The Pope election could have resulted in very bad news. In the recent history Quebec has turned its back to Catholicism and firmly shut the door on its ultra religious past, but the prospect of a pope raised on home soil has rekindled for many an interest in papal and religious affairs. At the Vatican, there was no doubt that Cardinal Mark Ouellet was among the Papabili (potential popes) under consideration. Marco Ansaldo, Vatican correspondent for La Repubblica had even gone so far as to refer to Ouellet as “Papabilissimo”. However, his non-election saved Quebec reputation.
Staggered? Read on.
When it comes to choosing Popes, conclaves tend toward alternating between Cardinals of the Curia (i.e. Benedict XVI) and those who have led a diocese (i.e. John-Paul II), but equally privileged is an alternation between theologians and so called “shepherds”, that is to say between intellectuals and candidates with extensive field experience. Following a Pope so concerned with theological and doctrinal matters, it is felt that the Holy See is in desperate need of a more human leader, a man with a caring heart capable of giving new life to the Church and redelivering faith to its believers.
Marc Ouellet’s election under such circumstances was thus very unlikely. Ouellet’s history with pastoral work has been less than perfect: when at the head of the Archbishopric of Quebec between 2003 and 2010, he found himself completely out of sync with a Quebec he had left long ago and his anti-abortion declaration precipitated a wave of disapproval in the Province.
In 2007, Ouellet published an open letter in which he asked pardon for mistakes and missteps perpetrated by the Church in the past: the move caused a great stir in the province. This sortie to the press caused great irritation for l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec (AECQ). When Marc Ouellet was recalled to Rome in the autumn of 2010 to fill the role of Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, a position among the three most important in the Church hierarchy, the president of the AECQ admitted that his promotion had provoked its due share of tension at the heart of the local Church organization despite the favourable light in which his term was seen by officials in Rome.
In many ways, Cardinal Ouellet is the personification of the proverb that “No man is a prophet in his own land”.
The Church is desperate for a breath of fresh air and a move toward modernity, which up until now have been slow in coming. The Pope will face a rosary worth a troubles triggered by the various scandals with which the Vatican has recently been struck. Subjects of controversy and argument are also abundant with the issues as varied as the status of women, ordination of married men (the Church already accepts ex-Anglican priests with wife and children), remarriage after divorce, contraception and homosexuality up for debate. Most importantly however, the Church must face up to the shortage of priests: a consequence of fossilized and out of date policy.
If Ouellet has opened up to the modern world, it has only been to cross swords with it. He is among the camp that consider the Vatican II council, whose objective is to reform the Church by opening up to the modern world, to be interpreted in too liberal a fashion. In a 2009 interview, in response to the question “ Is the church under persecution in Quebec?”, Archbishop Ouellet went as far as to say “ Of course, definitely”. The Cardinal has also supported controversial lay movements, notably the Neocatechumenal Way and Communion and Liberation. The former has been accused, particularly in Japan and the UK, of reinventing the traditional mass and the latter has been the target of criticism in Italy following claims of illegally manipulating the press. In light of all his actions have provoked Ouellet’s motto “Utunum sint” (May they be as one) smacks of a certain irony for a personality that tends far more to the schismatic than the compromising.
In view of the current needs of the Church and the nature of pontifical duties, Marc Ouellet did not have the capabilities to ever become Pope; he might as well try to fulfil his duties as Cardinal.
– Paola Teulières, translated by Jacob Leon
(featured photo : Sjekster, Creative Commons, Flickr
photo 1: Fergal Mac Eoinin)