The process to select a successor to Pope Benedict XVI is beginning amid yet another clergy sex scandal, this one involving the cardinal who, until last month, headed the Catholic Church in Scotland. The precise dimensions of the allegations directed at Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has acknowledged engaging in inappropriate behavior, aren’t fully known. But the case underscores that the next pope will inherit a church leadership that is suffering from a crisis of confidence, has become alienated from many followers in Europe and the United States, and is looking for a deeper connection with the predominantly Catholic societies of Latin America.
In recent weeks, some prominent Catholics have mentioned the name of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston as a possible successor to Benedict. O’Malley is assumed to be a long-shot candidate. Nevertheless, the speculation is a tribute to O’Malley’s work in restoring order to the Archdiocese of Boston after the revelation, a decade ago, of its efforts to cover up clergy sex abuse. O’Malley, a Capuchin friar, has a calm, pastoral manner that helped soothe the bitter feelings left by his more forceful predecessor, Bernard Law. O’Malley’s work in re-examining the archdiocese’s procedures for handling allegations against the clergy was recognized by Benedict when he chose the Boston cardinal for the politically sensitive task of examining the Archdiocese of Dublin in the wake of similar allegations there.