Apr 222010
 

Just a couple of weeks ago, around Easter, I began to have doubts whether the pope would have the gumption (forget the audacity) to make the scheduled  trip to Britain in September, September 16 – 19 to be precise.

This was at the height when European prelates, who should have had more sense, were tripping over themselves to see who could out do the other when it came to mind boggling faux pas such as trying to link the clergy abuse with homosexuality and comparing the heat felt by the Vatican to the historic persecution of the Jews. It was also the period when incriminating documents with the pope’s signature were being ‘outed’ with metronomic regularity. And if all of this wasn’t bad enough the pope himself appeared to be acting unnecessarily coy, though he was looking increasingly haggard in his daily photographs.

Dermot Ryan

Dermot Ryan, Survivors UK, Seeking Justice For The Abused

I was well aware of the efforts in Britain to seek an arrest warrant against the pope, on grounds of crimes against humanity — with Dermot Ryan, one of the indefatigable leaders of this ‘arrest pope’ movement, keeping me informed of their stalwart work, with daily emails.

As a Brit myself, I remembered the arrest in Britain of Chilean General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet in 2000 — for human rights violations. Yes, he was a Catholic too. The Vatican, indubitably, remembers this incident.

As somebody who grew up with diplomatic immunity, with a father who was an international diplomat for three decades, I also had a better than average understanding on the general boundaries of immunity-related protocols.

That the Vatican City State may not be a bona fide country was, however, something I had not thought of before — prior to the gallant UK activists highlighting it as a major plank in their contention that the pope could indeed be arrested. Now when I think about it, the creation of the Vatican City State was really a very internal Italian maneuver masterminded by no other than Benito Mussolini! In this context, it is indeed intriguing to realize that the United Nations does not recognize the Vatican as a country and thus only affords it Permanent Observer status (with the US having been in the fore in objecting to it being treated as a country). If you also think about it, the Vatican kind of fails the most basic litmus test for a country — it has an acute paucity of kids (at least in public)!

Then this week we heard that Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyo, a papabili in 2005, had written a letter in 2001, when he was the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, praising a French bishop for not reporting a pedophile priest to the police. To make matters worse he then implicated John Paul II (#265) by stating that his letter was ‘blessed’ by the then pope. Amazing. Why is he still a pope? Well, I guess Cardinal Law, who took the law into his own hands, is still a cardinal. In the case of Hoyo, all I can HOPE, is that he partook in what Colombia is most famous for. In my mind, that alone would be the ONLY mitigation that he could offer. ‘Sorry, but I was under the influence. I wasn’t thinking clearly then and I am even more confused now.’
<< Read this related AP article, of April 22, with Hoyo still defending his actions but now implicating Benedict XVI in addition to John Paul II. Nice going. >>

All this said, things are quieting down! The pope’s trip to Malta was without major incident. He supposedly spoke with a number of victims and expressed some regret.

Right now, I think the pope will go ahead with his trip to the U.K. in September. I don’t think the U.K. government will do anything to embarrass him. It is kind of mind boggling.

But, doesn’t this make you think? It is, as if, somebody ‘up there’ is protecting the pope, the Vicar of Christ, and the Vatican.

It is scary! This is the ONE aspect that has really bothered me about this whole sordid scandal. In truth, I really don’t care too much about what the pope did or didn’t do when it came to clerical abuse. He, like me, is but mortal. But, there is a chain of command, even for the pope. Given that the pope continues to prevail … and most likely visit my beloved U.K. in September, without having to worry about whether handcuffs will hurt his delicate wrists or whether he will have to share a cell with an avowed homosexual child molester … what I want to know is what HIS SUPERIOR thinks about all of this. How come in this matter, the buck stops at the pope? It is like giving credit to Joe Biden for the Health Care Reform bill without ever mentioning Obama.

In meus mens.

Think Free, Or Die.

Grace, and may peace be with you.

Anura Guruge

Apr 202010
 

Given my somewhat vested interest as to who might be the next pope following Benedict XVI (#266) I spend considerable mental energy, each day, trying to determine how the dynamics of the ongoing (and very unfortunate) clergy sex abuse scandal will tilt the balance in favor of one class of papabili versus another. A week ago I stated, categorically, that based on the current uproar the next pope may have to be a Vatican outsider. Now, having seen what has unfolded since, I am willing to go further and state that my long held hope that the next pope may be from Latin America appears to be looking even more promising by the day.

Many of the European cardinals are not doing themselves any favors of late.

That is OK. Let me remind you that in 1245, Innocent IV (#181) prescribed that cardinals wear a red hat to signify their willingness to shed their blood in the defense of the Church – that having been a time of crusades and conflicts. Well, many of the European cardinals have, of late, appear to be willing to sacrifice their credibility (if not their blood) to defend the pope and the Church. That is good. It is what they are supposed to do, though history tells us that this was not always the case. But, note that I stress that it is the European cardinals that have been in the fore to rush to the defense of the pope. The non-European popes have been much more reticent. There are multiple reasons for this. Some plain ‘mechanical.’ The European cardinals have greater access to the media and the media is more attracted to them … given their birthright status. Comments from a cardinal from Italy, Austria or France will invariably garner more interest in the West than those from cardinals from India, Australia or Viet Nam.

But, I have to also warn YOU that public opinion means diddly when it comes to a papal election.

Papal Elections Don’t Reflect The Wishes Of The Constituents
Papal elections are unique. Though the next pope will head up a billion strong constituency spread across all of the inhabited continents of the world, he will be elected by ~110, predominantly white, unmarried, supposedly celibate males, 72 years old on average – most of who have enjoyed extremely cosseted lives since becoming Princes of the Church.

I could say that the cardinals electing the next pope is akin to the U.S. senate electing the next U.S. president. But that would not be a valid comparison. Though the current U.S. senate also happens to be a predominantly white male institution, all the senators are, however, elected on a state by state basis.

None of the cardinals are elected.

The cardinals are not accountable to anyone. Only the pope can call them to task or deprive them of their title.

They have tenure for life.

As far as I can work out, the last cardinal whose resignation was accepted by a pope was way back in 1927! Even Cardinal Law, once of Boston, so implicated in the inexcusable shenanigans that took place in Boston is still a cardinal!

Papal elections are by secret ballot and we are not even supposed to know what the final numbers were. So there is really no foolproof way to know which cardinal electors voted for a pope, unless we are told that the election was near unanimous … and that, ironically, is unlikely, with even Benedict XVI supposedly receiving 30 or so votes against him on the last ballot. Hence, cardinal electors do not have to worry whether their constituency will ever criticize them for the way they voted.

To be cardinal is to be truly blessed. Power and largess for life with zero accountability.

Consequently, it is always difficult to predict how the cardinal electors will behave come a conclave – the machinations of the Holy Spirit being the only possible variable.

Can They, Will They Put Aside Self Interest?
Given the above factors what the cardinals are currently saying and doing will have zero impact as to their chances of getting elected pope.

It is not what the outside world thinks or cares that matters – it is ONLY what their fellow electors feel that matters. It is kind of scary, BUT true.

Consequently, one can argue that it really doesn’t matter if many of the European cardinals appear to be lemmings jumping off the cliff. As long as they have the backing of 70 other lemmings they could get elected.

But, I am hoping different. In 1241 Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II accused the then cardinals of: “Like serpents you cling to the earth instead of raising yourself to the skies. Each of you are aiming at the tiara, and no one of you is willing to leave it to the other …” Some of that is still applicable 700 years later.

My hope, however, is that ONE of the more positive outcomes from this current conflagration would be that the ~55 European electors opt to forgo their own personal interests.

I have documented the current demographics of the College of Cardinals, as of March 31, 2010 <here>.

So let us do some speculating using the 108 electors that we have today.

The European vs. Non-European split is uncanny; 55 vs. 53 – basically 50:50. 72 votes will be needed to become pope. So the European vs. Non-European split alone is adequate to get a pope elected.

Within this electorate it is difficult to really talk about a ‘conservative’ vs. ‘liberal’ split. All 108 were handpicked by two of the most ardently conservative popes of recent times. I have even read that nearly all had to sign a ‘disclosure’ confirming that their beliefs were consistent with that of John Paul II (#265). That said, there are definitely shades of gray within the ranks – though, I, like many, are not sure whether there is enough graduation here to be the only factor in an election.

We thus come to the clergy abuse scandal and its fallout.

But we also have to factor in timing. So what I am speculating here will only apply to the next 18 months. OK?

Picking The Next Pope Against The Backdrop Of The Scandal
I have already said, going into a fair amount of detail within the book, that I doubt whether the next pope will be from the U.S., Germany or Poland. That was all independent of the scandal.

I doubt whether we will see a cardinal from Ireland, Netherlands or Switzerland.

As I have already said, it will probably also have to be a Vatican outsider – in particular one not associated with any of the curial ‘departments’ in anyway involved with disciplining or transferring clergy.

I basically think that all the European and US cardinals are now in some way tainted. The public actions of many during the last few weeks didn’t do them any favors. Too many came across as cosseted, spoilt and uncaring. I was waiting to hear one of them say ‘let them eat cake!’

But, it is still up to the electors to take all of this into account. And that is the scary part. They can, if they want, be bull headed and elect a pope who may have a history – as does the current pope.

When they elected Benedict XVI, some of them at least, would have KNOWN that he had a history.

But, my hope is that there will be 75-80 electors who genuinely want to resurrect the Church. My hope is that they prevail, before and during the conclave, in insisting that they must elect a pope who has ‘clean hands.’ And that is where things get so fascinating.

Though we have heard of the scandal mainly as it relates to Europe and the USA, it is much more widespread. There have been incidents in India, Australia and Mexico. I can’t believe that nothing ever took place in Canada. That probably also applies to the African countries.

But, I just have a feeling that the problem wasn’t as bad in some of the Latin American and African countries. Plus, as I said at the start, cardinals from many of these countries have tried to stay out of the media during the recent flap. That could help them.

Fifteen months ago when I did my papabili list for 2009 I did favor Latin American, Canadian and African cardinals. I kind of feel good about this now. Maybe my exact picks may not get elected. But in terms of geography I might have got close.

Let me know. This is all speculation on my part.

Thank YOU.

Apr 202010
 

Given the ongoing outcry as to what the current pope, Benedict XVI (#266), may have known of the worldwide clergy sex scandal when he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once the infamous Inquisition) from 1981-2005, the chances are that the next pope will be a Vatican outsider; i.e., not a high ranking curialist.

The jargon used to describe the allegiance and temperament of U.S. politicians as Beltway insiders or outsiders [the Beltway being a circular highway that girds Washington, D.C.], can also be used to characterize cardinals, papabili and popes – though in this case they are Vatican insiders or outsiders.

Cardinal Ratzinger was very much a Vatican insider. He headed up a key Holy See Congregation [i.e., a part of the Church bureaucracy] for 24 years. In marked contrast, John Paul II (#265), John Paul I (#264) and even John XXIII (#262) (despite his long service as a Vatican diplomat) were outsiders.

Here is the first point of reference. Of the nine popes elected since 1903 only two were curialist when elected, viz. Pius XII (#261) and Benedict XVI (#266). Both will be remembered for the controversies that plagued their pontificates – and in each case some of the controversies had roots going back to their days as curialist. In the case of Pius XII it was the concordats he had signed with Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia etc. which ‘influenced’ his attitude as to how he should deal with these countries. Paul VI (#263) had been a prominent curialist for 17 years, but he lost his insider status 11 years prior to becoming pope.

In my papabili list I only have one curialist, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the President of the Council of the Family. He was one of my ‘token’ Italians – and I made that clear in my book ‘The Next Pope.’ The Council of the Family, by its sheer nature, would have been involved, in some way, with this current sad scandal. So the electors will, quite rightly, be leery of electing someone associated with that Council. As with Benedict XVI it would be too easy to start unearthing potentially incriminating evidence.

So that is my take. The current events strengthen the chances of the papabili who are not Vatican insiders. In this context I also think that actual physical distance will play a role. Latin America, in every sense, will come across as having been distant from Rome. This may even apply to Canada.

Apr 202010
 

The pope, Benedict XVI (#266), is unlikely to resign despite what appears to be increasingly damaging allegations as to his tacit involvement in trying to actively cover up clerical sexual abuse when he was the Archbishop of Munich and later on, as Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once the infamous Inquisition).

The pope does not have to resign.

The pope as Vicarius Christi (Vicar [i.e., substitute] of Christ) is not inclined or obliged to rationalize his behavior to any mortals. He operates on a different plane.

All of the ongoing outcry, ably amplified by the media, is but bagatelle to the pope. Mere chatter by the unwashed.

He only answers to one, and that ONE, right now, rightly or wrongly, explicably or inexplicably, seems to be unconcerned about what has taken place. It is simple as that.

Victims, large sections of the congregation and the media are zeroing in on the pope. But, the pope has to feel and believe that he, in the eye’s of his one and only ‘boss,’ has done nothing wrong. That is the dilemma, but a dilemma for us, but not for the pope. He doesn’t have to resign. His life and his job is in the hands of God. God will do what is appropriate.

I cherish credibility. But, I flirt with fallibility on an hourly basis. Credibility, however, is not important to the pope. He rules by fiat. He is not a term-limited President or Prime Minister. He is pope for life.

This scandal should damage his credibility, but, when you are pope what does credibility mean? Absolutely nothing. You can continue to say and do whatever you want. Dictators, over the years, must have tossed and turned at night, wishing they had the absolute autocratic powers enjoyed by a pope.

As long as he stays within the bounds of his Vatican City State, the pope is invincible. The twenty-first century world is way, way too civilized and savvy to violate the sanctity of the Holy See. Armies marching onto Vatican, once a fairly common occurrence, is now but history. He may end up the latest Prisoner of the Vatican, but that is no great hardship, especially at his age.

Way back in 502, Pope St. Symmachus (#51) succeeded in establishing that a pope can only be judged by God. It may be possible to appeal this to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but the pope will always be immune as long as he stays within the city limits of his own private City State.

This is all very sad and frustrating. But, we do not see this the way the pope sees it. He sees things differently. That is a given. He has a mandate, without parallel. He would not have been elected pope if the Holy Spirit had any issues with his past! It is simple as that. Now he is pope, he will continue to enjoy the extensive prerogatives of that post until his one and only ‘boss’ decides what he should do next. Think about it.

Grace, and may peace be with YOU.

Tale of Two Papacies

 Posted by at 10:49 pm
Apr 192010
 

Pope Benedict XVI (#266) turned 83 on April 16, 2010.

Three days later, i.e., April 19, was his fifth anniversary as pope.

He was the fifth oldest of the popes, since 1400, when elected. He is already the tenth oldest pope, albeit, as of 1400. There were three, post 1400 popes, who died shortly after turning 83. Thus, come mid-July 2010 he could be the seventh oldest. [Dates prior to 1400 are unavailable or unreliable.]

His mentor, John Paul II (#265), who died at 84, is currently the sixth oldest.

Bl. John XXIII (#262) became pope when he was 76. He was the sixth oldest to be elected since 1400.

John XXIII was pope for 1,679 days [4 years and 7 months].

Benedict XVI on his fifth anniversary had been pope for 1,826 days.

Bl. John XXIII, An Object Lesson In Vision, Drive & Efficacy
By all accounts Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli had no inclination that he may become pope until a few days prior to the start of the 1958 conclave. That he had bought a return railway ticket when he left Venice for Rome is well documented. It is also noted that he told some people in Rome to meet with him once he was back in Venice. He had left his walking shoes at the ‘Domus Mariae’ [the headquarters of the Women’s Catholic Action in Rome], his assigned quarters prior to the conclave, when he entered the Apostolic Palace for the conclave. It is documented that he sent his personal secretary Guido Gusso to pick up these shoes before he made his first public appearance on the central balcony of St. Peter’s.

However, once pope, John XXIII was driven.

John XXIII

  • 89 days into his papacy announced his intentions to convene Vatican II, the first ecumenical council since Vatican I, 90 years earlier. Vatican II changed the complexion of the modern Church.
  • 48 days into his papacy he held his first cardinal creating consistory. He created 23 cardinals so that the College was 74 strong. At a stroke he had overridden Sixtus V’s (#228) edict that had limited the size of the College to 70 – way back in 1586.
  • Increased the size of the College to 90 – a 29% increase above the limit set by Sixtus V.
  • Held 5 cardinal creating consistories, and created 52 cardinals – holding a consistory, on average every 298 days.
  • 1,444 days into his papacy he open Vatican II with at least 2,000 bishops in attendance.
  • Altered the jus optionis precedence rules as to whether the senior most cardinal could ask to be made a Cardinal Bishop. He also issued a motu proprio in 1962 confirming that the titles of the Cardinal Bishops were strictly titular.

The bottom line is that Bl. John XXIII’s pontificate was shorter than of the current pope. But, he didn’t waste any time. He had a vision and an agenda.

<< To be continued. You can draw your conclusions in the meantime. >>

Benedict XV (#259) was pope for 7 years and 4 months between 1914 and 1922. That is the next milestone for this pope. Other than for the unfortunately fleeting 33-day papacy of John Paul I (#264) ‘recent’ popes have enjoyed ‘long’ pontificates. Other than for that of John Paul I, John XXIII’s was the shortest in the twentieth century. After that it was that of Benedict XV. St. Pius X (#258) reigned for 11 years. That is the next longest.

One cannot equate popes to other mortals! Popes enjoy a unique standing on earth. I personally, and I could be wrong, don’t think popes worry too much about their legacy. That they were pope is all that matters. The same applies to credibility. They are only concerned about their credibility with the ONLY ONE, supposedly, that can judge them. So, it is futile to say that John XXIII’s achievements during his 1,679 day pontificate casts a shadow over that of Benedict XVI. But, it is something to think about.

Apr 162010
 

I took down nearly all of the previous postings. I can’t really repost them per se because I didn’t keep any backups! But, I can recreate nearly all of it IF I wanted to. Whether I do will depend. But, at least we again have a blog — and at least my wife is glad.

Check back. Right now I have my hands full creating this whole new Web site.

Thanks. All the best.

Cheers,
Anura

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