Monday, January 9, 2012

Pope Benedict Continues To Create The Church In His Own Image And Likeness: White European Male

Not exactly a picture of representative demographics for a global church. A whole lot of red and a whole lot of white--and of course, no women at all.

I've been meaning to post on the recent appointments to the College of Cardinals because I found the appointments mind boggling.  Two, just two appointments from the South, just makes no sense.  Catholicism is exploding in Africa and South East Asia but instead of even a token attempt to represent that fact in the College, Benedict adds 18 white European and North Americans out of a total of 22 appointments, and 12 of those are Vatican bureaucrats.

The following excerpt is from John Allen's NCR piece and deals specifically with this issue of global representation:

.......During his recent trip to Benin, his second voyage to Africa as pope, Benedict XVI praised the African continent as a “spiritual lung” for humanity and pointed to it as a critically important zone for the future of the Catholic church.

Yet in the appointments announced today, Africa was conspicuous by its absence.
In the run-up to today’s announcement, it was widely believed that at least two Africans would be on the list: Archbishop Telesphore George Mpundu of Lusaka, Zambia, and Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala in Uganda. In the end, however, neither made the cut. (The Philippines was also conspicuous for it's absence, and their one voting Cardinal turns 80 this year.)

At the moment, there are eleven Africans among the voting-age cardinals. Once the Feb.18-19 consistory takes place, there will still be 11 Africans, alongside 11 cardinal electors from the United States alone – despite the fact that Africa has more than twice the Catholic population of the United States.
In November, the number of African electors will drop to ten, as retired Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria turns 80.

Part of the problem may be that Benedict’s picks today were disproportionately skewed to Vatican officials, and the two Africans who hold senior positions in the Roman Curia are already cardinals: Peter Turkson of Ghana, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Robert Sarah of Guinea, President of Cor Unum.

In general, today's nominations reinforce the dominance of the West in the College of Cardinals. Only three of the 18 new electors come from the developing world -- one Brazilian, one Indian, and one from China (Hong Kong). In that sense, the College of Cardinals will continue to be unrepresentative of Catholic demography, given that two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world today live in the global south, a share projected to rise to three-quarters by mid-century.  (The designate from Brazil has spent the last twenty or so years in Rome, so he might just as well be added to the tally of Vatican bureaucrats.)


Allen never does offer any real explanation for Pope Benedict's choices, which leaves the field wide open for me to speculate. I can't help but speculate that Benedict has spent way too much time in the Vatican and for him the real Church is the white Eurocentric Vatican and the global church has some nice places to visit, but isn't 'mature' enough to participate in ruling the Church.  Some people might see this as a continuation of colonialism.  I would be one of them. 

It's almost like Benedict is terrified that he will go down in history as the Pope who presided over the demise of the Church in the West.  Numbers don't lie and in spite of all the talk of the New Evangelization, he IS presiding over the demise of the Church in the West.  Stacking the College of Cardinals with Western, mostly Italian technocrats, is not going to change this fact, and does nothing to further the advancement of the Church in the South. 

There is also something else that is nagging at me about these appointments.  If the priority is to protect the wealth of the Church it makes sense to appoint a pack of Italian and North American Cardinals, people who are joined at the hip to Western economic power.  In that case giving a red hat to Wall Street's favorite Archbishop makes more sense than giving one to Dublin's thorn in the Vatican side, or Westminster's Archbishop Nichols who seems to be one of the few Western Catholic leaders who sees gay marriage for the red herring it is. In the meantime the two thirds of the Catholic world who aren't invested in Wall Street or Fleet Street will just have to deal with the fact pastoral ability is not an apparent qualification for appointment to the College of Cardinals.



  1. It seems Benedict has fallen victim to his own unconscious preferences, or is it that he has taken a course in the mechanisms of poor leadership.

  2. I read that article by Allen too. It did reinforce to me the absolute irrelevance in my life of what the Vatican does.

    Maybe I'm being too harsh with Allen. It strikes me that just maybe he sees the weakness in B16's selections, but he apparently won't offer any constructive criticism.

    And... does anyone have an idea of what is meant by 'spiritual lung'? That reference is just lost on me.

  3. I sense that Benedict is 'stacking the deck' for the next election of a pope. Sure wouldn't want those pesky 3rd world cardinals gumming up the works!!--Linda G.

  4. I've just read a theology article that may shed some light on all of this.

    I happen to like Origen and read him and about him when I can. I was able to obtain Origenia Septima, the compendium of an Origen confrence held in 1999.

    The last article, by Kurt Anders Richardson, entitled, " Origen and the contexts of Christian theology conditional similarities of pre and post-Constantinians" ( pp753-764), struck me as extremely relevant when reading your post.

    Essentially, Richardson argues that Christianity is now in a post-Constantinian age, that is, it no longer has the State to butress it or enforce its decrees or support it through socio-political pressure etc;. In other words, Christians are in a similar position they were in before Constantine. They could not use force, certainly of public officials, ( not sympathetic to them in the least), to settle disputes, heresies, etc; etc;. Instead, they had to depend on chaps like Origen, brilliant, spiritually deep theologians who used persuasion, philosophical, theological, poetic, spiritual to convince others of the truths of Christianity, ( that's one reason I like him so much).

    The present Pope refuse, along with the Curia and so many others in hierarchy and the rest of the Church, especially, I suppose in the U.S., to recognize and acknowledge this situation.

    Hence he, and the Vatican, are trying desperately to pretend that Constantinian power is still available. Hence his naming so many as cardinals who still hold that view.

    But I think that many Catholics realize that they are now in a post-Constatinian age. They look for persuasion, not force, to help them live a Christian life and they are looking everywhere for those who have that persuasive skill based on deep spirituality, deep experience.

    I don't think we can go back to the good old days of Constantine.

  5. White European? No, that's North American Mainline Protestant-about as vibrantly diverse as skim milk.

  6. Allow me slightly edit your original comment to read:
    "Benedict is terrified that he will go down in history as the Pope who presided over the demise of the Institutional Church in the West."

    The demise may not be the church (as the People of God) but will certainly be of the dogmatic, autocratic and patriarchal institution it has become. Instead it will become a Spirit based community serving all humankind for the purpose of helping all to become instruments of peace based on the Kingdom values as taught by Jesus. The Vatican will naturally become the museum it always was. But this time it will be operated for the benefit of the poor, indigent, sick and especially those that live on the edges of our society. Benedict is just helping this to come along a lot sooner.

    Your comment about John J. Allen Jr. struck a chord. He often reminds me of a response I received from quite a well known Catholic reporter who admitted that his article in question was extremely bias towards the Church, responded with . . . “while I agree with you, you have to remember it’s my bread and butter”.