Anybody who wants to dismiss the papal candidacy of New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan as wishful thinking by Americans should read this article by Sandro Magister, who is one of the most eminent and respected Vaticanisti in all of Italy:
Dolan as pope would . . . shake up that Church made up of bishops, priests, faithful who have never accepted the magisterium of Benedict XVI, his energetic return to the articles of the “Credo,” to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, to the sense of mystery in the liturgy. Dolan is, in doctrine, a dyed-in-the-wool Ratzingerian, and moreover with the gift of being a great communicator. But he is also this in his vision of man and of the world. And in the public role that the Church is called to carry out in society.
Magister says that Dolan appears to be a stronger candidate than Canada’s Marc Cardinal Ouellet, who is “of solid Ratzingerian background and rich with talents similar to those of Dolan and O’Malley, but even more uncertain and timid than this latter in executive decisions.” In the earliest stages of this conclave season, Ouellet has been viewed (including by me and Kathryn) as a frontrunner. Magister believes that “with the doors of the conclave closed, in the first scrutiny many votes could already fall upon Dolan, perhaps not the 47 of Ratzinger in the first vote of 2005, but still quite a few. What comes next is unknown.”
Equally interesting is Magister’s interpretation of the rise of interest in the candidacy of Odilo Cardinal Scherer of Brazil:
Magnates of the curia are closing ranks and counterattacking. They are not pushing forward one of their own, knowing that in this way the game would be lost from the start. They are sniffing the wind that blows in the college of cardinals and are themselves pointing far from Rome, across the Atlantic, not to the north but to the south of America.
They are looking to São Paulo, Brazil, where there is a cardinal born from German immigrants, Odilo Pedro Scherer, 64, who is well known in the curia, who was in Rome for years in the service of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re when he was prefect of the congregation for bishops, and who today is part of the cardinalate council of supervision over the IOR, the Vatican “bank,” reconfirmed a few days ago with Bertone as its president.
Scherer is the perfect candidate for this maneuver, completely Roman and curial. It doesn’t matter that he is not popular in Brazil, not even among the bishops, who when called to elect the president of their conference two years ago rejected him without appeal. Nor that he does not shine as archbishop of the great São Paulo, the economic capital of the country.
The important thing for the curial magnates is that he is docile and bland. The progressive halo that envelops his candidacy is of purely geographic derivation, but it too serves to ignite in some naïve cardinals the boast of electing the “first Latin American pope.”
There has been serious pushback against Scherer from Church conservatives. The traditionalist website Rorate Caeli has a post saying that Brazilian cardinals are openly campaigning for Scherer – behavior that is strongly discouraged by Church tradition – and colluding with the media to promote his candidacy.
PS. If an American is elected pope in 2013, it would be a delicious irony of history – because it would be, in some important measure, a consequence of the presidency of Barack Obama. In the Vatican of the past, the knock-down argument against an American pope was that it would be inconceivable to have a pope who hailed from a superpower, much less the sole hyperpower in a unipolar world. A key element of Obama’s presidency has been the effort to reduce the U.S. to a more modest global role. (This is not a controversial point. Obama’s backers hail him for it, and his detractors criticize him for it, but all are agreed that this is pretty much what he’s doing.) A reduction of the geopolitical importance of the United States makes the prospect of an American pope much less threatening to the Curia, to the Italians, and to cardinals from other countries.