The Conclave is now upon us, and yours truly is becoming increasingly more aware of the historic days we are living.
With Christianity under a massive attack all over the West, the next days can decide the fate of a generation of Western Catholics. The choice of a (relatively) young but ineffective Pontiff can seal the fate of Catholicism as we know it in the once civilised West, with the continued deterioration of Catholic presence (old people die, and young people don't care) and Catholics, in time, requested to accept the unacceptable (say, “marry” homos in Catholic Churches) or face church closures, marginalisation and, in time, persecution.
A “young” but strong Pope could, in turn, be a game-changer for Christians (not only Catholics) the world over. A long and strong Papacy would not only change the public perception of the Pope from good uncle to real shepherd (with the rod and the staff; and using both, even when it hurts), but he would have the time to completely change the Church landscape at the front, with the proper cardinals, bishops, and teachers in charge everywhere.
Today,the grip of the Church on Catholics is strong enough to be a huge factor in every Western democracy, if adequately employed. Still it's not too late. But this will not go on forever, and in twenty or twenty-five years' time the leverage could have reduced almost to insignificance.
If we look at Europe, we can easily say the Church is the last Christian man standing. Whilst in the United States a robust Evangelical movement will take care Christians continue to be feared by most secular politicians, no Western European Country could see the erosion of Catholic power without the almost annihilation of its Christian heritage and culture. Look at Germany, The Netherlands, Britain to see how often Christianity has become an empty word, with no content other than a vague sense of inclusiveness and acceptance of every abomination. Look at Spain and France to see how fast the decline can be. Look at Italy to see how the unthinkable can become part of of the electoral platform of the biggest coalition in half a generation.
These are decisive days, then for us Western Europeans this might be the last chance. One day we might, with persecution clearly approaching, remember these as the last days of real hope before the fatal election of just another week Pope, happy to look on whilst Rome burns. Or, if our prayers are answered, we might remember them as the last day of uncertainty and apprehension before the turning of the tide.
I am old enough to remember the days leading to, and following the election of, Ronald Reagan. The contrast between Jimmy Carter and him could not have been greater. You knew, you felt a true epochal change was upon us, and the dance about to begin would be remembered for a long time to come.
More than thirty years later, a new Jimmy Carter – certainly far preferable in his thinking, but just as impotent in his actions – has thankfully decided to step aside. We need another Ronald Reagan, or someone as similar to him as The Lord might decide to give us.
Among the Papabili, I cannot see one Ronald Reagan around (with the possible exception of Cardinal Burke, whose chances I consider very slim), and our best shot would be one who has profiled himself as moderate and acceptable to the JPII/BXVI Cardinals, but ready to put on the armour when called to be at the top. I must say that the more I read about the papabili, the more I realise there is only one with the best blend of knowledge of the Curia, pugnacious character, and ability to win allies and be considered acceptable by two thirds of the Cardinals.
You know who he is.
O Lord, please give us a strong Pope.