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A Book Review… A Scholarly Assessment Of The Next Papacy

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By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, by Edward Pentin. Publication date: August 4, 2020 (Sophia Institute Press, 704 pages, Kindle and Paperback). To order, visit www.sophiainstitute.com or call 1-800-888-9344.

Edward Pentin, the lead author of The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, is the Rome correspondent for National Catholic Register. He has written this lengthy, very informative book in collaboration with an international team of writers, and it is clearly the product of much research.
In the introduction, he outlines the aim of the book as being “to equip readers with a detailed knowledge of some of the cardinals considered to have the greatest likelihood of being elected pope.” For this work, Pentin and his collaborators have chosen to highlight 19 of the current cardinals who would be eligible to fulfill this role.
This group of 19 includes a good number of well-known figures, including Cardinals Burke, Mueller, Ouellet, Parolin, Sarah, Scola, and Tagle, as well as lesser known prelates such as Cardinals Eijk, Erdo, Ravasi, and Zuppi.
A detailed analysis of each cardinal is given, including an assessment of their capability and suitability for the role of Pontiff, particularly in terms of holiness, but also as regards governance and teaching abilities.
The views of these 19 cardinals on various issues currently affecting the Church are also discussed, so that we get a better idea of their character and how they would lead the Church. In particular, Pentin highlights their attitude to the liturgy, the Church’s moral teaching, right-to-life issues, priestly celibacy, migration, Humanae Vitae, and women deacons.
The book begins with a brief history of the cardinalate. The term “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo, that is, “hinge,” in the sense of their role being pivotal; They wear red as a symbol of martyrdom. The present-day role of cardinals is also considered, and particularly, and most importantly for this book, their role as the electors of a new Pope.
The first thing that strikes one on looking over the list of cardinals given by Pentin is that despite the fact that Pope Francis has appointed more than half of the current cardinals, and in doing so has deliberately set out to further internationalize the College of Cardinals, by “going to the periphery,” the majority of Pentin’s choices come from the rich countries of the West.
Each of the entries begins with a short biography, and then there are entries prefaced by headings such as “Addressing Sexual Abuse,” “Financial Transparency,” “Defending the Church in the Public Square,” “The Importance of the Family,” and “Euthanasia” which give details, with footnotes, about how each cardinal has dealt with those issues and other issues of importance in the governance of the Church.
Pentin’s approach is to see how each cardinal, with regard to the main issues facing the Church, is faithful to the teachings of the Catechism and the Magisterium. At the end of each entry, there is a summary of their position and an assessment of where they stand as regards being likely to be a conservative or liberal Pope.
Two United States prelates are included in the book, Cardinals Raymond Burke and Sean O’Malley. As regards Cardinal Burke, a noted canon law scholar, not surprisingly, Pentin puts him firmly in the conservative camp. He quotes the cardinal as saying that “the crisis in the life of the Church is principally a crisis in the liturgy,” and notes that he has strongly promoted devotion to our Lady and the Sacred Heart, and also vocations.
He is opposed to limiting the power of the Pope through synods, and emphasizes the universal call to holiness put forward by the Second Vatican Council. Likewise he emphasizes the importance of reverence for the sacraments and upholding the moral teaching of the Church. There are also entries for the cardinal on the Church and state, Islam, priestly celibacy, the crisis in the Church, and the relationship between the Holy See and China, among other topics.
Cardinal O’Malley’s entry is along similar lines, but the entries differ in that topics such as parish closings, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the New Evangelization, and the right to life are included.
Regarding who the next Pope is most likely to be, Pentin quotes the old saying about papal elections, that, “a fat Pope follows a thin one,” that is, a newly elected Pontiff will probably have the opposite vision to his Predecessor, and so perhaps be more liberal than the conservative Pope he replaces, and vice-versa. The author also quotes another saying that “a man who walks into the conclave as Pope . . . leaves as a cardinal” — that is, expectations are often overturned.
Therefore it is possible, if unlikely, that an outsider could be chosen as the next Pope. And we have the clear example of Pope Francis, who was a virtual unknown at the time of the last conclave, despite the fact that he apparently did well at the previous conclave when Pope Benedict XVI was elected. And so perhaps an equally unknown cardinal will rise to prominence and be elected the next Pope.

Beyond Sound Bites

One intriguing possibility for that would be Cardinal Bo of Myanmar, a Salesian and the president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences. He has been an outspoken critic of China regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and is vocal on other issues too, and so would make a very interesting choice, to put it mildly.
And this type of scenario is certainly not impossible, given the way, for example, that St. John Paul II, the Polish Pope, was elected to the papacy, and effectively initiated the events that eventually led to the dissolution of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe.
That day, though, has probably not yet come, and given the present situation of the Church, and the College of Cardinals, it is likely that one of the 19 cardinals indicated by Pentin will become the next Pope.
Having said that, given the decline in the Church we are seeing in the West, and the corresponding growth in the developing world, surely it is only a matter of time before an African or perhaps Asian Pope is elected, and perhaps, one day, even a Chinese Pope.
For now, though, a Pope from among those highlighted in this book is far more likely, and it provides the sort of detail that is required for anyone who wants to come to a considered and informed opinion about the suitability of future possible candidates for the papacy, one which goes beyond sound bites and media images, to give a rounded picture of each cardinal.
In sum, The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, is a scholarly and very detailed work, which gives us some possibilities to ponder as to how the papacy will look after Pope Francis.

  • + + (Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published next year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)
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