Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: John Allen's Papabile Profiles, Part 1

I've been noticing two media outlets trying to do profiles of the papabile for the upcoming papal conclave. There are ones that I would rate as more serious ones from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter, and less-informed ones from the Associated Press. I doubt I can fit them all into a single entry, so I'm going to jot Allen's down here for posterity and any future research I might want to do in looking back at the 2013 conclave.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines
Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches
Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada
Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines
John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 22, 2013 NCR Today

One could make a pretty strong argument that nobody's chances of becoming the next pope benefit more from Benedict XVI's resignation than those of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines.

Under ordinary circumstances, Tagle's youth would be seen as an almost insuperable bar to election. At 55, he's three years younger than John Paul II was when he was elected in 1978, so a vote for Tagle would be tantamount to a vote for another long papacy, perhaps as much as 30 years.

Tagle actually looks even younger. The story goes that in the mid-1990s, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger introduced Tagle to Pope John Paul II as a new member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission, Ratzinger jokingly assured the pope that the youthful-seeming Filipino had, in fact, received his first Communion.

Especially with a figure many cardinals regard as something of an unknown, a choice for such a young pope would strike them as an awfully big risk.

Now that the precedent has been set that a pope can resign, however, the calculus is different. Tagle could give the church 10 or 15 years, then step aside -- a thought that may well induce some cardinals to look past his age to other qualities.

When they do, they're likely to find a lot to like about the man touted as the "Great Asian Hope" to take over the Throne of Peter. One Filipino commentator has said Tagle has "a theologian's mind, a musician's soul and a pastor's heart."

Earlier this year, before the news of Benedict's resignation broke, a Filipino business journal named Tagle its "Man of the Year," describing him as "young, unassuming, and without airs," a bishop "who more than understands contemporary ideas."

Born in Manila, Tagle went to seminary in Quezon City and later did his doctoral work at The Catholic University of America in Washington. He also studied in Rome before returning to the Philippines to serve as a pastor and teacher. He was seen as a rising star in the Asian church, explaining his appointment in 1997 to the Vatican's main doctrinal advisory body. He was named bishop of Imus in 2001.

Theologically and politically, Tagle is considered balanced. He's taken strong positions against the Philippines' proposed Reproductive Health Bill, which includes promotion of birth control. Yet his towering social concern is defense of the poor, and he's also got a strong environmental streak.

Tagle's doctoral dissertation at Catholic University, written under Fr. Joseph Komonchak, was a favorable treatment of the development of episcopal collegiality at the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, Tagle served for 15 years on the editorial board of the Bologna, Italy-based "History of Vatican II" project founded by Giuseppe Alberigo, criticized by some conservatives for an overly progressive reading of the council.

In the Imus diocese, Tagle was famous for not owning a car and taking the bus to work every day, describing it as a way to combat the isolation that sometimes comes with high office. He was also known for inviting beggars outside the cathedral to come in and eat with him. One woman was quoted describing a time she went looking for her blind, out-of-work, alcoholic husband, suspecting she might track him down in a local bar, only to find that he was lunching with the bishop.

Here's another typical story. Not long after Tagle arrived in Imus, a small chapel located in a run-down neighborhood was waiting for a priest to say Mass at around 4 a.m. for a group mostly made up of day laborers. Eventually, a youngish cleric showed up on a cheap bicycle, wearing simple clothes and ready to start the Mass. An astonished member of the congregation realized it was the new bishop and apologized that they hadn't prepared a better welcome. Tagle said it was no problem; he got word late the night before that the priest was sick and decided to say the Mass himself.

Tagle is a gifted communicator, making him a sought-after speaker and media personality. He drew rave reviews for his performance at a 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, where observers say he brought an entire stadium to tears. He's a very 21st-century prelate -- he hosts a program on YouTube, and he's got his own Facebook page.

Tagle has also been a leader in pushing the church in Asia to take an aggressive stance on clerical abuse. He was among the keynoters at an international summit on the abuse crisis held last year at Rome's Gregorian University that several Vatican departments co-sponsored.

"Our mission [is] to protect human dignity, especially of the most vulnerable, the children," he's said.

The case for Tagle rests on three pillars.

First, he's an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism's highest internal priority is a new evangelization. There's a sort of E.F. Hutton quality about Tagle: When he talks, people listen.

During last fall's Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, for instance, Tagle gave a standout speech cited by many participants as one of the most impressive things they heard all month. Tagle argued that in the Asian context, effective evangelization means a church that's humbler, simpler, and with a greater capacity for silence.

Second, Tagle incarnates the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West, putting a face on the dynamic and relatively angst-free form of Catholicism percolating in the southern hemisphere. He would certainly be a symbol of the church in the emerging world, but given his intellectual and personal qualities, hardly a hollow one.

Third, Tagle now has in-the-trenches pastoral experience of administering a large and complex archdiocese in Manila. Although he's only been on the job since 2011, Tagle generally gets good reviews in terms of his capacity to make the trains run on time.

The drawbacks to Tagle's candidacy can be expressed in four main points.

First, his age is still a problem. At least some cardinals don't like the idea of popes resigning, seeing it either as taking some of the luster off the papal office (as one former Vatican official said to me, "Now he might as well be the archbishop of Canterbury!") or as an indirect admission of failure. In any event, church law states no one can compel a pope to step down, so it will be entirely up the next pontiff to decide. In that light, the resignation hypothesis may not be enough for many cardinals to get past Tagle's youth.

Second, Tagle has zero Vatican experience other than attending the occasional synod, and his soft-spoken and humble demeanor may strike some cardinals as ill-suited for the housecleaning many believe the next pope will have to carry out inside the Vatican.

Even if one's not prepared to embrace conspiracy theories, such as a sensational report in La Repubblica Thursday that a shadowy gay lobby may have been involved in the Vatileaks affair and helped shape Benedict's decision to resign, most cardinals nevertheless feel that the right people were not always named to the right jobs under Benedict, and there was little accountability for poor performance.

As one longtime Vatican-watcher put it in the wake of the disastrous Holocaust-denying bishop affair in 2009, instead of an anguished papal letter of apology, "there should have been a row of heads on pikes all the way down to the Castel Sant'Angelo. That, they would have understood."

Some may well wonder if Tagle is really the guy to get tough.

Tagle could perhaps take the edge off some of those concerns by dropping hints about whom he might be inclined to choose as his Secretary of State, but that would veer awfully close to campaigning for the job.

Third, some cardinals may perceive Tagle as a bit too much to the left of center (as the "center" is defined, naturally, in the College of Cardinals) especially because of his connection to the Alberigo history of Vatican II.

Fourth and most basically, some cardinals may look at Tagle and see a promising young churchman, but somebody who's not quite ready for prime time. One can imagine a number of them saying quietly to one another, "He'd make a great pope ... someday."

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches
John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 20, 2013 NCR Today

If the process of picking a pope were like a hiring process in any other walk of life, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri’s résumé would probably be a slam-dunk at least to get him past the initial screening and earn him an interview.

We're talking about a 69-year-old, so he's in the right age window, not too old or too young; he's an Argentine by birth who's spent most of his life in Italy, so he brings together the First World and the Third World at the precise moment when Catholicism is seeking a bridge between the two; and he's a veteran Vatican official with a reputation as an adept administrator at a time when many cardinals believe getting the Vatican under control has to be at the top of the next pope's to-do list.

In other words, there's a lot to like about Sandri as a papal candidate.

Currently the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Sandri was born in Buenos Aires in 1943 to Italian immigrant parents. He served briefly as a parish priest in Argentina before being sent to Rome for studies in 1970, where he entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service. In addition to stints in Madagascar, Venezuela and Mexico, Sandri also worked in the Vatican embassy to the United States from 1989 to 1991.

(That brief sojourn in America could have important electoral consequences, given that another young priest working in the embassy at the time was a St. Louis native named Timothy Dolan, who is today the cardinal of New York and a good friend. If so inclined, Dolan might be able to deliver several Anglophone votes for Sandri.)

Sandri was later named to the all-important post of "substitute," essentially the Vatican’s chief of staff, under Pope John Paul II and later Benedict XVI from 2000 to 2007. When John Paul died on April 2, 2005, it was Sandri who stepped out into St. Peter’s Square to announce, "Tonight we all feel like orphans."

Sandri speaks English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and is seen as an affable figure basically free of any ideological agenda.

The case for Sandri as a possible pope is easy to make.

First, heading into this conclave, many cardinals have talked about the desirability of finding a pope with a global vision, who can focus more on the concerns and struggles of the burgeoning Catholic population in the developing world, where two-thirds of the planet’s 1.2 billion Catholic today live. At the same time, they don’t want to elect a stranger to the Vatican and to the dynamics of church leadership in the West -- the media pressure, the legal and political climate, the institutional and financial burdens of the church in places where it has a large infrastructure, and so on.

In that regard, Sandri seems ideally positioned. Because of his roots in Argentina, he would be perceived by outsiders, including the media, as a "Third World pope," yet among insiders he’s seen as one of the Italians. Certainly nobody could accuse Sandri of being a wide-eyed naïf about the realities of church leadership on a big stage.

Second, most cardinals believe the next pope needs to be someone a bit more attuned to the nuts and bolts dynamics of governance. The common diagnosis is that we’ve now had two papacies in a row basically uninterested in the business management dimension of the job: John Paul II was focused on bringing the church’s message to the street and changing the tides of history while Benedict XVI has been a magnificent teacher and cultural critic, but neither man ever took the reins of church government directly into his own hands.

Especially for the last eight years, this diagnosis holds, the church sometimes has paid a steep price for this inattention -- the Williamson affair, the Vatileaks mess, the sometimes tone-deaf response to the child sex abuse scandals, continuing accusations about corruption in Vatican finances, and so on. Many cardinals believe the next pope will need to oversee a thorough reform of the Vatican, in the direction of modernizing its methods and outlook, embracing transparency and accountability, and making sure key personnel are a good fit for the jobs they hold.

On this score, Sandri is about as compelling a candidate as anyone’s likely to find.

He has a stellar reputation from his term as substitute under John Paul II, with most Vatican insiders recalling him as efficient, detail-oriented, and more interested in getting things done than in playing political games. If the cardinals are looking for a "governing pope," in other words, that logic could lead them by a short path to Sandri.

Third, Sandri is an old Vatican hand, yet he's not associated in the minds of most cardinals with the meltdowns under the current Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Sandri was named prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches in 2007. At the time it was seen as something of a demotion, though it did clear the way for him to become a cardinal. With the benefit of hindsight, however, the move did him a favor because he was out of the way by the time the Holocaust-denying bishop affair broke in 2009, the Boffo case in 2010, the Vatileaks mess, and other notorious breakdowns.

Fourth, it’s hard to find somebody in church circles who doesn't like Sandri. Granted, few might describe him as "charismatic," but he's almost universally seen as warm, open and possessing a lively sense of humor. A conclave is more akin to the election of a department chair in a university than to the Iowa caucuses because personal relationships are all-important, and Sandri has a lot of friends.

Fifth, as a product of the Vatican diplomatic corps, Sandri is a moderate on most matters both political and theological. As a veteran Vatican official, he passes the smell test for the most conservative figures in the College of Cardinals as someone who would hold the line on church teaching; yet for more centrist cardinals, he comes off as someone who's basically a man of the center. In a conclave in which there’s no longer any provision for going to a simple majority after thirty-plus ballots, compromise becomes even more essential in getting across the two-thirds threshold, and Sandri might be able to draw support from diverse quarters.

Yet there are also at least four prominent draw-backs to Sandri's candidacy.

First, many people in Rome look at Sandri and see a great candidate to be the Secretary of State, but not necessarily the pope. He has a proven capacity to make the trains run on time, but many people believe he has neither the evangelical drive of John Paul II nor the intellectual chops of Benedict XVI. Many cardinals have said they'd like to combine the best qualities of the last two popes, and they may not see that mix in Sandri.

Second, despite being born in Argentina, many cardinals have to remind themselves that he’s not actually an Italian because they're so accustomed to thinking of him that way. They may well see a vote for a Sandri as a vote for continuing the Italian stranglehold on the Vatican, suspecting that he'd rely mostly on his Italian buddies to fill key slots. At a time when some cardinals from other parts of the world are frustrated with what they perceive as a "re-Italianization" of the Vatican under Benedict, with occasionally disastrous results, they might see Sandri as a prescription for continuing the status quo.

Third, Sandri has little pastoral experience, either on the front lines in a parish or heading a diocese. Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a fellow Vatican diplomat, has already said out loud he wouldn’t vote for a career bureaucrat because the times demand a "pastor of souls." It’s probable that some other cardinals are thinking the same thing.

Fourth, there's some concern about possible baggage Sandri might carry into the papacy from his previous posts.

For instance, Sandri was in the Secretariat of State under Cardinal Angelo Sodano in the late John Paul years, at a time when Sodano was offering vigorous support for the late Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was later found guilty of a wide range of sexual abuse and misconduct. When Maciel celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priesthood at Rome's basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in 2004, Sandri was dispatched to read aloud a letter of praise from John Paul.

While Sandri was not seen as among Maciel's staunch allies, few cardinals will probably be excited about the prospect of TV packages on the new pope featuring video of him extolling an abuser priest (though admittedly, the words were not his own.)

To take another case, Sandri has been linked in the Italian media to a cause célèbre in 2010 surrounding Angelo Balducci, an Italian public official indicted as part of a corruption probe. Wiretaps also revealed that Balducci, who held the honorific Vatican title of "Gentleman of his Holiness," was involved in a gay prostitution ring and could be heard negotiating for services with a member of one of the Vatican's choirs.

Those wiretaps suggested Sandri and Balducci were on a friendly basis while a rafter of secret Vatican documents published by the magazine Panorama in 2012 included a note suggesting Sandri had been involved in conversations about Balducci's bid to win procurement contracts worth $400 million for a G8 summit in 2009.

No one has accused Sandri of any wrongdoing, but his links with Balducci may come in for a closer look during the pre-conclave period.

More generally, holding senior positions in the Secretariat of State by necessity means being involved in the Italian financial and political scene, and some cardinals may wonder if there are other potential skeletons in the closet -- or, perhaps, even innocent situations that would nevertheless be tough to explain.

By consensus, there is no clear front-runner for the papacy. Inevitably, cardinals may have to settle for less than their ideal of what the next pope ought to bring to the job, coming as close as they can based on who's actually available. When they look at Sandri, they'll probably see a great deal to like, and at least some things to give them pause -- which, right now, makes the Argentine-cum-Italian basically no different than many other possibilities.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada
John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 20, 2013 NCR Today

As veteran Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli reminds readers today in La Stampa, one way to judge how serious a papal candidate may be is by how much whispering, rumor and character assassination that person generates. By that standard alone, one probably ought to take Cardinal Marc Ouellet seriously indeed.

The 68-year-old Ouellet, a native of Quebec who currently heads the Vatican's all-important Congregation for Bishops, has long been considered a formidable contender to take over the church's top job. He's got the brains, the languages and the life experience to satisfy the conventional wisdom about what it takes to be pope.

As recent days have shown, he's also got the baggage any public figure accumulates over a long and controversial career.

Profiles in the Canadian press have been mixed -- Toronto's Globe and Mail on Saturday was typical, asking, "Can the Cardinal who couldn't save his Quebec church save the Vatican?"

The gist was that Ouellet's tenure as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010 was rocky, and there's little indication he turned around the steep decline in faith and practice in Francophone Canada. (One profile pointed out that even some of his siblings are no longer practicing.)

Reporters have also resurrected moments of controversy in Quebec, such as wide blowback to a 2010 comment from Ouellet that abortion is unjustified even in cases of rape.

Here in Rome, observers have recalled that Ouellet is sometimes given to emotion, tearing up in delicate moments, with the not-so-subtle suggestion that perhaps he lacks the steel to lead. Others have recalled an embarrassing episode from 2003, when Ouellet's younger brother Paul, an artist and retired teacher, pled guilty to sexual offenses against two teenage girls. Marc Ouellet has never spoken publicly about the incident.

At the very least, should Ouellet emerge from the pending conclave as pope, no one will be able to say the cardinals didn't have enough background to make an educated judgment about what they're getting.

The pro-Ouellet argument generally works like this.

First of all, he's a genuine intellectual who could approximate the broad culture and theological acuity of Benedict XVI, and Ouellet is very much cut from the same cloth as the pope in terms of basic outlook. Like Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Ouellet has longstanding ties to the circles around the journal Communio co-founded by the young Joseph Ratzinger.

Second, many cardinals would like a pope who can somehow bring the First World and the Third World together, and Ouellet could fit the bill. He's a polyglot, speaking six languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German), and as a young priest he spent time teaching in Colombia during the 1970s and '80s. He's traveled widely, giving him a sense of the very different realities facing the church in various parts of the world.

Third, there are also many cardinals who want a pope who can launch a serious reform of the Roman Curia, implying a need for somebody who knows where the bodies are buried. Ouellet's résumé seems attractive on that score, too. He was a consulter at the Congregation for Clergy from 1995 to 2000 and put in a brief stint as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 2001 to 2002 before returning to the Vatican in 2010 to take over the Congregation for Bishops. Those posts have afforded Ouellet insight into how the Vatican works -- and, sometimes, how it doesn't.

Fourth, Ouellet is universally seen as a deeply spiritual man with a keen prayer life, making him credible when he talks about the core components of Christian belief. Assuming the cardinals will be looking for personal holiness above all in the next pope, some believe that alone ought to put Ouellet near the top of the list.

Fifth, as a Canadian, Ouellet would represent a break from the European stranglehold on the papacy. Although the New World may not seem so "new" anymore to everyone else, this is the Vatican we're talking about, where they think in centuries. In that sense, a vote for Ouellet might attract some cardinals as a vote for broadening the horizons of the church.

If nothing else, Ouellet isn't an Italian, and some cardinals from other parts of the world believe the Vatican's management snafus under Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, have damaged the prospects of an Italian candidate.

Sixth, having served in North America at the peak of the sexual abuse scandals, Ouellet grasps the massive blow they've caused to the church's moral authority. In Rome, he's seen as among the reformers; during an international summit on the abuse crisis last February, he led a liturgy of repentance in a Roman church in which victims participated. Ouellet called the crisis "a source of great shame and enormous scandal" and said sexual abuse is not only a "crime" but also an "authentic experience of death for the innocent victims."

(Critics, however, charge that Ouellet has not used his Vatican position to press for greater accountability for bishops who covered up reports of abuse.)

The rap against Ouellet lays out this way:

First, some Vatican-watchers like to quip that he would basically be a "photocopy" of Benedict XVI -- another cerebral pontiff who prefers the life of the mind to the nuts and bolts of administration and who is perhaps too gentle, too nice, to really crack heads and bring the institution under control.

On a related note, Ouellet has repeatedly talked about the crushing burdens of the papacy, calling the job a "nightmare" in 2011. Some may wonder if he would be up to the magnitude of the task. That might be a special concern in the wake of a pope who was himself acutely sensitive to the demands of the position and who resigned because he said he no longer has the strength for it.

Second, the mere fact that Ouellet has Vatican experience doesn't necessarily mean he's the right guy to execute reform. Many cardinals in 2005 thought Joseph Ratzinger would be that man because of his 20-plus years in the Vatican, yet at least some would say today it never really happened.

Third, despite Ouellet's time in Latin America and his robust capacity for languages, he tends to be focused on the struggle against Western secularism, again much like Benedict XVI. Some cardinals from the developing world, where two-thirds of all Catholics today live, may wonder if he'd be equally energetic on the concerns that tend to loom larger for them -- relations with Islam, for instance, or the struggle to defend persecuted Christians in hot spots such as Syria, India and China.

Fourth, Ouellet is a Sulpician, and in some circles the Sulpicians are associated with liberalizing currents following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), blamed by some conservatives for drop-offs in vocations and a loss of faith. Although no one faults Ouellet personally, some traditionally minded cardinals might wonder what impact he would have on the church if he couldn't leaven the culture within his own order.

Fifth, some cardinals believe the next pope has to be a missionary-in-chief, an effective front man for the new evangelization, putting a compelling face and voice on the Catholic message. Some may wonder if Ouellet is truly cut out for that role, a man who can be warm and witty in private settings but sometimes comes off as a bit stiff and withdrawn on the public stage.

Of course, no one human being could every perfectly capture everything the cardinals might want when they go shopping for a pope: a living saint, an intellectual giant, a political heavyweight, a Fortune 500 CEO, and a media darling who turns the world on with his smile. Inevitably, they'll have to make compromises, looking for someone who comes close enough on several of those measures to seem a credible candidate.

It's impossible to say whether Marc Ouellet will be the answer the cardinals come up with when they start doing the math, but given both his résumé and his personality, it's hard to imagine he won't be in the equation.

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 19, 2013 NCR Today

When it comes to "next pope" stories, nothing's sexier from a media point of view than the idea of a "black pope," referring in this case not to the head of the Jesuit order (traditionally dubbed the "black pope," ostensibly because of the black cassock the Superior General wears, but also a derogatory reference to alleged Jesuit intrigue), but a pontiff from Africa.

At the symbolic level, the notion of what's traditionally seen as the planet's ultimate First World institution being led by a black man from the southern hemisphere has an undeniable magic.

Among the 117 cardinals who will shortly gather in the Sistine Chapel to elect the successor to Benedict XVI, the name of Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana usually figures prominently on the short list of possible African candidates.

Indeed, Turkson himself has not been shy about embracing the possibility. In a recent interview with the U.K. Telegraph, Turkson openly speculated about what it would mean for him to become pope. (In a good candidate for understatement of the year, Turkson was quoted as saying that "it would signal a lot of [personal] change.")

Peter Kodow Appiah Turkson, 64, was born in Western Ghana to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father, a biographical fact he often cites to explain his interest in ecumenism. He studied at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in New York before it was closed in 1989, and also at the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He became Archbishop of Cape Coast in Ghana in 1992, and went on to serve as president of the national bishops' conference and to play an active role in SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

In 2009, Benedict XVI tapped Turkson as the relator, or general secretary, for a month-long synod of bishops on Africa. As things turned out he didn't need to pack for the trip home, because near the end of the synod the Vatican announced Turkson's appointment as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Turkson is generally seen as affable, open, with a lively sense of humor and charmingly frank, not given to mushy diplomatic platitudes. Across Africa, he's seen as among the continent's most dynamic church leaders.

Not coincidentally, the headquarters of SECAM is in Ghana, reflecting the leadership role Ghanaians have long played in African Catholic affairs.

The case for Turkson rests on several points.

First, many cardinals want a pope with deep pastoral experience in a diocese; others are looking for somebody with Vatican background who can get the place under control. Since Turkson's resume features both, he could appeal to both those desires.

Second, in the abstract, some cardinals find the idea of putting a face on the burgeoning Catholic footprint outside the West attractive, and Turkson would certainly do that in a flash.

Third, for the most part Turkson would come into office without any baggage from the recent scandals to afflict the Vatican. He wasn't part of the Vatileaks mess, he hasn't had anything to do with the Vatican Bank, and he doesn't have any particular track record on the clerical sexual abuse crisis. (When SNAP, the leading victims' group, recently issued an evaluation of papal candidates, Turkson was among those the group said it didn't have enough information about to assess.)

Fourth, for a church committed to a "New Evangelization," Turkson would be an attractive and energetic leader perhaps capable of enticing people to take a new look at the Catholic church.

Fifth, he reflects the very traditional African ethos on matters of sexual morality and the family, meaning that Turkson's election would not be threatening to those cardinals most concerned with bolstering the church's pro-life stance. A recent profile of Turkson in the Independent dubbed him "Conservatism's Caped Crusader" for exactly that reason.

Sixth, relations with Islam will surely be high on the next pope's to-do list, and Turkson has personal experience since his paternal uncle is a Muslim. In Ghana, Turkson lived amid Muslims, and has been a leader in Catholic/Muslim relations across Africa. He's no pushover, either, taking a strong line on the need for Muslim societies to respect religious freedom.

The knocks on Turkson include the following.

First, the Council for Justice and Peace is not perceived to be among the Vatican's heavyweight departments, so there's doubt in some quarters about whether it's adequate preparation for the quantum leap to the papacy. Moreover, Turkson's friends were saying back in 2009 that he'd really prefer to return to Ghana rather than to serve in Rome, which might lead some to wonder if he's up to a far more demanding Roman gig.

Second, some conservatives see Turkson as a bit too center-left for their taste, especially on matters of economic justice. In 2011, his council issued a document titled "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority," which among other things expressed a clear rejection of 'neo-liberal' economic policies (in American argot, 'neo-conservative') and an equally clear endorsement of a "true world political authority" to regulate a globalized economy.

Critics, dismayed by the note's content, challenged its Vatican standing. George Weigel dismissed it as the product of a "rather small office in the Roman Curia" while Bill Donohue said it contains "neologisms" not found in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI.

Third, some wonder if Turkson is really ready for prime time. During last fall's synod on New Evangelization, Turkson used one of the meeting's opportunities for free exchange to show an alarmist Youtube video about Islam, which contained over-hyped statistics about Muslim immigration in Europe that had already been thoroughly debunked.

The blowback inside the synod was sufficiently strong that other bishops felt compelled to stand up and call off the dogs. Though Turkson quickly apologized, it left lingering doubts in some quarters about his judgment.

Fourth, Turkson's open commentary about the desirability of an African pope, even flirting with the idea of it being him, have produced a bitter aftertaste among those who think he's more or less campaigning for the job. Friends insist that it's simply Turkson being honest and a nice guy, not wanting to say "no" to reporters needing comment, and not wanting to duck obvious questions.

Yet in an electoral process where putting oneself into the spotlight is often frowned upon, being a nice guy sometimes comes at a price.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan
John L. Allen Jr. | Feb. 18, 2013 NCR Today

By consensus, there's no slam-dunk, take-it-to-the-bank favorite heading into the next papal election, but the closest to thing to someone in pole position is probably 71-year-old Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan.

Scola breathes the same intellectual air as Benedict XVI, coming out of the Communio theological school co-founded by the young Joseph Ratzinger in the period following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). As a young theologian himself, he published book-length interviews with Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

During his college years, Scola met the famed Italian Fr. Luigi Giussani and became part of his Communion and Liberation movement. Of late, Scola has tried to put some distance between himself and the ciellini, as the center-right movement's members are known, especially because several leading Italian politicians identified with it have been engulfed in corruption scandals.

Still, in Italian ecclesial politics, Scola is inextricably linked with the movement, which cuts both ways -- some deeply admire Communion and Liberation; others, not so much. The linkage with Scola was solidified amid the Vatileaks scandal, which included a letter from Giussani's successor to Pope Benedict XVI in March 2011, suggesting that the previous two archbishops of Milan had fostered a critical stance toward some aspects of church teaching and that Scola was the best candidate to take over.

Intellectually, Scola's area is moral anthropology, a subject he taught at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at Rome's Lateran University before taking over as rector.

The case for Scola goes like this.

First, he's Ratzinger but with a better popular touch. He's comfortable with the media, often better off-the-cuff than when he sits down and writes a speech. His texts can sometimes be dense, but his spontaneous commentary is accessible and informal with a good dose of humor.

Second, as an Italian, he knows the lay of the land in terms of Vatican politics. Since finding someone who can take control of the Roman Curia is a perceived priority among many cardinals, that's a clear plus.

Third, Scola has extensive pastoral experience, leading both the archdioceses of Venice and Milan. He's not a career bureaucrat, and several cardinals have already publicly said they want a pope with real experience in the pastoral trenches.

Fourth, Scola launched the "Oasis" project back in 2004, designed initially to support Christians in the Middle East, but it's grown over time into a platform for dialogue with the Muslim world. Since relations with Islam are considered a major challenge for the next pope, Scola's background is another advantage.

Now for the case against Scola.

First, as an Italian, he gets swept up into the tribal rivalries of the Italian ecclesiastical scene. There are still some Italian prelates wary of Communion and Liberation, seeing it as already too powerful, and who might be reluctant to vote for a "ciellino pope."

It's important to understand that for the most part, these Italian divisions have little to do with ideology or competing visions of the church, though there are some such differences -- for instance, the circles around the former president of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, are conventionally seen as slightly more conservative than those around the incumbent, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. For the most part, however, the contrasts are more determined by personal relationships and networks of patronage.

Second, since Scola is a dedicated Ratzingerian in terms of intellectual outlook, those who believe the next pope ought to take a somewhat different approach, or at least have a somewhat different sense of priorities, might see him as a bit too much continuity.

Third, some cardinals believe the solution to the Vatican's perceived management problems is not to elect another Italian, but to break the Italian stranglehold on the place's internal culture. For this camp, the time has come to realize the long-promised "internationalization" of the Vatican begun under Paul VI and carried forward in fits and starts by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Fourth, Scola may simply suffer from having been in the spotlight too long, allowing opinions about him to crystallize, and making it difficult for a sudden consensus around him to form.

How notorious is Scola as a possible papal successor?

Consider that another of the documents to make the rounds amid the Vatileaks affair was an anonymous memo, written in German and passed along to Benedict XVI by a retired Vatican cardinal, which was touted in the Italian media as proof of a sensational "plot to kill the pope." It purported to relay private remarks by Cardinal Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Sicily, during a trip to China, in which Romero allegedly said Benedict XVI would be dead within the year and replaced with a top Italian cardinal.

The name of that cardinal? Angelo Scola.

In a race in which too much publicity can sometimes be the kiss of death, that's probably not the kind of PR destined to help Scola's chances.

Fans, however, insist Scola has been in the spotlight for a long time precisely because he's among the most impressive figures at the senior level of the church, and that the fact that he hasn't wilted under the attention proves he's got the right stuff to be pope.
Tags: catholicism, conclave, hierarchy, media, theological notebook, vatican

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