Could we see Pope Patrick I in this Year of the Snake? – UPDATE

The Chinese New Year has just passed and we are now in the Year of the Water Snake, according to my Chinese friends who take the zodiac with varying degrees of seriousness, this means we face a year characterized by “toil and transformation”.

“Your pope offered his resignation, almost as the year began,” one friend said to me. “It’s going to be a busy year of changes for all of us.”

I don’t subscribe to zodiacs, myself, but one can’t help noticing that one Cardinal never included in the lists of papabile we have seen over the years is Boston’s Sean O’Malley — whose name is suddenly arising. It seems that as America is no longer perceived to be quite the super-power she has been in the past, the idea of a pope from the U.S. is actually being discussed. In this Boston Herald piece, Deacon Greg and I and Patrick Madrid are quoted off of our twitter feeds (journalistic “transformation”, indeed) where Madrid wrote:

“If @CardinalSean is elected our next #pope (something I’m sure he’d never want!) I’d like to suggest he choose to be called Pope Patrick I”

For those of us who claim a connection to the auld sod, that would be a pondering just too Irish-delightful for words: In the Year of the Snake, the rise of a Pope Patrick I. Would he drive the snakes of toil and turmoil from the church, from society, from the curia?

I’m just having fun here, but the O’Malley uptick is real. John L. Allen, collecting some of the new, international O’Malley buzz writes:

I can confirm the O’Malley buzz from personal experience. Right now, it’s tough for an American journalist to walk into the Vatican Press Office without fielding questions from colleagues about him.

On the plus side, many cardinals have said they’d like a pope with a global vision, sensitive to the church outside the West where two-thirds of Catholics today live. O’Malley has a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature, and has long experience of ministering to both Hispanics and Haitians. He worked in Chile as a priest, and served as the Bishop of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. He’s deeply attached to many of the devotions popular at the Catholic grassroots across the developing world.

O’Malley’s simplicity isn’t just a matter of wearing his brown habit, or insisting on being called “Cardinal Sean.” By reputation he’s not given to building empires or playing political games, and on the back of the Vatileaks mess, ongoing questions about the Vatican Bank, and other perceived Vatican imbroglios, that profile could strike some cardinals as just what the doctor ordered.

Despite his overall image as a moderate, O’Malley is by-the-book when it comes to matters of Catholic orthodoxy and is especially committed to the pro-life cause, making him attractive to cardinals concerned that the church hold the line on its positions in the culture wars.

O’Malley is also passionate about the “New Evangelization,” expressed not only in his use of Twitter and blogs, but in his general approach to the role of a bishop.

Certainly O’Malley’s image as a house-cleaner on the sex abuse crisis doesn’t hurt.

My friend Maria Morena Johnson notes on Facebook:

Few know of Cardinal O’Malley’s work throughout Latin American and the Caribbean. He’s highly regarded in those regions and thus would actually come with ties to the whole hemisphere. Interesting man, and fascinating background.

Well, I still say predicting the pope is a sucker’s bet, but it is very interesting to consider: an American-born pontiff may come our way thanks to our diminished standing in the world. Our president’s instincts toward isolationism, his disinterest in diplomacy, economics and manufacturing and his stated ambivalence towards “superpower” status might be the butterfly wings of the secular world, to cause a hurricane amid the sacred one. More things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies, and so forth…

Even so, an American Pontiff is of course still the longest of long shots, for many reasons, most especially the heating up of the Cardinal Mahony story — but never forget that the last dramatically unexpected conclave, in 1978, brought forward precisely the longest of long shots in Karol Józef Wojtyła, our Blessed John Paul II.

If you want to keep up with the key players in the upcoming drama of March
, John Allen’s daily look at the presumed papabile are absolute must-reads. Today he profiles Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who bears an odd physical resemblance to the Wojtyła.

Yesterday, Allen looked at Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, and got a bit of a reprimand from another writer at the Reporter, for not making more of Turkson’s views on homosexuality.

The day before that, Allen brought us Milan’s Cardinal Angelo Scola.

In Rumer Godden’s exquisite novel, In this House of Brede — my all-time favorite tale, which I have not recommended to you in a long time — the nuns of her Benedictine Abbey ponder the election of a new abbess after the passing of one who has held the office for three decades. In many ways, this experience is very much like the conclave we are about to watch:

Dame Agnes, Dame Maura, Dames Ursula, Beatrice, Colette, Catherine: each in turn seemed focussed in a strong light that, while it showed their virtues, showed each blemish, too, “as if none of them will do”…

“One must,” said Philippa. “It will resolve itself.”

With prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, of course. As to O’Malley, well, we have no idea what will be. But perhaps we need a Capuchin son of Saint Francis, one with parish and pastoral experience, and no aspirations for himself, to help us with some restoration.

A Novena for Benedict on the last 9 days of his Papacy

We take our thrills where we can get them!.

Ed Morrissey on new conclave rules that we may see

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pingback: Was I shaking the hand of the next pope?

  • Emily

    I used a quote from Brede in writing about this, probably a bit earlier in this same section, when McTurk writes to Phillippa: “Do you have parties and canvassing?” McTurk wrote teasingly to Philippa, and “You forget, we keep silence,” Philippa wrote back. There was partisanship, of course, but it was characterized by extreme quietness. Each nun had to decide for herself and make no declaration, indeed, giving no inkling of what she was deciding…and in these days it was as if every senior, each member of the council, was held in a brilliant light…Which? Will it be you? It won’t be you. It might be you. ”
    (whole entry here:

    [How funny, I almost used that same section...but the post was getting too long. Great book! -admin]

  • daisy

    O’Malley? Good grief. That’s just a horrifying thought.

  • Adam

    Pope Patrick? Wasn’t that the name of the Pople in Bud McFarlane Jr.’s “Pierced by a Sword”? (Take that for what you will–nobody’s heard anything significant from McFarlane in years, AFAIK.)

  • Victor

    Anchoress! All this talking about so called Papa spiritual name calling reminds me of the late sixtees and early seventies when I kind of beleived in horor scopes. I knew that I was born in the year of the dog and long story short, I decided to create my own spiritual imaginary friends whom I called “Frank and Charley”. I’ll try to keep this short and tell ya of only one or two stories.

    My wife’s father use to hold turkey shoots in the early seventees and being a serious spiritual Catholic, many were surprised when they heard me say out loud at the turkey shoot, things like, OK! Who’s going to take the first shot, you Frank or will “IT” be Charly? I had never shot a twelve gage in my life so “IT” was easy for me to joke about “IT” and truth be known, the first time I shot a twelve gage, “IT” literally flew out of my hands so when Gail’s brother Brian came back with the scores telling them that I had won, I just continued milking “IT” cause I knew that “I” only got lucky. Longer story short, on my 3rd win after having joked about Frank and Charlie having short instead of me, my mother in-law (God Bless her soul) eyes seem to be spinning when I looked her in the eyes and that’s how for only six dollars, “I” won two turkeys and “ONE” Ham. :)

    Should I dare take the time to tell your readers about a bingo where my wife figured that she didn’t stand a chance and then asked her if she wanted me to call Frank and Charley and long story short they called 12 numbers and eleven of them were hers and she won. Longer story short, “IT” increased my faith so much that I changed them, Frank and Charles to “Jesus” who is Real and that’s the truth NOW! :)

    Thanks again Anchoress


  • dc

    I’m with Daisy on this one.

  • Pingback: Pope Benedict XVI to make rule changes on conclave? « The Greenroom

  • Romulus

    Me too.

  • Conchúr

    O’Malley!? After the pseudo-canonisation of Ted Kennedy that he presided over!? God preserve us.

  • Manny

    The more the Pope’s resignation has settled in, the less comfortable I am with it. I certainly can’t predict the future but this could be a disasterous precedent. Historically abdications do not always turn out well. It was an act of humilty on B16′s part, but was it wise? One unintended effect is that it could substantially increase the political competition between Cardinals in the future. Another is the pressuring of popes for certain policy decisions with an implied pressure to force one to resign, or make his life so miserable as to resign. I know these imply a certain level of sinfulness between religious people, but twenty years ago I would never have thought possible the child abuse that certain priests committed and the cover up by certain bishops. I hope to God I’m wrong and it turns out well.

  • Pingback: Could we see Pope Patrick I in this Year of the Snake? – UPDATE | CATHOLIC FEAST

  • Super Genius

    All of this “buzz” seems to tie back to the one article by John Allen.

  • searavens

    “we face a year characterized by “’toil and transformation’”? Can someone please tell me when we DIDN’T face such a year?

  • Super Genius

    Allen’s article seems to summarize well the gossip and bloviating of a bunch of Italian journalists. Yet I seem to recall reading somewhere that they don’t get to make the selection – can someone confirm that?

  • Win Nelson

    I have been at a few Masses which Cardinal O’Malley said. He can tell funny stories.

    One was when he was a young priest in a cathedral. He was giving the Homily and noticed that a lot of people were getting up to leave and they were not coming back. He was nervous about that and after Mass, the pastor was informed.

    The pastor thought a bit and said, “Alright, the next time Father Sean says Mass, take the collection before the Homily.”

    Another story he told was of a husband and wife. A husband tells a friend that he and his wife had had a horrible fight last night.

    “How did it end?”, asked the friend.

    “I had her coming to me on her hands and feet,” bragged the husband.

    “She came to you on her hands and feet?”, the friend gasped, “What did she say?”

    “She said, ‘Come out from under the bed, you coward!’”

  • Lori Pieper

    Another excellent choice if the Capuchin O’Malley is elected, would be Pope Francis I. Francis the church-builder, the poor and humble. All things the Church needs to think about.

    (Over on Fr. Z’s blog, Francis is actually the overwhelming favorite in the event that the cardinal elected chooses a never-used papal name. The overwhelming favorite among already-used names is, of course, Pius).

  • Myshkin

    Spare us: O’Malley, who helped to give a hero’s send-off to the biggest pro-abort politico of the last 40 years, Ted Kennedy? If Kennedy, divorced and re-”married” had wanted a “Catholic” funeral, the price should have been a PUBLIC retraction of his 40 years’ PUBLIC support for murdering 10′s of millions of unborn babies. Shame on O’Malley for lending the veneer of respectability to this utterly despicable ex-Catholic of a Senator whom the dumb voters of Massachusetts inflicted on the USA for over 40 years. Lord help us if he is elected Pope.

  • Kathy from Kansas

    Will someone please tell me why I never see Cardinal Pell (of Australia) on the papabile lists? He is WONDERFUL!

  • Kathy from Kansas

    I do NOT trust Cardinal O’Malley.

    Support for Obamacare:

    Failure to refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians:

    “Balancing” Ted Kennedy’s hideous crimes against life with his supposed stands for “social justice”

    This last shows me two problems with O’Malley’s worldview:
    1. NOTHING outweighs crimes against the youngest, most innocent, defenseless, vulnerable people in our midst.
    2. “Social justice” is a banner under which communists co-opt the Church. People such as O’Malley who are suckered by it are pitifully naive, and hence, dangerous.

  •!/NYKensington Kensington

    “I have been at a few Masses which Cardinal O’Malley said. He can tell funny stories.”

    He tells funny stories during Mass?

  • Win Nelson

    Yes, Kensington. At the beginning of the Homily.

  • Skay

    I agree with you Kathy from Kansas.

    The US MSM would probably love the choice.