 2005.

I personally think that it depends upon how long the Conclave lasts. If it concludes relatively quickly, say, in the first 3 days, I think that it will go to an Italian. Scola is a front-runner, but I think Bagnasco has a good chance, as well.

If it goes longer, look for the Pope to come from the Curia or greater Europe. Only if the Conclave moves beyond a week, to, say 1 to 2 weeks, will the Pope have any chance of coming from outside of Europe.

I could be very wrong, but if this sort of prediction is correct, then perhaps Canizares Llovera is papabile.

If there were any North American contenders, I would guess that Levada, Oullet, or Burke are the only ones who have a chance at all-- and that is because they would have come from the Curia, and have come to know and live the Roman custom of things. They would have their best chances in the 3 days- 1 week timeframe.

Some people would say Dolan has a good chance-- perhaps the best of any American. He has a good record as rector of the NAC, he gave the address to the College of Cardinals last year at the Holy Father's choosing, etc. However, I am not inclined to think that Dolan will be the guy. As president of the USCCB, he represents the American Church, with all of its plusses and minuses. At the end of the day, as admired as many things are about American Catholicism, it is still looked down upon with disdain by many in Europe as that new kid on the block still struggling to belong-- this would be an impediment to the universality needed by a pope.

While we're at it, I'll go on record to say Bertone doesn't have a chance.

Outside of the one week time frame, it is anyone's guess and all I have said to this point would no longer be applicable; but perhaps Pell, or, if we are really playing fantasy league here, Ranjith wouldn't be a bad pick at all-- but I do think that this would be not unlike the pick of JPii; the Cardinals would, after a week or two, be looking to find someone they all can agree on and get it over with, and so would then be willing to entertain some ideas that are outside of the box.

All of that analysis given, I say that the head of the Church of Rome should be from Rome, or at least an Italian. Bagnasco for the win. (Pius XIII or Leo XIV, anyone?)


  1. Will be Leo XIV or Sergius V.

  2. Canizares Llovera as Benedict Joseph

  3. Burke or Ranjith, please :) Burke's middle name is Leo, so he may want a different name if the Holy Spirit chooses him.

  4. Archbishop Chaput gets my vote.

  5. All the more surprised you'll be when Peter Turkson becomes our next pope, throwing all of you completely off-guard.

    1. Since Turkson is a socialist, and in favor of a one world government - where all the finanical resources are under the control of an international committee - he would be a disaster.

  6. Perhaps, however, it is time to reinvent for a new time, with Europe in irrepairable demographic decline. If so, I say it is time for a cardinal from the far South- the Nigerian Arinze springs to mind.

  7. It is important that the new Pope continue to stress that all the literate Faithful read and study the "Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition" in entirety.
    People can not share accurately what they do not know accurately.
    The Pope needs to re-state that the primary job of Bishops (and their Priests) is to teach according to the Gospel and the CCC.
    And re-state that Bishops must enforce Canon 915 & 1399 and 1 Cor 5:11-13 to stop Sacrilege against the "Real Presence". Bishops must publically excommunicate those obstnate in grave sin to teach them, and to stop SCANDAL, CONFUSION, HERESY, and SCHISM within the Church.
    It is the role of the Laity, not the Bishops to be involved in politics. (CCC 898 & 899)
    If the Bishops do their own jobs, the Catholic Laity will know their Faith and take it into the public square.

  8. While I see certain advantages in having a pope who has been imbued with a legitimate, rich cultural Catholicism, that has not been the case in the West during the lifetime of most living cardinals. The same points you make about Cardinal Dolan representing a 'national' church apply to any Western cardinal I can think of.

    I don't think you mean to imply that ONLY a culturally imbued fellow will be 'Catholic Enough' to hold the office: if that were so, things would have been awfully difficult in the first few centuries of this millennium when Catholicism was an illegal secret religion that had yet to inform any culture!

    Catholicism can and does inform and instruct secular culture, but I do not agree that the same process works the other way 'round, as you imply. Saying that it does is like saying a convert cannot successfully raise a good Catholic family, and we know that is not the case!

    Based on your studies and professed affinity for the works of Pope Benedict, I would be more interested in your thoughts on the challenges facing the church and the skills and knowledge that would be useful to the next pope. I realize, of course, that this will not get you as much internet interest...

  9. My vote would be for Archbishop Burke.

  10. You make some very good points and I think you're probably right. One other thing that probably completely disqualifies any US Cardinal : the fact that the United States is, still, for a very short time, the most powerful nation in the world and the self-proclaimed leader of the Western World. A US Pope, no matter how holy, would probably be very badly interpreted in the "Third World" especially in the Muslim world (it would probably lead to many Muslim media saying in short : "US President Obama, leader of the Zionist Crusaders appointed a US Zionist Crusader Pope. Kill all Christians !"). In short, a US Pope would horribly reinforce the harmful lie : "Christianity = West" that hurt so terribly our Christian brothers outside the Western World. Too bad, of course, because I wouldn't have mind a Pope Burke (Ratzinger II) or a Pope Dolan (the laughing Pope). This may also harm the chances of Cardinal Ouellet (I would like to see him elected, in part because I'm French and a French Canadian Pope would be half as good as a French Pope ;)), Canada being so close, geographically and geostrategically, from the US, though you're right in writing that he may be the most likely non-Italian candidate, being pretty much an adopted Italian as a member of the Curia.

    A huge surprise is always possible, but if I see the white smoke within the first 2 or 3 days of the Conclave, I will be pretty sure we have an Italian Pope. However, my money would be on Scola : that's the first time I read the name Bagnasco, I never saw him on papabile's list (more power to you if you turn out to be right !).