Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

So, it seems that the media’s frontrunner for pope is a big James Brown fan.

Cardinal Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who could become the first African pope in 1500 years (he’s from Ghana), grew up in a small shack and shimmied up coconut trees for his treats. A quiet, thoughtful student at his Christian school, he played bass in an Afro-beat band. He’s known to be charismatic, charming, and intelligent. The smart money says that in matters that Americans associate with the Catholic church his politics will be the same as his predecessor’s. According to Naunihal Singh,

Both because of his personality and the potential for a historic milestone, some journalists have taken to calling this papal election an “Obama moment” for the Church. This metaphor is apt only insofar as both will disappoint liberals hoping for significant change. Where Obama positioned himself as a cautious reformer, Turkson is openly conservative. He will not lessen opposition to gay marriage or undo the directive stating that men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” should not be ordained as priests. On the contrary, Turkson has defended anti-gay legislation in Africa and argued that “alternative lifestyles” should not be considered human rights. When asked about the possibility that the priestly sex scandal could spread to Africa, he replied this was unlikely because African culture discourages homosexuality. Here Turkson makes the conservative argument that blames gay priests, rather than celibacy or a lack of institutional safeguards, for the sexual abuse of children by the clergy. In doing so he ignores not only the results of a United States Bishops’ investigation, which found no support for this position, but also serious reports of African nuns being sexually abused by priests as well.

Personally, I don’t see the positions on homosexuality, women in the clergy, and celibacy changing no matter who’s chosen. But I have to say that part of me warms to someone with an ear for Afro-beat. I can’t imagine Herr Ratzinger dancing to Fela Kuti.

Let’s not forget that Rome has always, always, always been enriched by the outside.

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