The barren results of a dully rationalistic academia which sells reason without faith are seen in our eviscerated Western Catholicism. Too often the Catholic church has become no more than social workers who dress up on Sundays. This kind of cynical, tired agnosticism is unknown in Africa. In the West we have too many greying clergy and nuns who sit in their big empty convents planning New Age retreats or managing retirement incomes. The idea that the Catholic Church was founded by the incarnate Son of God and that it is God’s instrument on earth for the salvation of souls, the victory over death and final eternal glory is considered to be unworkable, impossible and even worse: bad taste.
In contrast, the Church in Africa is thumpingly vibrant and strong. There’s no nonsense about the faith. The ancient primitive religions with their bloodthirsty practices are still too close for comfort. Africans understand the battle against the devil. They see it every day. They understand the forces of darkness and realize that the core of the Catholic faith is the monumental struggle between the powers of darkness and the force of Christ’s radiant light. The right African pope will bring a fresh awareness of the heart of the faith to the whole church.
At the Lambeth Conference some years ago the Anglican African bishops met with the other bishops of the Anglican Communion from around the world. When confronted with the gay bishop from American the Africans were horrified. The American Episcopal bishops were reported to have said to the Africans, “When you are more educated you Africans will be able to develop a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of human sexuality.” The African bishops exploded with charges of racism. “You American bishops are racist!” they cried, “We African bishops have more PhDs among us from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale than all of you American bishops combined.”
They were right. And that precisely illustrates the need for an African Pope. The right African pope will blow away the cobwebs, open our eyes to the realities of the world today and take us into the bright future church.
The right African pope will be a splendid, radical and relevant choice which will challenge the dull, aging liberal establishment of Europe and North America. He will stand up for the poor and the oppressed, he will bring joy and optimism to the church. He will connect with the young and vibrant peoples of the developing countries and capture the imagination of Catholics everywhere.
In addition to that–a black face is going to look fantastic in that white soutane and billowing red cape.