US Catholic Faith in Real Life

On not calling cardinals "princes," and final pick for the papacy UPDATE

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Now that the cardinals--those under 80 at least--are under lock and key and bereft of cell phones and other electronic connections to the outside world, I have a proposal for all Catholics and journalist who cover them: Let's stop calling cardinals "princes of the church." I'm not sure how the whole thing got started, but it's unseemly to refer to any servant of the servants of God a "prince"--perhaps especially when they are still dressed like one straight out of Renaissance Venice. It's not good for them--note the repulsive and embarrassing report of NYC Cardinal Tim Dolan "borrowing" a billionaire's jet for the day to go to Rome and back in time for a fancy Manhattan dinner--and it's not good for the church. The sooner we get over the fiction that Jesus created the church in the Renaissance or the 13th century and ordered us all to keep it that way until he comes in glory the better off we all will be.

But I digress: Black smoke has now risen three times over the Sistine Chapel, and it's time for conclave watchers to show their cards (noting that one well-known gadfly on all things Roman has once again failed to do so). I've decided to rule out (sadly) Manila's Tagle as too young, the Curia's Ravasi as too curial, and Sao Paolo's Scherer as too German-speaking. Hungary's Erdo is probably too European and too Hungarian, and Ouellet is too Quebecois, so that leaves us with Sandri and Scola. If the world's bishops are as angry about the Curia as I think they are, they'll go with Scola over Sandri, who is an insider. (Note that I will not even dignify with comment the ridiculous possibilities of Dolan--too cartoonish--and O'Malley--too tainted by sex abuse, even as a reformer. They are both too American.)

I think it will be Scola--not an inspired choice, but one that will be able to take on the Curia, though probably not one that will make any major moves on reform, notably collegiality among the bishops, which is right now the only reform that matters and the key to righting the ship.

UPDATE: I've just been reminded of a possibility no one has mentioned: A candidate from the Catholic East, one who already has, for example, experience with married clergy. That choice would be different enough to create buzz, would be a non-European, possibly wouldn't have any sex abuse baggage. It's a long shot, of course--and I can't think of any names right now--but it would be an interesting choice.