New Pope: Vanderbilt professor/Jesuit priest can comment

The appointment of a Jesuit priest as the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church “absolutely stunned” Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and a Jesuit priest himself.

Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

“It is quite breathtaking to see a Jesuit selected,” said Morrill, who is the only Jesuit priest in Tennessee.

“The selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a strong indication that the cardinals wanted to go with someone at least a few steps removed from the disarray within the Vatican curia right now,” Morrill said.

Morrill also said that it is highly significant that the new pope is from South America and the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years. “Bergoglio is the son of Italian immigrants but he is still an Argentinian. One issue that he might be expected to address is the huge number of defections from Catholicism to the Pentecostalism in Latin America in recent years.”

Morrill noted that any cardinal appointed by Pope John Paul will be an arch-conservative by most people’s standards. “I do think there will be great deal of hope on the part of many Catholics that perhaps he will be more empathetic for those in poverty in Latin America,” Morrill said.

Morrill is a member of the Society of Jesus, the religious order commonly known as the Jesuits. To reach Morrill, send him an email or call 617-997-2566.

Watch video of Morrill talking about Pope Benedict’s resignation and the Catholic Church.