Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How About a Brazilian?

We at the Egg have not mentioned Odilo Cardinal Scherer, who has emerged as one of the more talked-about possible popes.

Scherer, 63, is a Brazilian of German extraction. He goes on talk shows, uses Twitter, and likes evangelism, which by the standards of the cardinals make him a wild-eyed hippie.  He was ordained in 1976 and made a bishop in 2001; the intervening quarter-century was spent largely as a professor of theology, although he did squeeze in three years of parish work.  If chosen, he would be the first pope from the New World, which is a remarkable thing.

One tidbit that you will see thrown around on the net derives ultimately from a 2007 Times article about liberation theology, written as Benedict XVI was travelling to Latin America.  Near the end of the article, it said:

At a news conference here on April 27, the newly appointed archbishop of São Paulo, Odilo Scherer, 57, tried to conciliate the two opposing viewpoints. While he criticized liberation theology for using “Marxism as a tool of analysis,” he also praised liberation theologians for redirecting the church’s mission here to focus on issues of social injustice and poverty.
He also argued that the movement was in decline. 

From this, virtually all journalists (and Wikipedia) are led to say things which, translated ever so slightly, amount to: "Scherer, although sharing the official Roman Catholic position on social issues [and here they point to abortion], once said something nice about liberation theology.  Therefore he is a theological moderate compared to Ratzinger."  This is, of course, ridiculous.

It is mere diplomacy to find something praiseworthy in one's opponent, and to praise it.  What Scherer seems to have meant is that, although the Leonardo Boffs of the world are a bunch of dirty Commies, they nonetheless managed to stumble upon traditional Catholic social doctrine, and claim it as their own.  John Paul could have said the same thing, even while he was taking away their faculties.  (In fact he did, very gently, in his 1979 Puebla keynote address.)  We ourselves have often pointed out that Pietism, despite using historically ignorant Biblicism as a tool of analysis, has occasionally produced actual piety.  It's like that.

However, there is more to Scherer than this.  As Forbes explains,
Scherer ... is also known as one of the “Vatican bankers,” a committee of cardinals who oversee the Istituto per la Opere di Religione (IOR), or the Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, as well as being a member of The Prefecture for Economic Affairs, which coordinates the finances of the Holy See. Scherer was a constant presence in Rome during the “Vatileaks” scandal, the leaking of Vatican documents allegedly exposing corruption and money laundering charges that cost the church millions in higher contract prices and cost Ettore Gotti Tedesche, the then-CEO of the IOR, his job.
In other words, Scherer is a Vatican insider.  Assuming that he is not actually implicated in the IOR or Vatileaks mess (and we gather that he is not), this might make him a candidate for those who are most concerned to clean up the Augean stables.  Combined with his non-European nationality, it is a  photogenic combination.

Ironically, this may contrast with the man often identified as front-runner (a useless idea in this context, but whatever), Angelo Cardinal Scola.  Although an Italian himself, Scola is not as closely identified with the central operations.  (Milan, it seems, is further from Rome than Sao Paulo.)  According to NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, Scola -- the Italian,  mind you, not the foreigner -- is "favored by many cardinals from abroad."

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