I’ve already promoted the Google Hangout I was part of during the past weekend, with James Bergin, Captain Jeff Nielsen and Father Roderick Vonhogen, and our papal discussions.
We spoke about the characteristics we think would be useful — or maybe necessary — for the man who will succeed Pope Benedict in the Chair of Peter, and having Captain Jeff from the US meant we naturally talked about the possibility that an American could become Pope. It’s a possibility most people write off as highly unlikely, though Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is the American most often cited as a possible pontiff. Others point to Cardinal Donal Wuerl in Washington, DC as more likely.
Father Roderick, though, mentioned an intriguing name: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a Capuchin Franciscan. One of the great needs the Church has at the moment is a reformer — not in terms of doctrine, but in terms of the governance of the Church and, even more so, the way the Church has dealt and will continue to deal with the sexual abuse scandal. Cardinal O’Malley was given the unenviable job of trying to restore the reputation of the Church in what is considered Catholicism’s American capital, and also the place that was the epicentre of the abuse crisis in the US. Most observers think he has done a very good job in trying to clean up the Church, from a moral perspective, but also from an administrative and financial perspective, which was crucial following the millions upon millions of dollars that were paid out in settlements with abuse victims.
As I said on the Hangout, it is important that any serious papal contender is squeaky clean in terms of their own sexual conduct, as well as their role as a bishop in dealing with instances of abuse, and preferably in taking decisive action that can objectively be seen as being in the best interests of children and other vulnerable people. Cardinal O’Malley seems to fit the bill in that area.
There are obviously many other characteristics that a future Pope must have, and if you watch the Hangout, you’ll hear what the four of us thought were the important things.
The Boston Catholic Insider has said talk of Cardinal O’Malley as Pope is a pipe dream, and explains why based on the criteria they have outlined — that the Pope must teach, govern and sanctify. They’ve in fact said he should not become Pope.
It’s interesting to have these discussions and read/hear different points of view. It appears that if a North American becomes Pope, it’ll likely be Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, but as English speakers, and with an American dominance of English-speaking Catholic media, we’ll see plenty more stories about the American candidates in the next couple of weeks.