Seán Patrick O’Malley Papabile? The Next Pope? The First Bearded Pope In Over 300 Years?

Cardinal O'Malley of Boston
Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley

Anura Guruge

I do not think (but, as ever, I could be wrong) that Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, of Boston, will be the next pope.

I have already written once about this topic … albeit focusing on the Cardinal’s incongruous and ‘inappropriate’ beard.

But, I am amazed by the number of folks, albeit mainly U.S. Catholics, that continue to ‘troll’ the Web … trying to find out (or in some cases promote) Cardinal O’Malley as a viable candidate to be the next pope.

Though he is my ‘neighbor,’ I personally do not know the cardinal … though I do know a couple of folks that do know him well. I have nothing against the cardinal and he seems like an ‘OK’ type person (though I will readily admit that his beard amuses me … probably because I have to shave … though I hate having to shave).

This is why I do not think that he will be the next pope … and please note that many of the ‘objections’ have NOTHING to do with the Cardinal per se.

  1. He is American. As I have always maintained since I started publishing my papabili list I really do NOT think the next pope can be from the U.S. As I articulated in detail in ‘The Next Pope,‘ the chances of the next pope being from the U.S.A. is extremely slim, despite the disproportionate representation the U.S.A. enjoys within the College and the role of the U.S. Catholics as the ‘rain makers’ for the Church. The pope is a powerful head of state. Having a U.S. pope, rightly or wrongly, will give the U.S., the ONLY Super Power, at present, TWO (2) heads of state. One in D.C. and the other at the Vatican. When George Bush was in power such a scenario would have been untenable. But, with the charismatic Obama things are different … BUT, not to the extent that the French, Spanish and non-European cardinal electors will contemplate having an American in the Apostolic Palace. Plus, there is the inescapable clergy sex abuse scandal. The U.S. was the original epicenter for this scandal. So ALL U.S. cardinals have two automatic strikes against them: U.S. as a Super Power and the magnitude of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the U.S.
  2. He is linked to Cardinal Law. Bernard Francis Law, more than any other cardinal to-date, was implicated in the cover-up of the clergy sex abuse scandal. Though O’Malley may not have been a protege of Law’s he worked under Law between 1992 and 2002 — when Law was forced to relinquish his title in Boston. This Boston connection is going to haunt him irrespective of whether he, himself, has totally clean hands.
  3. He is young. Though he looks older he was born in June 1944. That makes him 66. If elected pope within the next 5 years, he could, within reason, have a pontificate that easily lasts 15 years. That alone would not be too intimidating if not for the fact that he is American. Yes, the two issues are inter-connected. IF the electors do get around to overcoming their fears of an American pope, they still probably will not want one that has the chance of being there for 15 years. Much could change in the US over 15 years. Jeb Bush or that flighty ex-governor of Alaska (what was her name) could usurp Barack. Much can happen over 15 years.
  4. He is a monk. Yes, there have been at least 30 popes that belonged to religious orders. None, however, were Capuchins à la the Cardinal from Boston. [Plus, he is the only Capuchin in the College, though there are 18 others that belong to other orders PLUS one who belongs to Opus Dei.] The last monk to be elected pope was Gregory XVI (#255) in 1831. He was a quirky one, ruthless, brutal and opposed gas lighting and railroads. You can never tell with monks. That could be another factor.
  5. He is attached to his beard. Western prelates are not supposed to sport facial hair. The last pope to have a beard was Innocent XII (#243), 1691-1700. Yes, Capuchins like their beards but it is conceivable that the cardinal electors may consider it an affront.

So those are MY reasons as to why I do not think that Cardinal O’Malley is a papabile. But, anybody who is at the conclave has a sporting chance — even if they are bearded.

So, I could be wrong. It would be one heck of a kick to have a pope from Massachusetts. I for one will rush down to Boston, 90 minutes away, to celebrate in China Town.

All the best.

3 thoughts on “Seán Patrick O’Malley Papabile? The Next Pope? The First Bearded Pope In Over 300 Years?”

  1. Cardinal O’Malley is not a monk. He is a Capuchin friar. Capuchins are a branch of the Franciscans who recognize St. Francis of Assisi as their founder. Both friars and monks are members of religious orders. Monks belong to monasteries which are located in a particular place. Friars do not belong to monasteries and are not bound to a particular place. They move from friary to friary, each located in a different place, usually in a different city or town from the one they lived in previously. All of that changes considerably for those monks or friars who are named bishops. Although as bishops they no longer live by all of rules of their religious orders, they still are members and can call themselves friars or monks depending of which kind of religious order they belong to.

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