Not All Are Happy with the New American Camerlengo

February 28, 2019
Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell

On February 14, 2019, Pope Francis nominated Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell (USA), who was already the Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, to the office of camerlengo. This nomination comes at a time when the relations between the American episcopate and the Argentinian pope are anything but good.

The position of camerlengo had been vacant since the death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran on July 5, 2018. In the Roman Curia, this office comes into play when the Apostolic See is vacant: the camerlengo is the one who declares the death of the Pontiff.

He also takes care of the Holy See’s finances during the vacancy period.

Cardinal Farrell has served in various manager positions over the course of his career. His competence is at least a part of the reason for his promotion to this office. Pope Francis’ choice “seems to be a new act of trust in the American prelate,” according to the Vaticanist Salvatore Cernuzio. But this choice may not win unanimous support from the powerful United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In 2016, Cardinal Farrell opposed American conservatives on the question of communion for the divorced and civilly “remarried.” Sandro Magister pointed out in August 2018 that in 2013 the future camerlengo had “teamed up with the new progressive leaders—they too with McCarrick as their patron.” 

Cardinal Farrell also presents another complication. He was the auxiliary bishop of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He thus found himself in the heart of the controversy in 2018 for not having reacted to the abuse by the former archbishop of Washington, abuse of which the prelate has always denied being aware at the time it occurred.

With the nomination of a man contested for his progressivist positions and for his ambiguous role in the McCarrick affair, the pope clearly wishes to show that he remains the “Clock Master.” And the source of an ever-increasing time gap…