By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
famous saying about conclaves holds, “He who goes in as pope comes out a
cardinal.” The suggestion is that someone who’s widely tipped as a candidate is
ipso facto doomed. Like so many bits of conventional wisdom, it contains
a grain of truth but becomes nonsense if it’s pushed too far.
Considering the last five papal elections, the clear favorite won twice:
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was the frontrunner in 1939, and became Pius XII.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was the man to beat in 1963, and became Paul
VI. Twice a middle-of-the-pack candidate prevailed: Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as
John XXIII in 1958, and Cardinal Albino Luciani as John Paul I in 1978. Only
once did a complete bolt out of the blue occur – Cardinal Karol Wojtyla in 1978
as John Paul II, and that was because everyone assumed the next pope would be
Italian. The fact that someone is widely mentioned, in other words, hardly
guarantees election, but it’s not meaningless.
the fine art of papal prognostication falls somewhere between scientific rigor
and the use of a ouija board.
that in mind, I have been working since the October consistory, in which 30 new
cardinals were created, on revisions to my book Conclave: The Politics,
Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election. The main task was to
reconsider the list of top 20 candidates I put together in the summer of 2001.
Since that time, one of my candidates died, another turned 80, and the fortunes
of others have waxed and waned.
I opted to do this time is to offer a “Top Ten” list, along with a second tier
of “Fifteen to Watch,” which I believe better reflects what cardinals today are
thinking. These lists are based on my interviews with cardinals (some 50 as of
this writing) about the kind of leadership the church needs, study of the
cardinals both in person and through published materials and the observations of
is not my own list of favorites, but the men I believe stand the most realistic
chance of being elected.
is the new Top Ten list (in alphabetical order, not in order of electability):
Francis Arinze (Nigeria, 71), prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
• Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina, 66), archbishop of Buenos Aires
• Godfried Danneels (Belgium, 70), archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
• Ivan Dias (India, 67), archbishop of Mumbai (Bombay)
• Cláudio Hummes (Brazil, 69), archbishop of Săo Paolo
• Walter Kasper (Germany, 70), president of the Pontifical Council for Christian
• Norberto Rivera Carrera (México, 61): archbishop of México City
• Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras, 60): archbishop of Tegucigalpa
• Christoph Schönborn (Austria, 58), archbishop of Vienna
• Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy, 69), archbishop of Milan
the debate begin!
* * *
Normally, popes do not pronounce on specific political questions. The idea is
that a pope is a voice of conscience supra partes, meaning above the
political fray. Even when he disagrees with a particular government’s choices,
he will usually voice that dissent in oblique fashion, leaving it to his aides
to fill in the blanks. For the most part, for example, that was how John Paul
expressed his opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
now and then, however, the papal gloves come off. Such was the case last
weekend, with John Paul’s comments on Israel’s security fence.
are the pope’s exact words in his Sunday Nov. 16th Angelus address:
renew my firm condemnation for every terrorist action carried out in recent days
in the Holy Land. At the same time I have to observe, unfortunately, that in
these places the dynamism of peace seems to be stopped. The construction of a
wall between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is seen by many as a
new obstacle on the path towards peaceful coexistence. In reality, the Holy Land
does not need walls, but bridges! Without reconciliation of souls, there can be
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon testily rejected the pope's
intervention in an interview with Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading
newspaper, noting that "the Vatican itself is surrounded by high walls."
the chance to ask Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., for a
reaction to the pope’s words during a break at a Rome conference this week on
migrants and refugees.
think he sees more Israelis being killed, more Palestinians being killed and
thrown out of their homes, and I think he feels he has to say something about
that,” McCarrick said.
McCarrick said he feels great sympathy for Israel, based in part on a long
personal record of outreach to the Jewish community.
the same time, I think the present policies of the Israeli government have to be
reviewed,” he said.
McCarrick was critical of the wall.
has in many circumstances caused people to lose their livelihoods,” he said.
“They live on one side but work on the other, and they can’t get there. We have
to come back to the table and really talk, really dialogue.”
McCarrick think the pope stepped across the line that separates religious
leaders from politicians?
don’t think so,” he said. “If there is a policy that is not promoting the
inherent dignity of the human person, then it’s our job to speak out.”
asked Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Oded Ben-Hur for comment on Nov. 19. He
declined to respond to the pope’s statement, saying he has “great respect” for
John Paul. He was willing, however, to talk about the way Israel sees the
Bottom line: “This wall saves lives,” Ben-Hur said.
argued that along the one-third of Israeli territory now covered by the wall,
there have been no terrorist attacks for the last four to five months. He also
said a recent suicide bombing in Jerusalem that resulted in the deaths of 22
children was carried out by a terrorist from a Palestinian village located
precisely where the wall stops.
barrier was built to make sure that our children return from school alive and
sound every day, that young and old can go on with their lives without the fear
of being exploded on the bus or in the marketplace,” Ben-Hur said.
“Israel understands that this creates human discomfort and difficulties,” Ben-Hur
said. “We had no other option.”
said the wall would be removed as soon as a peace plan was agreed upon and the
“terrorist infrastructure” in the Palestinian territories dismantled. Then, he
said, the Middle East could return to its ancient vocation as a “fountain of
peace and tolerance.”
* * *
also asked McCarrick about Iraq. Does he think setting mid-2004 as a target for
a U.S. pullout is a positive step?
I think so,” he said.
said from the very beginning that our troops are not policemen. When they’re
used as policemen, they’re going to suffer casualties and they’re going to
become frustrated. It’s not what they’re trained to do. The sooner we can pass
that responsibility over to the Iraqi people, we’ll make progress. That’s
basically what Ambassador Bremmer seems to be saying.”
asked McCarrick what his international contacts are telling him about how
American policy in Iraq is viewed overseas.
seems to me that we have not really explained as well as we need to why we’re
there,” McCarrick said. “There is frustration in Europe over why we continue to
want to be there. Of course, we don’t want to walk out and let the whole thing
collapse … Maybe now we’re looking more realistically at that.”
post-war situation seems to be ever more threatening and worrying to people,”
McCarrick said. “The sooner we can get the Iraqi people in charge of building a
new nation, a new economy, a new future, the better it will be.”
* * *
way to express the cultural gap between Rome and the Anglo-Saxon world might be
to say that Anglo-Saxons cook with a microwave, Rome a crockpot. That is to say,
Anglo-Saxons want immediate results, while Romans are more content to let things
tends to make meetings in Rome especially interesting for the Anglo-Saxon
conference on depression sponsored last week by the Pontifical Council for the
Health Care Pastoral offered a case in point. The Anglo-Saxon style is to move
from identification of a problem, to consideration of possible responses, to
consensus on a strategy, all in one setting. Anything else feels like wasting
time. The Roman approach is to talk one’s way around a problem, to consider it
from all angles, and then to go home and think about it. Eventually a response
will “mature.” Romans tend to smile at Anglo-Saxon impatience, and at the hubris
of demanding quick solutions to long-term challenges.
Anglo-Saxon evaluation of the Nov. 13-15 depression conference, therefore, might
focus on the fact that it produced no discernible “result.” From the Roman
perspective, on the other hand, that was never the point.
down towards the end of the conference with Dominican Sr. Donna Markham, special
assistant to the president at Georgetown University and the former director of
the Southdown Institute outside Toronto, a psychiatric center for priests and
nuns. Markham is a talented, energetic administrator — very much a “microwave”
type — yet savvy enough to appreciate the crockpot approach. She delivered an
insightful presentation about relations with the media.
Markham said that for her, the most important element of the conference was the
fact that it “opened a conversation” between the Holy See and the behavioral
sciences, such as psychology. This is especially important in a moment in which
some church leaders have reservations about whether secular psychology rests on
assumptions that may ultimately prove incompatible with Catholic theology and
Markham identified two additional questions that seemed to run through the
Granted that depression has been around since the dawn of time, is there a
greater problem today? Is it the case, as Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán
suggested, that post-modern culture is itself depressing?
can the church give hope to this culture? Where are the building blocks of
dialogue and communion?
Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai (Bombay), India, delivered the conference’s final
talk. Careful readers will have noted that he is on the list of “top 10” papal
paper was titled, “Towards a Pastoral Care of Christian Faith and Trust in
Life.” He emphasized use of the Bible, openness to the movements of the Holy
Spirit, and the sacraments as keys to a pastoral strategy for depressed persons.
offered examples of this pastoral care, which also help illustrate his attitude
towards the hot-button issues of abortion and homosexuality.
is an open secret that hidden and unforgiven sins easily lead a person to be
depressed,” Dias said. He told the story of a priest who was counseling a
depressed woman. The priest bluntly asked if she had had an abortion. After
initial anger, she said yes.
priest led her step by step to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Dias
said. “Then he helped her to accept the child she had rejected, to love it and
even to give it a name. At every step the lady became calmer and at the end was
all smiles at the thought of meeting her baby one day.”
Similarly, Dias said he knew a priest who had worked with three homosexual and
many years they had been trying to get rid of their inordinate attachments
through professional counseling and through the confessional, but in vain,” Dias
said. “Their problem was leading them not to death of the body, but more
seriously to that of the soul. You will be glad to learn that all three cases
were cured completely of their unnatural tendencies.”
urged greater effort in helping those who suffer from depression.
“Pastoral care for the depressed is a must today. It must enter every home,
parish, community, diocese and society at large,” he said.
* * *
Belgian bishops are in Rome this week for their ad limina visit, and one
of them brought a rather unusual subject to put on the table: the ordination of
women to the diaconate.
2002, the International Theological Commission, the body that advises the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, examined the question of women
deacons. While it did not reach a definitive conclusion, it seemed to lean
heavily against the possibility. First, it held that deaconesses in the ancient
Church “cannot be compared to the sacramental diaconate” today, since there is
no clarity about the rite of institution that was used or what functions they
exercised. Second, it said, “the unity of the sacrament of orders” is “strongly
imprinted by ecclesiastical tradition, the teaching of the Second Vatican
Council and the post-conciliar magisterium,” despite differences between the
episcopacy and priesthood, and the diaconate.
result built on a September 2001 notice from three Vatican offices rejecting
lay-led programs ostensibly preparing women for future admission to the
diaconate. “The church does not forsee such ordination,” the notice said.
Despite that, however, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium, is carrying
the issue to Rome.
Vangheluwe has long been concerned with women’s issues. In his diocesan
newspaper Ministrando in October 2002, Vangheluwe appealed to priests and
faithful of his diocese “to include more women in the administration, the
organization and the basic movements inside the Church.” He asked parishes and
church institutions to hold an “internal audit,” and offered a questionnaire. He
noted that while Pope John Paul II has ruled out women priests, that leaves open
the possibility of women deacons. He asked for comments to be sent to him.
the beginning of March 2003, Vangheluwe said he got 500 responses from
individuals and groups, and even from other dioceses. Some 86 percent were in
favor of the diaconate for women.
Vangheluwe vowed to relay this sentiment during his meetings this week. I sat
down with him at the Belgian College on Nov. 20 to talk about why he supports
First, Vangheluwe said, is the pastoral desire to incorporate women more fully
into the life of the church. Second is a theological need to focus the diaconate
more on service.
the Last Supper, Jesus said ‘do this in memory of me’ twice,” Vangheluwe said.
“The first was with the bread and wine, which became the sacrament of the
Eucharist. The second was with the washing of the feet. We have forgotten
somewhat about the second.”
his diocese, Vangheluwe said, he has 80 deacons, who function as “little
priests,” absorbed in liturgical roles. He would like to emphasize the service
dimension, and said there’s no reason a woman can’t play that role.
fact, Vangheluwe said he would favor a separation between the priesthood and the
diaconate, so that in the ordinary course of things priests would not first be
ordained deacons. Thus the distinction between the sacramental and service roles
would be clear. The bishop would be both priest and deacon.
Vangheluwe, who was a pastor and seminary professor in Brugge before becoming
bishop 19 years ago, said some Vatican officials with whom he’s spoken this week
have been cool to his proposal, but others have encouraged him, telling him,
“you have to go on.”
not a rebel,” Vangheluwe said. “The pope has said no to women priests, and I
agree. But for the moment [the diaconate] is a free question in the church, and
all I am saying is that I want more study on this question.”
Vangheluwe said the International Theological Commission document is “not the
bishops, we have to say what we think,” Vangheluwe said.
Vangheluwe is not the only bishop to have raised the issue. In 1994, for
example, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan said that the moment had arrived
for “serious consideration” of the question of whether women could be admitted
to the diaconate.
* * *
Reflecting what he called the Catholic church’s duty to defend the world’s 175
million migrants and 40 million refugees, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has called
upon Pope John Paul II to issue an encyclical letter on the subject.
spoke at a Nov. 17-22 Rome conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for
the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees.
proposal for an encyclical won support from participants at the conference,
including the head of the migration committee for the German bishops, and
Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, a member of the pontifical council. The Vatican
official in charge of migrant and refugee issues also signaled cautious backing.
must never be accused of being silent when refugees seek a place of haven,”
McCarrick told the crowd of 300 people representing over 100 nations gathered
for six days at Rome’s Augustinianum, just off St. Peter’s Square.
we not hope that this might be a moment to ask our Holy Father to give the
church and the nations an encyclical on refugees and migrants,” McCarrick said,
“so that the clarity and strength of his teaching might give light and challenge
to the world at what is surely a critical time?”
Auxiliary Bishop Josef Voss of Münster, Germany, head of the German bishops’
committee on migration, seconded the idea.
encyclical would give us a new impulse to address the phenomenon of migration in
terms of both pastoral care and political advocacy, and on a universal level,”
Voss told NCR Nov. 19.
likewise endorsed McCarrick’s proposal.
think they’re ahead of the curve in the Vatican on these issues,” Maida said.
“In the U.S. we have our own experience, but it’s localized. Here they’ve got a
global view. I think the Holy See could offer some very significant guidance in
this area, given the wealth of experience they have to draw upon.”
NCR went to press, the Australian bishops’ conference was also set to
consider recommending the drafting of an encyclical on migrants and refugees.
Japanese Cardinal Stephen Hamao, president of the Pontifical Council for the
Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, told NCR Nov. 18 he too supports
“On migrants and refugees,
the Holy Father has written many messages and apostolic letters for pastoral
care, but he never wrote about the larger issues in an encyclical,” Hamao said.
“We of the council, not all of us but many of us, want to have an encyclical in
told NCR that his office is currently working on a revised edition of a
1969 Vatican document, Pastoralis Migratorum Cura, which set out basic
guidelines for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees. The work should be
finished next year, Hamao said, and that could be the occasion for formally
requesting that the pope begin work on an encyclical.
Privately, several conference participants said that it is an “open question”
whether John Paul’s declining health renders such a project unrealistic,
although several noted that the pope issued an encyclical letter on the
Eucharist just last April. In any event, participants said, work begun in the
current papacy could always be carried over into a new one.
* * *
of the most powerful figures in the Vatican aren’t on the payroll. They are
consultors, outside experts called upon to offer opinions of particular
theologians, issues or ecclesiastical situations. A trusted consultor can
sometimes carry more weight than a room full of bishops.
Jesuit Fr. Karl Josef Becker of Rome’s Gregorian University, a consultor for the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since Sept. 15, 1977, offers a
Becker enjoys the respect and trust of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the
doctrinal congregation. More than one theologian in trouble has been advised to
“go see Fr. Becker.” It is widely believed, for example, that Becker was
involved in the Vatican’s investigation of fellow Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis and
his work on religious pluralism.
Becker gave a rare public address on Nov. 14, when a book of essays in honor of
his 75th birthday was presented at the Gregorian. The volume’s title
is To Think with the Church, and Becker’s fidelity to that idea could be
gauged from the fact that Ratzinger gave a talk, and sitting in the front row
was Ratzinger’s chief deputy, Archbishop Angelo Amato.
his remarks, Becker praised Ratzinger’s office.
wish that in the Catholic church many people could see the climate we have in
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Christian and human together,”
Becker then laid out six challenges facing theology.
First, Catholic theology must pick up on the great themes of the Second Vatican
Council (1962-65), including the relationship between pope and council, between
the priesthood and the laity, between the universal church and the particular
churches, as well as the grades of authority enjoyed by various church
Second, theology must reflect on the universality and exclusivity of revelation,
and on the descent of the Holy Spirit. Becker offered this formula on
revelation: “Everything God wanted to say to the world, he said through Jesus
Third, theology must develop as a multidisciplinary science, drawing upon
exegesis, patristics, history and philosophy. Becker said careful attention must
be paid to “theology of the religions.” In many cases, he said, “it does not
follow the method of our Catholic theology, but is based on the study of the
religions and a very emotional esteem for them.”
Fourth, Becker said, theology must move from being multidisciplinary to being
interdisciplinary. At the same time, Becker said, the autonomy of theology must
is the unity of Catholic theology. Just as the Catholic faith has one center,
which is the incarnation, death and resurrection of the son of God, Becker said,
so there must be one theology to explain this to the world.
Sixth, Becker said, is the problem of academic theology. Its development must be
based on the exigencies of theology, he said, not those of the structures
Ratzinger thanked Becker for his “indefatigable and precious work.” He also
praised his service as a teacher.
“Students need a teacher who has the courage of the truth without shadows,
without wrinkles, without that constant doubt and uncertainty that is contrary
to the Catholic faith,” Ratzinger said.
Finally, Ratzinger summarized his view of a theologian’s mission.
is never a navigator detached from the community of the Church, almost
indifferent to the beating of the heart of the entire ecclesial organism,”
Ratzinger said. “If it’s true that a church without theology is impoverished,
without a church dissolves into arbitrariness. Theology is truly a
science when, in the development of its subjects, the church is not something
extraneous, but rather the foundation of its existence, the condition of its
never had the chance to reconsider Cardinal Thomas Winning of Glasgow, Scotland,
as a possible papal candidate, because he died on June 17, 2001. I met him only
briefly, during the October 1999 Synod on Europe. He struck me as plain-spoken
and accessible, unusually so for a prince of the church. For example, one day I
left him a note saying I would like to interview him; later that afternoon, he
actually popped by my hotel. Sadly I was out, and missed the chance.
however, there is an excellent biography of Winning that fills in the gaps. The
book is This Turbulent Priest: The Life of Cardinal Winning, written by
Stephen McGinty, a journalist for The Scotsman newspaper. McGinty, whose
work I know to be first-rate, covered Winning and interviewed him for the
biography before the cardinal’s unexpected death. It’s a compelling
This Turbulent Priest
can be ordered on-line at
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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