Who is the papal candidate whose election would cause the most glee among conservative American Catholics? What new pope would approximate the dancing-in-the-aisles feeling they had on April 19, 2005, when Ratzinger strode onto the papal balcony? Surely it’s Raymond Cardinal Burke, the U.S.-born Vatican official. Talk to conservative Catholics, and you will find the quite prevalent view that Wow, Burke would be so terrific, but that can’t happen, it’s way too much to hope for. (Which is pretty much what they felt about Ratzinger eight years ago!) It has been conventional wisdom that Burke is not a serious papal contender, but blogger Taylor Marshall has written a thought-provoking post outlining ten reasons that Burke will be elected. Some of Marshall’s reasons are tongue-in-cheek (one of them mentions his penchant for elaborate liturgical vestments), but most of them are quite serious.
A couple of his reasons are serious but probably wrong. No. 1 mentions the fact that Burke is “a hardliner against pro-abortion Catholic politicians”; No. 6 notes that he will help “discipline dissenting Catholic politicians.” I frankly doubt that fighting the intra-U.S. culture war will be that high on the cardinals’ list of priorities, so I think these issues belong more in the category of “why we love Burke” than in the category of “why Burke will win.” But a number of Marshall’s points speak directly to the latter category. No. 3 notes that Burke is a fan of the Tridentine Rite, but also celebrates the Novus Ordo (in a “reverent” way); so he would represent, liturgically, a rational progression from the Ratzinger papacy. Marshall also describes Burke as not just theologically orthodox, but also “extremely Marian”; devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and particularly to popular forms of Marian piety, was an important element of John Paul II’s appeal. And Burke is a Vatican insider, which is especially important for a College of Cardinals that is explicitly seeking a new pope who can master the bureaucracy instead of being mastered by it. Cleaning up the mess in the Curia will take a tough guy; Burke would be a good bet to get that done.
Is a Burke election likely? No. But is it impossible? No. And in any case, the pre-season is the time for dreaming. In the 2013 season, the Mets remain undefeated . . .