National Catholic Reporter ®

September 13, 2002 
Vol. 2, No.3

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Running low on cardinals; update on Milingo (newly an author); The up side of globalism; response to a Weigel swipe

NCR does not exist to foster dissent. It exists to foster discussion. If we ever get to a point where we cannot make that distinction, God help us.

September in Rome means the quickening of the city’s pulse, as people stagger back from the traditional ferragosto vacation season. And just as boys’ heads turn to romance in the spring, fall in the Vatican beckons thoughts of potential ecclesiastical honors and preferment the year might bring. (I confess this is perhaps especially so among those of us in the tribe of Vaticanisti, who find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating).

     With the 80th birthday of Venezuelan Cardinal Rosalio José Castillo Lara on Sept. 4, and the death of Brasilian Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves at Rome’s Pius XI Clinic on Sept. 8, we are now down to 117 cardinals eligible to elect the next pope if a conclave were held today. On Sept. 25, that number will be 116 when French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray turns 80. On Jan. 31, two more cardinals will become ineligible: Maurice Michael Otunga of Kenya and Jorge María Mejía of Argentina. On June 17, Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua of Philadelphia crosses the 80-year mark. In the meantime, death may claim another one or two members of the college, bringing us further below the ceiling of 120 voting cardinals specified in John Paul’s 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.

     For this reason, I and many other Vatican-watchers expect a consistory, the formal name for the event in which new cardinals are created, sometime next year. Traditional dates would include Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of Peter, and June 29, Sts. Peter and Paul. Typically the announcement of the event, and the names of the men to get the red hat, comes more or less a month in advance.

     I expect this batch of new cardinals will be significantly smaller than the last, on Feb. 22, 2001, when 44 men entered the college. This time I think it’s reasonable to expect perhaps 15 new cardinals, enough to bring the ranks of voting members five or six over 120. The pope often will appoint more voting age cardinals than the maximum technically allows, on the theory that by the time a conclave happens some will have aged or died.

     Who will they be? There will no doubt be surprises, but by studying dioceses and curial jobs usually held by cardinals whose current incumbent has not yet received the red hat, as well as dioceses that seem overdue for a cardinal, it’s possible to anticipate the bulk of the appointments. They seem likely to include:

  • Angelo Scola, Venice, Italy 
  • Jean-Pierre Ricard, Bordeaux, France
  • Mario Conti, Glasgow
  • Eusébio Oscar Scheid, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • George Pell, Sydney, Australia
  • Josip Bozanic, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Ennio Antonelli, Florence, Italy
  • Philippe Barbarin, Lyon, France
  • Eustaquio Pastor Cuquejo Verga, Asunción, Paraguay 
  • Henryk Muszynski, Gniezno, Poland
  • Julián Herranz, Spanish, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts
  • Luigi De Magistris, Italian, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary
  • Francesco Marchisano, Italian, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vicar General of the Vatican City-State
     A 14th name certain to be on the list, but who has not yet been appointed, will be Cardinal Diogini Tettamanzi’s successor in Genova. (Tettamanzi, you will recall, has been transferred to Milan as the successor of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini). The Genova nomination is expected soon, with the two leading candidates said to be Cesare Nosiglia, auxiliary bishop of Rome and right hand man of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Ferrara, a moral theologian known as a sharp conservative on issues of sexuality and bioethics. (Caffarra has his own web site for the truly curious: For those who have read my book Conclave, Caffarra is a classic border patrol figure.)

     Some quick notes. 

     If Pell wants to keep his place on the list, he will need to quickly put current accusations of sexual abuse behind him (he is now on self-imposed suspension awaiting the outcome of an investigation). Cuquejo Verga would be the first Paraguayan cardinal. He is also a Redemptorist, and his appointment would give that order three cardinals, putting them one ahead of both the Dominicans and Benedictines with two each, but behind the Jesuits with eight, Franciscans with six, and Salesians with five. Herranz would be the second member of Opus Dei to become a cardinal (the first is Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru). 

     If the pope has to do some trimming, expect Muszynski to wait. Gniezno became its own metropolitan archdiocese in 1992, so in the broad sweep of history, it could hang on a bit longer before getting a cardinal. There is also another scenario in which Muszynski might get bumped. Some believe a shuffle in key Vatican posts is looming, with one potential move being the transfer of American Cardinal James Francis Stafford from the Council of Laity to the Congregation for Divine Worship. If that were to happen, his secretary, Stanislaw Rylko, a Pole who is close to the papal household, could take Stafford’s old job, which would mean becoming a cardinal. Given that the Poles already have as many cardinals as the Brazilians, one is probably as much as they can hope for next time around. Hence the Polish red hat would go to Rylko, not Muszynski.

     Looking at this lineup, it seems top-heavy with Europeans. There are only two Latin Americans, and no Africans or Asians. Hence I expect the pope may do a little geographical balancing, adding two or three other names to make the group more representative. 

     Who might make this “stand-by” list?

  • Nicolás Cotungo Fanizzi, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Seoul, Korea
  • Oswald Gomis, Colombo, Sri Lanka 
  • John Onaiyekan, Abuja, Nigeria
  • Henri Teissier, Algeria
  • Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Khartoum, Sudan
     Finally, the pope usually confers a so-called “honorary” red hat or two upon loyal Vatican servants or distinguished theologians who are already over 80, as a way of thanking them for their careers. One strong possibility is Dominican Fr. Georges Cottier, the longtime theologian of the papal household, who turned 80 on April 25.

* * *

     Several readers have asked for an update on the saga of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian prelate whose on-again, off-again wedding to Maria Sung, along with his enigmatic ties to the Unification movement of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was the great soap opera of the 2001 Roman summer. 

     The latest is that Milingo, 72, is due back in Italy in early October, ready to resume his ministry of preaching, healing the sick and casting out demons. He will once again set up shop at Zagarolo, a town just outside Rome, reportedly in a facility run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. He will be accompanied by members of the three religious congregations he founded while still in Zambia.

     Milingo also has a new book out, Fished from the Mud (Edizioni San Paolo), in which he recounts the story of his long, strange journey. The book takes the form of an interview with Italian journalist Michele Zanzucchi, which took place over three days at the end of a year of self-imposed spiritual retreat. During this time, Milingo was at a house in Argentina run by Focolare, one of the new movements in the Catholic church, near Mar de la Plata.

     I got an advance copy of Fished from the Mud, so far available only in Italian, in PDF format, and read all 160 pages on my computer screen. 

     I have to say that the archbishop comes across as still somewhat confused, apologizing profusely and admitting that by getting married in a Moon ceremony he wanted to cause a “shock” in the Vatican, but at the same time suggesting that others were at fault for his swings of judgment.

     Among other things, Milingo hints that he was brainwashed by Moon’s organization. At one point, he says, Moon officials persuaded him to undergo a 40-day program of “catechesis,” in which he was not allowed to ask questions until the very end. In another part of the book, Zanzucchi asks Milingo if he had been drugged or hypnotized, and he responds: “I can’t say, even if I can’t rule it out with certainty. … Maybe they manipulated me psychologically. Maybe I was the object of a sort of brainwashing.”

     Yet by Milingo’s own account, the main thing that drew him to Moon was his own wounded pride. He was hurt by what he felt had been years of Vatican disdain for his spiritual gifts. Both when he was archbishop of Lusaka in Zambia, and then after he moved to Rome as Vatican official in 1983, ecclesiastical authorities hemmed in his healing and exorcism ministry with various restrictions and prohibitions. He says that the Moon people, on the other hand, welcomed him with open arms. He allowed himself to be convinced, he says, that he could embrace Moon and get married and yet still function somehow as a Roman Catholic archbishop. 

     One revelation is Milingo’s claim that what the Moon people really wanted was for him to found a rival Catholic church in Africa, with Milingo at the head of its hierarchy, which in reality would function as a recruiting device for Moon. Milingo says, in fact, that a document relating to this project mysteriously vanished from his suitcase upon his arrival in Italy that fateful August day when he showed up, unannounced, at Castel Gondolfo to see the pope. The fear of an African schism was, in fact, widely mentioned last summer as one of the factors inducing the Vatican to take such extraordinary measures to bring Milingo back into the fold.

     Here’s what Milingo now has to say about priestly celibacy, to which he once styled his marriage as a deliberate challenge:

     “I think it is important to maintain the tradition of the Catholic church, even if it creates not just a few problems for many priests, a little bit in the whole world and not just in Africa. There are numerous cultures, in fact, in which celibacy is not even conceivable. Yet I think it has a prophetic dimension that should not be lost. Another question is that of helping priests to maintain their celibate state. I think that an adequate community life is the best help.”

     As for Maria Sung, Milingo simply repeats what he said to her during the long-awaited face-to-face session last August: “You are my sister, not my wife.”

     I presume Sung will nevertheless continue to profess her fidelity to Milingo, since she has always claimed that his decision to leave her was made under psychological pressure. She called him a “prisoner of the Vatican,” a charge that had an echo in certain sectors of opinion in Italy. A few weeks ago, before news of Milingo’s imminent return, the anti-clerical Radical Party staged a demonstration at St. Peter’s Square demanding his emancipation. “Give him back to us!” was the chant.

     In the interview with Zanzucchi, Milingo says that he is “not a robot,” and that he will not automatically “fall into the arms” of Sung should he see her again. For the record, Milingo refuses to confirm whether his marriage was ever consummated. Sung, of course, says it was, which formed the basis of a brief pregnancy scare.

* * *

     Safiya Husseini, the 35-year-old divorcee from a poor village in northern Nigeria who was first sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, then acquitted on technical grounds after an international outcry, was in Rome this week. Mayor Walter Veltroni made her an honorary citizen, and she and her lawyer took part in a two-day symposium at Dionyus Center for Arts and Culture at the Villa Piccolomoni. 

     Italy, a longtime foe of the death penalty in all its forms, was in the forefront of struggle to save Safiya. Christian Vieri, the biggest and strongest striker on the national soccer squad, reflected the mood when he said last spring: “I am going to give a symbolic kickoff to show I am kicking their (Nigeria’s) barbarism. But in reality, I want to go to Nigeria and punch the judge who pronounced the sentence.”

     I had the chance to briefly meet Safiya and listen to her lawyer, Abdelkader Imam, who argued that a proper application of the Shariah, or Islamic law, should make the death penalty almost impossible.

     Two brief reflections.

     The Safiya case, I found myself thinking, illustrates one of the positive features of the much-demonized process of globalization. The international mobilization that saved her life was possible because of the speed of modern communications, the way the Internet allows grassroots initiatives to organize on a global scale in real time, and the commitment to universal human rights that a world consciousness helps to foster. This is one instance in which globalization, in other words, made the world a better place.

     Second, watching Safiya surrounded by a gaggle of ambassadors, lawyers, and politicians, both Italian and Nigerian, all claiming in some way to speak for her or about her or on her behalf, I was struck anew by the ways systems run largely by men can marginalize women even when they’re trying to help. 

* * *

     I have a couple of times in this space made reference to my respect and affection for George Weigel, the noted columnist, scholar, and papal biographer. George recently returned the favor in his column “The Catholic Difference,” saying some nice things about my reporting, albeit largely as a prelude to criticizing my book Conclave: The Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election.

     I won’t comment on the criticism, in part because I think it’s fair, thoughtful, and deserving of reflection, in part because George said he wants to discuss matters over pasta. Fair enough.

     I do, however, want to respond to a swipe George took at the paper I work for, the National Catholic Reporter. He called it “an integral part of the aging culture of dissent in U.S. Catholicism.” He added that I sometimes challenge “progressive Catholic shibboleths,” implying, I suppose, that this distinguishes me from the rest of the NCR fold.

     At one level, I know what George means. NCR does have an editorial line to the left of where he stands on most issues, and it often challenges church authorities. Weigel is certainly entitled to disagree with its particular editorial stands. (As a footnote, I don’t know any journalist in the business who agrees with everything his or her own paper publishes, let alone someone else’s. There’s room to critique NCR in this regard just like anybody else.)

     Yet there is a sinister assumption implicit in George’s comment, unless I am being overly defensive, which is that NCR defines its mission as promoting dissent. Here my friend is simply off the mark.

     Voicing dissent is not, and never has been, NCR’s stock in trade. Reporting is. On the news pages of NCR, reporters try to tell the Catholic story as fairly and honestly as possible. When necessary, they’ll challenge anyone’s sacred cow. I was never given a theology lesson when I was in the NCR newsroom, but I learned a great deal about being a journalist. Good reporting, asking questions, can lead to strong editorials. 

     All of this arises, of course, from a profound conviction that the Catholic church matters.

     NCR does not exist to foster dissent. It exists to foster discussion. If we ever get to a point where we cannot make that distinction, God help us.

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is

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