Who will get elected pope?

The conclave of 115 cardinals who will elect the pope convenes on Tuesday.  They will keep casting ballots until someone gets two-thirds of the vote.  Those of us who decry the office can still be interested in the outcome.  I think it would be good for worldwide Christianity if the cardinals would elect a non-European, such as Peter Turkson of Ghana.  Or maybe an Asian, such as Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka or Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines.  Interestingly, liberal Catholics oppose the election of a pope from the developing world, since those societies are extremely conservative when it comes to “women’s issues” and, especially, homosexuality.

But I would love it if New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan were to be chosen. That’s because I’ve met him!  When he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, he was involved with a Catholic school where my wife taught.  Lutheran though I am, I think it would be cool to be able to say that I’ve met the pope.

From Michelle Boorstein in the Washington Post:

Although most experts agree the odds are long, it’s hard to imagine a more transformative choice the cardinals could make than to select a nonwhite person to lead the world’s largest faith denomination, 1.2 billion strong. In the conclave that begins Tuesday, that would mean a person from the developing world, which is now home to two-thirds of all Catholics.

After centuries and centuries of white European popes, a developing-world pope could further alter the modern concept of Christianity, and by extension the modern concept and geopolitical tilt of power.

In conversations, comparisons to Barack Obama’s election as the United States’ first black president readily arise. But there is ostensibly a major difference: American presidents are picked by voters driven by pragmatic concerns, while popes — in Catholicism, God’s representatives on earth — are picked by cardinals led by the Holy Spirit.

The process, in other words, is supposed to be above earthly concerns such as race and ethnicity.

“That’s not how we do things,” bristled Mary L. Gautier, a sociologist and researcher with the church’s best-known U.S. data bank, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, when asked for historical demographics on race and ethnicity within the church. There is no central repository for the data, Gautier said, and race is a social construct, anyway.

“The church has always been and considered itself a global church,” bound by its common humanity, she said.

But the reality is that the majority of the 115 cardinals are white men from Europe, where the Catholic population is decreasing, at the same time it is growing rapidly among people of color in the developing world.

Between 1910 and 2010, the percentage of Europeans who identify as Catholic decreased from 65 percent of the global Catholic population to 24 percent, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center of data from the World Christian Database. Latin Americans climbed from 24 percent to 39 percent, and Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa went from less than 1 percent to 16 percent. Catholics from the Asia-Pacific region went from 5 percent to 12 percent of the world Catholic population, according to the Pew Research Center. . . .

The cardinals from the developing world whose names have been mentioned as potential popes include Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines and Peter Turkson of Ghana. Even within the group of contenders, there are complicated questions of race and ethnicity. The term Hispanic refers to ethnicity, and members can be of any race, including black, indigenous, white or mixed race. For example, is Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil a developing-world pope, even though his family came from Germany?

Also, in Brazil as in much of Latin America, people have not historically classified themselves neatly into racial categories.“The question Latin Americans would press would not be about race but about a non-European,” said Jose Casanova, a prominent sociologist of religion at Georgetown University, who is from Spain.

He acknowledged the sometimes tricky effort to separate these topics. “Officially, Christianity is not about these matters [such as race],” Casanova said. “But in the world those inequalities still play a role. So it is important that whoever represents the Christian message comes from the groups who are less privileged.”

But such parsing may be largely irrelevant because of a perception that developing world cardinals lack the experience for the papacy, according to many Vatican watchers.

Even though Christianity has existed throughout the world, institutional Catholicism is relatively new in places such as Africa or Asia. Until World War I, in fact, most non-European branches of the Catholic Church were considered “missionary” churches; it took the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s to encourage the idea of indigenous clergy. While the clergy has diversified slightly since then — in part because European and American men are not becoming priests as quickly — Europe still has more priests than Africa, South America and Central American combined. In the United States, only 15 percent of U.S. priests ordained last year were Hispanic, while 71 percent were white.

The real stumbling block of developing-world cardinals “is they don’t have Vatican experience at a time when they need someone who can get control of the management issues in Vatican City,” said veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr. with the National Catholic Reporter.

Allen conceded that a pope of color might trigger “a bit of a shock to the system.”

“But it was a shock when they picked someone from Poland in 1978, and from a Catholic point of view, that turned out pretty well,” he said. “I don’t think this is on the minds of the cardinals.”

The “not enough experience” argument sounds like racist code to some. Pope John Paul II, for example, had no experience in the curia, or Vatican bureaucracy. And in pockets around the world, there remains a sense of incredulousness at the notion of a pope of color. . . .

Race and ethnic background are but one consideration; politics and worship traditions are another. Some wondered about a pope coming from a very conservative culture in Africa or India, for example, where conversations about sexuality or the role of women sound different from those in the West.

Turkson shocked some when he said Africa wouldn’t likely have the clergy sex abuse issues that have exploded in the West because homosexuality “is not countenanced in our society.”

via Has the time come for a pope of color? – The Washington Post.

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fjsteve

    I may be wrong in my assessment since I’ve only read a bit about this but, as I understand it, there are a number of reasons Dolan most likely won’t get elected. Just being from the United States is probably fairly high on that list but another big reason is his involvement in the debacle at the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Being that priestly abuse is one of the key topics Rome will be discussing in addition to electing a new Pope, they probably won’t want someone who is as tied into the scandal as Dolan. To be sure, he was not involved in the abuse or shuffling around of abusive priests and, in fact, as I recall he was seen initially as one who would pursue abusive priests. However, there are two things against him: 1) he backed out of a promise by the archdiocese to release files on abuse claims and 2), and probably more importantly, he was involved… period. Whether he acted to pursue or to defend or to just hide abusive priests, my bet is the cardinals want someone who just wasn’t involved in the mess at all. That may prove hard to do, given the higher up one gets in the church the more likely one is to oversee an abusive priest, but they may opt for someone who wasn’t involved in a scandal as large as the one in Milwaukee–no matter the nature of that involvement. Who does that leave? Well, a third world cardinal would do nicely in that regard. Not because the scandal hasn’t hit the third world but because they are years behind in dealing with the problem openly–in other word:, no press, no problem. In fact, Turkson said something to the effect that the sex abuse scandal wouldn’t hit Africa that hard because homosexuality isn’t tolerated well. Oh well, de Nile is in Africa, after all, right?

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    I’m expecting an Italian this time around, either Scola or Ravasi.
    We shall see. Should Lutherans pray about this? Perhaps we can pray for a pope who will “clean house” and be open to the Lutheran reform proposals, which are still on the table 500 years after the Reformation thanks to the Book of Concord and those churchbodies which hold to it unreservedly.

  • Sharon Philp

    It would be interesting if an American was chosen pope, but I am not sure I could stand the local media if Dolan were chosen. He grew up in the metro area, so you can imagine the news stories that have already been generated. Not that I mind the “local boy makes good” news, but it can become excessive quickly.
    As for the race argument, I appreciate hearing them say that the church is global, and race is not considered; that is as it should be. While it would be more globally representative to choose a pope from an area where the church is growing, I can see how the mission-starts mindset could prevent someone from a developing Roman Catholic area from being elected.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    A slightly unconventional way of seeing what people think out there is to see what the British bookies are saying (they were on target last time, btw). The top 5 contenders are (in order):

    Scola (Italy), Turkson (Ghana), Scherer (Brazil), Bertone (Italy) and Ouellet (Canada).

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    Maybe I’m an oddball…(ok…I am an oddball) but I could not care less who becomes Pope.

    It seems to me that whoever it is is stuck in that religious/spiritual ascendancy system and will just foster more of the same.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    +1 on #5. I pray for the Catholics, see some problematic trends, and pray that I’m wrong in a lot of my conclusions.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    I would like Turkson simple because I would love the complete apoplexy it would create in the media. As they struggle to find an angle between the “yea, a pope of color” and “oh crap, he makes Benedict look liberal.”

  • tODD

    Klasie (@4), here’s a link to a particular British bookmaker’s odds. He lists the same top-5 as you, but in a slightly different order.

    Yeah, odds (literally) are it’ll be Scola. I mean, they had two non-Italians in a row. Isn’t it time they get back to Italian Popes for a few centuries again?

  • Grace

    theoldadam @ 5

    I agree with you to some extent, it doesn’t matter who becomes Pope.

    The Roman Church does not adhere to, or devote themselves to the Bible, they have their own beliefs that don’t line up with Scripture.

  • Steve Bauer

    Not to rain on anybody’s parade but if you meet the man who will be the pope before he is the pope, have you really met the pope?

    And by the way, is there a (Lutheran) blessing for the pope?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Steve -

    May God bless and keep the pope……far away from us! :)

    (You know where I stole the line from…)

  • CRB

    Seeing that there’s no real favorite, and the oddsmakers have narrowed it down to 5, I think that it may very well be awhile before a pope is selected.

  • tODD

    CRB (@12), huh? No one’s “narrowed it down to 5″. And the bookmaker I linked to (@8) had Scola almost twice as favored as the next two, Scherer and Turkson. Scola seems like the “real favorite”.

  • CRB

    Thanks tODD,
    I guess i must have mis-read about the number. Scola or Turkson.

  • mikeb

    Dolan would be interesting since we both hail from Missouri. He was born and raised in the Holy City (that is St. Louis from you non- LCMS types).

    Boston’s Cardinal O’Mally seems to be a dark horse,but has been mentioned since he’s been such a strong leader cleaning up the sex abuse. But I agree an American pope is a long shot.

    Too bad that won’t pick this guy: http://goo.gl/bWuc2

  • Abby

    “Too bad that won’t pick this guy: http://goo.gl/bWuc2

    @15 No, we don’t want to lose him! :)

  • http://Yahoo TWalsh

    The Papal conclave should be very interesting. It looks like the top two candidates are Scola (Italy) and Scherer (Brazil). The reform faction of Cardinals is looking for Scola to lead them while the Curia faction of Cardinals wants Scherer to be Pope.
    Look for the first few days of the conclave to be a battle between the top two guys. Scola has a solid bloc of votes in Europe. But it also appears that some American and Asian Cardinals are supporting Scola. If this is true we could have white smoke by the end of the second day. Scherer has solid support from the Curia wing of Cardinals. Scherer supporters are looking to get strong support during the first few votes, in hopes that other Cardinals will jump on the band wagon at the close of the second day of voting.
    Cardinal Ouellet (Canada) and Erdo (Hungary) are said to be the compromise candidates to become Pope. If things aren’t settled beteween Scola and Scherer after the third day of the conclave, then look for Ouellet or Erdo to emerge as strong contenders from the fourth day on.
    My gut tells me that Scola has enough votes to become Pope, and this should happen by the end of the second day or start of the third day of voting. But if things drag out longer, we will certainly see a compromise Pope like Ouellet or Erdo emerge.

  • Cincinnatus

    O’Malley is the only potential American candidate. In reality, though, an American pope is so unlikely as to be a laughable prospect. This isn’t due to Roman prejudice against American catholicism, but is rather due to a reason O’Malley himself articulated in an interview: it would look bad for the only church with claims to universalism to have at its head a man from the world’s only (and unpopular) superpower. In other words, it would be a bad move to associate the Church in people’s minds with the American hegemon/empire.

  • Grace

     ‏

    Below is great site. You can watch live from streaming video (top) just click – There are many different sites, and information regarding the Conclave, etc.

     ‏

     ‏  ‏  ‏ The Vatican News
     ‏

    http://www.news.va/en/news/the-cardinals-who-will-elect-the-pope

     ‏

  • Grace

     ‏

    Below is the Main page:

     ‏  ‏  ‏  ‏ NEWS.VA

    http://www.news.va/en

     ‏

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @ 18
    In other words, it would be a bad move to associate the Church in people’s minds with the American hegemon/empire.

    Ah, but O’Malley’s a displaced Irishman!

  • Grace

    CNN has just reported:

     ‏

     ‏  ‏  ‏ A new pope has been chosen and will soon be named.

     ‏

     ‏  ‏  ‏ http://www.news.va/en

     ‏

  • Grace

    LIVE VIDEO – most other sites are over crowded:

    Mar 13, 2:10 PM EDT

    Catholic church has new pope; white smoke rises

    By NICOLE WINFIELD
    Associated Press

    White smoke is billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, meaning 115 cardinals in a papal conclave have elected a new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

    The new pope is expected to appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica within an hour, after a church official announces “Habemus Papum” – “We have a pope” – and gives the name of the new pontiff in Latin.”

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/live-video-two/

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cardinal Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Big surprise. He is also the first Jesuit pope, and the first in about a thousand years to take an entirely new name, Francis I.

    A humble fellow, who doesn’t live in the palace in Buenos Aires, takes the bus to work etc….

    Interesting.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Following our earlier comments (4, 8, 13) on what the bookies were saying, someone, somewhere, made a decent pile: His chances were about 4%, or 1:25, his ranking being at no. 15.

    Sometimes the media’s narrative is a bit off. Surprise…… :)


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