April 06, 2005

American pope an unlikely fit

Journal Gazette

By Alan Cooperman and Daniel Williams
Washington Post

VATICAN CITY – American cardinals come to Rome representing an enthusiastic home church, one widely admired for its spirit and for its generosity in giving to Catholic causes.

But even before the 11 U.S. cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel to take part in electing a new pope, they know he will not be an American.

“You have to ask what’s best for the mission of the universal church. It may well be at this time it’s not best that there be an American pope,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. “We’ve done some good things and some not-so-good things – and good or bad, we’re resented by a lot of people and we’re suspect in a lot of quarters.” ...

Few issues in recent years have generated as many misunderstandings and recriminations as the scandal over child sex abuse by U.S. priests. Vatican officials at first suggested that the scandal was overblown, and some still think that the U.S. bishops overreacted to public pressure in 2002 by instituting a “one strike, you’re out” policy toward child sexual abusers in the priesthood.

“The pedophile scandal suggested to the Vatican that the American bishops were not capable of leading their church,” said Alberto Melloni, a historian of the Catholic church.

American cardinals contend that the sex abuse scandal, the priest shortage, rising divorce rates and declining church attendance are problems afflicting all developed countries. But they also accept some criticism for their own performance.

Rather than arguing that the Vatican bureaucracy has exerted too much control over local affairs, “you could argue that there wasn’t enough control, enough oversight,” said George, the archbishop of Chicago.

Posted by kshaw at April 6, 2005 08:41 AM