Archbishop Naumann lays out the qualities he would like to see in the next leader of the Catholic Church
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — What matters most when electing a pope?
Administrative acumen? Pastoral experience? Linguistic skill?
All those are good and useful, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, but he has two other things at the top of his list.
“I’d say personal integrity and holiness,” said the archbishop. “And I think those are much more important things than administrative skills.”
Administrative skill, of course, is beneficial. It is not, however, the same thing as having great leadership skills. The next pope must be a leader.
“[The new pope] will have to be able to inspire and lead the whole church to be what we’re called to be,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“I think particularly with this [new] pope coming on the heels of the synod on the new evangelization and the current state in Europe and the United States,” he continued, “I think this new pope needs to be prepared to lead the church in this effort that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI called the new evangelization.”
Each cardinal who comes to the conclave is a product of his own experience, and the baggage he carries with him includes his individual concerns and the concerns of the church in his corner of the world.
For Europeans and North Americans, it might be the corrosive effects of secularized modern culture. For Central and Latin Americans, it might be aggressive proselytism by a swarm of Protestant sects. For Africans, it might be how to deal with the explosive growth of the church and the challenges of persecution.
But no matter where they come from, the bottom line for all the cardinals is the challenge of fulfilling the basic mission it was given by Jesus Christ: to make disciples of all nations. That’s what they’re looking for in the new pope — someone up to that challenge.
“[The new pope] needs to be a man who can articulate the faith well and in a convincing manner to the world, and to help us as a church to go about the essential mission of making disciples, not just sustaining the church,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Holiness, integrity and leadership ability are at the top of the archbishop’s list. Other things are useful and good, but second- or third-tier.
For instance, a knowledge of Islam would be helpful, but isn’t necessary. A command of languages is also useful, but is trumped by personal holiness. Administrative skill is good, but it is more important that the future pope has the ability to select subordinates who are good administrators.
“I think [the new pope] has to set the tone for leadership, as John Paul II did in so many ways,” he said. “I think Benedict was able to do that in his own way — which, in the end, affects the leadership style of those around him. I don’t know if that’s the biggest need — to reorganize the flow chart of the Curia.”
Some try to pit pastoral experience against curial experience, but that’s a false dichotomy, he said. Plenty of great popes have had both.
“I don’t think that necessarily means that someone has to be a diocesan bishop or have vast experience in the Curia,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“The question is who is the best leader at this moment who can articulate what the church believes and teaches to the world,” he said, “and who can inspire and motivate Catholics to live their faith with a passion and fidelity.’”
In other words, the new pope must be a teacher — like his predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
“I think that role is irreplaceable,” said the archbishop. “He needs to be a compelling teacher of the faith. And so, I think we need another great teacher.”
Any of the cardinals could be selected as pope, but among them are top contenders, called by the Italians “papabili.” Archbishop Naumann has had the opportunity to meet some of them.
He has a lot of affection and admiration for Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Austria, who he met through the local foundation of the Community of the Lamb. He also had an opportunity to visit Cardinal Angelo Scola, through his associations with the Apostles of the Interior Life. During a retreat given for American bishops, he met Cardinal Marc Ouellet, formerly archbishop of Quebec, Canada, and now prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
And, of course, he’s had the occasion to meet the American cardinals more than once.
“It’s fun to imagine Cardinal Timothy Dolan as pope, because I knew him when we were in high school and college together,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“It’s amazing to think of someone in a position to become pope someday that you knew during his formative years,” he continued. “Of course, Cardinal Dolan was as he is today — gregarious and charming, and very insightful. It would be thrilling to see him as pope.”
One of his other favorite Americans is Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., from Boston.
“I think Cardinal O’Malley is an extraordinarily talented, gifted and holy bishop,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I think he’d make a tremendous leader.”
But, could an American become pope? Highly unlikely, he said.
Unlike many, Archbishop Naumann won’t be glued to the television during the conclave or during the “smoke watch.”
He does, however, look forward to the gift that the Holy Spirit is about to give to the church.
“At this point, the best thing I think I can do is continue in my pastoral responsibilities,” he said. “They give me enough to think about without trying to speculate about who might vote for whom in the conclave.”
“This will be the seventh pope in my lifetime,” he concluded, “and each of them has been a tremendous blessing to the church.
“I trust that the Holy Spirit will raise up the right individual at this moment to build on the tremendous legacy of leadership of Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John XXIII.”