For The First Time Ever, We Really Could Have An American Pope

Archbishop Of New York Timothy DolanCardinal Timothy Dolan

Photo: AP

The selection process for the next pope, which will begin tomorrow, involves an unusually wide playing field.The live betting site Paddy Power currently says a dozen priests have odds of better than 20-to-1 of landing the coveted spot.

Crucially, that open playing field could pave the way for an American cardinal to become Pope.

In today’s New York Times, Laurie Goodstein and Elisabetta Povoledo report on the potential for American cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O’Malley to become the next pope. They have odds of 20-to-1 and 16-to-1 respectively. The Vatican traditionally has been biased against having a pope from a superpower, Goodstein and Povoledo note, but this time things may be different.

Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, is a brash, charismatic speaker, and has a pretty good track record with sexual abuse responses. He has long been seen as an outside favourite for the top spot.

What’s more surprising perhaps is that O’Malley is currently getting better odds than Dolan, and he appears to be surging — the Archbishop of Boston had odds of 40-to-1 a little over a week ago.

Cardinal Sean O'MalleyCardinal Sean O’Malley

Photo: Getty / Franco Origlia

However, as we wrote last month, O’Malley also has a good track record with sexual abuse claims, and his strong ties to Latino communities could bode well for the future of a Church that is almost 40 per cent in South America.Even Vatican insiders seem to believe that an American pope is now possible. At the weekend Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s leading daily newspapers, asked eight Vatican analysts to nominate their top three contenders. O’Malley was the most popular choice.

Of course, there are problems with having a pope from the world’s only superpower. “I think if a U.S. cardinal was elected a lot of people in the Third World would say that the CIA had fixed the election, or that Wall Street bought off the cardinals,” Father Thomas Reese, a Vatican expert at the Woodstock Theological centre at Georgetown University in Washington, told the Christian Science Monitor.

John Allen, a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter widely considered to be among the best Vatican experts in the world, told the Christian Science Monitor the pair were “long shots.” In particular, Allen said that O’Malley had never proved to be a strong leader, and Dolan was simply “too American – he’s too brash, too swashbuckling.”

O’Malley, too, doesn’t seem very confident in his chances. “I have bought a round trip ticket, so I’m counting on coming home,” he joked last week.

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