Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope Dreams

Pope-related media hysteria has reached annoying levels in Croatia. Two major dailies, trying to make a quick buck on the phenomenon, have offered their own Pope-related books at discount prices – although the “discount” price in those particular case happens to be 25 % higher than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Others, like Globus weekly, gave pink rosary as a free gift to any reader – apparently unconcerned about what their Jewish, Muslim, Protestant or agnostic readers may think about it.

In the meantime, it could be noticed that there are somewhat less Pope-worshipping stories in Croatian media, but the generally hagiographic attitude towards the late Pope is being switched to the next one. Almost any relevant commentator in Croatia expects Karol Wojtyla’s successor to be force of positive change.

Even those belonging to Croatian liberal left have succumbed to this optimistic disease. Although few expect Catholic Church to wed gay couples, abolish celibacy, endorse contraception and abortion or have female bishops at the end of next pope’s pontificate, many believe that the next Pope will steer Church in that direction because Church, “like any other institution, must adapt to modernity”.

This isn’t surprising since most Croatian leftists, at least those belonging to “European” mainstream, always had soft spot for Pope. They were quite comfortable with criticising Church stances on many issues and Church policies while praising Pope at the same time. In that way they weren’t different from die-hard Communists in Stalin’s gulags, who had never dared to think that the infallible leader at the top could bear any responsibility for sufferings inflicted by his “corrupt” subordinates.

However, such optimistic appraisal of papal future is product of wishful thinking.

According to my understanding, it is all but certain that the next pope is going to be a conservative. And it is very likely that he is going to be more conservative than John Paul II.

The reasons for that are very simple. John Paul II was – and even his tireless worshippers admit it – a very conservative in most social issues. He made sure that those views are shared by those cardinals who are going to elect his successor.

And the conclave is going to have three options.

They could return to old ways and elect safe, predictable and utterly faceless Italian bureaucrat. This option might leave some hope for those expecting a liberal pope, because new pontiff might “grow in office”. But it is unlikely that the conclave will settle for that, because it would be perceived as a step backward for Church.

Another option could be described as adaptation to new realities, although not those referenced by those who wish for a liberal pope. In other words, Church is going to pay more attention to demographic trends that favour Third World, namely Latin America, over industrialised nations where the number of Catholics is dwindling in proportion with their acceptance of “modernity”. So, if the next pope comes from Latin America, he will undoubtedly

Third option, which could, in a way, express continuity with John Paul II, is the election of a pope from the regions where Catholicism borders other vital and blooming religions, namely Islam. So, Arinze looks like a very good candidate. Black pope from Nigeria would not only symbolise faithfulness to late Pope’s ecumenical policies, but it could also silence, at least temporarily, all those leftist and liberals from industrialised countries who are critical towards Church. It would take a least a few years before anyone dares to say any critical word about new Pope, despite that Pope being more conservative and traditionalist than anyone dared to imagine.

In my humble opinion, third option – whether embodied in Arinze or someone like him – is most likely outcome of the conclave.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a black cardinal from Brazil?

10:54 AM  

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