Many of you may have wondered why I haven’t endorsed a candidate for the next Bishop of Rome. For one thing, I don’t know a lot about some of the most prominent possibilities. For another, it’s not like I get to vote or that I ever talk to any of those charged with voting. For still another, my endorsement usually turns out to be the kiss of death.
Spengler , not a Catholic but a brilliant, original, and wildly uneven writer on matters Catholic, has endorsed Cardinal Tagle. What we need is an Asian pope—an accomplished theologian who’s from the Philippines AND is ethnically Chinese. The fight of the 21st century will be for the soul of China. Who would be more qualified to lead that fight than a Mandarin-speaking pope?
Spengler’s “Asian solution to the church’s dilemma” emerges after exploring the downsides of having a Latin American or African pope—a pope from the Global South— at this time. An American Bishop of Rome isn’t in the cards. We’ve have two non-Italian Europeans in a row, and they’ve addressed magnificiently many issues, but they’ve also left many unresolved. Spengler did forget to mention Australia’s Cardinal Pell, an astute and fairly scholarly man who has always impressed me.
Spengler’s article is, it goes without saysing, written from a Jewish perspective.
Although I don’t agree with every detail of his perspective, I agree that it’s possible that a pope from the Global South (or the Middle East) would undo the accomplishments both theological and practical of our present philosopher-pope in reconciling Catholic faith with the Jewish people. Spengler claims, following Karl-Heinz Menke, that “Benedict is the first pope since St. Peter . . . to read the Gospels as Hebrew documents.” AND “In the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazereth Benedict devoted a long chapter to Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s reading of the Gospel of Matthew—an unprecedented gesture towards a Jewish scholar.” I’ve mentioned before the postmodern and conservative alliance he’s forged with the Chief Rabbi of France.
I’m not really endorsing Cardinal Tagle, if only because I just don’t enough about him.
But any student of Walker Percy is all about being attentive to the Church’s “Jewish roots”—or to irreducible evidence for the invincibility of human particularity, of truth that can’t be “subsumed” by impersonal theory.