The College of Cardinals has selected a new pope. As of now, we don’t know who it is. Get your guesses in immediately and your comments in later. No rampant bigotry, please.
UPDATE: And the winner is: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who is of Italian ancestry, and who becomes the first Jesuit pope of all time. He will adopt the name Francis I.
Here’s Sam Jones on Bergoglio:
The archbishop of Buenos Aires is a Jesuit intellectual who travels by bus and has a practical approach to poverty: when he was appointed a cardinal, Bergoglio persuaded hundreds of Argentinians not to fly to Rome to celebrate with him but instead to give the money they would have spent on plane tickets to the poor. He was a fierce opponent of Argentina’s decision to legalise gay marriage in 2010, arguing children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother. He was created a cardinal by John Paul II on 21 February 2001.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Bergoglio, 76, has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests. The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope.
In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world’s Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly. Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.
UPDATE 2: I’m regarding myself somewhat in disbelief at being willing to comment on this at all, but: from the perspective of one who cares about the poor and hopes for some liberalization of church theology, at first blush this is probably just about the most welcome choice one could imagine and far better than one should have been able to expect.
Yes, people will jump immediately onto his being “a fierce opponent of Argentina’s decision to [legalize] gay marriage in 2010,” but that’s pretty much what you have to expect from a cardinal of any sort, let alone one with any hope of becoming Pope. Two things avout this strike me as especially significant:
(1) His position was not in response to something mild, like the mere existence of homosexuality, but in response to the strongest action that a country could take in this policy domain. In other words, he didn’t go out seeking the fight against a vulnerable enemy, like the rotters in Uganda who want to make homosexual activity a capital offense. He responded to a decisive victory for civil liberties and rights of gays and lesbians. That’s not good, in my book, but it’s not Rick Santorum-like. He’s entitled to his benighted opinion, and his opinion is not incompatible with coexistence with a “sinful” state.
(2) The argument he made against marriage equality was not, as one might have expected, that homosexuality was an abomination, “go read Leviticus,” etc., but that having parents of both genders is good for children. This explanation is notable for being (a) non-theological, (b) based on concern for the welfare of children, and (c) wrong — and, more and more, demonstrably wrong. You’re not going to find a Pope who’s going to have favored marriage equality. The next best thing is to find one who opposes on grounds that are scientifically debatable and that can be rebutted.
Some other points:
(1) The choice of an Argentine is, like it or not, a slap in the face at the extremely conservative insider from Brazil, Cardinal Scherer. Argentina and Brazil are very competitive. Now Latin America has the first non-European pope — and it’s from the smaller country with fewer Catholics.
(2) That he played any significant role in the liberalization of the Argentine clerical hierarchy, which was behind some awful practices during the “Dirty War,” is wonderful. That he’s apparently humble and pro-serving the poor just re-emphasizes that.
(3) The name “Francis”! No Pope has ever take the name of St. Francis of Assisi before now. I recall reading somewhere — I’ll go try to find the source — that this would be one of the hallmarks of a Pope who was truly devoted to serving the poor. He’s also the first-ever Jesuit, so this is also likely a nod towards the founder of that order, St. Francis Xavier, who among other things was a noted internationalist who established the Catholic Church in Goa, India.
(4) Apparently, he came in second in the voting when Cardinal Ratzinger was elevated to the papacy as Benedict XVI. Consider what this means: every single person who voted against Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005 voted for this man instead!
I’m not Catholic, though I’m married into a Catholic family and am still on great terms with my Catholic former in-laws, but to the extent I have the right to an opinion I’m very pleased with this choice. I welcome a Catholic Church that is devoted to ending poverty — as well as to ending the abuse of children. The world needs such leadership. I hope that he serves many years and appoints many like-minded Cardinals.