New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan

If timing is everything in life then Cardinal Timothy Dolan just missed a beat.

The front page story in The New York Times on Thursday revealing that he has been questioned about cases of child abuse and his reaction to them in his old diocese of Milwaukee could not have come at a worst time.

Dolan is now bound for Rome and the conclave with a scarlet letter over his scarlet vestments and a deep sense that he has blown whatever opportunity there was to be pope.

The child sex scandal continues to intrude on the papacy and the cardinals when they assemble in Rome and will surely be seeking a figure who can move past the torrent of charges.

Benedict, now seen as old and feeble, was unable to deal with it on his watch. The sure sense is that the new pope will need to make immediate moves to deal with it once and for all. Above all he needs credibility on the subject.

Because of what just transpired Dolan is bound to be seen as damaged goods, so much so that one has to question how the story came out.

Was it one of Dolan’s enemies who decided to leak it?

Little wonder that Dolan has now drifted out to 66/1 to be pope in the latest Paddy Power. odds from Dublin after being much shorter in recent weeks.

In contrast, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has come into 25/1 odds making him one of the top ten contenders for pope according to the bookmakers.

O’Malley is a pair of clean hands on the child abuse scandal widely seen as someone who did his best to fairly and decently clean up the rotten Archdiocese of Boston after Cardinal Law’s numerous cover-ups. He also helped deal with the Irish mess and washed the feet of those abused in a memorable scene with Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Since John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, the best journalist covering the conclave, wrote that O’Malley’s name is being mentioned more and more there has been a boomlet of interest in the shy Boston prelate.

However, no doubt there are enemies eager to bring him down too.

He received strong criticism after presiding at the funeral mass for Ted Kennedy because of Kennedy’s stance on abortion rights and that could well be a source of the attacks.

But as Allen points out, if the church is looking for “Mani Pulite” or clean hands as the Italians say, they could well take a close at O’Malley.

That would truly be a revolutionary papacy.