Angelo Scola, 71
Angelo Scola has been here before.
In 2005, the Italian cardinal, then the patriarch of Venice, one of the Roman Catholic Church’s more prolific pope-producing cities, appeared on many shortlists to succeed Pope John Paul II. The job, of course, went to Scola’s good friend, theological mentor and career patron, Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI. As the new pope began his reign, papal pundits determined that Scola, then 65, had perhaps been too young.
He no longer has that problem.
In the months, weeks and days leading up to the conclave that will choose the 266th pope, Scola, 71, has emerged as a front-runner. His Sunday Mass at his titular church in Rome drew a large crowd to see the son of a socialist Milan truck driver and a practicing Catholic housewife, who grew up in a small apartment in Malgrate, a little town near Lake Como, which he once swam across
in the middle of winter. (His younger brother became mayor but later died in a traffic accident.)
A conservative theologian, Scola once edited the magazine that offered a conservative interpretation on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and was co-founded by a young Ratzinger. He went on to run a major pontifical university and is unerringly orthodox and conservative on social issues. In 1997, for example, he told reporters that “the church does not have the power
to modify the practice, uninterrupted for 2,000 years, of calling only men” to the priesthood.
But Scola has also spearheaded dialogue efforts with the Muslim world and, since June 2011, has been the archbishop of Milan, the most prestigious and complicated diocese in Italy.
It is that strong pastoral experience, including a decade in Venice, that has attracted many cardinals looking to dislodge the stranglehold on power held by the cardinals in the Roman Curia, the bureaucracy that runs the Catholic Church. And who better to replace the Italian insiders than an Italian outsider?
But Scola’s candidacy, to the extent it can be called that, goes beyond political calibration. A polyglot fluent in French, English and Spanish, he is familiar with the modern media. For decades now, he has been a star in the church, an intellectual heavyweight with a perhaps obscure writing style but light pastoral touch.
His early connection to Ratzinger’s theological journal, Communio, was profound, as was his membership in the lay group, Communion and Liberation. It was through that group that he reportedly met and tutored Silvio Berlusconi, then a real estate magnate and later a scandal-tainted prime minister, on ethics in the 1970s, though it appeared not everything stuck. But as Scola has ascended the ranks of the church, the politically ambitious order’s orbit also expanded, and he recently distanced himself from the group after it became associated with Italian political scandals.
Theologically, Scola represents continuity with the popes of the last 34 years. Nationally, his elevation would resume the lineage of Italian popes, who ruled for more than 450 uninterrupted years before John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But Scola has said that is not important to him.
“Moreover, as the election of the last two popes clearly showed, there no longer exists the problem of the automatic choice of an Italian pope,” he told the magazine, Inside the Vatican, in 2011.
It may not be automatic, but Scola makes it an eminently plausible possibility.
Fleshy faced, with white hair and wire-framed glasses, Scola is an advocate for social justice and the poor and a critic of secularism and consumerism.
“The lifestyle of the West tends toward the obscene,” he once told the Italian newsweekly Panorama. He recently talked to students about faith by making comparisons to Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road.” (The church thinks in centuries.)
The Italian has spoken of the African, Asian and Latin American churches as “beacons of hope,” and he has used his Oasis program to advocate for greater inter-religious dialogue, especially with Islam, as well as to meet many Eastern cardinal electors. But in the 2011 interview with Inside the Vatican, he asserted: “An effective dialogue requires that I engage my faith in
a dynamic way. It implies an identity.”
Scola’s identity is now as the safe pick. He offers theological continuity with Benedict, but his pastoral experience and distance from Rome also make him attractive to the reformist, or outsider, wing that has been horrified by mismanagement in the Curia. Many Vatican officials believe that only an Italian, steeped in the ways of Italian politics, could navigate and reform the church government.
Christoph Schoenborn, 68
Pope Benedict XVI was the first German pope in 482 years. Could Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn become a Teutonic sequel?
Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna, is a longtime confidant of the man formerly known as Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger and now called
pope emeritus. Conclave-watchers are wondering whether Schoenborn could succeed his former teacher as the head of the Catholic
Schoenborn has drawn plaudits for his handling of child sexual abuse cases that deposed his predecessor. And on issues ranging
from divorce to tolerating gays within the church, he has proven a supple conciliator, expressing understanding for those
who stray while hewing closely to a conservative interpretation of doctrine.
But some question whether the reserved, 68-year-old theologian has the charisma and independence to break free from Benedict’s
shadow and lead the church in his own direction. Schoenborn “has been very active, and he made some pioneering decisions,”
said Hubert Feichtlbauer, an expert on the church in Austria. “But he ultimately lacks the clout to assert his authority vis-a-vis
those who don’t want to obey it.”
Schoenborn has tried to deflect speculation that he could be the pick. Even his 92-year-old mother told Austria’s Kleine Zeitung
newspaper that he “would be no match for the skullduggery in the Vatican,” adding, “there’s enough intrigue for him in Vienna.”
Still, some look to his handling of past crises and see a shepherd capable of steering a troubled church toward calmer waters.
Born in the waning months of World War II to an aristocratic family in what is now the Czech Republic, Schoenborn was ordained
as a priest when he was 25, following many of his family members into the church. He is said to speak seven languages.
Schoenborn edited the church’s catechism in the early 1990s and became archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after his predecessor,
Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, was accused of sexually molesting boys. Schoenborn remained silent on the scandal for three years,
but then came out forcefully against Groer, saying he believed the charges. That same year, Pope John Paul II made Schoenborn
“Culprits are often protected, because in church it was said we have to be able to forgive,” Schoenborn was quoted as saying
in 2010. “But this is misunderstood mercifulness.”
Last year, Schoenborn intervened in an Austrian church dispute in which a man living in a same-sex partnership was elected
to his parish council. The local parish priest said the man could not take office. Schoenborn overruled the priest, saying
that while church teachings condemn sexual relations outside the bounds of traditional marriage, Catholics shouldn’t turn
away those who seek to participate in spiritual life.
In the run-up to the conclave, Schoenborn tried to re-instill some of the sense of sacredness that the church’s swirling crises
– abuse scandals, the leaks of private documents and financial mismanagement at the Vatican bank – have stripped away. “We
are voting a head of a religious community,” he told journalists in Rome on Sunday, the Austrian Presse Agentur reported.
“Not the chairman of a bank.”
Luis Antonio Tagle, 55
If the College of Cardinals had a rock star, it would be Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 55, of the Philippines.
Enormously popular on Facebook, the youngest of the leading contenders to be pope is known for tooling around the streets of Manila on his bike, delivering charismatic, inspiring liturgies and welcoming the homeless to his dinner table. His relative youth perhaps diminishes his chances – such a long reign on the throne of St. Peter could push the next conclave back decades. But it has also made the baby-faced cardinal among the most out-of-the-box choices and a favorite among those who are pushing for change.
The election of Tagle would be unconventional in multiple ways. As the first Asian pope – and the first non-European in modern times – he would signal the shift of the Roman Catholic Church away from Europe and toward the developing world. He is also viewed as man of the people, delivering a strong anti-poverty message.
Widely known in the Philippines by his nickname “Chito,” Tagle is media savvy, regularly appearing on religious talk shows and becoming a YouTube sensation for his dulcet singing solos.
He hews closely to the teaching of the church, but has often used conciliatory language while doing so. He opposed, for instance, a push in the Philippines toward state-sponsored use of contraception, but he refrained from harsh, dogmatic statements and encouraged dialogue.
“He didn’t engage in [labels] like ‘a culture of lies and culture of death,’ ” said the Rev. Joseph Komonchak, professor emeritus of theology and religious studies at Catholic University in Washington. Tagle worked as Komonchak’s research assistant there in 1986 and later produced his doctoral thesis under his supervision on aspects of the Second Vatican Council.
“There was always room for conversation that could follow,” Komonchak said. “His tone is much more moderate in comparison to American bishops. His position on the doctrine isn’t different to Benedict, but his way of addressing these issues in the public realm differs.”
Tagle has openly addressed the crises battering the church, including his attendance last year at a symposium in Rome, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” that called for more openness and an end to the culture of shame that tended to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct.
A native of Manila and a banker’s son, Tagle initially planned a career in medicine before being recruited to religious vocation by a Jesuit friend. After earning his doctorate at Catholic University, he rose quickly in the church, becoming bishop in 2001 and archbishop of Manila a decade later. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed him into the College of Cardinals.
“I realize that the sufferings of people and the difficult questions they ask are an invitation to be first in solidarity with them, not to pretend we have all the solutions,” Tagle told Vatican Radio last year. He continued, “You may be saying the right things, but people will not listen if the manner by which you communicate reminds them of a triumphalistic, know-it-all institution.”
Malcolm Ranjith, 65
Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith is cut from the same theological cloth as Benedict XVI. A liberal on social justice issues,
he’s old-school when it comes to favoring the Latin Mass, has criticized secular trends in the Church, and in Sri Lanka required
Catholics to take communion on the tongue while kneeling rather than in the hands while standing.
The eldest of 14 children, Ranjith (or, fully, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don) said in a 2006 interview
that he was raised in a family of good Catholics, and that “the call to devote myself fully to the service of the Lord came
early and ripened when I was an altar boy, almost in a natural way.”
After earning his licentiate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1978, Ranjith returned to Sri Lanka to become an assistant
parish priest in poor fishing villages.
“They were very poor but they had great faith. And it was precisely through contact with those situations that I discovered
the need for the Church to get involved with social justice also,” Ranjith, 65, said in the interview.
He has bounced back and forth between Sri Lanka and Rome; when not working as a peace broker in his country’s civil strife,
he’s served as a Vatican official in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, among other posts. He was close to
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.
He was in Jakarta in 2004, serving as apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor, when the great Boxer Day tsunami struck
Sumatra. He made a difficult journey to the obliterated city of Banda Aceh: “It was a terrible spectacle: death and destruction
everywhere. We spent two days with missionaries, we slept where we could, without running water and without light.”
His wide travels have given him many contacts, even as his work in the Vatican makes him something of an insider.
“This guy’s got lots of brains. He’s also got pretty extensive experience in the Vatican,” said Peter Feldmeier, chair of
Catholic studies at the University of Toledo. “He’s a veteran enough of Rome, and has the personality to muscle through reforms.”
In the 2006 interview, Ranjith said, “There is still much to do, so that the churches fill again with new faithful who really
feel touched by the grace of the Lord during the sacred liturgies. In a secularized world, instead of seeking to raise hearts
toward the greatness of the Lord, the effort, rather, I believe, has been that of lowering the divine mysteries to a trivial
Marc Ouellet, 68
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is considered a strong contender to become history’s first North American pope, wrenching the
papacy from Europe for the first time in centuries and expanding a declining church’s horizons to a hemisphere that it sees
as its future frontier.
Ouellet, who once said the prospect of serving as pope “would be a nightmare,” has a reputation for holiness, fluency in
six languages and deep experience in the Church’s Roman government.
But the 68-year-old is also a pastor with global experience, having taught in Latin America and led for a decade the Archdiocese
of Quebec, a position that put him on the front lines of the struggle against secularism and in the eye of a child sexual
abuse storm that he once called “a source of great shame and enormous scandal” and an “authentic experience of death for the
An upholder of church orthodoxy, who enraged many Canadians by opposing abortion in the case of rape, (“There’s already a
victim. Should we be making another one?” he once asked) Ouellet followed in Benedict XVI’s theological footprints, but also
echoes his predecessor’s personality. An intellectual, bookish and quiet prelate, the Francophone Canadian speaks French,
English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German. But he does not provide the immediate infusion of charisma and magnetism
that many of the world’s Catholics have hoped.
Instead, it is Ouellet’s resume, including his nationality, that distinguishes him. He spent a decade in Colombia as a teacher
and professor, then in 2010 ascended to the top of the Congregation for Bishops, which makes recommendations to the pope for
the creation of new bishops and acts a liaison between the Vatican and Catholic dioceses in the world.
The position afforded Ouellet vast exposure to the electing cardinals, but also the challenges that are familiar to them.
Some critics have questioned whether his focus on secularism precluded more attention to the existential threats facing the
developing world, where persecution is a primary concern.
The high profile job also opened him up to criticism for not doing enough to impose accountability on bishops who hid the
sexual abuse that he himself called a “crime.”
Despite his reputation in the Vatican as a reformer on the issue of sex abuse, many Canadians considered him unacceptably
silent. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp last week, he said that he hoped the church’s response could be
a model for more secular parts of society.
“It is not a Catholic problem; it is a human problem,” he said. “Most of the abuse occurred in families in very general in
society, and my hope is what was done by the Catholic Church, which is not yet perfect, but could be also of example for others
And some have wondered whether his focus on the challenge of secularism was effective during his own pastoral tenure, as archbishop
of Quebec from 2002 to 2010. Gay marriage passed despite his opposition and the church underwent a rapid decline. Once considered
Canada’s most devout province, the ranks of faithful, including in his own family, thinned, and the secularism that he hoped
to stem surged unabated.
Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63
“God is Brazilian,” goes a well-known saying in the world’s largest Catholic country. Soon, the pope might be too.
Head of the diocese of Sao Paulo, South America’s largest, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, would be a pick at once novel
As the first New World pope, his selection would be a nod to the shift south of the global church, away from Europe and toward
Latin America and Africa.
Yet born to German parents in the cattle state of Rio Grande do Sul, he would also represent the continuity of European linage
at the head of the modern church — becoming the second ethnic German in a row to sit on the throne of St. Peter. He has been
gently critical of the Vatican’s handling of a series of scandals. But considered by observers to be a moderate conservative,
few see him as the kind of leader who would radically alter the path of the church.
“In a sense, he could strike many cardinals as a safe bridge between the church’s past and its future,” John Allen, a long
time Vatican watcher, wrote of Scherer in the National Catholic Reporter.
Scherer has chastized the Brazilian supreme court for a ruling last year allowing medical abortions of severely impaired fetuses,
has denounced same sex unions in his home country, and has said he sees little gain from changing church rules on clerical
Though now presiding over a diocese on the other side of the world, Scherer has spent significant time in Rome, studying there
as a seminarian and being posted in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops from 1994 to 2001. Since rising to the role of
archbishop in 2007, however, Scherer has also become viewed as an outspoken, dogged theologian willing to take calculated
He has butted heads with students and staff who opposed his choice to head the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo,
steadfastly standing by his decision in the face of strikes and protests. He has talked of the moral imperative of backing
environmental protection in Brazil’s rain forest. He has praised aspects of the controversial liberation theology movement
in Latin America, a neo-Marxist religious doctrine aimed at boosting the poor. But he has done so without presenting himself
as a radical.
In South America’s largest city, he is known for riding Sao Paulo’s subways and popping up on Brazil’s late night talk show
circuit. In 2009, he bantered with Jose Soares – the David Letterman of Brazil – over everything from premarital sex to contraception.
He laughed as his host, after asking if priests could donate blood (yes, they can), followed up by asking whether they could
also donate semen.
“He is a theologian and represents the views of the Vatican, but he’s also coming from a social reality where there is a marked
difference from what the church actually teaches,” Kenneth Serbin, a University of San Diego historian whose research has
focused on the Brazilian Catholic church. “Coming from this social and cultural situation is going to make him more sensitive
for the need for change on some of these issues.”
But, Serbin added, “he is going to be seen by many progressive Catholics in Brazil as someone that’s too conservative.”
He has also been described by some as anything but charismatic, but is viewed as an introspective and formidable theologian
— not wholly unlike Benedict XVI.
He is, however, more intimately familiar with the church’s challenges than most of his peers – if also accused of not doing
enough to combat them. And he hails from a nation of 192 million seen as a fast-rising global economic power alongside China,
India and Russia.
Brazil is also a microcosm of changing religious sensibilities. Over the past decade, the Roman Catholic Church there has
suffered a surge of conversions toward Pentecostal and evangelical faiths seen as both more permissive and pragmatic than
Catholicism. At the same time, Brazil saw a sharp rise in those who have abandoned organized religion all together.
In response, the Brazilian church has gone on the offensive – with priests like the Rev. Marcelo Rossi responding to the
challenge by staging massive, evangelical masses filled with music and lively celebration. According to the National Catholic
Reporter, Scherer responded to such attempts by saying: “Priests aren’t supposed to be showmen.”
Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 70
He’s from one of the poorest, smallest and most troubled countries in Latin America, but Cardinal scar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga
has so much star power and charisma that he’s often mentioned on short lists of candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
The archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Rodríguez Maradiaga would cut a striking contrast to the ailing, scholarly Benedict.
He is tall, with a youthful look that belies his age (70). He can play the saxophone, can fly an airplane and has taught college-level
chemistry and physics. He has campaigned for third-world debt relief alongside U2 rocker Bono.
At a time when the church is looking to consolidate its support in the developing world, scholars say the selection of Rodríguez
Maradiaga would send a clear sign about the Vatican’s future orientation – at least geographically – toward the global south.
His choice would electrify the faithful in Latin America, home to roughly 40 percent of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion
Rodríguez Maradiaga is the first-ever cardinal from Honduras and only the second prelate to reach that rank from Central America.
But he is a well-known figure at the Vatican and beyond, now serving his second term as president of Caritas Internationalis,
which directs Catholic charities and social service organizations around the world.
After arriving in Rome this month for the conclave, Rodríguez Maradiaga played down the significance of national or regional
factors for the cardinals considering whether to elect the first non-European pope in history.
“It doesn’t really matter so much whether he is European or not; it depends more on the huge challenges that the new pope
today has to face up to,” he said in an interview with Italy’s RAI television network. “More than the question of nationality,
we need to think who is the most appropriate person for responding to these challenges.”
As he rose through the church hierarchy over the years, Rodríguez Maradiaga developed a reputation as an untiring advocate
for the poor who has taken a dim view of what he has called “neoliberal capitalism,” saying it “carries injustice in its genetic
His country, Honduras, has the world’s highest murder rate, and its rampant corruption and lawlessness have made it a haven
for transnational drug traffickers in recent years. The cartels have repeatedly threatened Rodríguez Maradiaga’s life; the
window of his office was shattered by gunfire in 2010.
Said to be fluent in six languages, including English and Italian, Rodríguez Maradiaga has run into trouble with organizations
such as Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Defamation League because of his candor.
He drew ire with comments made a decade ago that likened media coverage of the church’s sex abuse scandals to the persecution
of Catholics in the Roman era and under Stalin and Hitler. His suggestion that Jewish interests were driving the coverage
in order to divert attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only made matters worse.
Still, Vatican observers see him as a plausible candidate because of his global profile, pastoral talent and proven abilities
as an administrator.
“Rodríguez Maradiaga seems ideally cut out for the part of ‘Missionary-in-Chief,’ ” Vatican chronicler John L. Allen Jr. wrote
in the National Catholic Reporter, describing him as “a charismatic polyglot with vast experience of playing on a big international
Peter Erdo, 60
His faith was forged under communism, as a Catholic enduring persecution in officially atheist Hungary. Now Cardinal Peter
Erdo is a contender to become the leader of global Catholicism, with memories of the Pope John Paul II, a fellow Eastern European,
The fast-rising Erdo was the youngest cardinal to participate in the 2005 conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Now, at
60, the canon lawyer is seen by many Vatican insiders as the top non-Italian, European papal candidate.
As the head of the Hungarian church since 2002, Erdo has labored to bring Catholics back to pews, exhorting the laity to pound
the pavement in a door-knocking campaign that has boosted Sunday Mass attendance but also wouldn’t look out of place in an
American election campaign. And he has forged close ties to the Orthodox Church – an important priority within the Catholic
hierarchy – and to Jewish leaders and African Catholics.
The African connection could be an important factor in a year in which the odds are better than ever that a non-European pope
could be elected. If the College of Cardinals decides to pick a European, Erdo could be considered a compromise choice, having
started a biannual European-African Catholic conference that alternates locations between Europe and Africa, where Catholicism
is growing fastest.
For a church that has at time struggled with its outreach efforts, Erdo has also pushed efforts online. His Sunday sermons
are loaded onto his Web site shortly after he delivers them. Though he doesn’t use Twitter, he has spoken of the importance
of direct communication to Catholics via social media – especially, he told bishops last year, since he believes traditional
news outlets distort religion.
Erdo is seen as a solid conservative on religious matters, which could be attractive to a conclave comprised exclusively of
cardinals appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both doctrinal conservatives.
He said last month that the most important qualities for a pope are not geographic origin but “what the candidate represents
in the life of the church,” Hungary’s MTI news agency reported.
Erdo was born in 1952 in Budapest, the first of six children. To punish his parents for practicing their faith, the communist
government barred his father, a lawyer, from the courtroom.
Erdo studied theology in Hungary, then at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He also spent a year at the University
of California, Berkeley. He ran Hungary’s main Catholic university between 1998 and 2003.
He has a reputation for being more contemplative than charismatic. But he also is known as an alliance-builder, having been
elected twice as president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, an influential oversight body on the continent.
“Erdo is seen as a capable administrator, someone tough enough to get things done,” John L. Allen Jr. wrote in the National
Catholic Reporter. But he is also “a broker of compromise and consensus, with the capacity to hold a highly disparate body
of European bishops together.”
Peter Turkson, 64
Peter Turkson, a leading candidate from Africa, is noted for his winning personality and candor, though that may have gotten
him in trouble in a recent interview in which he seemed a bit eager to become pope.
Theologically, he’s a traditionalist; he has said that the Church should convert people who have adopted “alternative lifestyles,
trends or gender issues.” On social justice and economic issues, however, his views are decidely left-of-center.
Peter Kodow Appiah Turkson was born in Western Ghana, the fourth of 10 children of his Catholic father and Methodist mother.
He studied at, among other places, the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and in 1992 Pope John Paul II appointed him
archbishop of Cape Coast in Ghana. He became Ghana’s first cardinal in 2003. In 2009, Benedict XVI picked Turkson to run a
synod of bishops on Africa, and soon thereafter Benedict brought him to Rome to serve as president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace.
There, he co-authored a 2011 statement, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context
of Global Political Authority,” which cited the rising inequality in the era of globalization. The document, long on economic
jargon, suggested that it might be time for a “central world bank” to regulate international trade and monetary exchanges.
“He’s following a real Gospel call to work for justice. And being from the global south, as well, being closer to some of
the extreme poverty, it gives him a vantage point that’s pretty important,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee
USA Network, an interfaith organization that advocates financial reform.
Turkson may have hurt himself in a recent interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph in which he was asked to discuss
the possibility that he could be elected pope. He seemed to embrace the idea: “It would certainly mean a lot if I had to be
a pope,” he said, and went on to discuss the demands of the job. To some listeners, this was too much like campaigning for
“He’s very unassuming. Very accessible. Truly a lovely human being,” said Sean Michael Winters, an author and writer for
the National Catholic Reporter. But the interview, he said, may have killed Turkson’s chances.
“The others look at it and say, ‘Bad form’. ‘Brutta figura’,” Winters said.
In the Telegraph interview, Turkson said the Church needs to address “the credibility of our own ministry and leadership.”
He continued: “The Church, if you adopt the imagery of a boat, is going through quite a bit of a storm and it does not appear
to be over yet.”
Turkson’s Vatican experience helps him, though the council for justice and peace is not considered a power position. He has
not been entangled in any of the recent scandals that have tarnished the Church. His ultimate asset may be the personal charm
that could boost the papacy in a difficult period.
“He’s got a guileless transparency about him that people find both charming and incredibly earnest, and I think authentically
so,” said Peter Feldmeier, chair of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo. “He’s got a ton of pluses. He’s got both
a Vatican background and represents this worldwide church. He’s not connected to any of the Vatican baggage.”
Sean P. O’Malley, 68
Facing the closure of dozens of parishes after an epic clergy sexual abuse scandal, Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley in 2004
wrote parishioners an emotional letter. “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job, but I keep
waking up in the morning to face another day of reconfiguration.”
This week O’Malley is part of a conclave to pick a new pope, and experts say some of his fellow cardinals consider him a front-runner.
It’s hard to predict how the sandal-wearing friar from Pennsylvania would manage the world’s largest faith community, with
1.2 billion members across the globe.
But it is O’Malley’s humble style that has made him a darling of the conclave run-up, with Vatican experts saying cardinals
are impressed by his reputation for improving multiple dioceses rocked by sex abuse – Boston; Fall River, Mass., and Palm
Beach, Fla. – and for advancing orthodox Catholic teachings through engagement rather than ultimatums.
Others look at Catholicism’s slide, particularly in the West and think O’Malley’s non-ideological manner could be misinterpreted
as relativism. They point to things like O’Malley’s decision to preside at the funeral of liberal stalwart and abortion rights
advocate Ted Kennedy.
In a long defense on his blog, O’Malley said the Catholic Church “will not change hearts by turning away from people in their
time of need.”
Generally being an American in the Italian-dominated Vatican is seen as a negative, but Pope Benedict’s decision to retire
and his words about Catholicism’s need for a new kind of evangelizer appear to have put cardinals in a more open-minded mood.
O’Malley, 68, began exploring becoming a priest before he was a teen-ager, at a boarding school for potential seminarians.
He later joined the Capuchin Order – an offshoot of the Franciscans – and took a vow of poverty. He did his PhD in Spanish
and Portuguese literature at Catholic University and became essentially the founding father of the Hispanic ministry in the
Washington archdiocese. He launched an outreach center in D.C. for immigrants and helped promote a Spanish-language newspaper
He later served as bishop in St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, before going to Florida and Massachusetts. He’s been the Boston
archbishop since 2003 and a cardinal since 2006.
David Castaldi, a founder of a group who worked in Boston after the sex abuse scandal to reform the church and support survivors,
praised O’Malley for coming to “ground zero” and quickly settling lawsuits and selling archdiocesan property – including the
ornate cardinal’s residence – in an effort to move forward. Castaldi worked with an archdiocesan financial oversight group
and also on a seminary board, both times with O’Malley and commended him for making financial documents public and orchestrating
a meeting between Benedict and survivors in 2008.
“I’ve known cardinals who like to be addressed as ‘your eminence,’ but ‘Cardinal Sean’ is how he asks to be called, which
avoids formality and restores the trust in leadership,” said Castaldi.
Some Catholics noted that in the archdiocese mass attendance is down and dozens of parishes have closed, and questioned how
the global church could be led by someone who would preside at a Kennedy funeral?
“Is this sort of failed and confused teaching what we can afford in the next Pontiff?” wrote the Boston Catholic Insider,
a conservative Boston blog.
Timothy Dolan, 63
When America’s Catholic bishops picked Timothy Dolan as their leader in 2010, church-watchers called it “an earthquake.”
The bishops had ditched their usual succession system to pick an outspoken, high-profile president, someone they felt could
put a positive, engaging face on the orthodoxy they all want to sell.
Less than three years later, the gregarious New York archbishop is the best-known Catholic clergyman in the United States.
He’s appeared on a stage with Catholic celebrity-comedian Stephen Colbert, on the television screen with Matt Lauer and at
both the Democratic and Republican political conventions in a feisty, divided election year.
Now, the 63-year-old St. Louis native is being mentioned as a contender to become the first American pope.
It has long been said that Catholicism’s College of Cardinals would never pick an American pontiff, for fear of alarming a
world already wary of America’s vast power. But in an era when the church is increasingly global, and when Benedict XVI’s
decision to step down could signal a new willingness to break with convention, some Vatican-watchers say an American pontiff
That Dolan’s name is being floated by all the major Vaticanisti, or journalists, demonstrates the desire is for an engaging
evangelizer, a skill Dolan possess in excess.
“In many ways, Dolan is a high-octane, populist American expression of what I’ve called the ‘affirmative orthodoxy’ of Benedict
XVI: no compromise on matters of Catholic identity, but a determination to express that identity in the most positive key
possible, keeping lines of conversation open with people outside the fold,” Vatican-watcher John Allen wrote when Dolan was
picked to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dolan is seen as possessing the best of this stereotypically American extroversion. John Carr, the recently retired social
justice point man for the bishops’ conference, calls the cardinal a “happy warrior,” and says he “seeks to engage and persuade,
not attack or condemn.” And he is a warrior, even if he’s kissing babies and making beer jokes along the way.
Under Dolan, the bishop’s conference launched its biggest political campaign in a generation, challenging the White House
over its health-care mandate requiring employers to provide contraception access. Catholic liberals were dismayed to see the
bishops focus on the issue despite the ongoing economic and jobs crisis.
Born in St. Louis on Feb. 6, 1950, the oldest of five children, Dolan entered seminary preparation when he was 14 and eventually
earned a Ph.D. in U.S. church history at Catholic University.
His career took him to the Vatican diplomatic mission in Washington before a stint in higher education, including as rector
of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, which many U.S. seminarians attend.
He worked for the diocese of St. Louis and then in Milwaukee, succeeding an archbishop who had discouraged priests from reporting
sexual abuse by their colleagues and had used diocesan funds to bribe a former male lover.
In 2009 he became spiritual leader of the New York archdiocese, one of the country’s largest.
Dolan was praised for uniting Milwaukee Catholics and staving off bankruptcy in the diocese there. Last month, however, in
the days after Benedict’s retirement, he was deposed in a Milwaukee case in which lawyers are trying to find out when he
learned of allegations against priests and when he made those allegations public.