Skip to comments.The Franciscan most likely to influence Francis
Posted on 10/06/2013 3:37:34 PM PDT by NYer
Sean O'Malley is not only the lone American on the Council of Cardinals, but hes also the lone Franciscan
Pope Francis made a historic visit to Assisi on Oct. 4, in part to meet the Franciscans responsible for keeping alive the spiritual legacy of his namesake. Yet it may actually have been a Franciscan the pontiff brought with him who has the greatest imprint on his papacy.
The pope was flanked throughout the day by eight prelates who make up his Council of Cardinals, recently formalized by a chirograph as the popes most important sounding board, who had just wrapped up three days of intense discussions on a wide variety of possible reforms reorganization of the Roman Curia, changes in the Synod of Bishops, the role of the laity in the church and the Vatican, and the pastoral care of marriage.
One of those eight clearly stood out, especially in Assisi: Cardinal Sean OMalley of Boston, who wore his brown Capuchin habit throughout the day rather than the crimson-lined black cassock typically associated with Princes of the Church.
Visually, it was a reminder that OMalley is not only the lone American on the Council of Cardinals, but hes also the lone Franciscan and for a pope named Francis, thats no small matter in terms of the extent to which OMalley has the pontiffs ear.
There are three reasons why OMalley is positioned to be among the most important influences on Francis.
First, the Catholic Church in the United States is an important force in global Catholic affairs. Its the fourth largest Catholic country in the world by population, and the largest among affluent Western nations. By European standards its comparatively dynamic, with a Mass attendance rate estimated at 25-30 percent across the country, and a wide galaxy of movements and organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, that provide funds and manpower for church activities.
Just as Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York once upon a time was the most important American prelate under Pope Pius XII, and Cardinal John OConnor played the same role under Pope John Paul II, OMalley is now the go-to American under Pope Francis.
OMalley speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese and knows Latin America almost as well as the United States, based on decades of work as a missionary and delivering pastoral care for Hispanics. During one of his many trips across the continent, he stayed in the residence of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, forming a bond of friendship and trust thats endured.
As a result, when Francis needs a read on American realities, OMalley is the man hes most likely to tap.
Second, its well known that OMalley himself was a serious contender in the conclave that propelled Bergoglio to the papacy, and for many of the same reasons.
He represents a humbler, simpler conception of ecclesiastical leadership. Hes unquestionably orthodox, but a man of the social gospel for whom the poor are a towering pastoral priority. Hes committed to a more collegial vision of the Church, and, like Bergoglio, an outsider to the court dynamics of the Vatican.
In July, OMalley candidly acknowledged in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter that if the conclave had lasted another day or so, I would have been in great danger meaning, of course, that he might have been the one wearing white.
The fact that OMalley had significant support among his brother cardinals certainly is not lost on Francis. Its undoubtedly a core reason why he named him to the Council of Cardinals, and why hes disposed to take whatever advice OMalley gives him seriously.
Third, OMalley is widely acknowledged as the most authoritative voice among the cardinals on the Churchs child sexual abuse scandals, an issue that Francis certainly will have to confront, but one on which he doesnt bring a great deal of personal experience.
As Francis consults widely about his priorities, he will hear repeatedly the importance of turning a page in the fight against clerical abuse. That input will likely nudge the pope to rely even more on OMalley, who has carried out clean-up operations in three successive dioceses, and who has emerged as a global leader in the effort to reach out to victims, to prevent future abuse, and to respond aggressively when it does occur.
Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari recently said in a conversation with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi that he doesnt believe the Church will ever see a Francis II. With OMalley very much in mind, some observers believe he just may be wrong about that.
Francis will be 77 in December, they note, and one logical trajectory of his effort to reinsert the papacy into the College of Bishops would be to follow the lead of Benedict XVI and resign, perhaps when he reaches 80. If so, that would mean stepping aside in late 2016 or early 2017, at which point OMalley would be just 72, four years younger than Bergoglio when he was elected.
The smiling, bearded Capuchin is perhaps the single cardinal most likely to become the Francis II Scalfari had in mind.
Whether that actually happens is a hypothesis about the future. The empirical reality of the present, however, is that OMalley is the Franciscan most likely to influence the direction of a pope who is clearly determined to walk in the footsteps of Francis.
Both Cardinal O'Malley and journalist, John Allen, tend to generate strong emotions among US Catholics. Putting aside personal prejudices and especially the "wishful thinking" of John Allen, it might be a good exercise in charity to post some positive comments regarding Cardinal O'Malley. I will begin. He has settled 101 abuse claims and claims to have initiated a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse. He also instituted one of the first comprehensive sexual abuse policies in the Roman Catholic Church
My positive comment is: “May the Lord bless him and keep him -— —— -— —” and you can finish that sentence Tevye-fashion if you like.
Err...how does it finish?
I don’t particularly care for O’Malley, but when I was in Madrid for World Youth Day (also including non-youth supporters like me and about 250,000 Spaniards my age rediscovering their faith!) in 2011, the biggest US contingent was from Boston. Many of them were associated with the Neo-Cathechumenate, a movement very popular among university and HS students in Spain and Latin America, and a lot of them were sort of charismatic. I don’t like this a lot because it’s just uncomfortable for me, but I do have to recall that at one point the charismatic places, such as Steubenville, were flaky in practice but the only orthodox places doctrinally.
So that was what I thought about O’Malley’s contingent. Also, Denver sent a very big group of kids. At that time, Chaput was still in Denver or at least had organized the groups from Colorado. And he’s also a Capuchin (Franciscan). They were very important in evangelizing the US, and I can only hope that these two have gone back to their roots!
The quote from Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof)--- oh wait, I think it was Tevye's rabbi --- was "G-d bless the Tsar, and keep him.... far away from us!"
O’Malley can teach the Pope to slobber over pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians. His behavior at the scandalous Ted Kennedy funeral will be what he is remembered for.
I am fortunate to be in the diocese of Boston. I have seen Cardinal Sean on multiple occasions. He is terrific - a very humble and gracious man. He brought great peace and trust to a very troubled diocese when he took over from Cardinal Law. He is the real thing - I would trust his teachings completely.