Papal Buzz Continues to Surround Cardinal Sean O’Malley

But will his staff's connections to the Obama administration hurt his prospects?

Cardinal Sean Mar 11
(Photo via The Pilot/George Martell)

While the idea of an American pope was considered a long shot when Pope Benedict announced his resignation in February—some Catholics fear the United States controlling the Church—there’s been a rapid shift over the past few weeks, enough that the buzz around Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has grown into a roar.

It started with the Italian press and quickly spread to the National Catholic Reporter, and from there, caught fire here. Former Miami Mayor Xavier L. Saurez endorsed him in an editorial for the Globe. Journalist Christopher Dickey made the case for him on The Daily Beast. The Globe relayed polls from an Italian newspaper showing O’Malley as a frontrunner and put together a good video on his rise. Governor Deval Patrick is also supporting O’Malley’s bid, calling the possibility of a selection a “great honor.” Bookies, meanwhile, are putting his chances at 10-1, which are the sixth highest odds for any cardinal (and ahead of New York’s Cardinal Dolan).

Then this morning, CBS dedicated a whole report to O’Malley’s prospects:

To add to the intrigue, CBS cited the high-level connections between Cardinal O’Malley and President Barack Obama. O’Malley’s spokesman, Terry Donilon, is a brother to Tom Donilon, Obama’s National Security Advisor. The Washington Post actually profiled the Donilon family a few days ago (another brother is a Biden aide), which is worth a read.

Of course, that type of connection is exactly what non-American Catholics have always worried about—that the United States would start sending directives to the Vatican. But as the Washington Post pointed out, Terry Donilon isn’t exactly afraid to speak out against the Obama administration:

[Terry] Donilon attacked provisions in the administration’s Affordable Care Act that required health insurance plans to offer contraceptives and access to other procedures anathema to the Catholic Church. He argued that recent concessions were inadequate.

“The way the administration handled that was poor,” Donilon said, adding, “My brothers have their life and their careers, and I’ve had my life and my careers and if they intersect at times because of issues, so be it.”