If distance may be said to lend enchantment to the view, then age allows history some degree of irony.
I am old enough to remember the Kennedy / Nixon election in 1960; it was my first exposure to American politics and it caused ructions in my home. My Catholic Convent educated mother and my protestant Free Kirk father were not seeing eye to eye on Kennedy, and Sunday lunch conversations with the wireless news in the background were frequently vigorous. The focus, of all things, was the idea that if elected, Kennedy, as a Roman Catholic, would be subject to the wiles of the Pope seen even then as a form of the Dark Lord.
The controversy dogged his campaign. Kennedy needed to make speech after speech, confirming that he was not going to be under Vatican control, not “divided between two loyalties my church and my state” as he put it in one such speech in West Virginia. Indeed he needed to drum the message home several times further even going to Houston to give a speech before southern religious leaders to make a major statement before the issue died.
Nobody seemed to have noticed that the Kennedys never listen to anyone.
Now fifty-three years later it seems in the 21st century it is impossible for an American to be Pope for fear that this would allow America too much influence over the papacy. Well it made me smile.
It hasn’t stopped American names being punted forward though, albeit by Americans. There are two top contenders to my mind. First is Sean O’Malley loyally buoyed up by the Boston Globe. White bearded, and frequently pictured clad in a brown monk’s robe he certainly looks the part. At 68 though, he might be slightly on the old side.
Then there is Tim Dolan from New York, who is being given 25 to 1. That in the peculiarities of papal horse races is not outside odds by any means. He has a lot in his favour. Boy does he have charm. He really comes over as your local big-fat-happy-bastard. He has the looks, the personality and undoubted media savvy; he is a great big bear of a man; about as far from Benny 16 as is possible to imagine.
But, and it is a huge but, there are disadvantages. He has poor Italian, the language of the Vatican, patchy Spanish, and no French or Latin. And no Curia experiance
A hill to climb then, but if there is to be an American Pope Tim’s your boy.
Copyright David Macadam 2013.