Video: An American Pope?

Color me skeptical, but not from a lack of good candidates among the American cardinals that will travel to Rome. CBS News interviews Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo in Rome, who tells audiences that the possibilities are “wide open,” and that the extended advance notice of papal transition will give the voting cardinals an opportunity to get to know the potential candidates better — presumably an especially good sign for non-Europeans:


Initial speculation for an American candidate first centered on Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. More attention has fallen to Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a well-regarded reformer and widely admired for his simplicity.  John Allen profiles the attention being directed to O’Malley:

While the U.S. media has focused on Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as the most plausible, if still remote, American prospect, another name has generated a surprising degree of buzz in the Italian press: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, partly on the strength of his profile as a reformer on the church’s sexual abuse scandals, and partly because of his Capuchin simplicity as a perceived antidote to the Vatican’s reputation for intrigue and power games. …

I can confirm the O’Malley buzz from personal experience. Right now, it’s tough for an American journalist to walk into the Vatican Press Office without fielding questions from colleagues about him. …

O’Malley’s simplicity isn’t just a matter of wearing his brown habit, or insisting on being called “Cardinal Sean.” By reputation he’s not given to building empires or playing political games, and on the back of the Vatileaks mess, ongoing questions about the Vatican Bank, and other perceived Vatican imbroglios, that profile could strike some cardinals as just what the doctor ordered.

Despite his overall image as a moderate, O’Malley is by-the-book when it comes to matters of Catholic orthodoxy and is especially committed to the pro-life cause, making him attractive to cardinals concerned that the church hold the line on its positions in the culture wars.

O’Malley is also passionate about the “New Evangelization,” expressed not only in his use of Twitter and blogs, but in his general approach to the role of a bishop.


Allen astutely covers some of the potential “question marks” about O’Malley, including his lack of Vatican experience.  Given the organizational issues facing the Vatican, an outsider might be a good idea.  However, I’m still less than convinced that American candidates will be seen in a favorable light when the Church is growing so strong in regions like South America and Africa.

That might be especially true if Cardinal Roger Mahony shows up to vote, too.  The Vatican isn’t pleased to have to deal with the fallout of his arrival:

A senior Vatican official called Cardinal Roger Mahony‘s participation in the selection of the next pope “troubling,” but said there was no formal procedure to stop the retired Los Angeles archbishop from attending the conclave next month.

The remarks by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis added to a growing murmur about the propriety of Mahony’s decision to attend the conclave. Mahony recently was rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, for his handling of sexual abuse cases, although Gomez also has expressed support for Mahony’s role in the papal conclave. But several Vatican officials have appeared to raise questions about it,  without actually saying that Mahony should not take part.

As a cardinal younger than 80, Mahony is entitled to vote for the man who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who recently announced his retirement.


“Entitled to” doesn’t mean “should,” and a number of Catholics in the US want Mahony to stay home.  Let’s just say that this could be a buzzkill for O’Malley.

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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 15, 2024