By Lisa Bourne
When my good friend Tom Quiner asked me to write about Cardinal Peter Turkson, specifically what I thought about his chances of being elected pope, I was a bit apprehensive.
Faithful Catholics know that the Holy Spirit determines the outcome of the papal conclave. And like everything in life, if one accepts the challenge of faith in this case, speculating seems a tad, well, unfaithful.
Even were it not a case of presuming to predict a Spirit-driven event, it’s hard not to fear the same unseemly appearance of so many in the media, not just secular, but Catholic as well.
There is no shortage of chattering in all directions, from the completely uninformed and ignorant, to the blatantly anti-Church, all the way up to some who are Catholic and whose knowledge and perspective I respect.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on which cardinal might be chosen to be pope, or certainly who they think should be.
So with best attempts to not add to the chatter, I hope to answer Tom’s simple questions, which he asked based on the fact that I’ve been blessed to meet Cardinal Turkson in person.
Back in 2010 I was in Rome for a Catholic journalist’s seminar at which Cardinal Turkson was a presenter. His talk was “The Challenge of Poverty.” He had a few moments to join us after speaking for refreshments in the courtyard of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is from Ghana, the first cardinal to come from there. He heads up the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace, and has an impressive background in terms of offices and appointments.
The diminutive cardinal was reserved but friendly in person. He was very gracious. At the same time, he wasn’t afraid to speak plainly about the messy details of people living with AIDS. It was refreshing to hear someone of such rank talk with such candor.
Cardinal Turkson wasn’t the only member of clergy from Africa who spoke to us during the seminar. We also heard from Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwu, from Nigeria and Head of Protocol for the Vatican Secretariat of State, on the Church in Africa.
After encountering Cardinal Turkson, Msgr. Nwachukwu, and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, whom I’ve also been blessed to meet in other circumstances, something tells me African priests don’t have the time for the nonsense of political correctness. Big points in their favor in my book.
Cardinal Turkson has been subject to some hot water for statements on homosexuality and the sex abuse scandal, and also for a film he showed at a presentation on Islam.
Considering the anti-Catholic slant of the media, these look suspiciously like the cardinal not employing the politically correct playbook.
More recently, he was in the spotlight for an interview he gave on his chances of becoming pope. The piece did not flatter him at all; rather he came off arrogant and presumptive. I was surprised by it, but took it with a grain of salt, since the media is, well, the media.
Lobbying to become pope, publicly or privately, is frowned upon. Many called the cardinal out for even giving the interview. Some say it squashed any chance he had.
Many others remain undeterred in their support for him as prospective pope. Reports from Rome indicate posters of Cardinal Turkson have appeared around the city campaigning for his election as pope. He remains the definitive frontrunner with odds-makers overseas. Why? Because secular pundits base their calculation on politics rather than Providence.
I hate that Cardinal Turkson is even being thought of as a good choice for pope for some simply because he is black.
This is tokenism.
It is an insult to anyone’s character, background and spirituality. Unfortunately, I think this is very real. I’ve seen it.
It’s a good thing God is color-blind.
Cardinal Turkson has been called down-to-earth and humble at the same time he’s been termed energetic and confident.
Are there political machinations and personal maneuvering occurring both in and outside of the group of cardinal electors for the purpose of affecting outcome of the conclave? To be sure.
Are such efforts inappropriate? Absolutely.
Are these human frailties all part of God’s plan? Of course they are.
With the Church in crisis in parts of the Vatican and in the U.S., much of the speculating states that the new pope will have to be good at governing. I can’t say I disagree.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, it is said, didn’t want to be pope. Part of the spin and smear on him was that he didn’t govern well.
When the culture and media beast doesn’t get what it wants, it works even harder to say something isn’t what it is.
What is “good pope material?” Who gets to determine that criteria?
The retired Holy Father’s pontificate has been deemed a failure by those who didn’t get from him their self-seeking vision of Catholicism and a papacy remade in their image.
His biggest critics seem to be those who have no apparent clue what the “job” of Christ’s representative on earth means. This from so many who would also presume to tell us who should replace him.
I’ll take my chances awaiting Benedict’s true legacy in history.
I’ll also trust that the cardinal princes of the Church are just who they are and where they are now for a reason.
God knows. He sees.
Will Cardinal Turkson be the one placed in a position to govern? Would he be effective to that end? Will he be chosen to lead God’s Church on earth?
I have no other choice than to say he will be if it is God’s will.
[Thanks to Lisa Bourne for sharing her insights on Cardinal Turkson with Quiner’s Diner readers.]