Pope Francis used Sunday to create new cardinals and to deliver a number of messages.
The first 15 of them went to archbishops around the globe who will be inducted as voting members into the College of Cardinals in February. These 15 include men from countries as far flung as Uruguay and Ethiopia,Thailand and Tonga. Myanmar, Cape Verde and Panama will be home to their first cardinals. (True also of Tonga, with its 103,000 islanders.) So the first message is not “conservative” or “liberal,” just that the College of Cardinals is going to be much more vast in its geographic reach than ever before.
The next message went to Italy, which, while it did see two of its native sons honored with votes in any Papal Conclave that occurs before they are 80, must now know it is unlikely to return an Italian to Peter’s Chair anytime soon, if ever. First to Poland, then to Germany, then Argentina, then … Africa, Asia, an Island nation? Only God knows, but the Italians can guess that while their beloved institution will stay in Rome, its leader will not likely ever again be Italian. A sort of Catholic U.N., where the secretary General lives in and loves New York, but is never American.
Speaking of America, it was ignored. Again. One of the better writers on any subject concerning the Vatican is Rocco Palma, at his blog “Whispers in the Loggia,” who noted America’s “second consecutive shutout” as being “unseen in almost four decades.” The two Americans most likely to have been honored, Archbishops Charles Chaput in Philadelphia and Jose Gomez in Los Angeles, would have represented big “firsts” — the first Native American bishop and the first Mexican-born American bishop, and both come from uniquely symbolic dioceses — Philadelphia, which is the birthplace of America and of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that all just governments aspire to emulate, and Los Angeles, international capital of culture. Neither man is technically “eligible” because he followed a Cardinal who is still not yet 80 and thus disqualified from voting in a Conclave, but Francis has been bending many rules and chose not to bend that one for these two.
Tired old liberation theology wags and a rump group of aging anti-war marchers from the ’60s will argue that Chaput and Gomez are out because they are “conservative,” while both men have in fact been in the lead to regularize and care for America’s millions of illegal aliens, but it is far easier to understand Francis’ studied indifference towards America as the messaging of a Latin American eager to pull down the Yankees a peg or two: Tonga, but not Philadelphia. Because, after all, all Catholics are created equal, even though that phrasing has a home, indeed a building, where “Charles Carroll of Carrollton” signed the Declaration that was a death warrant should his revolution fail. His brother would become the first bishop of America, and the Declaration the “electric chord” as Lincoln put it, “that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.”
Pope Francis is authentically humble and kind, a pastor of genuine depth of soul, but unaware apparently of the battles in America that go on and on, and which carry the world with them. Those battles are often fought and won — or lost — here.
Treating America as Roman Catholic fly-over country is almost certainly a delight to many around the globe who don’t care for the world’s only superpower, no matter how often its carriers arrive off of the typhoon-devastated islands of the Philippines or tsunami-ravaged shores of the Indian Ocean, and no matter that the Islamic State horde will not be stopped unless America stops it.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.