21st Century Wire says…
As the old un-p.c. joke goes, in a typical exchange: “Yeah, right”, followed with, “And the Pope is Black”. Well, that bit of banter could be reversed very soon…
As the Vatican’s Papal Conclave reconvenes this Tuesday, speculation is rife about who the next Pontif will be. Will they actually select a ‘black’ Pope this time around? Already, the mainstream media is floating this very talking point in advance of the event, evidence by the Washington Post’s headline story this morning (see below).
What is clear, however, is that the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church are an institution in crisis, some might even say it’s in meltdown. Behind the scenes of Pope Benedict’s resignation – a move which is unprecedented in modern times, are volumes of accusations and legal cases currently in motion involving financial corruption and of course, massive paedophilia and child sexual abuse.
All of this is has forever damaged the credibility of the church and threatens to rip the cases of crimes against children wide open. To add insult to injury, Britain’s most prolific paedophile, Sir Jimmy Savile, was also given a Papal knighthood, Knight Commander of the Order of St.Gregory The Great, by Pope John Paul II. Critics have accused Josef Ratzinger, aka Pope-Benedict XVI, as being one man who helped to limit the damage by conspiring to cover up for fellow paedophiles in the church in order to avoid potentially billions in out-of-court compensation, and that his work in this area was rewarded with the Papal seat.
When the conclave meets on Tuesday to choose a new Pope, will the Vatican attempt to rebuild it’s public image by selecting a ‘black’, or ‘brown’ Pope? Received wisdom regarding the church’s global demographic, as well as an ‘ethnic’ selection’s benefits in terms of politically correct point scoring in today’s pop society – all point to the high probability that the church may in fact go the colour route to save it’s holy bacon.
There are front-runners in waiting already. Two African cardinals are rumored to be among the top candidates - Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana, and Cardinal Francis Arinze, 80, of Nigeria.
Presently, the fastest growing segment of Christianity on Earth is located in Africa and in the African diaspora in Europe and America. This explosion in ‘Universal’ churches could be better brought under Rome’s umbrella, in effect bolstering its Christian ranks, should the conclave selects a ‘black’ Pope before Easter. Indeed, Rome has been ruled by the white man for centuries, but such a move could be the Vatican’s version of a quasi-political rainbow coalition going forward…
Should either Turkson or Arinze get the nod, it would be the first selection of an ‘African’ Pope in over 1,500 years, as there were three popes from North Africa – technically Africa, during the first five centuries of the church.
A Latino Pope could also be a possibility, as the Vatican are also considered Leonardo Sandri from Argentina, Oscar Maradiaga from Honduras, Odilo Scherer from Brazil, and Joao Braz de Aviz from Brazil.
For those out there also hoping for openly gay and female priests and bishops – you might be waiting another century or two, but certainly a ‘person of colour’ donning the papal fish hat is definitely on the cards this spring.
Whoever the church eventually chooses, the world’s public and the thousands of victims of institutional paedophilia will still be demanding justice and in some cases compensation, as partial redress for the church’s shameful record in covering-up it’s almost unmeasurable crimes against children – a record which has also stained the Christian faith as a whole.
Until that time…
Has the time come for a pope of color?
When Catholicism’s cardinals meet in the Sistine Chapel to select a new pope, they will be surrounded by an explosion of divine artistic images in one of the most famous places on Earth to seek the face of God.
And pretty much all they will see when they look on the walls and ceilings are white faces — of Jesus, Mary, God, Adam, Eve, angels, prophets. That will also largely be true when they lower their eyes and look at one another.
Although most experts agree the odds are long, it’s hard to imagine a more transformative choice the cardinals could make than to select a nonwhite person to lead the world’s largest faith denomination, 1.2 billion strong. In the conclave that begins Tuesday, that would mean a person from the developing world, which is now home to two-thirds of all Catholics.
After centuries and centuries of white European popes, a developing-world pope could further alter the modern concept of Christianity, and by extension the modern concept and geopolitical tilt of power.
In conversations, comparisons to Barack Obama’s election as the United States’ first black president readily arise. But there is ostensibly a major difference: American presidents are picked by voters driven by pragmatic concerns, while popes — in Catholicism, God’s representatives on earth — are picked by cardinals led by the Holy Spirit.
The process, in other words, is supposed to be above earthly concerns such as race and ethnicity.
“That’s not how we do things,” bristled Mary L. Gautier, a sociologist and researcher with the church’s best-known U.S. data bank, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, when asked for historical demographics on race and ethnicity within the church. There is no central repository for the data, Gautier said, and race is a social construct, anyway.
“The church has always been and considered itself a global church,” bound by its common humanity, she said.
But the reality is that the majority of the 115 cardinals are white men from Europe, where the Catholic population is decreasing, at the same time it is growing rapidly among people of color in the developing world.
Between 1910 and 2010, the percentage of Europeans who identify as Catholic decreased from 65 percent of the global Catholic population to 24 percent, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center of data from the World Christian Database. Latin Americans climbed from 24 percent to 39 percent, and Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa went from less than 1 percent to 16 percent. Catholics from the Asia-Pacific region went from 5 percent to 12 percent of the world Catholic population, according to the Pew Research Center.