Archive for the ‘Conclave 2013’ Category

Benedict the Great Reformer

08/05/2016

John Allen has written a piece arguing that Benedict XVI was a great teacher and reformer, he opens “By consensus, while emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was a great teaching pontiff, ecclesiastical governance on his watch often left something to be desired. Space does not permit a full listing of meltdowns and crises, but here are a few highlights:

  • The appointment in 2007, followed by the swift fall from grace, of a new Archbishop of Warsaw who had an ambiguous relationship with the Soviet-era secret police.
  • The eerily similar appointment in 2009 of an Austrian bishop who had suggested Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans, and who was likewise gone within days.
  • Lifting the excommunications of four traditionalist Catholic bishops in 2009, including one who denied that the Nazis used gas chambers, with little apparent regard for how that move would be perceived.
  • The surreal “Boffo case” from 2010, pivoting on the former editor of the official newspaper of the Italian bishops. (If you don’t know the story, it would take too long to explain, but trust me … Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t make this stuff up.)
  • The Vatileaks scandal of 2011-12, which featured revelations of financial corruption and cronyism, and which ended with the conviction and pardon of the pope’s own former butler for stealing confidential documents.

Less spectacularly, there was a chronic sense during the Benedict years that the pope’s administrative team, led by Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was occasionally out of its depth. Decisions were delayed, and when they came, the logic for how things shook out was sometimes opaque”.

Allen goes on to note that “Frustration over a perceived “management deficit” helped pave the way for election of a new pope in March 2013, with a reputation as someone who could clean out the stables and get the Vatican under control. (Whether or not that’s actually happening today is an utterly different conversation.) Australia’s George Pell, today Pope Francis’ finance chief, was among those calling for a house-cleaning three years ago. “I think the governance is done by most of the people around the pope, and that wasn’t always done brilliantly,” he said after Benedict’s resignation. “I’m not breaking any ground there — this is said very commonly.” Today, however, marks the 11th anniversary of Benedict’s election to the papacy on April 19, 2005, and to mark the occasion, I want to suggest that over the long run, Benedict will be judged not by his failures but rather the historic reform processes he set in motion”.

Allen argues that Benedict will be remembered as a reformer, for three reasons, the first being financial reforms, “Although Pope Francis has launched an ambitious program of financial reform, it’s important to remember that the long-delayed work of bringing the Vatican into the 21st century vis-à-vis financial administration actually began under Benedict. Perhaps the single most important move Benedict made was to choose, for the first time, to subject the Vatican to independent secular review in the form of the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, Moneyval. Never before had the Vatican opened its financial and legal systems to this sort of external, independent review, with the results made public, and to say the least, the decision encountered some internal Vatican blowback”.

Allen adds “In centuries past, had secular authorities shown up to conduct such a review, they would have been fought off tooth and nail in the name of defending the autonomy and sovereignty of the papacy. For Moneyval, the red carpet was rolled out instead. Benedict was also the pope who created a new financial watchdog unit inside the Vatican, the Financial Information Authority, and hired a serious professional to lead it: A Swiss lawyer named René Brülhart, who for the previous 10 years had led anti-money-laundering efforts in the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein”.

The second element that Allen praises is Benedict’s anti abuse efforts, “When the abuse scandals in the United States broke in 2002, reaction in the Vatican was divided between what one might loosely call the “reformers” and the “deniers.” The fault lines broke down in terms of these debates:

  • Is the crisis largely a media- and lawyer-driven frenzy, or is it a real cancer?
  • Should the church cooperate with civil authorities, or is that surrendering the autonomy the church has fought titanic battles over the centuries to defend?
  • Should the church embrace the use of psychology in screening candidates for the priesthood, or is that smuggling in a secular mentality in place of traditional spiritual principles of formation?
  • Should the church support aggressive programs of abuse prevention and detection, or does that risk “sexualizing” children along the lines of secular sex education?
  • Is the crisis truly a global phenomenon, or is it the fruit of a “moral panic” largely restricted to the West?
  • Should the Vatican sign off on “zero-tolerance” policies, or does that rupture the paternal relationship that’s supposed to exist between a bishop and his priests?

When the American scandals erupted under St. John Paul II, the deniers had control in the Vatican and the reformers were an embattled minority. By the end of Benedict’s papacy, the situation was the exact reverse: The deniers hadn’t gone away, but they’d been driven underground”.

The piece goes on to mention “While he was still at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who pushed for new rules to weed out abuser priests in the Pope John Paul II years and who wrote those rules into law as pope. It was also Ratzinger who unleashed his top prosectuor, then-Msgr. Charles Scicluna, on Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado despite the cleric’s powerful network of Vatican allies, and who sentenced Maciel to a life of “prayer and penance” in 2006. Later, Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of sex abuse, the first pope to apologize for the crisis in his own name, and the first pope to dedicate an entire document to the abuse crisis in his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland. Benedict laicized almost 400 priests in 2011 and 2012 alone for reasons related to sex abuse, which is almost 1 in every 1,000 Catholic priests in the world flushed out of the system in just two years”.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, “Although Pope Francis is rightly celebrated for his humility and simplicity, the truth is that Benedict XVI contributed significantly to the “demystification” of the papal office well before Francis stepped onto the scene. Here’s an example. Shortly after his election, Francis returned to the Casa del Clero in Rome where he’d been staying prior to the conclave in order to pack his own bag and pay his own bill, an episode that became part of his “man of the people” image. Yet Benedict did much the same thing 11 years ago, returning to his apartment to pack up and then going around to thank the nuns who lived in the building for being good neighbours. In other words, Benedict was every bit as humble as his successor – arguably, in some ways, more so – even if that wasn’t always clear from his public image. Benedict also humanized the papacy with his capacity to admit fault and to ask for help”.

Allen writes that “His 2009 letter to the bishops of the world after the Holocaust-denying traditionalist debacle is one of the most heart-felt, plaintive documents written by a papal hand you’ll ever see, and in it Benedict candidly acknowledged that he and his Vatican team had dropped the ball – not on the substance of the decision, which he defended, but on the way it was handled and communicated. Finally, of course, there’s the fact that Benedict delivered the single most stunning act of papal humility in at least the last 500 years: His Feb. 11, 2013, decision to resign. Pope Francis has said that in the wake of that act, resignation has now become an “institution” rather than a historical anomaly. That doesn’t even mean every future papacy will end in resignation, because some no doubt will still die in office, either as a conscious choice or simply by dint of circumstance”.

The piece ends “Nevertheless, Benedict clearly answered the question of whether a pope even could resign in relatively normal historical circumstances – in other words, when not facing schism or invading armies – with a resounding “yes,” thereby, in ecclesiological terms, moving the papacy a huge step closer to being reinserted within the College of Bishops. No doubt, Francis and whoever follows him will continue to build on these precedents. The fact always will remain, however, that the precedents were set by the “Great Reformer.””

Francis the diplomat

02/10/2015

Given the recent trip of Pope Francis an article in Foreign Affairs notes the role of the pope as politician, “On Friday morning, the Vatican’s yellow-and-white flag was, for the first time, hoisted over the United Nations. Other than the flag, there will be little else to mark the occasion of Pope Francis’ address to the UN General Assembly. In fact, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office had to convince the pope’s team to accept even that honour. The issue first came up when Palestine, the assembly’s other permanent observer, promoted a resolution to allow the two nonmember banners to stand next to 193 member flags. The Vatican pressed to have its name removed from a draft text; the Holy See signed its first bilateral accord with Palestine in May and has referred to the “State of Palestine” since Francis visited last year, but Francis still considered the motion to be unnecessarily antagonistic toward Israel and the United States, which both opposed it. In the end, even though the specific reference to the Holy See was deleted, the resolution still referred more generally to “raising the flags of nonmember observer states,” a category that includes the Vatican. The resolution passed with 119 votes in favour, including France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, and Poland; eight votes against, including Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United States; and 45 abstentions, including Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Baltic States”.

This is primarily a result of the intense, even excessive, desire to be neutral. The simple raising of a flag is, in the eyes of the Holy See, an intensely political act which should be avoided.On the Church acts over what it considers to be its freedom of speech or doctrine is extremely political. To pretend that it is not is simply untrue.

The writer continues “The episode sums up Francis’ diplomatic style in a nutshell—promote reconciliation without offending key stakeholders. Press antagonists to encounter each other while avoiding affronting political leaders. For example, last week in Cuba, even as Francis called for a “revolution of tenderness,” he resisted pressure to meet with the island’s persecuted political dissidents. In Ecuador two months ago, the pope likewise avoided photo ops with President Rafael Correa’s critics, who mounted major street protests in the weeks leading up to the pontiff’s visit”.

The writer mistakenly writes “As a religious leader, Francis is charged with upholding values that transcend politics, which is why he tries not to play in political games. At the same time, however, human dignity can hardly flourish in conditions of deprivation or destruction, which is why he and his tight-knit diplomatic team have not been afraid to advocate justice, peace, and mercy to those in power. In that way, he has had to be more actively politically engaged than previous popes, but also more careful in how he does it”.

Yet this is somewhat simplistic. The role of Francis, and any pope, is entirely political, though obviously not exclusively. The exercise of religion is inherently political. Of course all modern popes have tried to focus on the transcendent but crucially the author admits that he “tries” to avoid political games.

The writer adds that “Among modern pontiffs, Pope Pius XII (1939–1958) faced extensive political challenges during and after World War II, yet even he was not expected to travel the world meeting with global leaders. Pope John Paul II (1978–2005), who dealt with a world tensely divided between the West and the Soviet Union for 13 years and a dominant United States thereafter, pushed for change but faced more intransigent world orders. Pope Benedict XVI (2005–2013) left the post, in part because of the complex political demands of the office. One reason Francis was elected for the job after Benedict was an intervention he gave to the conclave in 2013, in which he criticized the Catholic Church as too self-referential. Instead, he urged, it needed to focus on bringing Christ’s message to the world—and that’s just what he is doing”.

Interestingly he argues “Despite his reputation for humility, Francis is comfortable playing the prophet. His first official trip outside Rome was to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in 2013, where he spoke of the plight of refugees, mainly Muslims, fleeing failed states and war. Arriving on an Italian coast guard ship, he cast a wreath into the sea to honour those who had drowned. Later, he met with men from Eritrea and Somalia who made the crossing. In an emotional homily the day of the visit, the pope said that he came “to reawaken our consciences”—to cast out indifference toward suffering born out of a “culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing.” His startling language and use of symbolism—his altar was fashioned from an old fishing boat, his chalice and staff made from wood pulled from the ocean—prompted the Italian government to form, in October, Mare Nostrum, a rescue mission that saved over 150,800 refugees and arrested 330 smugglers before it was replaced by a European Union initiative”.

The article continues “Francis’ response to the refugee crisis is also unique. Before flying to Cuba, he met with a Syrian refugee family now living in a Vatican-owned apartment. The family of four, members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, arrived in Italy the day Francis asked all Catholic communities across Europe to accommodate at least one refugee family. Humanitarian service, as opposed to political action, has been the Catholic Church’s standard response to cataclysm. For Francis, though, the church should take a more proactive geopolitical role. With priests and religious leaders being kidnapped and murdered, while thousands of believers are forced to flee ancient communities in the cradle of Christianity, Vatican engagement is not optional. And so Francis has encouraged the church to be more active on behalf of refugees and migrants, which typically leads to more political engagement. For example, in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has made immigration reform a high priority and lobbies constantly for progressive legislation. The bishops didn’t need to be pressured to do so: the vast majority of immigrants from Latin America are Catholic”.

He mentions that the Holy See “has had formal, uninterrupted diplomatic relations with Iran since 1954; friendly correspondence between popes and Persian shahs dates back to the sixteenth century. Of the 180 countries with which the Holy See enjoys diplomatic relations, Iran maintains one of the largest delegations, which meets monthly with Vatican advisers. Encouraged by these connections, in March 2014, three U.S. bishops met with four leading ayatollahs in Iran. They were hosted by the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom, Iran’s spiritual center. With backing from the Holy See and a blessing from the U.S. State Department, the participants used the four-day session to establish a dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of religious leaders in diplomatic engagement”.

He goes on to note that “One of the bishops involved in the Iran dialogue on religion and nuclear arms, McCarrick, also played a role in negotiations to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations. He sat by the pontiff’s side during the first Mass in Havana earlier this week. The Vatican’s engagement on Cuba and Iran helped the pope build a personal relationship with Obama and so much political capital in Washington that he was invited to address a joint session of Congress—a first for a pope. This is all the more remarkable considering that 34 years ago, when U.S. President Ronald Reagan decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See, it was controversial—so controversial, in fact, that a legal challenge brought by a diverse coalition of religious groups went all the way to the Supreme Court. The White House won. These days, the Vatican is frustrated by U.S. activities in the Middle East, but it hopes that the goodwill it has built up in the United States can lead to more collaboration, possibly including on Syria. Sources in Rome say the pope considers it a very positive sign that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently described Syrian peace negotiations as a “process.” After talks with the British foreign minister last week, Kerry noted that “we need to get to the negotiation”.

The article ends “One relationship Francis has patiently cultivated is with Putin. The Vatican has earned its bona fides in Moscow by exercising restraint with regard to Ukraine. Instead of siding with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (which has a strong anti-Russian streak, having been persecuted by the Soviet Union), the pope counseled its leaders to avoid politicising the church. The Vatican recently relocated to Switzerland its American-born nuncio to Kiev, Thomas Gullickson, allegedly because Moscow complained that he was biased against Russia. What is notable is that, in Pope Francis’ view, not only are dissidents expendable in the interests of a larger process but so are church members and employees”.

He concludes “It’s an understatement to say that Francis is ambitious. He is leading the church into the world, as he pledged to his peers that he would do. No other pope has written a stand-alone document on the environment, probably because it requires so much simultaneous engagement in international and local politics, public policy, science, and education. His fearlessness and willingness to go there has contributed to his popularity. But global popularity has a downside: besides creating unrealistic expectations, there’s a risk that the multiplication of goals obscures the spiritual heart of his enterprise. Can a pope be a man for all people? Who knows. But Pope Francis is willing to try, and the world seems willing to let him”.

 

 

The inevitable rise of Tagle?

19/05/2015

After the recent election of Luis Cardinal Tagle as president of Caritas Internationalis, John Allen writes that he will dominate Catholic politics for decades, “Right now, the Irish betting firm Paddy Power has Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle of the Philippines as the favuorite to be the next pope, giving him 11/2 odds. Already dubbed the “Asian Francis,” Tagle got another boost this week with his election to lead a global federation of Catholic charities. (For the record, Paddy Power has Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston as the American with the best odds, at 10-1.) Granted, such forecasts don’t have a particularly good track record. Papal elections occur only when the incumbent either dies or resigns, and at the moment Francis seems perfectly healthy with no sign of slowing down. Between today and whenever a conclave might occur, any number of things can happen to change the landscape. That dose of caution, however, rarely stops “next pope” rumours from being the Church’s favorite parlor game. So if we’re going to go down that route, there’s a great deal to be said for Tagle, who would make a strong runner if the key issue next time is continuity with Francis”.

Allen goes on to make the point “Seen as the Catholic rock star of Asia because of his high media profile and wildly successful TV and internet broadcasts, Tagle on Thursday was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, a network 165 Catholic charitable organizations around the world based in Rome. Building a “poor church for the poor” is the motto of the Francis era, and from his perch at Caritas, Tagle is now poised to become one of the most influential architects of that push after the pontiff himself. Serving as president of Caritas doesn’t mean Tagle will move to Rome, or abandon his position in Manila. It does mean, however, that he’ll often be asked to visit disaster zones or conflict areas, articulating a Catholic response. He’ll be more in demand on the lecture circuit, more sought after by the media, and generally will enjoy an ever higher degree of visibility”.

Allen notes the point that “Inside the Vatican, it means that Tagle will be more involved at the big-picture level in terms of fleshing out the pope’s broad social, political, and humanitarian agenda. Tagle won the May 14 ballot at the Caritas General Assembly by a wide margin, a reflection of two points: First, that he enjoys great respect and affection among the Church’s charity leaders; and second, those leaders are smart enough to know that Tagle has the pope’s ear and can move the ball. The Filipino cardinal wasn’t in Rome on the day of his election, because he was in Chicago to receive an honorary doctorate from the Catholic Theological Union. He knows the United States well, among other things having earned a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of America in 1991”.

He adds that “Having hosted a triumphant papal visit to the Philippines in January that drew an eye-popping six to seven million people to the final Mass – in the teeth of a typhoon, no less – Tagle is a lock as the pope’s most important ally in Asia. The parallels with Francis are indeed eerie. Before taking over in Manila in 2011, Tagle served as bishop of the smaller Philippine diocese of Imus, where he was famous for not owning a car, preferring to either walk or to hop on one of the cheap minibuses known as a “jeepneys” working-class Filipinos use. He was also renowned for inviting beggars in the square outside his cathedral to eat with him. Theologically and politically, Tagle is a moderate. He’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to communion on a case-by-case basis, and he also resisted calls to take a more pugnacious line during a recent national debate in the Philippines over a controversial “Reproductive Health” law featuring public support for contraception”.

Yet, caution should be drawn about the equating Francis with Cardinal Tagle. Firstly, there is a saying, “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. This means that the new pope is nothing like the old pope. As Benedict XVI was a shy academic and curialist who chose his words carefully, Francis is the opposite of all of this. Therefore, in order to look for the next pope starting with what Pope Francis is not is a good place to start. Secondly, the issues of the next conclave will not be known. In 2013 it was governance and the Curia. Next time it could be relations with Africa or Islam which would lead to a dramatically different outcome. This is not to say that Tagle could not become pope but it is less likely.

Allen ends “Nobody at Tagle’s level is without critics, and he’s drawn fire on multiple fronts. Some question Tagle’s theological pedigree, noting that he was a member of the editorial board for a controversial progressive history of the Second Vatican Council criticized by Pope Benedict XVI. Last month Tagle blasted what he called the “harsh words” the Church sometimes has used for gays, unwed mothers and divorced and remarried Catholics. That remark drew blowback from pro-life Catholic groups. Whatever one makes of Tagle, because of his young age, 57, as well as the multiple leadership posts he holds, he will be a force in Catholicism for a long time”.

The Pope emeritus

12/02/2014

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the announement of the resignation of Pope Benedict. In an article that marked the anniversary Rocco writes “hours after Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy – lightning struck the dome of St Peter’s. In the rush toward a Conclave the news suddenly kicked off – and then a second tectonic shift in the choice of the 266th Pope – it can be said in retrospect that the first renunciation of the papacy since before Europeans settled the Americas wasn’t absorbed as the magnitude of the moment deserved. And for whatever changes have already come in the reign of Francis, even more in the offing, Joseph Ratzinger’s departure still makes for the office’s most significant reform in centuries”.

He goes on to note, “Since stepping away, the now Pope-emeritus has broadly held to his plan for his retirement to be spent “hidden from the world.” From his base in the former Mater Ecclesiae convent in the Vatican Gardens, Benedict – who’ll be 87 in April – is said to spend his days with the books he once called his “old friends,” still engaged in theological study, though he’s not expected to write again. A midday walk in the Vatican Gardens is often followed by time at the piano. Company does come, but the invitations tend to be limited to a relatively tight circle of longtime allies, who can be sufficiently trusted to not leak what he says. The mail is another story, however. A lengthy letter Benedict wrote an atheist author last November was published in La Repubblica with his consent, and in yesterday’s edition of the leftist daily, it emerged that Ratzinger had resumed correspondence with Hans Kung, his colleague-turned-rival of half a century, who he famously hosted for dinner months after his election. Reading from a note dated January 24th in a Repubblica interview, Kung quoted Benedict as saying that ‘I’m grateful to be linked by a great identity [sic] of views and a friendship of the heart with Pope Francis. I now see supporting his pontificate in prayer as my only and final work.’ For his part, Kung lauded his old friend for ‘thinking more of the destiny of the church than of any regard for himself.'”

Rocco goes on to write “To mark the anniversary, Ratzinger’s closest aide – Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who remains Benedict’s live-in private secretary as well as prefect of the Papal Household – has been on a media blitz which has included defenses of the often-misunderstood, frequently-fraught last pontificate. In a weekend conversation with Reuters, Don Giorgio said that for B16, ‘the measure of one’s work, of one’s way of doing things, is not what the mass media write but what is just before God and before conscience…. And, if it is fair, history in the end will reflect this.’ Having regained his old form after a rough patch immediately following his departure from Peter’s Chair, Benedict is only known to have left the Vatican once since his return in May, going to Rome’s Gemelli Policlinic in early January to visit his brother, Msgr Georg Ratzinger, who had fallen ill while visiting with his lone surviving sibling. (A German TV special to mark the Papstbruder-emeritus’ 90th birthday last month featured a brief chat between Benedict and the program’s host.) Likened by his successor to “a wise grandpop living at home,” the retired pontiff swapped Christmas visits with Francis, who treated him to lunch at the Domus. Knowing his predecessor’s special affection for the papacy’s “Camp David” in the Alban Hills, last summer Francis reportedly invited Benedict to stay at Castel Gandolfo whenever he wished, but Papa Ratzinger declined, instead encouraging the new pontiff to make it his own”.

Archbishop Gänswein does not sit well with Pope Francis, at one stage wondering out loud what else will change. Now that his rival Bishop Clemens has been confirmed as secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity it would not be unreasonable to expect Gänswein will take over the archdiocese of Cologne where Cardinal Meisner is over 80.

Rocco ends the piece “When it comes to drawing back, though, perhaps no commitment was tougher for Benedict to give up than the Schülerkreis, Ratzinger’s annual summer seminar and reunion with his doctoral students, whose last edition took place without him for the first time in nearly four decades. As the late-August gathering was still held at Castel – its 2013 focus on ‘The question of God in the context of secularisation’ – the Doktorvater welcomed his students to the Vatican for a morning Mass”.

He concludes, “As most of B16’s few post-resignation appearances have been alongside his successor, he’s widely expected to be present with Francis on 27 April, as the Pope canonizes Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II”.

Plenty of notice

01/11/2013

Previous thoughts that a consistory to create new cardinals would be called in June or December of this year by either Pope Benedict or Pope Francis will now not occur.

Yesterday, Fr Frederico Lombardi SJ, director of the Press Office of the Holy See has stated that there will be a consistory on 22 February 2014, the Feast of the Chair of St Peter.

Rocco writes that “Lombardi detailed a full plate of events surrounding the first gathering of the Pope’s “Senate” since the Conclave. Bookended by the third meeting of Francis’ “Gang of Eight” and another summit of the (newly-)all-important Synod Council, Francis will maintain the tradition begun by his predecessor and hold a consultation day with the entire College on the eve of the Consistory, its focus reportedly centered on the reform of the Curia. Far from the usual means of announcement – a declaration by the Pope himself either at the Wednesday Audience or Sunday Angelus a month before the Consistory date – the date was given this far in advance to allow the nearly 200 red-hats to work the week into their schedules. Though the speculation of prior Consistory dates had largely panned out, far-flung cardinals have long complained that the lack of a formal confirmation until weeks before had the effect of holding their calendars hostage”.

Rocco notes that there will be 14 electoral slots available by February. However, he is right to point out that “the Pope is perfectly free to dispense from the limit”. Whether this is a hint that Pope Francis will exceed the limit of 14 to return the Electoral College to the limit imposed by Paul VI or not.

Interestingly, Rocco goes on to mention “As for the composition of the new intake, it’s fair to say that – with a “Pope of Surprises” who’s shown little reluctance about setting his own course – all bets are off. Still, it would be little shock if the first non-European Pope in a millennium started into an effort to significantly shift the geographic makeup of the College, which has habitually seen his home-continent (which contains half the world’s Catholics) and much of the global church’s emerging standard-bearers significantly underrepresented. For example, despite boasting the bulk of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, Latin Americans only comprised 12 percent of the electors at the March Conclave, its 15 voting cardinals just one more than the North American bloc from a church less than one fifth of its southern neighbour’s size”.

He goes on to add “several ops have indicated that one means Francis intends to use to achieve a geographic reboot is a significant curtailing of the red hats given to Vatican officials, along with a gradual drop of the “cardinalatial sees” in Europe. Taken together, the Curial and Continent blocs accounted for 67 of the 111 electors in March, or precisely three-fifths of the Conclave, just 11 shy of the requisite two-thirds margin needed to produce a Pope. Among the few bankable names on the coming biglietto – at least, at this point – are but three Curial officials: the new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the CDF chief Gerhard Ludwig Müller, and Francis’ hand-picked head of the newly-amplified Synod, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri”.

What this means in pratice is obviously unclear. It would be safe to say that all Congregational prefects would get the red, but it is uncertain as to whether the presidents of the Pontifical Councils will get it in the future. As for the reduction of red in Europe it will be interesting, to say the least, how far this will extend to Italy which has the most electors of any country. This is both through curial heads and residential bishops. Currently, Palermo, Naples, Turin, Florence, Rome (as vicar general of Rome), Genoa, Milan and Venice all traditionally get cardinals. At the moment only Turin and Venice are without the red. Although Cardinal Romeo of Palermo is 75 and will need to be replaced it is uncertain as to whether his successor will get the red.  There are naturally some questions as to what Francis will do to the rest of Europe. Germany, Spain, Poland and France also have a number of cardinal-archbishops.

There are a slew of candidates, as usual. These include Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P., archivist & librarian of the Holy Roman Church, but notably there are a number of candidates from Latin America, Sergio da Rocha of Brasília, Oscar Vian Morales SDB of Guatemala, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello SDB, of Santiago de Chile, Orani João Tempesta, O. Cist.,  of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro and Murilo Ramos Krieger, S.C.J, of São Salvador da Bahia.

Rocco goes on to note “On the residential front, meanwhile, Bergoglio’s successor as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, especially after his election dropped Argentina’s number of resident voters to zero. Yet even more notably, as part of an expected increase of the College’s Eastern presence, both protocol and personal ties would see a seat going to the head of the largest Oriental body in communion with Rome – the major-archbishop of the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who at 43 would become the youngest cardinal elevated in the last century”.

He ends “for the sake of i Gammarelli and the arrangement of the pilgrimages – don’t be surprised one bit to see the designates’ names emerge well before January”.

The “gay lobby”

16/06/2013

Pope Francis has formally acknowledged that there is a “gay lobby” within the Vatican. The “lobby” was reported as being a factor in the conclave but was dismissed by the Church at the time.

John Allen writes that “As a rule of thumb, one should usually take unsourced speculation with a grain of salt, especially in the Italian papers. As I’m fond of saying, God love ’em, Italians have never seen a conspiracy theory they’re not prepared to believe. In terms of specifics, I don’t know whether it’s accurate that a commission of three cardinals created by Benedict XVI to investigate the Vatican leaks affair, composed of Cardinals Julian Herranz Casado, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, actually considered possible networks inside the Vatican based on sexual preference, but frankly, it would be a little surprising if they hadn’t. Here’s why. In 2007, Msgr. Thomas Stenico in the Congregation for Clergy was suspended after being caught on hidden camera making contact with a young man posing as a potential “date” in gay-oriented chat rooms, then taking him back to his Vatican apartment. In 2010, a “Gentlemen of the Pope” named Angelo Balducci was caught in a wiretap trying to arrange sexual hookups through a Nigerian member of a Vatican choir. Both episodes were highly public and caused massive embarrassment. In that context, it would seem odd if the cardinals didn’t at least consider the possibility that somebody with a big secret to hide might be vulnerable to pressure to leak documents or spill the beans in other ways”.

Allen goes on to write, sensibly, that “It also doesn’t stretch credulity to believe there are still people in the system leading a double life, not just in terms of their sexual preference and activities, but possibly in other ways as well — in terms of their financial interests, for example. Whether they form self-conscious cabals is open to question, but they may well naturally identify with each other, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that trying to chart such networks was part of what the three cardinals tried to do”.

What Allen doesn’t mention of course is what Pope Francis will do, or can do, if anything, about it. These men have, presumably not broken any law, civil or canonical, and therefore until such time as this changes and they are caught Francis can do little, if anything. Of course those on the unhinged right are having a field day, seeing them as a malign fifth column out to destroy the Church, which is of course laughable.

“Should care about the election”

23/03/2013

Last week the Economist published two articles on Pope Francis.

The first discusses his national origins and its significance. The article opens “non-believers and non-Catholics should care about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as Pope Francis. The church which he will now head matters. Its unique privileges in the secular world (such as statehood and a voice at the UN) open it to secular scrutiny. Its good works (such as orphanages and hospitals) are vital. It matters in diplomacy, especially in behind-the-scenes peacemaking. It helped destroy Soviet communism, a global evil. Its stubborn defence of religious freedom is a headache for China’s rulers”. Of course its “unique privileges” such as statehood are absolutely essential for its freedom to operate in the world and give the Church a voice in fora such as the UN that would otherwise be non-existent or, worse, lacking completely.

The article goes on to say “The church’s cover-up of sexual abuse over past decades in many countries was illegal and compounded the victims’ hurt. The Vatican Bank, another quirky privilege of the Holy See’s special status, has failed to curb money-laundering. And, from sectarian chants at Scottish football matches to the outgoing Pope Benedict’s clumsy criticisms of Islam, tensions with other religions can turn into violent strife”. The cover up by he Church has been immoral and the very definition of sin itself but Pope Benedict himself has begun to reverse this course drawing up global norms for the Church that most have followed, although this worryingly excludes parts of Africa. With regards to the “clumsy criticisms of Islam”, Pope Benedict was correct to state in his September 2006 address, and elsewhere in his writings, that only when religion is anchored in reason does it flourish. This was the challenged he posed to Islam and those with authority in Islam.

The writer goes on to mention rather boringly, “it is as the world’s largest membership organisation that the church has its biggest role. It makes its 1.2 billion people—rich and poor, of all ages and conditions—feel that they are part of some sort of larger world order; that even in the poorest and most benighted country, their hopes and fears count and that someone in authority is listening to them. For this last reason alone, Francis is an earthquake (see article). Just as the election of a Pole in 1978 helped presage the fall of the iron curtain and the reunification of Europe, the Argentine’s election heralds the shift in economic—and political—power from north to south”. This shift of political and economic power has been overwrought and dealt with elsewhere here and in other fora and therefore it would be a mistake to believe a pope that is not from Europe is indicative of a political and economic shift.

The writer continues “Despite his age and his closeness to the conservative Benedict, Francis may be a reformer. It is hard to imagine a man who ditched his limousine and palace in Buenos Aires and took the bus to work from a humble flat putting up with nonsense from Vatican smoothies. In Europe religion may be declining; in Latin America Christianity—albeit of many kinds—is still thriving”.

The remainder of the artilce divides into two sections, doctrinal and temporal. Referring to the first it notes wholly accurately, “In terms of doctrine, the list of rules that the church defends with great cost and mixed success begins, from our perspective at least, with priestly celibacy. Many priests are married—ex-Anglicans, and the Byzantine-rite Catholics of eastern Europe. All the scriptural evidence suggests that the first pope, Peter, had a wife. Allowing other clergy to do likewise would help stem the decline in the priesthood and relieve a great burden of suffering and loneliness. With that taboo gone, others could follow, such as the ban on artificial contraception. This may be too much for Francis”. Those in the other category are predicable and either achievable or laughable, “Ditching his Italian holiday residence for a southern one, in Latin America, Asia or Africa, would be a start. Rejigging the college of cardinals”.

The second piece notes “At the age of 76, Francis is old enough to be considered another transitional leader, but vigorous enough to leave an enduring mark on the world’s largest Christian church. His first words from the balcony at the front of St Peter’s basilica could not have been more disarming”.

Very different styles

17/03/2013

Rocco notes the starkly differing styles between Pope Francis, and Pope Benedict. He writes “Even before Election Night ended, the stories of a starkly different style for the 266th pontiff started streaming out: Papa Bergoglio’s decision in the Sistine Chapel to shirk the elevated papal throne and stand at ground level to receive the traditional ‘obedience’ of the cardinals, then ditch the Pope’s motorcade and ride back to the Domus as he came – with the cardinals on the bus”.

He continues in the same vein “The papal Mercedes – waiting again, this time to take Francis on his intended visit to St Mary Major – was again left behind in favour of a stock Volkswagen [Phaeton]. And on the way back to his new home – which Boston’s Capuchin Cardinal Seán O’Malley compared to ‘being a prisoner in a museum’ – the Pope called for a detour to the Domus Paulus VI, the clergy lodging across the Tiber that was his pre-Conclave hotel, to collect his things, check out and pay the bill himself”.

He goes on to mention”As the afternoon press briefing noted, Francis wanted to ‘set an example’ by personally running the errand and settling the tab with his own money. Along the way, the bishops of Argentina received a message from their countryman-Pope, communicated through the Nunciature in Buenos Aires. In the three-sentence memo, obtained by Whispers, Archbishop Emil Tscherrig wrote that Francis wanted to convey his ‘sentiments of gratitude’ for their prayers and expressions of care for him. The next sentence, however, was the kicker – repeating the call then-Archbishop Bergoglio made on receiving the red hat in 2001, the nuncio said that the Pope ‘would like that, instead of going to Rome for the inauguration of his pontificate’ on Tuesday [19th March], the prelates express ‘their spiritual closeness [to Francis]… by accompanying the neediest with an act of charity.'”

In a related post Rocco writes “Beyond scaling back the pomp surrounding his early morning stop at St Mary Major – where he spent a solid half hour in prayer before the protectress of Rome, the ancient image of the Salus Populi Romani – this morning’s La Repubblica reports that the new Pope wanted his retinue to ensure that the basilica would be kept open to the public during his visit. ‘I’m a pilgrim, and I just want to be one among the pilgrims’ Papa Francesco reportedly said”. He adds “the plea proved futile – while the Vatican spokesman subsequently said that papal security exists for the Pope, not the other way around, Christendom’s oldest church dedicated to the Mother of God was kept shut during the visit. Still, Francis did get to greet some of the staff and the confessors of the basilica, whom he urged to ‘be merciful to souls [who come to you] – they need you.’ Meanwhile, in an act that resonates across one of the more fraught lines of the last pontificate, the pontiff wrote quickly to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, inviting Italy’s ranking Jewish leader to his Installation Mass”.

He goes on to add “has not taken up the red or brown kicks of his post-Conciliar predecessors, which were ready in a variety of sizes in the “Room of Tears,” but kept to a black set”. This in addition to the fact of the disappointment felt by the master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, Msgr Guido Marini, when Pope Francis did not wear the traditional winter erime trimmed mozzetta. Rocco goes on to mention “the new Pope likewise declined to use one of the bejeweled pectoral crosses from the Papal Sacristy that were set out for whoever emerged from the Conclave, choosing to retain the simple silver cross he wore into his election, and his usual, unadorned silver ring with it. (At yesterday’s Mass, Francis likewise opted against a miter from the Vatican collection in favor of his preferred one from home – a minimalist headpiece, and notably one trimmed and lined in brown: the traditional color associated with the Franciscans.)” While it would be a mistake to oversimplify the differing views between Pope Francis and Msgr Marini, in reality there can only be one winner when it comes to how the pope celebrates the liturgy.

Rocco wrote on 16 March, “Three days after election, Francis reconfirms Curia chiefs in posts on temporary basis; Pope ‘taking time for prayer’ before major moves” However as a way of comparison, Pope Benedict was elected on 19 April 2005 and confirmed all major officials on 21 April. The fact that Pope Francis took longer than expected signals intent on his desire to reform the Curia.

Whether this intent will remain an intent and be stifled or the new pope’s desire will win out will be revealed over time.

An account of the conclave

15/03/2013

On Wednesday morning, the cardinals filed in again and repeated the ritual of voting. Each man filled out his ballot and walked to the front of the room. ‘When you walk up with the ballot in your hand and stand before the image of the Last Judgment, that is a great responsibility,’ O’Malley said. There were two votes before lunch, and the field was narrowing. But the smoke was black again, and the crowd was again disappointed. This time, however, they didn’t leave the square. At lunch, O’Malley sat down besides Bergoglio. ‘He is very approachable, very friendly,’ he said. ‘He has a good sense of humor, he is very quick and a joy to be with.’ But with the vote going his way, Bergoglio was uncharacteristically somber”.

Pope Francis

13/03/2013

The 114 cardinals have chosen Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio SJ as the new pope, taking the new name of Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit, the first from Latin America, the first from outside Europe in 1,200 years. He is also the first to bear the name Francis.

Rocco writes “By choosing the name of the founder of his community’s traditional rivals, the 266th Roman pontiff – the first from the American continent, home to more than half of the 1.2 billion-member church – has signaled three things: his desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to “repair God’s house, which has fallen into ruin”… that is, to rebuild the church”.

Rocco goes on to add in a separate post “have gone to the runner-up at the last Conclave in all of five ballots – with more than half the electorate changed over since last time – is not merely decisive….Indeed, it’s epic. And make no mistake about it – this is a mandate. To no small degree, having come close to facing the “guillotine” last time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has had almost eight years to prepare for this. Yet even beyond the first notes he struck as Pope Francis I, a Page Three note in the moment seemed to sum up the ecclesial significance best….This ain’t Francis I so much as John Paul I”

Those supposedly supremely loyal to the popes have already come out with daggers drawn, Rorate has said “A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum. Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is. His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehaviour”.

They go on to say “This election is incomprehensible: he is not a polyglot, he has no Curial experience, he does not shine for his sanctity, he is loose in doctrine and liturgy, he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual “marriage”[approved with practically no opposition from the episcopate], he has no manners to honor the Pontifical Throne. He has never fought for anything else than to remain in positions of power”.

John Allen tries to parse what occurred in the conclave, “Although there were other compelling Latin American candidates heading into the voting, such as Brazilians Odilo Pedro Scherer and João Bráz de Aviz and Mexican Francisco Robles Ortega, a lone strong candidate from the region nevertheless emerged within five ballots, well under the 7.4 rounds of voting that form the statistical average for the previous nine conclaves. A strong Latin American did, in fact, sew things up fast”. He goes on to make the point that “it probably took the intersection of several currents in the College of Cardinals to carry Bergoglio to the papacy, and it’s easy to imagine how the stars might have aligned a different way. We’ll doubtless learn more in the days to come, but for now it’s possible to identify at least three blocs that might have found their man in the 76-year-old Jesuit from Buenos Aires. First, cardinals who spoke in pre-conclave interviews about the desirability of electing a pope from outside the West probably saw him as their best bet, especially given the strong support he attracted eight years ago, when he was effectively the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI. It’s reasonable to surmise that once Bergoglio’s candidacy seemed real, he attracted most of the votes of the 19 Latin American cardinals, as well as substantial numbers of the 11 Africans and 10 Asians”.

Allen ends the piece closing “although Bergoglio is unquestionably orthodox, he may have once again attracted support from European moderates who turned to him eight years ago as the main alternative to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. For that constituency, the fact that Bergoglio is a Jesuit with a reputation for holding diverse currents within the order together probably made him seem attractive. Those European moderates didn’t have the numerical weight in 2013 that they wielded in conclaves past, but they probably represented 15-20 votes. Third, Bergoglio would have appealed to a current within the 38 Vatican cardinals who took part in the conclave, especially those who come out of the Vatican diplomatic tradition and prize the Holy See’s traditional role as a voice of conscience on the global stage”.

Interestingly, Sandro Magister writes on the most concerning his “He has always carefully kept his distance from the Roman curia. It is certain that he will want it to be lean, clean, and loyal. He is a pastor of sound doctrine and of concrete realism”.

Time will tell if this is accurate.

Black smoke, twice

13/03/2013

As expected the first vote of the cardinals last night did not yield a successor to Pope Benedict. That is not to say that the first day was “wasted”. On the contrary, the first day is vital as it gives the cardinals a rough list of candidates with which to work with and from there ad hoc groups begin to form supporting one or the other until the list of potential candidates is reduced to something managable, around three or 4 names.

Rocco writes “The First Scrutiny having been completed, at 7.41pm Rome, the Black Smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chimney.  As previously mentioned, the opening ballot’s principal purpose is to provide the first complete picture of who the electors view as contenders (and don’t), allowing early bases of significant support to be built upon, and less prevalent ones to be winnowed into other blocs”.

He goes on to add “In other words, only on the basis of tonight’s snapshot does the papal ‘horse-race’ – which the Italians have dubbed ‘Il Totopapa,’ the ‘Popestakes’ – begin in earnest. With the cardinals now locked away and cut off from the world outside for the duration, though, only after the 266th Pontiff emerges will we learn how that shaped out”.

He ends the short article, “For purposes of context, the 2005 election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – tipped by many as the ‘front-runner’ – as Benedict XVI took four ballots; the October 1978 result that saw Karol Wojtyla become John Paul II took eight ballots” but goes on to write “Only once in 20th century (Pius XII in 1939) pope elected in three ballots. 7 ballots on average required over the last nine conclaves”.

John Allen writes “If yesterday was New Hampshire, then today is Super Tuesday. Granted, analogies to secular politics are always inexact when applied to the Catholic church. Yet as Cardinal Velasio De Paolis of Italy said on his way into the Casa Santa Marta yesterday morning, the election of a pope is both “a spiritual and a political act.”  Anyway, imagery drawn from political life is sometimes the only tool we’ve got to explain what’s happening to the outside world”. Allen goes on to mention “Here’s why Super Tuesday works as a metaphor for where things stand today, even if it is actually Wednesday on the calendar. Rather than one ballot, today could bring as many as four, depending on whether or not someone gains a two-thirds majority and is elected pope before things go that far”.

He end the piece “The bottom line is that if today fails to deliver a pope, then all bets are off in terms of who might step out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica wearing white”. However this might be overstating it. There are very clear governance issues both with the Roman Curia and more generally. Not to exaggerate but if this is the issue then it will come down to who can best reform it, someone who knows it from the inside out, like Cardinal Sandri, or someone who is familiar with it but has spent some time outside it, in a major diocese, like Marc Cardinal Ouellet.

The morning ballot has just ended and it too produced black smoke, as expected.

How to reform the Curia

13/03/2013

As the second day of voting begins the talk of governance and how the next pope will deal with the lack of it in the curia has been examined by the respected John Thavis.

Thavis introduces his piece “Based on ideas that Vatican officials have floated in conversations over the last two weeks, here are seven relatively simple steps the next pope could take to streamline and improve governance at the heart of the church”.

The first of these he says “Bring in his own team. Newly elected popes habitually leave the Roman Curia heads in place for years, in part because they don’t want to be seen as “rocking the boat.” But this only makes it more difficult to change policies and challenge entrenched attitudes. The next pope should thank the existing team of Vatican officials for their service, and then send them home”. Yet what Thavis does not elaborate on is to what level this should go down to? Is it just the department prefects and presidents or is it down to the level of secretaries and under-secretaries as well? Where would all of these officials go? If they were bishops should they all be sent to dioceses?

His second point is “Limit terms for Roman Curia officials to no more than five years. Cardinals and other prelates should be informed that their Vatican appointments will last no more than five years. This would ensure that they understand their shift at the Vatican is truly a time of service to the church, not an opportunity for career-building”. There are five year term limits for both presidents/prefects and priests serving temporarily in Rome, on loan from their dioceses, but some of them excel at what they do and therefore there is an understandable  hesitation to let them go back to their home nations. His point about “Term limits would also bring younger people to the Vatican” though quite broad, is well made.

He goes on to suggest that there be “weekly Cabinet-style meetings among Vatican department heads. Rather incredibly, such meetings are rarely held today, and that fact helps explain why Roman Curia officials often give the impression they’re not on the same page”. This makes total sense and should be implemented immediately. Similarly his next point is equally well made, “Flip the proportion of Italians in the Curia. Italians still dominate almost every Vatican office, and Pope Benedict actually “re-Italianized” some sections of the Roman Curia. If Italians make up 60% of the Curia today, for example, reducing them to 40% would create a space for real internationalization. It would also help reduce the Vatican’s excessive focus on Italian political and social affairs”. This however will be quite hard to implement although it is undoubtedly an admirable goal curial pushback against a whole raft of measures and appointments, to least that of Cardinal Bertone as secretary of State caused havoc and a desire for revenge for months, if not years that then erupted in Vatileaks.

Curia vs the rest

11/03/2013

Rocco has written a long but highly interesting post about the conclave that is due to start tomorrow.

He opens noting that the cardinals “The road to a Conclave never begins with a slate of ‘contenders,’ but the discernment of issues and exchange of ideas – in this instance, 115 slates of experiences, philosophies, priorities and concerns on what’s needed most at this moment in history, all weighing a mix of skill-set, background, personal qualities and, yes, image, plus the sliding scale of sending a message to the wider world while, internally, providing the optimal substance of leadership. In short, the path begins with a question in each elector’s mind:“What is the situation of the church?”  It ends with which melding of those answers in human form can make it to 77″.

He goes on to mention “Still, assembling them almost always tends to begin at the center, with the strengths and weaknesses of what just came before. And this time, when one of the group quietly exclaimed that, in the wake of the series of debacles in the Curia over recent years, ‘We need someone who can take the Vatican back,’ it’s not hard to see that sentiment as being nearly electable on its own”.

This mindset will benefit people like Cardinal Sandri, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Cardinal Ouellet. Other obvious governance candidates like Cardinal Filoni fall down on their nationality and the implication that only a non Italian could begin to fix the problems of the Curia.

Rocco adds, with the important point, “a coalition gathered around two or three key concerns can easily fall apart as 10 or 15 votes take issue with some lesser part of a proffered candidate’s leanings or background. Just as much, meanwhile, every possibility has a liability – whether it’s a judgment call that could come back to haunt a papacy at its outset, a lack of languages or some type of experience, an affinity or alliance some won’t find appealing or, alternatively, an established cadre of enemies who’d work to undermine him without relent”.

The key issue that Rocco raises is “who can draw the greatest backing because of the fewest objections or the least driven resistance? Whatever happens over the days to come, just remember this: no man is perfectly prepared to become Pope. And even if he’ll come into the grace of election and myth of the office, he won’t simply remain human, but fated to spend the rest of his life under the world’s most searing spotlight, one that expects perfection from him more than any other. As all of 39 votes will serve to block election, the key to the Keys might just rest in the pitfalls – rather, the lack thereof”.

Therefore the Curia both active and emerti could band together and effectively block a candidate. However it should be said that the Curia is not a monolith and should not be treated as one. There are deep divisions with it, more obviously, a pro and anti-Bertone faction.

Rocco goes on to write “As the broad sweep of things stands, the chaos of the Curia is indeed Issue  One this time – because, the thinking goes, if the Pope doesn’t have his own house in order, what can he accomplish anywhere else? So powerful is the urge to ‘take the Vatican back’ that, even if should a besieged Curial-Italian superbloc hold together – a development that would turn a cornerstone element of the prior ‘internationalized’ Conclaves on its head – it wouldn’t seem able to withstand the drumbeat coming from those outside.”

He adds later on “In another shift of the scene, the elections of 1978 and 2005 saw ideology – of course, as determined by the legacy of the Council – as a key factor. That’s not the case this time – as ecclesial issues go, “reform” of governance usually belongs to the progressive camp, but many who wouldn’t be considered “liberal” by any stretch appear to be on-board. In this election, the fault line can duly be termed “The Curia vs. The World.'” From this he does on to speculate about a new secretary of State and the long overdue retirement of Cardinal Bertone.

He goes on to expand on this “even if the Italian press has it right in its reports of a ‘ticket‘ (or several) being floated – in which scenario a winning candidate selects a pre-determined Secretary of State – don’t put too much stock in it, because a ‘package deal’ never works. For one, the norms in place explicitly ‘forbid’ that any ‘pact, agreement, promise or other commitment… to a certain course of action’ be made by any cardinal or group should one of the deal’s stakeholders be elected. What’s more, any attempt to tie the new Pope’s hands inevitably backfires given the perception that his freedom to act has been compromised even before his election’s taken place. And most practically of all, to bind a pontiff to his most consequential personnel pick without taking account of the key quality for the effectiveness of his ‘prime minister’ – namely, the complete confidence of the Man in White, and the personal mandate that comes with it – is a recipe for disaster”.

Lastly Rocco writes “As a matter of history, Secretaries of State don’t come from the ranks of current cardinals at least as often as they do – both of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s immediate predecessors only received the red hat on their respective appointments to the top post, as did the most prominent Stato chiefs of the first half of the 20th century: Merry del Val and Pacelli. Still in all, that the focus on the management of the Curia has had to be addressed even by the old guard only serves to reinforce the depth to which it’s seen as a mess in need of cleaning – the only question over its extent is where a successful consensus can be forged”.

Given that among the new pope’s first decisions will be to choose a replacement for Bertone, with the most obvious, of candidates, among many, being Archbishop Mamberti.

Further evidence of the shift

09/03/2013

Rocco has an interesting piece on the demographic and cultural shift of US Catholicism from the Northeast and Mid West to the Southern United States.

He writes that “for the first time, Texas – where Catholics have just come to comprise the biggest faith-group – has a vote in this papal election, while in another occurrence without precedent, a cardinal-elector left for Rome from Tennessee. Yet most of all, likely for the only time – and under circumstances that, not long ago, would’ve been deemed as unlikely as a Pope’s resignation – a trio of red-hats who’ve become the most influential group of seminary-mates the Stateside church has ever seen will be locked in the enclosure together, bearing between them the ability of forming a bloc to be reckoned with”.

He tends to overplay this slightly, the elector from Tennessee is none other than the disgraced Justin Cardinal Rigali who twice did nothing after two grand jury reports indicted his handling on child protection grounds. Rigli has taken the wise decision not to live within his own diocese after his age induced resignation was accepted in 2011.

Rocco continues “the three hail not from the traditional flagships of Baltimore, Boston, New York – indeed, not even Philadelphia – but what’s only recently become the largest diocese ever upon these shores: the 5 million-Catholic behemoth in Los Angeles, 70 percent of it Hispanic, its population doubled over the last two decades. And what’s more, each having reached the papal “Senate” on drastically different paths, Cardinals Roger Mahony, Justin Rigali and William Levada combine a shared long-standing bond with a spread of philosophies and networks among the body so sprawling that, if they combined, could end up producing the next Pope… or, if nothing else, contributing mightily to the result”.

He goes on to argue that between the three cardinals, the “progressive” Mahony, the “moderate theologian” that is Cardinal Levada and the diplomat formed that the legendary Giovanni Benelli, Cardinal Rigali. “together with spheres of influence which respectively reach deep into Latin America and the wider global south, the CDF-centric Curia built by Benedict and Bertone, and the Ratzinger crew’s eternal rivals in the ancien regime of the Secretariat of State, practically every geographic, ideological and situational (e.g. Curia vs. diocesan) base of this Conclave is covered”.

Interestingly he adds in the article “Despite their differing experiences and outlooks, the trio have remained close since their start at St John’s Seminary (above) – Levada joins Mahony for part of the retired LA prelate’s annual summer getaway at his Yosemite cabin, and as CDF chief, the former archbishop of San Francisco flew into Philly for Rigali’s 50th anniversary as a priest amid the tumultuous fallout of the 2011 grand jury report on clergy sex-abuse that would expedite the legendary diplomat’s departure. Last time, however, the triangle wasn’t completed – only with Benedict’s election did Levada become the highest-ranking American in Vatican history with the new Pope’s nod to succeed himself at the head of the doctrine office, a choice born both from their own long, comfortable history, but likewise Joseph Ratzinger’s desire for a US prelate to bring his bench’s experience in tackling clergy sex-abuse onto the global stage”.

He ends the article “Within months of each other, only last summer did all three enter retirement. Yet in a voting college where a full quarter were only elevated in 2012 – and at least to some degree, are still getting used to the reality of themselves in scarlet, let alone as papal electors – the dynamic of this Conclave lends an even greater weight to the contacts and memory of the veterans who’ve bestrode the scene for decades and know the elements at hand well enough to start toward a consensus”.

Tuesday 12 March

09/03/2013

A communique from the Press Office of the Holy See states, “The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave for the election of the Pope will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013. A “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning. In the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave”.

CEO of the Church

09/03/2013

The Economist has taken an irreverent look at the upcoming conclave. The piece opens “as the cardinals gather in Rome to elect a new boss the church is in turmoil. The pope has no shortage of crisis-management tools at his disposal, including the doctrine of papal infallibility. But Benedict XVI spent his papacy either provoking unnecessary crises (such as welcoming back Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust downplayer) or struggling with the sex scandals that are racking the church. This is partly because he was the wrong man for the job: a scholar where an administrator was required and an old man—78 when he was appointed, 85 today—where youthful vigour was needed. It is also because the problems tearing the church apart require sweeping structural reform of the sort that only a great leader can deliver. To be fair, Benedict has laid the foundations for just such a reform. His decision to retire establishes the revolutionary principle that being pope is a job, rather like being the boss of a company, that demands that you have all your wits about you”.

Yet the author ignores the fact the Benedict was elected to do more than just “administer”, although it could be argued that it was certainly a reason why he was elected, not appointed, in the first place. It ignores his fablous speeches and the great learning he brought to the papacy, his respect for the older liturgy and his challenge to modern individualistic society swept up in itself. He also ignores the point that Benedict had to speak his message through a media that was more or less relentlessly hostile, even if it ended up benefiting society as a whole.

The piece goes on to mention unfairly, that “Benedict has characteristically fumbled a good idea by insisting that he will continue to live in the Vatican and share his private secretary, Georg Gänswein, with his successor. But his decision is pregnant with possibilities. The next pope needs to be equally radical in reconsidering everything from the church’s core mission to its customer base”. The writer misunderstands the roles that Archbishop Ganswein has. Firstly his job as private secretary to Benedict, Roman pontiff emeritus has not changed but is quite minor and not at all significant due to Benedict’s obvious decision to stay away from commenting on the job of his successor. Secondly, that of prefect of the Pontifical Household is important but technical in that he organises the audiences of the pope and is not generally a close adviser, per se.

The writer the goes on to say “could learn from the private sector about how to manage the workforce he has”. Again the irrevence is grating and the comparison can be taken too far but there is some small amount of truth in what he writes. He adds, “you need to punish errant employees rather than protecting them or shuffling them about. The best companies are quick to ‘proactively outplace’ wrongdoers. Second, you need to treat your reputation as your most precious asset by drawing up clear rules on ethical behaviour, insisting staff adhere to them and conducting aggressive public-relations campaigns. Companies that have been caught lapsing, such as Tyco International, devote a lot of effort to telling their customers and employees what they are doing to fix their problems. Third, you have to keep looking ahead. Companies hold meetings of senior leaders to review their strategies every year, rather than every century or so. The church’s core competence lies in providing spiritual goods. Yet it devotes a lot of its energy to running an earthly operation. Some of this makes sense—schools and hospitals help fulfil Jesus’s mandate while promoting customer stickiness”.

His notion that the Church holds meetings “every century or so”, an obvious reference to the Vatican Council is again mistaken. The heads of the Roman Curia meet often, though admittedly not all together at once to provide “strategy” to the Church. This also ignores the regular synods that take palce every two to three years. He mentions “Big companies like IBM and Ford have got out of non-core businesses and contracted out as much as possible to specialist companies. The church should do likewise”. What he is suggesting is the Church basically abandon 2,000 years of Christianity in Europe and focus on “core businesses”, by which he means presumably Africa and Asia and Latin America despite all of what Benedict has done in the last eight years.

He goes on in a similar vein “the church remains Europe-focused. Its concession to globalisation has been to broaden the recruitment funnel for the papacy from Italy, which had an unbroken run for 456 years, to Mittel-europa. Seventy-five of the church’s 140 or so cardinals live in Rome”. While he is correct to say that the “recruitment funnel” has been widened there are not 140 cardinals, over 200 in fact and far fewer than 75 live in Rome. The fact that he gets this basic information so wrong does not bode well for his specific point.

He ends “The case for appointing a non-European pope is strong. But the church needs to go much further. Cisco created a second headquarters in Bangalore—Cisco East—that spearheads much of the company’s emerging-markets strategy. The least the church could do is to move the pope’s summer residence to Latin America. Many global companies establish centres of excellence across the world. The church should likewise move some of the Vatican’s departments, such as the ones that oversee missionaries or development, to developing countries. This would not only allow the church to plug into new ideas from Latin America and Africa; it would also help to discipline the introverted, back-biting, scandal-plagued and generally dysfunctional culture of the Curia”.

A brief tenure?

09/03/2013

After Archbishop Ganswein’s was appointed prefect of the Pontifical Household and then the resignation of Pope Benedict the path of the Ganswein was unclear. It is unclear what the new pope, whoever that will be, will decide to do with the leftover from the previous pontificate. While not certain, whatever happens Archbishop Ganswein will probably remain in his current post for some months after the new pope is elected. After that however the new pontiff may wish for someone of his own tastes to take over what is quite a technical office. Equally as it is such a technical office the new pope may see no need to remove someone who has only been in the post since December.

However Rocco makes the point “much as howls have come from some segments of the Establishment over both the ex-Pope’s future living arrangements behind the city-state’s walls amid claims of an ‘undue influence’ the situation could have on his successor, and especially Gänswein’s impending dual role as B16’s lead minder while holding the post that will organize the next Pope’s daily agenda, it bears reminding that the last Pope has followed tradition in leaving his successor several openings to give the secretary a golden ‘out.'”

Rocco continues, “As things stand, two key posts in German Catholicism – the influential bishopric of Mainz and the metropolitan seat at Cologne, thought to be the richest diocese in the world – both have cardinal-heads who remain in office well past the retirement age of 75; in the latter case, Benedict’s closest ally at home, the conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner, turns 80 on Christmas. Come August, meanwhile, Gänswein’s native archdiocese of Freiburg opens up as Archbishop Robert Zollitsch – the president of the German bench – will be required to submit his own ‘walking papers.'”

Depending on the speed with which, assuming he is, dispatched to Germany it could be taken as a not so subtle sign that new ways are in and the new pope wants to clear the decks. If he were sent to Freiburg this would be an unmistakable signal. Alternatively he could be given any of a number of jobs in Rome, one such being president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. This role too would, eventually, make him a cardinal. However, Rocco seems to think a job in Rome unlikely and a return to Germany almost certain.

Rocco ends, “the scenario clearly echoes that of early 2005, when John Paul II could’ve filled the archbishopric of Krakow – Poland’s second see, and the one he held until becoming Pope – but left the replacement of his own successor, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, then nearly 78, to the next pontiff.  For what it’s worth, it didn’t take being in Rome to figure out – even before John Paul died – that Stanislaw Dziwisz, Karol Wojtyla’s omnipresent ombra of four decades, would end up in the post”.

Media lockdown

07/03/2013

Rocco has the scoop when it has come the the recent goings on over the briefings by the US cardinals. He writes that “After an anonymous cardinal leaked details of yesterday’s sessions to the Italian press, in a chain of events that only makes sense in Vatiworld, the US delegation yielded to apparent pressure in shutting down its daily on-record briefings at the Pontifical North American College as the General Congregation agreed to maintain a “blackout” on interviews by all the cardinals in the run-up to the Conclave”.

He goes on to write that “An unsigned USCCB statement announcing the move implied disappointment, noting that ‘the US cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public.’ As it began to circulate, the announcement ended up derailing the Holy See’s own daily briefing on the General Congregation – featuring no cardinals, but the lead spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ and his deputies – where the press-ban quickly came to dominate the questions”.

Rocco continues writing, “Featuring a half-hour of lunchtime Q&A with a rotating cast of two among the 11 Stateside electors, the three NAC sessions rapidly became a big draw – a major US network livestreamed one of the briefings in full, and by yesterday’s round, over 100 media were said to have converged as Cardinals Seán O’Malley OFM Cap of Boston and Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston provided general summaries of the scene and their impressions, yet without violating the oath taken by each cardinal against divulging specifics. (An audio file of the event posted shortly after its close attracted so much interest that the server hosting it crashed under the demand.) While the clamp-down was communicated by e.mail to reporters an hour or so in advance, it still came so suddenly that some press only learned of the change after arriving at the college for today’s previously-scheduled briefing. Notably, the move came a day after the end of a two-part interview ran in prime time on the Canadian state broadcaster CBC with one of this Conclave’s most-cited “contenders”: the Quebec-born prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet”.

He goes on to make the interesting point “As the “blackout” will inevitably be flouted by cardinals speaking to reporters on background – in other words, you can bank it that the Curia crowd in particular won’t be leaving their “court scribes” of choice in the dark – the move indicates a struggle for influence over the public pre-Conclave script, which the Americans had injected with two live-wire topics in the old guard’s eyes: the importance of selecting a Pope committed to continuing a ‘zero tolerance’ response to clergy sex-abuse, and a choice able to accomplish a clean-up of the church’s chaos-ridden central government”.

Ultimately while the US briefings, added to the other events, have meant that it was the correct decision to end all communication as the cardinals are now effectively in conclave, if not formally. The general congregations that they are holding discusses the problems facing the Church and from that a general discussion about the kind of qualities needed for the next pope, without mentioning any names of course.

All present

07/03/2013

Rocco mentions that “with the touchdown of Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham of Ho Chi Minh City (the first elector to arrive from Vietnam since 1978) and his seating in this afternoon’s ConGen, all 115 PopeVotes are now present, and the timetable for the impending Conclave can finally be taken up”.

“To provide for a government”

03/03/2013

An article has appeared with Archbishop Joseph Tobin CSSR noting that Curial reform should be a priority for the next pope. The piece opens, “Since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 11, various commentators on Church affairs—and some Church leaders—have said that reforming the Roman Curia needs to be a priority of the next pontiff. These calls come in the wake of recent scandals in the curia, most notably last year’s VatiLeaks scandal in which the pope’s butler was convicted of releasing confidential papal documents to the press that highlighted disputes among various members of the curia”.

The piece goes on to mention “Speaking in a Feb. 21 interview with The Criterion, Archbishop Tobin said that curial reform ‘is a reasonable priority to have, not so much to avoid scandals, but to provide for a government that will help the Holy Father exercise his Petrine service. ‘That’s a struggle for a bureaucracy that has been around for the better part of two millennia,’ he added. At the same time, Archbishop Tobin takes a balanced view when reflecting on the curia—something he said he didn’t always do in the past. ‘As one who used to severely criticize the curia before I worked there, I was told by one historian that you have to remember that the curia saw the Church through world wars and depressions and kept it going, even when there wasn’t a pope,’ he said. ‘My experience is that there’s a lot of goodness in the Roman Curia, a lot of people who are very devout Catholics. But there are  structures and trends that blunt the effectiveness of the curia.’ One of those trends, he said, is the tendency of Italians to dominate the staffs of the various Vatican offices. Although the congregation in which he served has a Brazilian cardinal as its prefect and formerly him, an American, as the person second in charge, Archbishop Tobin noted that the majority of its approximately 40 staff members were Italian”.

On a technical point the curia itself has not existed for two thousand years but rather since 1588 when Sixtus V began to organise it onto something resembling its current form. Secondly, the fact that it has not carried out the will of the pope it quite serious. This has been seen on a number of occasions during the pontificate of Pope Benedict with regards to appointments he made, Cardinal Bertone, and to “policy” he has promoted, such as Summorum Pontificam. Both of these met with enormous resistance. On the point that it is dominated by Italians, perhaps more so now than at any time in the last 40 years is surely partly as a result of Bertone.

Yet at the same time Bertone, like every other secretary of State must place his stamp of authority on the Curia and appoint those he trusts to posts. Yet, the extent to which he and his predecessors have done this means that the curia is now dominated by Italians. Therefore to appoint a non Italian as secretary of State would at least be a start, in the hope that similar appointments of non Italians would trickle down elsewhere.

The piece ends ‘internationalizing the curia, including its lower level positions, can be challenging, Archbishop Tobin said. He noted that it can happen in part only ‘if dioceses are willing to part [with priests], and if the Holy See is willing to pay.’ ‘In a certain sense, it’s much more economical to employ Italians. There are a lot of reasons for that,’ Archbishop Tobin noted. ‘We also use Italian for the working language. A lot of very talented people just don’t want to learn Italian and don’t want to work in that kind of environment, which is unfortunate.’ He also noted that Pope Benedict may have chosen to resign now, as his own strength is diminishing, to avoid problems with the curia that happened in the final years of the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II when his deteriorating health made it difficult for him to take decisive action in curial affairs. Archbishop Tobin said that there is ‘some truth’ to the belief that there was some ‘inertia’ in the curia in the years leading up to Pope John Paul’s death in 2005. This reality, he said, combined with more recent problems in the curia, may have been a factor in Pope Benedict’s considerations that led to the announcement of his resignation”.

How important this vital issue is to the cardinal electors will become clear at the end of a conclave.

Pope Emeritus

28/02/2013

With just hours before the Apostolic See falls vacant Rocco transmits something from Rome that has been asked since 11 February, what will Pope Benedict be called after he resigns. He notes “transition briefing, the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi finally confirmed that, upon his resignation Thursday evening, Papa Ratzi will be known as “His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope-Emeritus,” and retain the signature clothing of the pontiff’s office”. Rocco adds that “Lombardi said that in retirement, Benedict’s future vesture will lack the shoulder-cape of the standard white house cassock. Even that, however, is nothing the departing pontiff will mind a bit – in the early days of his pontificate, B16 sought to introduce the use of a cape-less fillettata, but the Vatican handlers he inherited were unable to countenance its everyday use. Over the years since, the Pope has used the simple white cassock whenever he’s been allowed to do so, most often on his summer holidays”. He ends noting that as per custom the ring of the fisherman that popes wear will be destroyed to enhance the image of the end of Benedict’s papacy.

Different this time

26/02/2013

John Allen has written an article as to why this conclave is different to almost any other.

He writes “If we start the count in 1295, when Pope Boniface VIII first required cardinals to elect a pope in a sealed room, the looming 2013 edition will be the 75th conclave in the history of the Catholic church”. He goes on to mention the differences between this time and most other conclaves.

The first he says, most obviosuly is that Pope Benedict will still be alive, yet he writes “Procedurally, that doesn’t change anything; it’s the same sede vacante, the same rules for each round of balloting (known as a “scrutiny”), and so on. Psychologically, however, the contrast is enormous”. Allen might be overstating this slightly, he writes “it’s more difficult for cardinals to voice criticism of the papacy that just ended — certainly in public, and at times even among themselves”. Yet the bishop emeritus of Rome will have no public role and will to all intents and purposes be invisible until his death.

Allen goes on to make the point that there is no obvious successor. Does the College choose to emphasis Islam over those Catholic in Latin America and Africa? Should governance be placed before everything else? He writes that “There are a number of candidates who seem plausible, but no one who towers over the rest. As a result, pre-conclave discussions may not have the same focus, and it may take longer for consensus to build”.

Next he mentions that another suprise could be waiting, “Having already received one huge surprise, perhaps the cardinals will be more disposed to another. For instance, they could look outside the College of Cardinals for the next pope. (The last time that happened was 1378, just 50 years before the last pope to resign.) In this climate, every wildcard scenario seems slightly more thinkable”. Allen however seems to dismiss the conservativism of the College and as a result of the resignation they may in fact turn inward, to someone who might “steady the ship” although this could still be a suprise in the form of an African or Asian pope.

He continues noting “The child sex abuse crisis was already set in cement as a defining issue for Americans by 2005, but it didn’t really erupt in Europe until 2010. In the meantime, the Vatican has also been hit with a number of other embarrassing episodes, such as the Vatileaks scandal and persistent allegations of financial corruption. In that context, a larger share of cardinals this time around is likely to be concerned that the new pope be perceived to have ‘clean hands.'” This might mean that they would avoid someone with pastoral experience for the sake of ensuring that the new pope does not have any ties, or possible ties to it. Allen goes on to mention “In practice, this may produce a sort of burden, rather than benefit, of the doubt for any candidate publicly linked to some sort of scandal. In the hothouse atmosphere of the pre-conclave period, some cardinals are likely to feel they don’t have the time to separate truth from falsehood and may conclude that the safest thing to do is to steer clear of anyone who seems even potentially tainted”.

Among the other reasons why Allen says this conclave is different is “When John Paul II issued his rules for the conclave in 1996 with the document Universi dominici gregis, he included a provision allowing the cardinals to elect a pope by a simple majority rather than the traditional two-thirds majority if they were deadlocked after roughly thirty ballots, meaning seven days or so.

Procedurally, the conclave of 2005 never got anywhere close to invoking that provision, since they elected Benedict XVI in just four ballots. Psychologically, however, some cardinals said afterward that everyone knew that codicil was on the books, so that once Ratzinger’s vote total crossed the 50 percent threshold, the outcome seemed all but inevitable.In 2007, Benedict XVI issued an amendment to John Paul’s document, eliminating the possibility of election by a simple majority. This time, the cardinals know that whoever’s elected has to draw support from two-thirds of the college under any circumstances”.

A faster conclave?

26/02/2013

Rocco mentions “In a motu proprio released this morning – three days before his resignation takes effect – B16 has given the College of Cardinals the ability to derogate from the prior 15-day waiting period to begin the next Conclave, but only on the condition that all of the cardinal-electors are present and a majority consent to proceeding on an expedited timetable.

115 electors

26/02/2013

Following the failure, due to ill health, of the archbishop emeritus of Jakarta to attend the conclave,  Rocco notes that Cardinal O’Brien will not be attending either, “Following allegations of ‘inappropriate behavior’ – sexual advances reported by several men – dating to both his time as a seminary rector and archbishop of Scotland’s capital through the 1980s, Great Britain’s lone cardinal-elector has resigned less than a month before reaching the retirement age of 75. At Roman Noon, Pope Benedict yanked Cardinal Keith O’Brien as archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh three days before the pontiff’s own departure from office is to take effect. After three priests and a former cleric lodged allegations against Scotland’s longtime top prelate a week before Benedict’s resignation, the story broke into public view late Saturday with a piece in the London-based Observer, a liberal paper. In response, a statement issued in the cardinal’s name said he was contesting the claims and seeking legal advice”.

End of Vatileaks, for now

26/02/2013

The Holy Father received in audience this morning Cardinals Julian Herranz [Casado], Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi, who formed the commission to investigate the leaks of private information. They were accompanied by the commission’s secretary, Fr. Luigi Martignani, O.F.M., Cap. At the conclusion of their mission, the Holy Father thanked them for the helpful work they did, and expressed satisfaction for the results of the investigation. Their work made it possible to detect, given the limitations and imperfections of the human factor of every institution, the generosity and dedication of those who work with uprightness and generosity in the Holy See at the service of the mission entrusted by Christ to the Roman Pontiff. The Holy Father has decided that the acts of this investigation, known only to himself, remain solely at the disposition of the new pope.”

“Offered at least one”

24/02/2013
Rorarte notes “the cardinal electors who have offered at least one public traditional Latin Mass as a cardinal, bishop or priest in the past four decades:
Philippe Cardinal Barbarin
Raymond Cardinal Burke
Carlo Cardinal Caffarra
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
Velasio Cardinal De Paolis
John Cardinal Tong Hon
Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez
George Cardinal Pell
Albert Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard
Franc Cardinal Rodé
André Cardinal Vingt-Trois

Skeletons?

24/02/2013

An article discusses the reign of Pope Benedict and argues that there are still “skeletons”. It begins “If a report on Thursday, Feb. 21, in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is to be believed, Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to resign just got a whole lot more interesting. The paper claims that around the time that Pope Benedict decided to step down, the pontiff learned of a faction of gay prelates in the Vatican who may have been exposed to blackmail by a group of male prostitutes in Rome. The revelations allegedly appeared in a 300-page report by three cardinals that the pope commissioned to investigate the release of internal documents by his butler, the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ scandal”.

The piece goes on to mention that “A Vatican spokesman has refused to confirm or deny La Repubblica‘s claims, and the internal Vatican report is reportedly stowed away in a papal safe for Pope Benedict’s successor to peruse”.

The author then goes on to argue “Seen in the context of Pope Benedict’s career in the Catholic Church, it is difficult to understand why revelations of yet another sex scandal would push him to resign. For over a decade, he has served as the church’s point person for responding to allegations of abuse. From 1985 until his election to the papacy in 2005, Benedict served as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”.

The fact that such basic information as Cardinal Ratzinger’s time in office, as prefect of the CDF is inaccurate does not bode well for the credibility of the piece. Equally, the notion that this was the sole justification for Pope Benedict to resign and not his almost 85 years. He continues repeating the Fr Peter Hullermann “scandal”. Despite the fact that no smoking gun was found to directly implicate the then archbishop of Munich. Although it has to be said the young cardinal-archbishop could have been more vigilant in matters of governance, an issue that would deeply effect his papacy.

The writer goes on to repeat old stories that have little relevance in the grand scheme of what Benedict was trying to do. He mentions “In an attempt to help bring closure to victims affected by sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, two auxiliary bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, accused of helping to cover up rampant abuse offered Pope Benedict their resignation in 2010. In a move that stunned critics of the church and victims’ rights groups, the pope rejected their resignation and informed the bishops that they would be allowed to stay on”.

Yet, what he does not say is that Bishops Walsh and Field had no direct role in moving abusers around or other matters that would have directly implicated them. Perhaps their resignations should have been accepted but to focus on these issues speaks to both the lack of knowledge and lack of tolerance that many in the media have for the Church.

He ends the piece “By 2010, the hard-line strategy advocated by Pope Benedict became unsustainable. Explosive and wide-ranging reports of abuse — including allegations against Ratzinger himself during his time in Munich — put the church firmly in the cross-hairs of public opinion. Detailed investigations by the Irish government unearthed widespread abuse, and Ireland became something of a ground zero for the scandal. In response, Pope Benedict issued a public apology to his parishioners in Ireland”.

This supposedly “hard line” approach does not bear up to any informed scrutiny when the facts are said, such as Benedict’s meeting with victims on every foreign trip and well as continued and rightful apologies in addition to issuing new norms that his predecessor never did.

Having the option

24/02/2013

The normally conservative archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Keith Cardinal O’Brien “has told the BBC that he would be ‘very happy’ if married men had the option of entering the priesthood. The cardinal, the only churchman from Great Britain eligible to attend the conclave, said: ‘There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the Church – in some branches of the Catholic Church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again. ‘In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it”.

Benedict’s liturgical legacy

24/02/2013

Following on from the recent article on the legacy of Benedict musically, Dom Alcuin Reid has written an article on the legacy of Benedict with regard to his liturgical reforms. He opens “Ratzinger was immersed in the liturgy from his childhood, as his memoirs attest: ‘I started down the road of the liturgy, and this became a continuous process of growth into a grand reality transcending all particular individuals and generations, a reality that became an occasion for me of ever-new amazement and discovery. The inexhaustible reality of the Catholic liturgy has accompanied me though all phases of life, and so I shall have to speak of it time and time again.'”

He continues, “This, and his conviction that some things went very wrong with the movement after the Council – in 2004 he wrote: ‘Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the liturgical movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for’ – is key to understanding what has become known since his 2005 election as ‘the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI’.

Reid then mentions the direct translations from Latin into the revised English Mass texts, and the infamous “pro multis” that should have been avoided, however Reid does go on to note ” There was much noise before and after his historic 2007 ruling that the older liturgical rites were henceforth to be available without restriction. Yet in the midst of the cacophony the Supreme Pontiff took the trouble to write at length to the world’s bishops and explain his act. ‘What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful,’ he taught – a truth that is having an ongoing impact”.

He then goes on to write “Among his writings the 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis ranks highly. His conviction expressed therein, that ‘everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty’, was reflected in papal liturgies. These became master classes on how to celebrate the modern liturgy in continuity with tradition, where the best of the old and of the new serve to raise our minds and hearts to God. Countless priests and seminarians have participated in this course in practical liturgy – bishops and cardinals also. Its fruits are increasingly experienced worldwide”.

He ends the piece “The conclusion of Pope Benedict’s final public Mass was yet another lesson about the liturgy. Not unnaturally, there was sustained applause. But even on that occasion Pope Benedict the liturgist could not allow personal adulation to take priority. ‘Thank you,’ he said. Then, with five words which may well serve as his liturgical testament, he brought it firmly to an end: ‘Let us return to prayer.'”

It must be the firm hope that the successor of Pope Benedict will continue his vital work with regard to the liturgy.

The Canonical implications

22/02/2013

Bishop Thomas Paprocki has written an article dealing with the canonical implications of the impending resignation of Pope Benedict.

He begins the piece saying the the situation the that Church finds itself in is quite remarkable and truley historic, he writes “The confusion is understandable since a Pope has not left office alive for almost 600 years. It might even be said that a Pope has never stepped down quite under these circumstances in the 2,000 year history of the Church. What seems to have been overlooked so far in these discussions is that the word ‘Pope’ does not appear in the Code of Canon Law. Canon 331 defines the office held by the Pope: ‘The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the of­fice given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, first of the Apostles, and to be trans­mitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the uni­versal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is al­ways able to exercise freely.’ From this canon, we can draw several titles for the office held by a Pope”.

What Paprocki is saying is that Benedict cannot be called any of these in his retirement as they are only held by the pope of which there can only be one at a time. He goes on to write “Accordingly, Benedict did not use the word “Pope” anywhere in his spoken announcement or letter of resignation”, adding ” How then are we to understand the word “Pope?” It is an honorific, even a term of endearment (“Papa” in Italian). It is not the title of an ecclesiastical office. We make this distinction all the time. We still call a priest by the honorific “Father” even after he has resigned from the office of Pastor. Having lived in Italy for three and a half years when I was studying canon law, and having a sense of the culture, I have a feeling the Italians will continue to call Pope Benedict Papa Benedetto even after he leaves office as the Bishop of Rome. So I don’t think people will have a hard time wrapping their minds around having a Pope who is no longer the Roman Pontiff”.

He makes the valid point that “Some have suggested that he should return to being “Cardinal Ratzinger.” That does not seem correct. If he had resigned before reaching the age of 80, after which a Cardinal may no longer vote in a papal conclave, I do not think he would have, should have or could have donned a red cassock and entered the conclave in the Sistine Chapel to vote for his successor. Instead, at 8:00 PM Rome time on February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will have a new identity to which we will have to become accustomed: His Holiness, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, former Roman/Supreme Pontiff, Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. This makes sense, however there is some confusion over is dress. Will the retired bishop of Rome dress as the pope does in white, or will he dress as any bishop does, in purple.

Setting a precedent?

22/02/2013

An article in the Economist has asked what Pope Benedict’s resignation will mean for the Church.

It begins noting “no amount of breezy optimism, nor any amount of praise for the integrity and achievements of Pope Benedict XVI, can detract from the momentous historical significance of his announcement on February 11th—or from the fact that the conclave to elect his successor will be one of the oddest in the papacy’s two millennia. Benedict is one of only a handful of popes ever to resign”.

The piece gives a short but thoughtful exposition on his papacy, “Though stubbornly conservative in many respects, Benedict is also a radical (as displayed in his encyclical of 2005 on the theology of love). But he kept his most radical utterance till the end. Speaking in Latin at a routine event, he said: ‘After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.’ That several of the cardinals present failed to understand must have highlighted for Benedict, an ardent Latinist, how his church has lost touch with its traditions”.

The article then goes on to get to the deeper meaning of what Benedict has done, “How his resignation is construed will have great effects on his flock and the choice of its next shepherd”. It continues mentioning what has been noted by others, “Benedict had been toying with resignation for almost four years. Visiting the earthquake-stricken Italian city of L’Aquila in 2009, he left his pallium, the woollen band that is a symbol of the papal office, at the tomb of Celestine V, a reluctant pope who resigned to pray”. Yet, Benedict may not have decided to retire at the event. It has been mentioned that he only decided to take the decision himself only a few months ago, although there is not firmer date that has been given.

The piece goes on to mention that  “L’Osservatore Romano, said he reached his decision after an exhausting visit last March to Mexico and Cuba. The impending rigours of the Easter celebrations may have played a role too. Father Lombardi said it was the outcome of a continuous process of reflection. Benedict ‘didn’t take the decision and then fix a calendar’. Yet it is striking that shortly before Christmas the last nuns left the cloistered convent to which Benedict intends to retire, because of works on a new chapel and library”.

The article goes on to list some of the usual potential successors, Cardinal Scherer, Cardinal Turkson as well as some of the more outlandish ones like Cardinal Erdo.

The article continues making the valid point “In Benedict’s first sermon as pope, he asked the faithful to pray for their new shepherd “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves”. His fans feel the wolves won. A toxic row between his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and other Vatican factions lay behind the so-called Vatileaks scandal last year. The pope’s own butler was found to have leaked documents clearly damaging to Cardinal Bertone”.

Yet, much of the reason behind the row was the Cardinal Bertone was not an alumuns of the elite Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy that has trained all previous secretaries of State. This says much that Benedict did not trust the PEA graduates to assist him honestly, while at the same time it speaks volumes as to the lack of obedience the Roman Curia, staffed mostly by PEA graduates, showed to Benedict.  There is little doubt that these factions will go on long after Benedict has left, sadly.

The piece ends, “It will require a pope of towering stature to heal the wounds and overcome the divisions that have been opened in the past eight years. Will the new man feel intimidated or reassured by the knowledge that just across the Vatican gardens is his unseen predecessor, praying fervently for the recovery from its many ills of the Church to which he devoted his life?”.

116 electors

22/02/2013

Julius Riyadi Cardinal Darmaatmadja, S.J., archbishop emeritus of Jakarta, will  not be able to participate in the conclave because of serious problems with his  eyesight. He confirmed to the progressive deterioration of his vision and his needing assistance to read texts and documents. The cardinal electors will be 116.

No shame

22/02/2013

As the last week of of the reign of Pope Benedict XVI ticks away and the electors are moving their minds as to who will be the next pope some cardinals should not attend the conclave at all.

An article mentions that several cardinals are totally discredited, it notes “Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has become the latest cardinal to be questioned over his handling of sex abuse by priests and victims”. The piece goes on to add “several are embroiled in controversies connected to the Church’s systemic failure to tackle sex abuse against children by paedophile priests. The question marks over the cardinals’ management of sex abuse cases are an embarrassment for the Holy See, just as Benedict prepares to resign the papacy next Thursday. Timothy Dolan, the charismatic archbishop of New York, who is considered to have a chance of being elected Benedict XVI’s successor, was formally questioned about abusive priests in his former archdiocese of Milwaukee, just days before his departure for Rome to take part in the conclave”.

The article goes on to note “Cardinal Dolan is the second American cardinal this week to be scrutinised over his role in the sex abuse scandals, which erupted in the United States in 2002. Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is due to be questioned on Saturday in a lawsuit over a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in the 1980s. Catholic groups in the US and Italy have called for Cardinal Mahony to be barred from the conclave, but he insists he will attend despite allegations that he shielded predatory priests”.

The piece goes on to mention Cardinal Brady, the archbishop of Armagh and his role in protecting priests who he knew were abusing children. The article adds later that Cardinal Danneels “had computer files seized at his home in 2010 over suspicions that he helped cover up hundreds of abuse cases. Justin Rigali, another American cardinal, retired as archbishop of Philadelphia in disgrace after a grand jury accused him of failing to do enough to tackle abusive priests”.

Indeed it was Cardinal Rigali who having been through a grand jury investigation in 2005 promised to clean up his diocese but a second grand jury report was equally damning of Rigali and his total failure to act.

It is clear that these men should absent themselves from the conclave so as not to cast a stain on a new papacy by guilt of association.

Altering the rules?

22/02/2013

Pope Benedict may change Church rules governing the conclave where cardinals from around the world will meet next month to secretly elect his successor, the Vatican said on Wednesday. Benedict was studying the possibility of making changes to two laws established by his predecessor Pope John Paul before he abdicates on February 28, a spokesman said.The changes may affect the timing of the start of the conclave.  Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict was considering making changes that would “harmonize” two documents approved by his predecessor. One governs the period while the papacy is vacant, known as the “Sede Vacante,” and another is more specific about the running of the conclave after it begins”.

The correct tone

20/02/2013

In light of the upcoming resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the New York Times has an article on Benedict. It begins noting Benedict is part of only a handful of popes to resign, “The most famous of these — the one whose resignation had all the earmarks of an abdication — was Pietro del Morrone, Pope Celestine V, the saintly Benedictine hermit who resigned in 1294 after only a few months, realizing that he was called to serve his church through prayer and penance rather than bitter politics and gorgeous, endless public ceremonies. It was a decision Benedict honoured. In July 2010 he attended the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Celestine’s birth in Sulmona”.

The piece goes on to note how Benedict had placed his pallium on Celestine’s tomb in 2009. It adds with the correct tone of respect of the complexity that is Benedict XVI, “Chief among the misunderstandings of Benedict’s pontificate are those that cluster around the unhelpful label of ‘conservative.’ He is far too astute a scholar and too modern a churchman for such a label to be of much use. Unfortunately, one still hears him accused of turning the clock back on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, thwarting the liturgical renewal it mandated and keeping the laity firmly in its place — an impression that would not survive a careful reading of his papal documents alongside the actual texts of the council. In fact, under Benedict’s leadership, the celebration of Mass, the ‘source and summit’ of Catholic life, has begun to mirror more faithfully the reforms that the Second Vatican Council intended. Beauty is back in season, and millions of Catholics around the world are embracing this change with gratitude”.

The piece goes on, in a similar vein “Pope Benedict has opened a new era in the dialogue between religion and secular reason.        His errors, of course, have been amply recorded. Less attention has been given to his efforts to make amends. The speech he made in 2006 at the University of Regensburg was a public relations disaster: one wonders how, in the midst of a deeply thoughtful reflection on faith and reason, he failed to foresee the damage he would cause by quoting, without evaluation, the Islamophobic remarks of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor. The upshot of the resulting debate, though, was an improvement in Catholic-Muslim relations, for which Pope Benedict deserves some credit. His critique of New Age versions of Buddhism as narcissistic was poorly phrased, and instantly misunderstood; yet even this gaffe provided an occasion for fruitful dialogue”.

It ends “Pope Benedict’s announcement that he is retiring — made on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick, on the threshold of an early Lent — was his ‘Nunc dimittis,’ his ‘I will diminish,’ his final summons to a weary church to look beyond politics and the calculus of power, and to recover its real sources of renewal”.

It is a credit to the journalist that such a piece was written given its complexity. Benedict should be treated with the utmost respect given what he has attempted to do over too short a time.

Turkson’s ignorance

20/02/2013

When Amanpour asked Turkson about the possibility of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal spreading to Africa, he said it would unlikely be in the same proportion as it has in Europe. ‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,’ he said. ‘Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society.’ According to the American Psychological Association, ‘homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.'”

Benedict’s musical legacy

20/02/2013

An interesting article disucsses the musical legacy of Pope Benedict. The author writes that “One of the many lasting legacies of the papacy of Benedict XVI concerns liturgical music. Enormous progress has been made in his papacy. Incredibly this progress has happened without new legislation, new restrictions, new mandates, or firm-handed attempts to impose discipline on musicians and artists. The change has happened through the means that Benedict XVI has always preferred: he has led through example and through the inspiration provided by his homilies and writings”.

He goes on to note “Gregorian chant is back but not just as a style preferred to the pop music that still dominates parish liturgy. More importantly, chant is back in its rightful place as the sung prayer of the liturgy”. This is part of the “reform of the reform” or New Liturgical Movement that has been at the heart of his papacy since his inception with his December 2005 speech to the Roman Curia.

He goes on to explain, “Gregorian chant is that ideal because it grew up alongside the Roman Rite ritual. It uses the text of that ritual. Its musical structure is a reflection of the liturgical purpose of the music. That’s why the chant between the readings is long and contemplative whereas the music of the entrance is more syllabic, thematically evocative, and forward feeling”.

He continues given a history since the end of the Second Vatican Council/Vatican II “Popes since Vatican II have attempted to turn the tide. Paul VI saw what was happening and regretted it all greatly. His solution appeared in 1974. It was a book of Latin music that he sent to all Bishops in the world, giving them permission to freely copy and use it. It was a proposal for a new core music for liturgy. He wrote: please ‘decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of Jubilate Deo and of having them sing them…. You will thus be performing a new service for the Church in the domain of liturgical renewal.’ This fell on deaf ears. The music ended up in the waste can. His successor John Paul II issued several very important statements that similarly urged a change. They were beautifully written and inspiring. But again, it had no effect”.

However he moves swiftly to Cardinal Ratzinger, “He never feared the subject and this is for two reasons: 1) he understood the goals of Vatican II and saw that they had been seriously distorted, and 2) he was a trained music of the highest calibre who understood the role of music in the Roman Rite. When he became Pope, the changes began and they were relentless. We started hearing chant in Papal liturgy, just a bit at first and then more as time went on. With Summorum Pontificum (2007) he took away the stigma that had been attached to traditional chant by granting full permission to the liturgical structure that had originally given rise to chant. This was deeply encouraging for a generation that was ready to move forward. We started seeing chant workshops fill up. Groups began to form at the parish level. New resources started to be published by independent publishers. A real fire had been lit in the Catholic music world. And it all happened without any impositions or legislation. The musical program of St. Peter’s Basilica began to attract the attention of serious musicians. A new standard came to be applied to visiting choirs: you must know the basics of Gregorian chant or you cannot sing at St. Peter’s”.

He rightly ends on a note of thanks and praise, “What I find most impressive is the method that the pope used to achieve this. It was through inspiration and not imposition. For this reason, this change is fundamental and lasting. Mark my words: chant will come to a parish near you. We can thank Benedict XVI for his wisdom and foresight in achieving what most people thought was impossible”.

Stay!

20/02/2013

As she stood in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday to hear Benedict deliver his second-to-last Angelus message as pope, Alessandra Petrucciani said she wished he had not decided to retire. “The pope should have stayed; the bishops and cardinals should have gone,” she said, as she stood next to members of a traditionalist group who were shouting, “Stay! Stay!”

Conflicting signals

18/02/2013

Pope Benedict is sending mixed signals before the end of his reign and start of the conclave next month. In September he gave the pallium to Cardinal Scola privately which was taken as a sign of his favouring the Milan archbishop as his successor. However since then and it a break with custom, Benedict has named an active cardinal, Cardinal Ravasi to preach the Lenten spiritual exercises. Things are further confused by the fact that Rocco reports that a during Benedict XVI’s last Angelus during the Lenten exercises he said to pilgrims, “the Only to the Spanish-speaking faithful, however, did Benedict explicitly ask prayers ‘for me and for the next Pope.’ While the crowd was dotted with banners and signs being held aloft thanking the Pope and wishing him well, reports from the Piazza found that most attendees didn’t appear to be part of church groups, but simply showed up on their own”.

“That canonical provision”

16/02/2013

At least as far back as 2004, when he was still a Roman Curia cardinal – and Pope John Paul II was becoming increasingly incapacitated – Joseph Ratzinger praised the wisdom of that canonical provision”.

One last chance

14/02/2013

Reports mentions that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter with a final offer to the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX): resume the dialogue with the Holy See by February 22, or else the Holy See will make an offer of reconciliation and full communion to individual SSPX priests”.

The revolutionary pope

11/02/2013

In a true sign of his feeling for the good of the Church, the Sovereign Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has decided to resign the papacy on 28 February 2013. The announcement, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and International Day of the Sick, was made by Pope Benedict during an ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of new saints celebrated this morning at 11 a.m. in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Reports note that “According to a press briefing given by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, after the resignation takes effect, the pope will depart for Castelgandolfo and eventually will move to a monastery of cloistered nuns, Mater Ecclesia, inside the Vatican for a period of prayer and reflection. He will not have any part in the organization of the conclave or in the election of his successor. The conclave for the election of his successor will probably take place in mid-March. According the regulation in the seventh paragraph of the introduction of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis, only those cardinals “who celebrate their eightieth birthday before the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant do not take part in the election.”

A conclave will be called the cardinals will be summoned to Rome. Currently there are 118 electors but Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, M.S.U., will turn eighty on 26 February and thus will lose the right to take part in the election”. Therefore, 117 cardinals will be able to participate in the conclave, of which 51 were created by Pope John Paul II; and 67 by Pope Benedict XVI. In 2005, 115 of the 117 cardinal electors participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. The last pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1415.

Damian Thompson writes that “Yet it seems to be true, and there is a precedent – Celestine VI in 1295. Moreover, there has always been a suspicion that Joseph Ratzinger would step down from office if he became incapacitated”. Indeed, Pope Benedict said he would resign/abdicate if he felt he could no longer continue to shoulder the burdens of office. However, Benedict then seemed to say that he would remain on, presumably until his death. Thompson goes on to say rightly that “Catholics will be deeply shocked and, in most cases, dismayed by this decision, which I see above all as an act of self-sacrifice by a man not prepared to see the Church suffer as a result of his increasing frailty. Benedict XVI’s achievements as pontiff have been remarkable. He has renewed the worship of the Church, reconnecting it to the majesty and deep piety of the past. He has forged new links with non-Catholics, for example by bringing ex-Anglicans into the fold through the Ordinariate. He has promulgated teaching documents reconnecting the love and teaching of Christ to the structures of the Church – structures that, it would appear, he feels now unable to continue ruling”. Thompson writes “John Paul II rather than Benedict XVI can be accused of turning a blind eye to certain abominations, not least to the Mexican child abuser the late Fr Marcel Maciel, whom Benedict sent into disgraced exile as soon as he became Pope. One reason Maciel was not dealt with in time was that John Paul was to ill and, let us be honest, mentally enfeebled to confront Maciel’s crimes. Ratzinger has been determined from the beginning not to allow the same situation to overtake him”.

Predictably, the media mention the Regensburg speech and the SSPX/Williamson affair in 2009, yet as has been mentioned, change has already taken place in these areas with more tech savvy officials, both clerical, and lay, being appointed as well as Pope Benedict’s own moves into the technological sphere. The same article notes however that “his 2008 visit to the United States was regarded as a great success, earning him an approval rating of 86 per cent from American Catholics and showing that he could win over audiences. He was a trenchant critic of the excesses of global capitalism, particularly during the world economic crisis of 2008-2009, when he called for a move away from consumerism and materialism”.

Other article adds that “Georg Ratzinger, reportedly said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. Talking from his home in Regensburg to the news agency dpa, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a ‘natural process.'”

Indeed, talk has already moved quickly to Benedict’s successor. Thompson mentions that Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster does not have a vote in the upcoming conclave. He writes that this might not be such a bad thing, Archbishop Nichols “must be aware, however, that the delay in appointing him a cardinal may rob him of his only opportunity to vote for a Pope. Nor will Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, now over 80, be eligible to take part in the conclave. This is no occasion to score cheap points, but traditionalists are unlikely to lose much sleep over the absence of a liberal English cardinal in the Sistine Chapel”.

A similar piece notes Peter Cardinal Turkson as a potential pontiff, while it adds “Two senior Vatican officials have recently dropped surprisingly clear hints that the next pope could well be from Latin America. Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, said that the church’s future was not in Europe”.

The article goes on to mention Cardinal Arinze, talk of which should be ignored. It goes on to metion more plausible candidates, “even the selection of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who is currently placed among the top three or four with every bookmaker, would end 2,000 years of European or Mediterranean rule. As prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, he has vetted and selected bishops all over the world. Multi-lingual and with years of missionary work in South America, he would tick the ‘global church’ box without unnerving European cardinals alarmed that the election of an African would shift the centre of gravity. About half the cardinals who can vote are from Europe, even though only a quarter of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live there. If the College of Cardinals plays it safe and stays in the old continent, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan would be in pole position. His theological background lies in the family issues that the church in Europe increasingly feels must be addressed”.

Lastly Foreign Policy answers the question as to why people should care, “If one cares about power, however, then centralization is still a crucial quality.  Which is why non-Catholics are still interested in who the next Pope will be”.

Pope Benedict has done what should have been done by many previous popes, retire for the good governance of the Church – a truly revolutionary pope that belies his mere “transitional” image.