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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Papal buzz at Mother Knoll

The sudden and unexpected retirement announcement by Pope Benedict XVI offered a refreshing break to talk at meals here at Maryknoll about something other than sports or medical procedures.

That being said, I will only report what seems different than on any other blog or media outlet.

1) Whoever hopes to wear the shoes of the fisherman has to either win over or at least neutralize the formidable Italian bloc (20 of the 115 Electors). The Americans are next with 11, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney. (Did someone just hear Archbishop José Gomez of L.A. gulp?)

2) Although Cardinal Timothy Dolan is a favorite of American media, common wisdom holds no American will be elected pope as long as the United States is an mean superpower.

3) Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, while a humble and prayerful man, is simply from a country that is considered America-Lite.

4) Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong is a friend of Maryknoll, so that ought to sink his chances right there. Plus, some fear that he is far too nice and trusting and therefore no match for the Curia.

5) Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana has made the unfortunate mistake of giving interviews these past few days in which he called for the election of a new pope from the developing countries. Explicitly campaigning for the office usually means the kiss of death politically.

6) So the question arises, to which continent do the Cardinals want to send a message? Elect another european (most likely an Italian) to emphasize the New Evangelization (which bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Old Evangelization); an African to counter the rise of Islam in that continent; elect a Latin American to stem the defections to the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, as well as "shore up your base" as it were; elect an Asian pope to tip the hat to this fast-growing and traditional church of Koreans, Vietnamese and, yes, Filipinos.

7) Although the Church in the USA sends the most money to the Vatican, we have far too many hot button issues (women priest, married priests, gay priests, sex scandals) for the Cardinals to want to stir up this hornets' nest any further.

And so we wait to see what will happen. With no one on the horizon anywhere near the stature as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was, the conclave promises to be a free-for-all.

So speculation now turns to what name the new pope will take. There are several modern-sounding ones among the list of previous popes, including Fabian and Adrian. I think Alexander has cachet. Or the new pontiff might really want to strike a modern tone with something like Jason, Bruce, Chad, or my favorite: Trevor.

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