The Holy Spirit will guide the conclave. Period. No doubt at all.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a peek at the signs of the times. I believe some of the signs point toward Cardinal Dolan.
John White wrote about this earlier tonight, but there’s more to the chatter than he touched on.
The notion of a pope from the United States would have been laughable when Benedict was elected in 2005. This is not 2005. Things have changed considerably, and one man has made it more possible (not necessarily likely, but possible) that an American could be elected to the See of Peter.
That one man? It’s not Cardinal Dolan. On his own he would continue to be the force-of-nature cardinal archbishop of New York, but would still have no chance at the papacy.
No, the one man who has made it possible for an American to have a chance is Barack Obama.
Religious liberty, culture-of-death here at home and abroad, gay “marriage,” women in combat roles, drone wars… The man basically embodies the “dictatorship of relativism” that then-Cardinal Ratzinger warned about in his homily at the Mass before the conclave that made him Benedict XVI.
The lasting changes Obama has brought to this country have made it far more possible that an American could be elected. In 1978 the Kremlin shuddered when the cardinal archbishop of Krakow, the young, charismatic, dynamic, Karol Josef Wojtyla was elected pope and sparked the cultural revival in Poland that ended Communist rule.
The effect on American Catholicism would also be epic if Dolan were elected. It would also be more problematic for the White House than they may realize at present.
On that score, Dolan would be an interesting choice, but that’s just one rather shallow level—there are plenty of regions of the world with conflict that would be fundamentally altered if one of their own were elected pope—Middle East, Egypt, China(!), Africa.
More tellingly, perhaps, are the address on The New Evangelization which Dolan was tapped to give to the college of cardinals the day before he was made a cardinal almost exactly one year ago, and the book he published toward the end of his time as rector of the North American College in Rome, Priests for the Third Millenium. This book was one of the first I purchased and read about the priesthood after I was accepted to seminary in 2005.
An invitation to address the college of cardinals is no small honor in itself. But what an address it was. The address (text here) is a tour-de-force of what it means to be a man of the Church in the era of the New Evanglization. He gives seven points concerning what is necessary, the last being preparedness to shed one’s blood for the Church. His characteristic humor and light touch are on full display. I highly recommend you read it.
The book he penned is a compilation of virtues and characteristics that a priest of the New Evangelization must possess. Each chapter was delivered to the men at the North American College as a rector’s conference during his time there and all are based in real-world experiences of living in this era of faith.
Ratzinger’s “dictatorship of reltivism” homily apparently led a number of cardinals to vote for him in the conclave, deciding that he was correct in his assessment and only he could lead the Church into that era.
Will Dolan’s New Evangelization address and excellent book be the items that make him the natural choice for the next phase of Church history?