The Independent Newsweekly
|The Word From Rome|
|March 5, 2004||
Vol. 3, No. 28
"I think you first of all have to look around for an Italian who could do the job."
|The first major choice facing the cardinals in the next conclave could boil down to this: An Italian or a Latin American?
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Speaking with members of the College of Cardinals, there seem two grand hypotheses these days for the next papal election: an Italian and a candidate from the Third World. The first holds that, all things being equal, the next pope should be one of the 21 Italian cardinals under 80; the other that that the next pope should emerge from among the 45 cardinals under 80 from the developing world (including 24 Latin Americans).
An incident in Rome last week illustrates part of the logic for the Italian hypothesis.
John Paul II met in the Vatican with a delegation from a few of the Roman parishes he has not yet visited during his more than 25 years as Bishop of Rome. One of the pastors jokingly complained that the pope speaks all manner of foreign languages when he travels abroad, yet his own flock in Rome had never heard him speak in their local dialect of Romanesco. John Paul promptly fired off a few phrases in Romanesco, including damose da fa (“let’s get down to business”) and semo Romani “we’re Romans”), before acknowledging that he has never really learned to speak the local tongue.
“Does that mean I’m not a good bishop of Rome?” he asked.
The question was meant in good humor, especially since it was pronounced by the Polish pope in flawless Italian, but it illustrates part of the pastoral logic that still leads many cardinals to think of an Italian when it comes time to choose a pope. The successor of Peter is, first of all, shepherd of the Christians in Rome, and hence, as one cardinal put it to me recently, “I think you first of all have to look around for an Italian who could do the job.”
The other argument in favor of the Italian hypothesis has to do with what some see as the central weakness of the Wojtyla pontificate. While this has been a magnificent pontificate ad extra, so this argument runs — the encyclicals, the trips, the diplomacy, the outreach to other Christians and other religions — it has not been as successful ad intra. Internal governance of the church, some cardinals believe, has suffered. Wojtyla has largely left the curia to run itself, they argue, with all the problems of bureaucratic thinking and business-as-usual such a policy creates. (Some point to the American sex abuse crisis as a case in point).
Conservatives say this neglect has allowed forms of rot such as doctrinal dissent and personal immorality to go unchallenged. Liberals complain that it has led to micro-management and pastoral inflexibility. Either way, both factions believe the next pope should be more attentive to issues inside his own house.
This emphasis on governance leads some cardinals by a short route to the Italian hypothesis, since the Italians are assumed to have a natural genius for running the church. (“It’s not called the Roman Catholic church for nothing,” as more than one cardinal has ruefully observed).
The main competitor to the Italian theory is the Third World hypothesis, which holds that the next pope should come from the developing world, for at least three reasons. First, the center of energy in global Christianity is increasingly in the South, and the election of a pope from the developing world would thus be a forward-looking gesture. Second, Christianity in the developing world is facing serious competition; in Latin America it comes primarily from Protestant evangelicals, in Africa and Asia from Islam. A pope from the South would hence be a “shot in the arm.”
Finally, just as the election of a pope from behind the Iron Curtain challenged the geo-political status quo of 1978, so the election of a pope from the developing world would be a dramatic challenge to the injustices of globalization. If the crucified Christ of 1978 could be found in the catacombs of Eastern Europe, today he’s in the refugee camps and vast urban slums of the global south.
The most probable version of the Third World hypothesis seems a Latin American, because there are more credible Latin American candidates than Africans or Asians. A Latin American pope’s passion is unlikely to be internal ecclesiastical governance so much as the broader global push for social justice.
Hence the first major choice facing the cardinals in the next conclave could boil down to this: an Italian or a Latin American? Implied in that contrast, for many cardinals, is an option for focus ad intra (the Italian) or ad extra (the Latin American).
Under either scenario, the bias is against a North American or a Northern European. Electing a pope, however, is a bit like buying a house; one starts with a dream, but it always comes down to what’s on the market. From what I hear, I don’t believe a North American or Northern European candidate who brings other qualities the cardinals are looking for — someone like Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, for example, or Godfried Danneels of Belgium — will be excluded because of nationality. It simply means their candidacies will rise or fall on their own merits, as opposed to getting a boost from geography.
* * *
For the moment, let’s play out the Italian hypothesis. Herewith a Top Five list of Italian candidates, in order of electability based on my conversations with cardinals.
Tettamanzi is moderate-to-conservative on theological issues. A moral theologian, he is rumored to have worked on John Paul’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae. He is close to the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. In 1998, on the group’s 70th anniversary, Tettamanzi published an article praising founder José Maria Escrivá de Balaguer as comparable to Sts. Benedict and Francis of Assisi in terms of launching new movements within the church.
In recent months, Tettamanzi has burnished his credentials with traditionalists by writing letters in support of indulgences and church teaching on the devil. At the same time, he added luster to his standing with social justice advocates by his performance during the G-8 Summit in Genoa in July 2001. He embraced much of the anti-globalization protest, delivering a rousing address at a meeting of thousands of young Catholics in which he insisted that “a single African child sick with AIDS counts more than the entire universe.” He rejected criticism from conservative Catholics who demanded that church members steer clear of the “People of Seattle.” Tettamanzi said that although Christians must reject violence, there is nevertheless much to applaud in the values upheld by the protestors.
Tettamanzi is perhaps the only papabile to have corporate sponsorship; in 2000, Microsoft put out his volume on bioethics on-line and on CD. One drawback is that Tettamanzi is not an especially gifted linguist and has not traveled a great deal outside Italy.
Earlier in his career, Antonelli served as bishop of Gubbio, the Italian region that includes Assisi, and then as archbishop of Perugia. The latter was the diocese from which the erudite Leo XIII was elected pope, and like Leo, Antonelli wrote a well-regarded series of pastoral letters in Perugia. He also served as secretary of the Italian bishops’ conference. He is regarded as a talented pastor who enjoys good relations with his people, though he has struggled in the Italian bishops’ conference and in relations with the Roman curia.
Antonelli is especially committed on issues of peace and justice. While he is orthodox on doctrinal issues, he is also moderate in application. He defended divorced Italian politicians, for example, saying the church’s interest with respect to public figures was more their policy stands than their personal behavior. Antonelli has described himself as a “son of the council,” and for much of his priestly and episcopal career has sought to live in community with other priests rather than in isolation. He has tried to favor shared decision-making and lay participation. He is a great fan of the arts, and taught art for several years in Italian public schools.
Prior to being named archbishop of Genoa, he served from 1995 to 2002 as the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, making him Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s right-hand man. Bertone was thus at the heart of some of the most delicate issues in the life of the Church for seven years, including the Vatican response to the American sex abuse crisis in 2002, and the Vatican’s unveiling of the “Third Secret of Fatima” in 2000. Bertone also coordinated the Vatican response to the soap opera in 2001 surrounding Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, and his on-again, off-again marriage to a Korean disciple of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Bertone is a canon lawyer by training, and played a key role in the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law. He also led the team that translated the code into Italian from Latin. Bertone is seen as a staunch conservative on doctrinal issues, and a man with a very positive and optimistic spirit. He’s also seen as someone with a firm administrative hand, hence he appeals to supporters of the “Italian hypothesis.” For those electors who otherwise would gravitate to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, his former deputy could be a very attractive alternative.
Scola is a genuine thinker, with an extensive record of publications on theological anthropology and ethics. He is fluent in several languages, including English, the result of his having studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Former rector of the Lateran University, Scola is considered conservative, a man with an open and curious mind. He is also seen as politically savvy and a very capable administrator.
Scola is not afraid of the press. During the most recent consistory in October 2003, he jokingly chided Cardinal Christoph Schonbörn of Vienna for ducking an interview request from CNN, saying, “We have to be available when people want us to talk to them.”
I had dinner recently with a well-known American prelate who bluntly predicted to a group around the table: “The next pope will be Angelo Scola.”
Asked in that CNN interview to identify the main challenge facing the church, Scola said the principal one was flagged by Pope Paul VI: the “fracture” between the church and contemporary culture. “It's very difficult to determine whether this is the fault of the world that has abandoned the church, or the church that does not know how to relate to the world,” Scola said.
On a personal level, Scola is gracious, polished and approachable. Venice produced three 20th century popes — Pius X, John XXIII, and John Paul I — so many eyes will be on Scola in the next conclave.
Giovanni Battista (Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, 69)
Re has not shrunk from the role of curial enforcer; when an Italian priest took part in a pro-gay rally in Rome in July 2000, Re phoned his bishop to demand disciplinary action. He also refused permission for Bishop M.P.M. Muskens of Holland to hold a diocesan synod, fearing that the liberal prelate might let things get out of hand. Yet Re is generally considered a moderate, and has given signals of support for decentralization. When Scotland’s late Cardinal Thomas Winning needed support in 2001 for an appeal against the Congregation for Worship and its attempts to take control away from bishops’ conferences on liturgical issues, he got a sympathetic ear from Re.
He is a legendary hard worker, often returning calls from his office late on Sunday nights, and has an encyclopedic grasp of the inner workings of the Vatican. Diplomatic officials liked working with Re at the Secretariat of State; “When he said yes, it stuck,” one told me in 2000. Re is personal and approachable in a way few curial figures are, especially at his altitude. He has a quick smile and is good at small talk at embassy receptions.
Many observers have long felt, however, that Re’s lack of pastoral experience may disqualify him as a potential pope, perhaps making it more likely that his destiny is to be Secretary of State.
* * *
Now let’s take a look at the Top Five candidates from the developing world.
1. Arinze, Francis
Would he still be papabile without this headline-making factor? Maybe.
Perhaps the biggest strike against him is that he has spent the last 20 years in Rome working in the Curia, first as the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, now as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Hence to the outside world he may be an African, but to many cardinals he’s a Roman.
Arinze is a charming figure, with a broad smile and an acute sense of humor. He is seen as deeply spiritual, sincere, honest, and a man capable of listening to others despite his own strong views. His theological positions range from moderate to conservative, and, in the blunt speech that Africans prize, he pulls few punches. In May 2003, for example, Arinze delivered the commencement address at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His strong language shocked and offended some listeners: “In many parts of the world, the family is under siege,” Arinze said. “It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.”
Critics say Arinze is neither a visionary nor an especially original thinker. Those who know him, however, say he does have his own ideas, but they are sometimes eclipsed by his loyalty to the current pope. Arinze engineered the beatification of Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, a Nigerian Cistercian monk who died in 1964 and in 1998 became the first West African candidate for sainthood to reach the penultimate step. It was Tansi who baptized Arinze and encouraged him to become a priest.
Bergoglio, Jorge Mario
Bergoglio drew high marks when he replaced Cardinal Edward Egan of New York during the October 2001 Synod of Bishops as general relator. On the other hand, Bergoglio is a Jesuit, which creates certain reservations. Jesuits are not supposed to receive ecclesiastical honors, and there is some resistance within the community to the idea of a Jesuit pope.
Within the Jesuits, Bergoglio’s reputation is mixed. He was appointed provincial in Buenos Aires in 1973, which means that he enjoyed the respect of his brothers. On the other hand, Jesuit sources in Rome say he was a divisive leader. At a time when many Latin American Jesuits were moving into the social apostolate, he insisted on a more traditional, spiritual approach, demanding that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving into “base communities” and political activism. Eventually he stepped down as superior in 1980.
Bergoglio is today close to the Comunione e Liberazione movement. Twice he has presented Spanish editions of the books of the movement’s founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani, at Argentina’s major annual book fair. If he were to be elected, certainly Bergoglio’s simplicity and humility could strike the world. In Argentina, for example, he takes public transportation rather than a chauffer-driven limousine.
Dias is thus a cosmopolitan, speaking at least a little of 16 languages, and he knows global politics as few cardinals do. He is also a rare theological conservative among the Indian bishops, known for a more moderate stance.
At an October 2000 press conference sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ, Dias dismissed the theology of religious pluralism associated with India, which regards other religions as part of God’s plan for humanity, as largely a concoction of avant garde theologians rather than something accepted by average Mass-going Indian Catholics. (Some Indians question how well positioned Dias is to make such a judgment, noting that he has spent most of his career outside the country).
Dias is also strong on moral questions. In a November 2003 Vatican address, he praised a priest who counseled women who had abortions to give their unborn children a names so they could anticipate “meeting their baby one day” in heaven. He also referred to homosexuality as a disease of the soul, and said he prayed for such people to be “cured of their unnatural tendencies.” Dias thus blends fidelity to the church’s doctrinal tradition with the appeal of coming from an Asian culture.
Like Arns, Hummes was born in southern Brazil from German parents. As a young bishop, he had a reputation as a progressive, opposing Brazil’s military regime and backing workers strikes. Hummes also allowed famous Brazilian leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, now the country’s president, to make political speeches during Masses.
Under John Paul II, Hummes moved somewhat to the right, adopting a more traditional theological stance and distancing himself from political action. In July 2000, when a Brazilian priest suggested that condoms could be justified to fight AIDS, Hummes threatened disciplinary action.
Hummes is well-respected in Rome, and was invited to preach the 2002 Lenten Retreat for the papal household. Yet he defends the Movimento dos Sem Terra (landless movement), arguing that people should be encouraged to organize themselves to defend their rights. He reminds government leaders that the church defends private property, but “with social responsibility.” Hummes thus could strike some electors as the right mix between doctrinal caution and social engagement.
Frei Betto, the famous Brazilian Dominican and liberation theologian, told NCR in 2002 that Hummes would be a “great pope.” His lone flaw, according to Betto: “He works too much.”
5. Rodriguez Maradiaga, Oscar Andrés
Rodriguez is ferocious on social justice issues. He was part of a small group that met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Cologne to hand over the Jubilee 2000 petition for debt relief. “Neo-liberal capitalism carries injustice and inequality in its genetic code,” he said in 1995. Some say his rhetoric, however, is not matched by a command of policy details. His theological training came in the post-Vatican II period.
He studied at the Alfonsian Academy in Rome where he took classes from the legendary liberal moral theologian Bernard Häring, whom Rodriguez calls an “idol.” He has a reputation for being unusually open on ecumenical questions for a Latin American bishop, many of whom have little experience in religiously pluralistic settings. Early in his episcopal career he took a positive view of other church groups working in his diocese.
Rodriguez has a warm smile and a ready sense of humor. On the other hand, some local observers say Rodriguez is better known on the embassy reception circuit than among the campesinos; one called him a “1930’s cardinal” in that regard.
He earned a degree of notoriety in the United States in 2002 by comparing media criticism of the Catholic church in light of the sex abuse scandals to persecutions under the Roman emperors Nero and Diocletian, as well as Hitler and Stalin. He later said in an interview with NCR that his intent was to draw attention to the suffering of peoples in the Third World, suggesting that the massive media attention to the scandals in the American press was disproportionate. While his comments angered some Americans, they may have helped reassure more conservative members of the College of Cardinals that Rodriguez Maradiaga can be relied upon to defend the church when it’s under assault.
* * *
There’s no guarantee that the next pope will be one of these 10 men. For one thing, John Paul’s health today seems basically stable, and it may be that someone like Arinze, who’s 71 today, will be considered too old by the time the election actually rolls around. Yet it seems a safe bet that these 10 papabili, or potential popes, will at least get serious attention when the time comes.
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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