Coffee House

A New York pontiff? Why I’m betting on Cardinal Timothy Dolan to be the new pope

11 February 2013

It’s got to be an African, hasn’t it? That’s what editors, including my esteemed boss, are saying across the country in response to Pope Benedict’s shock resignation. And Fraser’s right: a black conservative figure would make sense. It would perfectly represent the face of Catholicism in a globalised world.

But there are good reasons to think that, far from being someone from the evangelically charged developing nations, the next Pontiff might be an American. Under Benedict, the power of America in the Holy See has increased dramatically. Vatican insiders even talk about the ‘American moment’ in Rome. Or as John Allen, the world’s best Vatican correspondent put it recently, ‘even if the Vatican remains an Italian village, these days it feels increasingly like one nestled on the Upper East Side of New York’.


One of Benedict’s first major appointments was to install an American, Cardinal William Levada, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He resigned last year, to be replaced by a German, but US influence in the Vatican continued to grow. Cardinal Raymond Burke, from Wisconsin, heads the Vatican’s highest court. And Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, a New York native, was recently given the key position of vice president of the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission. Moreover, an ex-Fox news presenter, Greg Burke, is now the Church’s head of communications.

With Americans in key curial positions, the red-hatted US contingent will have a strong influence over the next Conclave. The suddenness of Pope Benedict’s announcement does not give the cardinals from the developing world much time to form a consensus around an emerging star. Whereas the Americans, in Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and a close ally of the Pope Benedict, have a widely respected and popular figure who could comfortably win enough votes. A New York Pope might not be the global story people are hoping for. Nonetheless, it would be quite something.

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  • StevenDedalus

    Dolan? You mean the guy under investigation for his role in shielding priest pedophiles while he was archbishop of Milwaukee? The one who harbored so many pervert priests that the archdiocese actually had to declare bankruptcy to pay off all the victims? That guy next pope? God help the Catholics…stick a fork in Rome, it’s done.

  • Neil Ashley

    Oh dear! Not another extension of US hegemony. If so the Holy Spirit must have a sense of humour that is very,very dry.

  • Josh G.

    If Dolan was elected pope, would he lose his U.S. citizenship? Can you be a U.S. citizen and head of state of a foreign country at the same time?

  • Tano

    No way that they would elect a highly partisan cardinal from a super-power. And no, it won’t be an African either. If they want to branch out from Europe, the logical choice would be to choose a Latin American – someone who has all the “developing world” credibility, but also the “safety” of coming from a 500 year old tradition. Furthermore, the ideal candidate would have some real “social justice” credibility while also having a reputation as a solid conservative. My darkhorse candidate that matches all those criteria is Norberto Rivera Carrera – archbishop of Mexico.

  • timothy canezaro

    Cardinal Dolan would definately be a youthful infusion. I can see it and would be proud if an American got chosen. Many blessings to Pope Benedict.

    • Grrr8

      If only we could get HM to follow HH’s leadership 😉

  • HooksLaw

    A wag on UK Polling Report suggest the new pontiff should be selected by a Saturday Evening Early Prime Time talent contest. Called Pope Idol.
    It did of course generate lots of ideas, my favourite selection was ‘I’m a Cardinal – Get Me Out Of Here’

  • Barbara Stevens

    I think it will be an Italian Pope, it’s long over due. I’m C of E and our new Archbishop is very welcome, and will make a far better impact than the out going one. I wish him well although was veryb disappointed with his leadership over the years.

    • Grrr8

      Why is an Italian pope long overdue? No slots for the darkies eh? And your grouse against Rowan?

  • 2trueblue

    My money is still on the Brazilian.

  • CraigStrachan

    “an ex-Fox news presenter, Greg Burke, is now the Church’s head of communication”

    Says a lot when the Vatican feels it needs to clothe itself in the credibility of Fox News.

    • David Lindsay

      The reaction of the right-wing media to the impending abdication of this Pope is as sickening as was their reaction to the death of the last one. They have obviously never read a word of his, any more than of his predecessor’s, condemnations of their inhuman economic system and of its wicked wars.

      Like Blessed John Paul the Great, the then Cardinal Ratzinger unreservedly condemned the war in Iraq. Iran has had an arrangement in place for several years whereby the Vatican would mediate in any dispute with the United States should that matter ever really come to a head.

      Benedict XVI is, as John Paul II was, a great admirer of Pius XII, under whom the Holy See had quite warm relations with the State of Israel, which was not at that time imposing military law on the Catholics of the West Bank, nor occupying that part of the viable Palestinian State created on both sides of the Jordan at the end of the British Mandate, nor bombarding the Catholics of Lebanon.

      Well, we cannot have any of that, can we? So the Pope’s moral authority had to be destroyed by absolutely any means whatever. Lest, having been right on Iraq, he might have prevented a war against Iran, and possibly even bringing about the reunification of Palestine on both sides of the Jordan while securing the sovereignty and integrity of Lebanon.

      All that, and he did not agree that the world had too many proles and darkies in it. Nor that femaleness itself was a medicable condition requiring powerful chemical or surgical intervention. Nor that the preborn child was simultaneously insentient and a part of the mother’s body. He might even have dared to ask whether it is the whole of a woman’s body that is insentient, or only the parts most directly connected with reproduction?

      We could not be having any of that. Could we?

      • CraigStrachan

        “So the Pope’s moral authority had to be destroyed by absolutely any means whatever”

        You’re not suggesting that the global abuse scandals, and Ratzinger’s negligent (at the least) response to them, are those means? I mean, could pre-teen boys really mount such a conspiracy?

        • David Lindsay

          It was a matter of how it was reported. And by whom.

          Plus the totally false claim that he had been in the Hitler Youth.

          • CraigStrachan

            The Boston Globe, you mean? Who should have reported it?

            And I don’t think even Ratzinger himself denies he was in the Hitler Youth.

            • David Lindsay

              His Maths teacher sent him to get the Hitler Youth form, and then just kept it on file for him. “Thus was I able to escape it.” In other words, he was never in it. Have you got that? He was never in it.

              • CraigStrachan

                That story, if true, reflects well on the teacher and not at all on the pope.

                • David Lindsay

                  He was a child at the time.

                • CraigStrachan

                  So were the countless victims of priestly abuse, who he has let down so very badly.

                • David Lindsay

                  You’ll have to do better than that.

                • CraigStrachan

                  I hope his successor will do better. Justice demands it.

                  But Ratzinger had better study the case of General Pinochet, and be wary which jurisdictions he may find himself subject to in retirement.

                • David Lindsay

                  Bring it on. They probably won’t. But I wish they would. He’d be fully exonerated. And then, what would you say?

                • CraigStrachan

                  I’d say the law had run its course and he had been exonerated.

                  But, before I say that, the law must run its course.

  • alexsandr

    Why all the fuss today about men in dresses and imaginary friends, while the big story, of contaminated food goes unremarked? And there are calls for us to break EU law and protect our food by banning meat imports, quite justifyable IMHO

    • Austin Barry

      The appointment of the next capo di tutti capi of a global paedophile conspiracy surely trumps the horsemeat scandal – at least until they discover that rat meat, an acceptable food in many cultures of India and South East Asia, has also been substituted for beef in our commercially produced pies.

      Last year the BBC reported that, ” shocking quantities” of “potentially unsafe” rat meat are being sold illegally in London marketplaces. How soon before such bush meat makes an appearance in our food products?

      Maybe it’s already there?

      • telemachus

        Get out there and campaign for the peoples Pope

        “Cardinal Maradiaga is generally considered to be on the church’s moderate-to-progressive wing. He speaks out strongly on social issues.

        In 1999, he joined rock star Bono, from U2, to present a petition to a G8 summit with 17 million signatures demanding debt relief for the world’s poorest nations.

        In his words, poverty and social injustice are the real weapons of mass destruction of the 21st Century.”

        • LEngland

          Why does every old pop singer have to be called a ‘Star’ ? Hewson has already given himself a silly dogmeat name, in any case

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It’d be difficult to imagine a US pope right now.

    If you understand the Catholic church in the US, the seminary crop from about 1970 through 1995 or so was significantly of a “no heterosexuals need apply” construct. Some seminaries were basically gay bathhouses in fact, requiring full church intervention to clean up.

    I’m sure the Vatican’s spies would smoke out anything “Thornbirdish” in any candidate, but the voters may just let this entire generation of Americans die off without considering them for the top job. When that Boston cardinal was drummed out in shame over the pedophile coverup, it likely ended the chances for any US pope for perhaps a 1/2 century.

    Bishops in the US have been on a cost management and pedophile management task, for the past 30 years. For sure, they’ve sent plenty of good folk to Rome, sifted out of that working group, but it’d be difficult to imagine they’d send up a pope from it.

    Yes, it would shake the money tree, no doubt, particularly a Dolan type. But on the other hand, some nanny pope going home to run his mouth would be the surest way to alienate the tremendous pool of soft adherents in the US. Many of the people who are serious about their religion have already abandoned the Catholics and gone over to other churches, and while a strident approach may lure some of those to stay, it might alienate the once a month crowd.

    Strategically and tactically, then, it wouldn’t likely make sense to pick from North America. Picking somebody from a growth region might offer more advantage.

    • Rebecca Leigh Randolph

      while I don’t think that Cardinal Dolan will become the next Pope, your assessment of the American Catholic Church is absolutely ridiculous and you have no clue whatsoever what you’re talking about!!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Well that’s me told proper then. 😉

      • HooksLaw

        Par for the course. I think talking about gay bathhouses one minute and ‘thornbirdish’ active hetrosexuals next seems to indicate some level of confusion.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …and you know you’re telling proper when all the right people are agreeing with you. 😉

      • John Lynn Gullickson

        I agree. I can see it now: that photo with a cheese wedge on Dolan’s head during Mass spread all across the media world wide. I think the cardinals are too smart to let that happen. While it would be nice (novel) to have a non-European be pope, the bottom line I think is that the Italians want the papacy back, and they have the pull and weight of the votes.

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