Cardinals attend a meeting at the synod hall in the Vatican March 4. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Much has been said in the lead-up to the conclave about the
possibility of a new pope from the “emerging world”from South America, Africa,
or Asia. Even some
cardinals have said that it
may be time to take the historic step of electing a non-European Supreme
On his blog, Father John Zuhlsdorf raises
an interesting question about what such a move could mean with regard to
the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked parts of the Catholic world in recent
Remember how the newsies found a
thin story about something that happened in Munich when Pope Benedict was still
Cardinal Archbishop there? They beat him with that story for months.
They are still beating him with it.
I propose to
Their Eminences that it could be better to elect someone whose record on
clerical sexual abuse we know a lot about.
in this media age, the next Pope’s pontificate could be hobbled from the
countries, such as these USA, Ireland, Canada, a little bit in some European
countries, the press has been crawling all over diocesan bishops for years and
a great deal has been exposed to the light of day.
This has not
yet occurred in the “emerging” Churches, such as in The Philippines or Brazil.
In fact, has
it happened yet even in Italy?
cardinal from one of these places is elected, it will happen a lot faster
wherever they have served.
Do any of us
want to discover that the next Pope screwed up something about the abuse of
kids in his diocese?
In essence, the argument is that cardinals from North
America and some areas of Europe have had every aspect of their careers picked
apart and scrutinized by a media intent on uncovering every whiff of scandal, and
that this just hasn’t been the case for those prelates from so-called “emerging”
countries. Thus, the argument goes, there is a greater risk that a pope elected
from one of these areas would have a history of mismanaging abusive priests that
wouldn’t come to light until after the conclave, when a ready media will start
seriously looking into the past of the new pontiff.
Of course, the underlying assumption of this argument is
that the kind of clerical abuse that has been uncovered in the US, Canada,
Ireland, and parts of Western Europe is occurringor has occurredin all other
parts of the world, only without the intense media attention. Father Z seems
pretty confident that this is caseI don’t know that he is correct about that.
On a related note, yesterday Cardinal Francis
George of Chicago told
journalists in Rome
, “Whoever's elected pope…obviously has to accept
the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who
has ever abused a minor child, (who) therefore may not remain in public
ministry in the church.”