Cardinal Tagle…as Pope

12 Mar

I have had so many opinions, and non-opinions, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first in more than 600 years.  As a Catholic (but I would not label myself as devout), I am very surprised at how interested I am in the election, although some would rather say discernment, of the 266th Pope.  Of course, as is this blog in general, is mainly focused on American politics, and the papal election is, at its face, politics.  I thought that I would be look

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle ...

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at the Vatican now. (Photo credit: PiaMagalona)

ing more at the political horse trading within the electors of cardinals which is just the reality in American politics.

I find myself, however, deeply involved in the direction of the Catholic Church.  I know that the election of the pope of nearly 1.2 billion (although I would highly dispute this estimate as being too high) is not a democracy.  Technically, it is an ecclesiastical theocracy/monarchy with a select few males under a certain age of mostly non-citizens to pick the Shepherd of the Catholic Church worldwide.  I also know that more than half of the electors are from Europe, even though more than half of Catholics are not, and that more than half the European electors are from Italy who make up about a third of the entire voting body.  To reiterate, it is not a democracy.  It moves slower than the changing of the Supreme Court justices in regards to the will/want/wish/desires of the people.  But I think it suits the Vatican quite well, as the Supreme Pontiff is but a moment in time in the long history of the Catholic Church.  Even if I don’t agree with some of what the church professes, I think that they should move slowly, and stand their ground for the principles.  A lot of us, myself included, look to the church as a foundation, not as a political entity to be changed at the whim of the (often seemingly) irrational views of its constituency.

I still have my own opinions, selfish as they may be, to want Cardinal Tagle to become the next leader.  Just from everything I heard from him, he seems perfect (of course, no one is).  In the past, he was actually going to step down, but Pope Benedict XVI convinced him otherwise, and he was elevated to cardinal.  He has one of the most popular radio and television shows, religious or otherwise, in the Philippines.  He regularly invites the poor in the streets to dine with him. (One story about him talked about a wife who was looking for her alcoholic husband and when she couldn’t find him in the bars, she found him at the table of the cardinal).  And I have not personally heard his homilies from him, but all those who have, from what I’ve researched, are so enraptured and enamored with him that they are in tears.  And even if all these stories have been exaggerated, there is always a kernel of truth to them, and that’s a very good kernel at that.

One overwhelming opinion as an obstacle to the papacy is that he is too young.  My question is, if he is good, who cares.  He does not seem crassly ambitious.  He is not associated with any gaffes or the sexual abuse scandal.  He is charismatic which can only be a good thing in this age where communication is key, especially in a world of growing secularism in which the church, to be frank, is not ‘sexy’ enough.  I unfortunately don’t know his managerial experience, so I can’t comment on that, but if he is good with the people and his intentions are noble and honorable, then everything will fall in place.

I can’t escape the fact that he is Filipino, which I readily admit is biasing my opinion in favor of him.  Of course I would love it if he was the pope, even if that my be selfish.  It would give the country of the Philippines, which has, by the way, the largest number of Catholics in the country, a spot on the map dominated by first-world countries.  It would show that non-Europeans are rising, in both faith and numbers, fastest.  And it would personally make me feel even closer to the Catholic Church, the fact that at least he knows the culture, the language, and the customs of my family.  It is especially difficult for me, as a Filipino-American and a Catholic, to live in Indiana where there is not a lot of either, let alone both.

Cardinal Tagle already has inspired me in both faith in life with both his stories and life.  Whether or not he is the next pope, I will be hopeful that the next pope will inspire me in the future.

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Boris Shor, PhD

Associate Professor, Dep't of Political Science, U. of Houston

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