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We will need an astonishing, miraculous pope who can take the Church into a new era

The Church needs more than an ‘obvious’ candidate – we need an exceptional one

By on Wednesday, 13 March 2013

All eyes are focussed on the chimney  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

All eyes are focussed on the chimney (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

And so the tension builds. I am not sure how much more of this I can take. But I want to take a great deal more. Right now, my hope is that the Conclave lasts all week, indeed goes on into next week – which will be highly unusual, given that no modern conclave has lasted so long.

If it ends tonight, the chances are that the front-runner will have garnered the necessary votes through an unstoppable rise in his support, as reportedly happened to Cardinal Ratzinger the last time. Whoever this frontrunner is, and the commentators have fixed on Cardinal Scola for the role, he would represent the ‘obvious’ candidate. Again, that was true of Cardinal Ratzinger – he was the obvious candidate, indeed the only serious candidate, towering above all his colleagues.

But now, one senses, the whole discourse has changed. An obvious candidate will not do any more, because the challenges facing the Church are so various and different. The new Pope will have to be a man of strength, who will cleanse the Vatican of corruption, in the wake of the Vatileaks scandal. The new Pope will also have to be someone who will at long last help us all move on from the scandals of child abuse. The last eight years have seen the world and the Church stuck in a conversational rut on this matter. A new Pope needs to move the conversation on, not just for the sake of the Church, but for the sake of the world too. The current dialogue of the deaf is simply not good for anyone, and certainly not good for the cause of public reason.

The new Pope will not only have to be whiter than white on the issue of child abuse – and have no skeletons in his background – but he will also have to be the sort of person who will inaugurate a new era in the Church, and who will consign the era of Vatileaks, the era of the Vatican bank scandals, and the era of the child abuse scandal to history – without of course losing sight of the lessons we should learn from all three. That is going to take more than an “obvious” candidate. It is going to take an exceptional one.

When John Paul I stepped out onto the balcony, none of us had heard of him, and he soon changed the weather in the Church. So too did John Paul II, another unknown. Perhaps most of all, it was Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) who changed the atmosphere in the Church. Old, very fat, with a background in Papal diplomacy, Roncalli was not the sort of man you would immediately mark down as charismatic. But the Cardinals in conclave spotted him, just as they did Cardinals Luciani and Wojtyla. Three times in the twentieth century we witnessed a Papal miracle, an astonishing Pope. It can happen again. I am praying it will. But it may take time.

  • Mikethelionheart

    And if it does take over a week we can guarantee that the secular media will portray that as being proof of factionalism and crisis in the Church.

  • $27740841

    How about a Pope who reminds us that H*ll ( know where) exists and that people go there?

    This comment keeps going into Moderation.  Perhaps they don’t like the H word.  Nobody does, these days.

  • Angelus Patricius

    The Church needs a new JOHN – JOHN XXIV. – Pope of Misericordia :)))) patricio

  • Alban

    Yes, indeed!

  • The Recusant

    All we need is a Supreme Pontiff who will reign with authority and clarity, Lord knows we don’t need or want anymore “reforms”! The next Pope needs to reaffirm the Hermeneutic of Continuity and the Benedictine liturgical aesthetics for the Pauline Rite along with the timeless body of Tradition and leave the rest alone. The rules regarding the Extraordinary Form are sufficient, they need no tampering with now, and the dialogue with the SSPX should continue, but aside from that, all the Faithful require of the next pope is that he come down hard on clerical misconduct and lead with a firm hand.

  • Julian Lord

    There is no “obvious” candidate, unlike the elections of Popes John Paul I and Benedict XVI.

    And yes — JP I was “obvious”, albeit only to the cardinal electors but not to the general public at the time :-) (and certainly not to me — I wasn’t a Catholic nor even a Christian at the time)

    Pope Benedict XVI was *so* obvious that people were openly wondering in 2005 if he wouldn’t be elected in the first ballot IIRC …

  • The Catholic Herald

    We try only to delete comments that are libellous, derogatory (including tone), directed personally to another poster or that have swearwords. Also we often delete comments that are replies to deleted comments as they no longer make sense out of context. Using the word “hell” as a swearword might have got your comment deleted previously. I don’t remember deleting any such comment and if someone else at the Herald did, I can’t answer for them.

    In this case though, you are simply expressing a wish for the next Pope to remind the faithful of the dogma (as taught by Our Lord) that hell exists and that people go there. Nothing wrong with that.

    (On a personal note, I agree, although I think the problem is not so much the Pope as bishops and priests who shy away from this teaching, and congregations that refuse to hear it – Our Lady of Fatima: pray for us)

    (Editorial Assistant)

  • Lewispbuckingham

     “require of the pope’
    All we need is a person who is competent, able to do ordinary things well, like understanding those whom he works with and may meet, and is of virtue.It is time to take out the garbage and, to mix metaphors, to put the wheels back on the cart.

  • The Catholic Herald

    Further to my last comment, it looks like “hell” was on the list of words that will automatically send a comment into the ‘pending’ section on our moderating page, meaning that we have to approve it before the comment can be seen online. Your last two comments were in there. I’ve now deleted the word “hell” from that list, so you and other commenters should be able to have a discussion, as and when you wish, about this important part of catholic doctrine.

    Just keep it clean and try not to personally insult people!

    (Editorial Assistant)

  • Cestius

    I think the problems and challenges are being over-exaggerated here. Of course in the secular lamestream media everything is doom and disaster, and it’s sometimes easy to be taken in by that. But look at the basics and things are much better, the church is growing worldwide, even in Britain I get the feeling that it has turned the corner and I see new converts and stronger fellowship among believers.  We have had two wonderful previous Popes, John Paul II and Benedict who have both given the Church a new sense of direction and done much to put right what went wrong after Vatican II. Of course we still have some useless bishops and people in the priesthood who should not be in the priesthood and there is work still to do. But it’s important not to believe the lies and distortions of the mainstream media.

  • Justin

    Huh. How do you know +Scola won’t be exceptional?

    Ratzinger was the obvious candidate as you say, and Benedict XVI has been the most exceptional Pope of the post-concilliar era. His astonishing theological insights make the Blessed John Paul II’s writings and homilies look like those of an undergraduate (and he was no slouch in the intellectual department either).

  • Cestius

    Suspect they’ve already written the story, what really happens is of little concern to them.

  • $27740841

    Dear Frank,

    Thanks for that.  It occurred to me later that the H word automatically caused the post to be put into Moderation (twice), since it can so easily be used as a swearword in abusive comments.

    However, the new Pope could be an example to the ‘bishops and priests who shy away from this teaching’ – the teaching about H*ll that is, not to mention teachings about Satan and about Sin and about Judgement etc, which they also no longer preach. 

    How can the laity refuse to hear something they are not hearing, if you see what I mean?  And how can it be charitable, or rather ‘caring’ and ‘compassionate’, to deprive the Catholic faithful and the world of the teachings of the Catholic Faith?

  • Laurence

    “we still have some useless bishops and people in the priesthood who should not be in the priesthood”. Worth restating, as this is very true and well said. I would prefer were there 1 good man of the God rather than 100 lukewarm clerics.

    Regards the “astonishing and miraculous” of the title…no pressure then!

  • Chinogange

    cardinal luis antonio tagle seems to represent all
    the qualities you mentioned… He’s humble, humourpus, eloquent, appeals to the youth, most popular in facebook and media savvy, a rockstar quality in his evangelisation. Watching his talk at the eucharistic congress in quebec brought me to tears. being a cardinal only 3 months.. but already touted as papabile.

  • Danny324

    This is a foolish blog post. There are 2 factions that matter 1) Bertone and 2) anti-Bertone. The Bertone faction can blocak and any all candidates it doesn’t like. There are only 3 or 4 cardinals who could be Pope. The suggestion that the election is ‘wide-open’ or will produce anything ‘miraculous’ is foolish. Every one of the 115 are politicians – they certainly did not get to where they are by being holy and pious. Anyone who does not know that surely has never met a cardinal before.

  • David Porter

    I share your hope for the new Pope but am a bit more pessimistic about whether certain circles of catholics would chose to listen. 

    This wicked people, that will not hear my words, and that walk in the perverseness of their heart, and have gone after strange gods to serve them, and to adore them: and they shall be as this girdle which is fit for no use.
    Jeremiah 13:10

  • Benedict Carter

    The Church IS in crisis, has been for several decades; and there IS factionalism within not just the College of Cardinals. So the press would be right – but for the wrong reasons, as usual. 

  • $362439

    Well, indeed. There are only two possible supernatural motives, effective for salvation, for repenting of sin (the love motive): (1) because it offends God’s infinite goodness; and (2) because they deserve His eternal punishments (the fear motive).

  • Guest

    You are obviously referring to his great insight into the stable at bethlehem – that there wasn’t an ox and an ass.  That is a myth but the rest of the story is all true!

  • Benedict Carter

    Strange, the number of Cardinals in the past who were Saints. 

    Funny that, eh?

  • Benedict Carter

    He’s a liberal charismatic and has little chance, thanks be to God.

  • Benedict Carter

    We need a Pope St. Pius X, no less and no more. 

  • NYer

    I agree!
    Much too much emphasis is put on the supposed corruption revealed in “vatileaks”. Those who have actually examined the leaked documents see that what too many call “corruption” are really examples of careerism and ambition.This is nothing to be proud of, and needs to be addressed… but let’s put this in perspective. Comparison to actual examples of corruption, ie. sexual abuse or the Banco Ambrosiano scandal of 30 years ago, are irresponsible. 

    Meanwhile, Benedict XVI has done much to right the ship and move it in the right direction. Let’s pray that we can all conform ourselves to Christ and keep going forward.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Welcome Francis I

  • Alban

    Angelus Patricius, I believe our prayers may well have been answered.

  • James M

     “we still have some useless bishops”

    ## Who were chosen by JP2, mostly – IOW, by a Pope. Maybe this one will make a difference. If there are enough of the right people to be bishops. His opening words and acts, as far as they go, are encouraging. God help him !

  • Patrickhowes