The conclave has begun. Any day now there will be a new Pope.
There’s been vigorous speculation about who it might be. According to numerous media reports in Canada, Cardinal Marc Ouellet is in the running. And he has a chance, because front runners can sometimes take each other out, so to speak. Here’s how the Toronto Star framed it:
Ouellet is often described as a possible compromise candidate, if the two cardinals widely speculated as the current front-runners — Italy’s Angelo Scola and Brazil’s Odilo Pedro Scherer — remain deadlocked.
Going by this Wikipedia profile, Ouellet comes with some solid credentials:
He is the present prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and concurrently president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on 30 June 2010. Previously, he was archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada. He was elevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul II, on 21 October 2003. Ouellet is considered a contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned on 28 February 2013.
Bookies actually put odds on the Pope race (and why not, for those who bet on anything?). Ouellet is no longer among the top favorites, but looks well-positioned as a compromise candidate.
Treating this selection process as a horse race or political contest is offensive to any who see the conclave as a sincere attempt to discern and do God’s will. But any organization that involves power and money will attract political motives and strategic maneuvering.
So what is Ouellet like? Here’s 13 Things You Didn’t Know about the Canadian Cardinal from the HuffingtonPost.ca
According to media accounts, Ouellet is not hugely popular in his home province of Quebec, largely because he’s seen as a hard-liner in a culture that threw off the yoke of stern religiosity and doesn’t want it back. Here’s how Kyl Chhatwal put it:
One thing is certain however: if Ouellet is elected pope he’ll become a sort of symbol for Quebec to rest of the world.
And many in la belle province may find that prospect a little … well, frustrating.
“He’s portrayed sometimes as very rigid and stern and serious. But once you know him on a personal level you see he is very sensitive and very attentive to the needs of people.”
The Montreal Gazette has this compilation of quotes from Ouellet on hot-button issues. According to this Globe and Mail article, a group that advocates for victims of sex abuse thinks Ouellet would be a bad choice:
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is among the “Dirty Dozen” of cardinals who should not be considered for pope, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
SNAP, the largest U.S. advocacy group representing abuse victims, said the dozen would be “the worst choices in terms of protecting kids, healing victims and exposing corruption.”
As readers know, Brian Mann has done extensive coverage of the Catholic Church and the challenges it faces. Hearing about this post Mann commented that there’s a certain irony in Ouellet being a viable candidate, considering his career connection to the social collapse of Catholicism in Quebec. Mann wonders if that experience might give Ouellet “interesting tools for thinking about the conflict with modernism in the rest of the West.”
I am quoting Brian by way of including a great link he shared, that discusses just this, as stated by Benedict XVI:
“Nations that once were rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture.”
It can be guessed that, among these nations that once were exuberantly Christian but are no longer so, Pope Joseph Ratzinger is thinking of Canada, and more precisely of Québec.
An intriguing aspect, is it not? One of the many, major challenges the church faces is how to remain relevant in Europe and North America.
Interviewed by CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Ouellet called for allowing women more power in the Church, but stated his opposition to female priests. Segments of the exclusive interview are presented here.
It’s impossible to know who the next pope will be. But on the odd chance it’s Ouellet, this post is meant as a small primer on the man and his views.