Attentive readers will notice a subtle shift in the headline today, from papabile, singular, to papabili, plural. That's because I'm treating three papal candidates in this piece, not just one. We're going to examine the prospects of the three Americans generally considered the most plausible contenders: Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York, Sean O'Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington.
I'm assuming my readers don't need a whole lot of biographical background on these three figures. What's critical is to understand why each might become pope, and why they might not. In this last installment of the "Papabile of the Day" series, that's precisely what we'll explore.
To begin with, let's make three broad points.
First, there's a "prophet without honor in his own land" dynamic when it comes to thinking about a prelate from one's own country becoming pope. We know them too well, so their defects and failures, their humanity, loom larger. Most of the cardinals currently sizing one another up, however, don't have that kind of intimate familiarity.