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The Papal Succession

Like so many others around the globe, Christian and non-, I’m fascinated by the decision by the pope to step down. I had no idea such a thing was possible.

Who will be the next pope? 

At the moment, the odds favor Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana. Turkson, a TV star in western Africa, is warm, modest, and much beloved by his wide flock, but he’s hardly averse to controversy. Last year, at an international meeting of bishops, he screened an extremely direct YouTube film about the demographic threat Muslims pose to Christendom (“In 39 years, France will be an Islamic republic”).

After Turkson, the next most likely contender for the papacy appears to be French Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Ouellet is notable for his urging that the Catholic Church address the crisis of relativism:

In the last decades, a profound crisis is shaking the foundations of European culture. A new raison d’etat imposes its law and tries to relegate the Christian roots of Europe to a secondary plane.

It would seem that, in the name of secularism, the Bible must be relativized, to be dissolved in a religious pluralism and disappear as a normative cultural reference.

[However,] the crisis has also penetrated the interior of the Church, given that a certain rationalist exegesis has seized the Bible to dissect the different stages and forms of its human composition, eliminating the prodigies and miracles, multiplying the theories and, not infrequently, sowing confusion among the faithful.

Ouellet attributes this confusion substantially to the Second Vatican Council. “After the council,” Ouellet said, “the sense of mission was replaced by the idea of dialogue. That we should dialogue with other faiths and not attempt to bring them the Gospels, to convert. Since then, relativism has been developing more broadly.” This principle — less talking, more converting — is no less direct in its way than that of Turkson to the problem of the diminution of Christendom relative to Islam. 

These two crises intersect, of course. It will be most interesting to see what priorities the Cardinals will choose to highlight with their selection, and the extent to which internal Vatican politics will (or will not) influence the ultimate decision.

[The photo, by Alessandro di Meo of the Ansa photo agency, is of a lightning bolt that allegedly struck the Dome of St. Peter on the day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.]

  1. James Stack

    Thanks Judith for the research on these two cardinals. As a recent returnee to Catholicism, I pay much more attention to the reasons for the drift of the church, the lowered membership, its secular tendencies.  I fully agree with the Canadian cardinal. The church has spent the last 40+ years making sure other religions like us rather than communicating and standing bravely behind the church’s teachings. Statues have been stripped from churches, Gregorian and traditional music replaced with insipid modern music, and worst of all, bishops and priests have minimized or outright denied core Catholic teachings on sacraments and basic Catholic traditions from Jesus’ day to now. 

    It’s similar to what happened in the ruling class GOP. As it gets watered down, members have no reason not to go Lutheran or abandon faith all together.  A strong, clear affirmation of basic Catholic teaching must be job one. The church is not in the business of recruiting. It is in business of teaching. 

  2. Dudley

    I am praying Cardinal Peter of Ghana is chosen by God to serve as the next Pope. I think he would be magnificent.

  3. Indaba

    It’s a Canadian, didn’t you know…we have the Bank of England….just kidding. Tbe Ghana Cardinal has been mentioned by many.

  4. Scott Wilmot

    Hi Judith, I write this from Jakarta – it is neat to have you online during this time period.

    If I had a vote it would be for Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia. But Turkson or Ouellet would be marvelous also.

    I am pleased you are interested in this story but what love to know what the general consensus is in Israel – do Jews, religious and/or secular see this as significant or newsworthy? What about dialogue between the Church and Judaism – what is Benedict’s legacy there?

  5. katievs

    Apologies if I seem to be quibbling here Judith, but I have doubts about this formulation:

    Ouellet attributes this confusion substantially to the Second Vatican Council. “After the council,” Ouellet said, “the sense of mission was replaced by the idea of dialogue.

    Faithful Catholics generally distinguish between the Council and the bogus, relativistic “spirit of Vatican II” that many invoked after the Council.

    I can’t imagine Cardinal Oullette not being a supporter of the Council.  Or, if he isn’t, I can’t imagine he’ll become Pope.

  6. Western Chauvinist

    At a class taught by my parish priest, he noted the intersection (in the image of the Cross) as one between doctrinaire teaching (vertical) and experiential faith (horizontal). As I listened to him teach that both elements are needed, I couldn’t help notice his criticisms were mostly reserved for the “conservatives” (those adhering to doctrine). 

    This is the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, imo. Catholics operating in “the spirit” of VCII believe they are “progressing” because their emphasis is on the horizontal (dialog and personal relationship). What they’ve become blind to is the fact, the fact, that generations of Catholics do not know the teachings of the Church. And that one simply cannot love what one doesn’t know.

    They’ve kicked the vertical out from under the crossbeam and generations of (particularly western) Catholics have rolled off the beam into oblivion.

    Pray God we get a conservative pope in the pattern of JPII and BXVI. Enough “progress,” already.

  7. KC Mulville

    A couple notes:

    As Catholics, we have a different relationship to the Pope than Americans have to the president. The pope’s authority doesn’t come from us. His authority isn’t based on our collective agreement with his decisions. For Catholics, the pope has the authority to tell us what think and believe. We are duty bound to (or try to) shape our beliefs according to the church’s teaching.

    Further, it’s entirely possible (in fact, probable) that the new pope won’t give two seconds of consideration to America – and we shouldn’t expect him to. No matter how important our church is to us, let’s face it, America just isn’t the center of the Catholic world.

    Finally, I tremble at the news media coverage we’re about to endure. If there’s anything the American media don’t understand, it’s the Catholic church. And yet, they will certainly claim to “inform” the country about what’s “really” going on.

    Mollie wrote a great piece yesterday about the early failures of the media … they’re just getting warmed up. Keep a scorecard.

  8. Rachel Lu

    Multiple times as head of the CDF, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger tried to tender his resignation, but his boss (that is, John Paul II) refused to accept it.

    Look at that picture above, which was from a storm that happened yesterday after the announcement. Do you think Pope Benedict’s boss has accepted his resignation?

  9. swatter

    One thing for sure- the new pope will be holy and beloved.

    As for Pope Benedict, he was named pope as a bridge to the next one. He was old and the cardinals knew he wouldn’t be able to do much.

    In my recollection, the cardinals couldn’t decide on their choice for a young cardinal to elevate to pope, so they settled on Benedict.

    Well, the time has come. Will the cardinals be able to coalesce around one cardinal to elevate or will they punt as they did with Benedict? That is the question.

    And that is not taking anything away from Pope Benedict.

    It is papal politics. You just can’t get away from it- neither the government or the home or the office, it is all around us.

  10. Pseudodionysius

    In my recollection, the cardinals couldn’t decide on their choice for a young cardinal to elevate to pope, so they settled on Benedict.

    Pope Benedict XVI was elected on the 4th ballot, and by a wide margin as reported at the time by John Allen. A young pope can mean a 30 or 40 year pontificate and it was clear that Cardinal Ratzinger’s helmsman ship of the CDF elevated him in terms of gravitas far above competing candidates.

  11. Donald Todd

    Rachel Lu: #8 Look at that picture above, which was from a storm that happened yesterday after the announcement. Do you think Pope Benedict’s boss has accepted his resignation?

    I think his Boss inspired B16′s resignation.  In this B16 is different from a lot of others who we watched go through their dotage, unable or unwilling to let go of the position.

    I do however pray that the next guy brings the same kind of love of God and of His Church to the position that we’ve become accustomed to.

    I have a lesser consideration:  Will the next guy be Peter?

  12. Susan in Seattle
    KC Mulville: A couple notes:

    Finally, I tremble at the news media coverage we’re about to endure. If there’s anything the American media don’t understand, it’s the Catholic church. And yet, they will certainly claim to “inform” the country about what’s “really” going on.

    Mollie wrote a great piece yesterday about the early failures of the media … they’re just getting warmed up. Keep a scorecard. · 4 hours ago

    Indeed.  This morning I heard a news host refer to this period of time as “the lame duck papacy.”  I found this breathtaking – and not in a good way.

  13. swatter

    Pseudo, I think you were agreeing with me. No question Pope Benedict was well-qualified and a good man.

    4th ballot does mean consensus after the first three ballots. I hope the next conclave deliberates as well.