Peter Turkson is not shy about his wish to become first black Pope , declares the English magazine The Week , unfairly, since the Ghanaian cardinal seems to have merely been answering a question, not pushing himself forward. In any case, as Anthony Esolen wrote in an email exchange, we have no idea if a black pope elected to succeed Benedict would be the first, because no one in the early centuries thought the matter important enough to report. Three popes seem to have come from Africa, but what color their skin was we don’t know, and for all we know some other pope from some other place may have been black.
Some people will say that this shouldn’t matter, that the Holy Spirit is color-blind and by extension indifferent to national origin, that a Swede would rule the same way as a Ghanaian, but I think that were Cardinal Turkson elected, the fact that he’s black or more to the point an African would be significant, the way John Paul II’s being a Pole was significant. The man who becomes pope brings his heritage and his concerns and commitments to the office in ways that shape what he does and says. The Holy Spirit presumably knows what people are like and includes such considerations in his guidance.
The article is, by the way, as unconsciously biased as these reports almost always are. The logic of this, for example,
Despite his surprising candour on the subject of succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, Turkson was “quick” to take a conservative line on controversial issues such as gay marriage and other “alternative lifestyles”, the Telegraph says.
escapes me. How is candor about one’s possible future opposed to being quick to “take a conservative line,” aka support Church teaching? The assumption behind it, William Tighe wrote me, “must be that any churchman who is ‘candid’ must be ‘intelligent’ and ‘open’ and no one who is ‘intelligent’ and ‘open’ can possible genuinely take a conservative line.” I’m sure he’s right about this.