Could the next Pope be…Canadian?!

Cardinal Marc Ouellet passing Swiss Guards in Vatican City yesterday. Photo: Michael Swan, CC some rights reserved

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.[2]

Ouellet is fluent in EnglishFrenchSpanishPortugueseItalian and German. He is known for his missionarywork in South America.[3]

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.

The BBC’s North American Editor Mark Mardell wrote a detailed column on what Ouellet might be like were he to become the next Pope. Mardell quotes Archbishop Gerald Lacroix on the man he succeeded: 

“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.

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20 Comments on “Could the next Pope be…Canadian?!”

  1. Much like France, Quebec is a classic example of a place where the church and state used to be in close conspiracy… I mean alliance. As is often the case in theocratic societies, when there is push back, it is complete. Quebec is now an almost aggressively secular society as a result of long-standing resentment of church-state cahoots. It would be supremely ironic if a Quebec cardinal were named Pope, but in another way, he would know intimately the church faces in countries like Canada and Europe that have become disillusioned with the anachronistic paternalism of organized religion.

  2. Mervel says:

    I have heard both sides to this thinking.

    There is no telling at this point, but if you listen to EWTN for example their analysis is that because he could not revive the Church in Canada his candidacy would not be that viable. So you would want someone who has been successful in leading a vibrant Church, which would be someone like the Brazilian or African. An interesting long shot is the Bishop of Hungary which still has a vibrant Catholic community.

  3. The Original Larry says:

    What qualifies as a “vibrant Catholic community”? Maybe one in which there is respect and participation for women, or one in which the hierarchy does not cover up pedophilia, or one in which financial activity is transparent and above-board? The new Pope had better be able to effectively deal with these issues or the Church will fall further and further away from its people.

  4. Mervel: actually the Catholic Church in Latin America and Africa has lost quite a bit of ground to evangelical groups.

  5. Paul says:

    Probably any day but in the past some conclaves have taken almost three years! Don’t think folks have that kind of patience today.

  6. I predict the next pope will be Argentinian. =)

  7. Mervel says:

    Brian NAILED it!

    OL don’t confuse Christian teachings with organizational and corruption problems in some part of the Church. The fact is the Catholic Church is relatively healthy at 1.2 billion, it is holding its own as far as membership goes, vocations are actually increasing, although indeed as Brian points out Evangelicals have certainly attracted converts in Latin America, which for me is fine, its better than just totally losing faith in Christ and becoming fully secular. Anyway this is good news today for the Church! I am glad it was not another European.

  8. Lucy Martin says:

    Well, that was quick! (Paul was right about we moderns not having the patience to wait years on this.)

    In Box readers, what are your reactions to the selection?

  9. Walker says:

    My reaction? I’m impressed that Wikipedia had a page on him by 4:14.

    I keep seeing comments like “He’s very much for the poor and lives a humble lifestyle.” So does this mean he’ll sell the Vatican gold and use the money for the poor?

  10. The Original Larry says:

    “OL don’t confuse Christian teachings with organizational and corruption problems in some part of the Church.”

    How can one take seriously anything that comes out of an organization whose hierarchy (up to and including the last Pope) covered up pedophilia and sheltered pedophiles from the law? Forget the issues with finances and women; that’s small potatoes compared to the rest.

  11. Lucy Martin says:

    Sorry to butt in again, but I am reminded of the old quip from G.K. Chesterton:

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

  12. Mervel says:

    Well 1.2 billion there is going to be some losers. But they are also the largest non-profit health care provider in the US and the largest provider of Charity to the poor, so there is some things that are positive. But there needs to be some changes I agree hopefully this guy will carry it forward. You could get rid of all of the Cardinals and all of the Pope’s and the Church would still stand. Ancient things don’t always move in a straight line or in the right direction.

    Anyway I am excited, certainly certainly but if you don’t like the Church don’t pay attention to them. Having a non-European will be great, it will really recognize the global nature of the church and I think those outside of Europe and particularly Italy are not so taken by all of the Vatican City foolishness and intrigue .

  13. mervel says:

    I know we Catholics have a horrible reputation. But you know there are good people in the Church, good leaders. This guy rode public transport, lives in an apartment, spent time in the slums and loves the poor in conditions much worse than ours in the US; Cardinal Law rode in a chartered jet and lived in a really nice place, many Evangelical mega church and televangalists live in mansions making millions and are not even ashamed of it; I believe he will keep his humility, at 76 you are not going to change that much.

  14. mervel says:

    Plus St. Francis will pray for him.

  15. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    St Francis, patron saint of animals and of the environment. Maybe this Pope will finally convince many more people to become vegetarian and to work on the problems of global warming, pollution, gluttonous use of natural resources…

  16. Pete Klein says:

    Time will tell. I don’t expect any change.
    I was happy to see the vote was not for anyone from the USA or Canada.
    What might be the most interesting fact about the new pope is that although he is from Argentina, he is not of Spanish decent. His parents moved from Italy to Argentina,

  17. “if you don’t like the Church don’t pay attention to them”

    I’d be willing to do this if the Church were willing to do the same. If it were willing to say, for example, “We won’t marry same-sex couples but we don’t care if the government does.” But if it tries to meddle in my affairs as a renounced Catholic, I will push back.

  18. Mervel says:

    Brian I think you should push back on those issues as a free citizen. Certainly when the Church makes arguments about civil society, law etc as it has a right to do then I would totally agree that you can and should argue those points with them if you disagree.

    I was mainly talking about the spiritual side etc.

  19. Mervel says:

    He may knuckle, those issues are already part of Catholic teaching I wish they would be emphasized more often.

    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/

  20. Walker says:

    Boy, I’m impressed! Francis really might sell some of that Vatican gold! What a change!

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