A Black Pope?

3rd Annual Boston Catholic Men's Conference

Charles Pierce considers some of the papal frontrunners:

There is a lot of early buzz now about the possibility that the next pope may come from Africa. (Peter Cardinal Turkson of Ghana is said to be one of the more prominent early-line papabileHe is rather of a piece with the rest of the bishops and cardinals appointed by John Paul II, god help us all. The hierarchy plainly hopes that the event of a black pope will distract the world’s attention from his waffling on the use of condoms as regards the spread of AIDS, and a very strange episode involving the screening of an anti-Muslim film.) This becomes even more intriguing when you realize that investigators have long suspected that the scandal was particularly egregious among missionary clergy far from the media spotlight — in Africa, say, or the remote islands of the south Pacific.

My own view is that any attempt to distract from the child-rape epidemic by focusing on Africa could easily backfire. There’s plenty of orthodoxy in Africa – but also plenty of clerical sexual misbehavior, greater levels of deference, and almost certainly the same types of scenarios in which priests can and do abuse their power. De facto marriage and even polygamy among priests is not unknown. The sex abuse crisis was and is global in scale and scope. No region is immune – because the authoritarian, institutional structure is what enables and perpetuates it.

But that, of course, is not to say that a developing world Cardinal could not be an inspiring choice – just that it is not a panacea; and the church’s deepest crisis is in the West, which also subsidizes a great deal of the rest. The church cannot recruit its way back to health; it has to repent first, then renew.

(Photo: Cardinal Peter Turkson, left, of Ghana and Cardinal Sean O’Malley listen to introductions at the 3rd annual Boston Catholic Men’s Conference at Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston, Saturday, March 17, 2007. By Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)