March 2, 2013, Saturday — The Program, and the Sheriff

“Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness…
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
—St. Paul, 1st Letter to the Corinthians, 10:5, 11-12, warning his readers not to desire “evil things,” lest they be “laid low” by God. The reading was the second reading today in Catholic Masses in Rome

(The image is of the Greek text of one of St. Paul’s letters from an early manuscript. This is a folio from Papyrus 46, containing the text of 2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9)

Note to readers: This week we will launch a new website, Modeled on the Drudge Report, it is intended to be a site where readers can find useful information in 5 main areas: Culture Watch, Money Watch, Pope Watch, Science Watch and Vatican Watch. This new website is free and we hope that over time it will become a site that you will enjoy visiting regularly. The archive of the Moynihan Letters can be found at (This site will be down for the next few hours due to site updating.)

Cardinal O’Brien Will Not Attend Conclave

Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland (photo), who, if he would have participated, would have been the only voting cardinal from England or Scotland at the upcoming papal Conclave, will not attend the Conclave, he officially announced today.

He released the following communique today:

3 March 2013
Statement from Cardinal O’Brien

In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.

To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.

I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Notes to editors:

1. This is the only statement, which Cardinal O’Brien will be issuing.
2. Cardinal O’Brien will not attend the Conclave to elect the new Pope.
3. Cardinal O’Brien is now out of the country and will not be available
for interview.

[Source: Scottish Catholic Media Office]

Cardinal O’Brien was named Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

An ex-priest and three current priests from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh complained to the Pope’s representative to Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, in early February about what they alleged had been inappropriate behavior towards them in the 1980s.

O’Brien had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75, but resigned last week.

Cardinal Mahony Will Attend Conclave

Cardinal Roger Mahony, emeritus archbishop of Los Angeles, California, will attend the Conclave — and says it was the Vatican which told him to attend.

Francis X. Rocca, reporting for Catholic News Service, said Mahony expressed “amazement” at calls that he withdraw from the upcoming papal conclave because of his record on abuse, and said that the Vatican, acting through its ambassador to the United States, had instructed him to take part in the election of the next Pope.

“I’m here because the Holy Father appointed me a cardinal in 1991, and the primary job of a cardinal, the number one job, is actually the election of a new pope should a vacancy occur,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service February 28, two days after arriving in Rome.

“Without my even having to inquire, the nuncio in Washington phoned me a week or so ago and said, ‘I have had word from the highest folks in the Vatican: you are to come to Rome and you are to participate in the conclave’,” the cardinal said.

Here is a link to the complete story:


Cardinal Sandri Seeks “Greater Role” For Women

One of the “old-line” Curial cardinals, Leonardo Sandri, 69 (photo), has given an interview to Reuters’ Vaticanist Philip Pullela in which he says that “the Roman Catholic Church must open itself up to women in the next pontificate, giving them more leadership positions in the Vatican and beyond.”

Sandri, closely associated with the former Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 85 — he served as Sodano’s deputy for a number of years prior to the pontificate of Pope Benedict — is regarded as a possible candidate to be the next Pope.

Sandri, born in Argentina, and so considered a Latin American — but considered by many as an Italian because he has spent so many years in the Curia — said the next Pope should not be chosen according to a geographic area but must be a “saintly man” capable of leading the Church.

Sandri told Reuters it was “only right” that women should have more key positions in the Vatican administration “where they can make a very important contribution because of their qualifications.”

He also said: “The Church is ready for a black Pope but maybe the world is not,” Sandri said. “We are open to anyone as long he is the best prepared, the best qualified, to face a time that is so difficult for the Church and the world.”

Here is a link to the complete interview:

(Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 85, Dean of the College of Cardinals)

Will the Cardinals Elect an “Anti-Pope”?

The widespread shock in Catholic circles about Pope Benedict’s February 11th decision to resign his office has begun to wear off for many, but not all.

Indeed, there are some Catholics who believe Benedict had no right to resign, even if he felt no longer capable of carrying out his ministry as Pope.

And this view has even taken the form of a call to the cardinals not to enter into Conclave, and not to vote for a new Pope.

This position was put forward by Enrico Maria Radaelli, an Italian Catholic writer, in an article posted on his website and on the website of Una Voce, the Catholic organization that supports the celebration of the the Mass according to the extraordinary form, that is, according to the pre-conciliar liturgical books.

The article is entitled: “Most Eminent Cardinals, do not gather in Conclave, you would be electing an anti-Pope.”

Here is that title:


Radaelli’s central argument is that there is a special “nature” or “character” associated with being Pope which cannot be “given up” by the Pope, even if he would like to.

He writes: “Only a Pope, it is said, can have the authority to renounce his own ministry, but not even the Pope has that power, because it would be the exercise of an absolute power contrasting with the very essence of his own being, (it would be) to desire not to be what he is, and one will see below that the papal election confers a substantial, not accidental status, and that precisely for this reason is indestructible.” (“Solo un Papa, si dice, può avere il potere di rinunciare al proprio ministero, ma tale potere non l’ha neanche il Papa, perché sarebbe l’esercizio di un potere assoluto che contrasta con l’essere di se stesso medesimo, di voler non essere il proprio essere, di voler non essere quel che si è, e si vedrà fra poco che l’elezione papale conferisce uno status sostanziale, non accidentale, e che precisamente per ciò è indistruttibile.”)

Here is a link to the entire article in Italian:


John Cornwell Back in the Saddle

In an article today in London’s Daily Mail, which is not regarded as the most authoritative journal in the world, British writer John Cornwell offers his version of the reasons for Pope Benedict’s resignation. The title is “… ‘The Filth’ corrupting the Vatican…and why the Pope REALLY quit.”

The subtitle is: “Sickened by moral corrosion in his own shadowy cabal, Benedict can only rid Rome of its malign influence by resigning… a leading Catholic writer’s explosive analysis”

(Photo: John Cornwell, an English journalist and author, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. He is best known for various books on the papacy, most notably Hitler’s Pope)

However, it should be noted that Cornwell some years ago wrote a book with the title Hitler’s Pope, which caricatured Pope Pius XII, Hitler’s staunchest opponent in Europe during World War II (Pius evidently may even have been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler), as Hitler’s willing accomplice and supporter.

Cornwell later retracted aspects of what he had written in that book.

So, it would not be unexpected were he later to retract aspects of what he wrote today about Pope Benedict and the reasons for his resignation.

If you go to the link to read the entire article, note that there is only one quotation in the entire piece, and that is of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus from about the year 1990. What does this mean? It means that there is no new, independent journalistic investigation whatsoever underlying this article. In short, we might consider it a comment, or an essay, or an opinon, but not a news report at all.

“Resignation isn’t in Benedict’s vocabulary,” Cornwell writes. “The real reason he has quit is far more spectacular.

“It is to save the Catholic Church from ignominy: he has voluntarily delivered himself up as a sacrificial lamb to purge the Church of what he calls ‘The Filth’. And it must have taken courage.

“Here is the remarkable thing you are seldom told about a papal death or resignation: every one of the senior office-holders in the Vatican – those at the highest level of its internal bureaucracy, called the Curia – loses his job.

“A report Benedict himself commissioned into the state of the Curia landed on his desk in January. It revealed that ‘The Filth’ – or more specifically, the paedophile priest scandal – had entered the bureaucracy…

“He is too old, and too implicated, to clean it up himself. He has resigned to make way for a younger, more dynamic successor, untainted by scandal…

“Benedict was not prepared to wait for his own death to sweep out the gang who run the place. In one extraordinary gesture, by resigning, he gets rid of the lot of them.

“So the Pope’s resignation could be just the beginning of a wave of resignations, and/or sackings, when the new Pope comes in.”

The sub-text of this argument is not simply that the Curia should be cleansed, but that the central power of the Roman Catholic Church should be reduced.

Of course, one result of this might be the slow or rapid disintegration of the global Catholic Church into regional or national Churches.

But Cornwell is arguing that the lessening of Rome’s authority to keep the Church united would be an unmitigated good.

“Bishops and lay Catholics throughout the world complain that the shift of authority away from Rome to the local churches has not happened,” Cornwell writes. “As a result, the absolute power of the Vatican has been corrupting absolutely.”

So, this is the battle: will the Church find a way to reform its central government without making that central government so weak that it will be unable to govern? This is the important question.

Cornwell, rightly, notes that “Benedict believes in strong central government.”

So Benedict himself would oppose the dismantling of the Curia, and of the central government of the Church. What Benedict wants is the purification of that government, not its elimination.

Cornwell concludes: “Benedict’s stunning self-sacrifice constitutes, in my view, the greatest gamble in the papacy’s 2,000-year history. If it works, the Church will begin to restore its besmirched reputation. If it fails, we Catholics are headed for calamitous conflict and fragmentation.

Click here for the link to Cornwell’s complete opinion piece


The Sheriff Back in Town?

The Italian press is filled with various hypotheses and scenarios for the election of the next Pope.

But what is missing in all the clamor is a clear idea of what the program of the new Pope ought to be, no matter who he is.

Clearly, there is a need for someone to govern the Roman Curia. However, that someone does not necessarily have to be the Pope himself. In fact, it would seem to make sense for the Pope to bring in an expert to handle that task. Some are saying that the best man for that task would be the man who was already trying to clean up the Curia two years ago, until his efforts sparked such resistance that he was removed.

That man is Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, 72, currently the papal nuncio (the word “nuncio” is the ecclesial term for “ambassador”) to the United States.

(Carlo Maria Viganò, has been the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States since October 19, 2011. He previously served as Secretary-General of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, from July 16, 2009 to September 3, 2011.)

Then what is needed is a complete vision for what to do about the evident loss of faith in the teachings of the Church over the past two generations, despite the “new springtime” said to have been brought by the Second Vatican Council.

And here is needed a socio-cultural-historical-theological analysis of great complexity and many nuances — something totally different from a few scattered interviews with cardinals, here and there, which drop like pebbles into the ocean, send out ripples for a few seconds, and then are forgotten.

There is something surprisingly superficial about the way the cardinals are currently preparing to move from the shock of Pope Benedict’s February 28th resignation to the selection of his replacement on the See of Peter by mid-March.

In any business, in any enterprise, of any size whatsoever, the decision about who should be in charge of the business, or enterprise, who should have final decision-making power, would seemingly be taken only after a long, thorough evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the enterprise, and of what possible strategies can “increase the strengths” and “diminish the weaknesses.”

The cardinals are proposing to meet for three or four days this week — with no clear agenda prepared in advance of issues to address.

Then, evidently, after weighing various “alliances” of national groups or other mutual interests, the cardinals will, it appears, proceed to a vote on who will be the next Pope.

Would it not be wiser for the cardinals to ask fundamental questions about the issues facing the Church, and continue to meet until plausible answers to those key questions become clear to two-thirds of the College?

Would not the identity of the man who should lead the Church be clearer after the program he would need to implement was made clearer?

The Church is facing crises in many places, on many fronts.

Millions of Catholics have left the faith in recent decades. There is a crisis of vocations to the priesthood; many parishes will soon not have a priest. There is a crisis in family life, as families are placed under grave economic pressures in modern economies, despite the external appearance of wealth. There is a crisis in deciding the wisest way to engage with modern science. There is a scandalous lack of unity with separated Christians, especially the Orthodox, but also the Protestants, who profess a belief in the Gospel of Christ. The entire global culture is being de-Christianized, all traditional values are being vaporized, and the Church’s cardinals are heading into an unexpected, unimagined Conclave at high speed, apparently without any agenda or well-thought out program to propose to anyone, let alone a world waiting with interest to see if the Church has anything new to say.

Would it not be wiser to ask, and try to come to a consensus on, a program of action for the new pontiff to undertake?

Such a program might include the following points, offered here as merely a preliminary sketch.

Elements of a Possible Program of Action for the Church

(1) Man. The great problem of our time is the question of man. The scientific discoveries of recent decades, and the developing movement of transhumanism, require a rethinking of the Church’s anthropology. Therefore, place the question of man at the center of Catholic studies and theological research, and invite contributions from all men and women of good will in the effort to construct a viable anthropology for the new millennium.

(2) The Curia. The Curia and the Church’s government should be dramatically restructured, but in order to make it work more effectively, not to render it impotent. Therefore, bring in lay professionals at all levels. Ordained and consecrated priests and bishops, and consecrated women religious, could have special oversight roles. Make Vigano Secretary of State.

(3) The Vatican bank and the global financial system. In the face of the global financial crisis and continuing uncertainty, revolutionize the functioning of the Vatican bank to make it a true service to the entire Church. Create a permanent high-level study group which would ensure bank transparency, assess global financial developments, and advise bishops, and eventually parishes, throughout the world on how best to handle their finances in a just and prudent way, as “good stewards.”

(4) Global banking support. Consider establishing a type of Church-linked bank or credit union system reaching every diocese in the world, with branches in every parish, to assist Church members to have access to capital for needed initiatives.

(5) Children and family. Radically increase the support given by the Pontifical Council for the Family to family-supporting intitiatives worldwide, including ways to mediate generous financial incentives to support every family which has or would like to have children.

(6) Education. Reform all Catholic educational institutions, removing all trendy, “politically correct” teaching and returning to fundamental studies in every field, especially history, philosophy, music, languages, and physical fitness.

(7) Seminaries. Reform all seminary instruction. (Make seminaries into quasi-boot camps, introducing some of the disciplines of military academies. Renew the Jesuits to their greatness.)

(8) Ecumenism. Make immediate peace with the Orthodox, and the Protestants, saying a “truce” now is needed in the face of the global secularizing agenda which wishes to eliminate, or even criminalize, Christian faith and traditional family values. Engage in common initiatives.

(10) Inter-religious solidarity. Extend invitations to all Orthodox and Conservative Jews, to Muslims, to Hindus, to Buddhists, and all men and women of good will, to work with the Church, in hopes of supporting a just and free global order where the sacredness of God and his moral law is respected.

(11) Worship. Give greater support for the old liturgy (the extraordinary form of the Mass) globally, allowing, however, that form of the Mass to be translated also into the vernacular. On solemn occasions, especially funerals and high feast days, use Latin and Gregorian chant, worldwide.

(12) Communications. Increase the ability of Catholics to communicate, assist and work with one another by developing new media connections globally.


Cardinal Meisner: “Holy Father, you have to dismiss Cardinal Bertone!”

In an interview published two weeks ago, but overlooked by many, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, a close friend of Pope Benedict, says he was stunned by the Pope’s resignation. Here are selections from that interview:

Your Eminence, you are considered to be a close confidant of the Pope. Were you kept in the picture about the resignation?
Cardinal Joachim Meisner: I was absolutely surprised and thought that the news was a joke… To be honest, I’m shocked really.

Meisner: Such a step was beyond my imagination. Previously not even priests and bishops resigned. This has a very deep meaning: The ministry is indeed a kind of fatherhood. Father and one remains a father throughout life. Then, as the age limit for bishops and priests was introduced, I have for a long time thought: lucky that at least the Pope officiates for life. Then the continuity of this paternity is assured. However, I notice it in myself, that with the years I am more and more clinging to the ropes. And in as far as it makes sense, that you can also withdraw from matters. Not because you do not want to do anything any more. But one is freed from the “you must” and should instead say: “I can.”

Did the Pope ever indicate anything to you?
Meisner: Never. And if so, then I would not have understood. Because I had never held an abdication possible. I have recently told my nieces and nephews when they asked me what things would be like at Christmas after my 80th birthday, “There are so many things that I no longer need to do. For example, I never have to go back into a Conclave. ”

What was your last meeting with the Pope like?
Meisner: I met him in November during the Synod of Bishops and spent an evening with him. He was wide-awake and on the mark. Also at the Synod he held at the beginning of a 40-minute presentation – given without notes — without equal in spiritual and intellectual depth. That is for him the elixir of life. And yes, he once told me: “If there comes a time when I cannot go on…” Apparently he had at that moment a feeling of weakness.

In farming families, there is for the old farmers the farm outhouse in which after full time work they can enjoy the autumn of their days? Is the possibility of a resignation not a similar act of charity?
Meisner: From my viewpoint especially a thought went through my head: How will things move now? A Pope retired!
Reasonably considered, it is certainly appropriate that the Pope gives the office to another when he comes to the end: he can no longer continue with the necessary force. As a good father, he knows his responsibility to take care of his house. A building with a billion Catholics and endless stories to manage, is a burden that I do not wish to imagine. Especially when one is so smart and honest as the Pope who wants to think through everything important and is even more aware of the risks of his actions.

Are you haunted by the belief that he flees from office?
Meisner: Not for a second! The claim that the Lord of the Church makes on us, we cannot escape. The Pope tries to do justice to the claim of the Lord when he says now: I have to recognize my inability to perform well the service entrusted to my care.

You pushed in 2005 for the choice of Joseph Ratzinger. Has he met your expectations?
Meisner: So, besides me there were also a few others who were for Ratzinger. What surprised me was his ability to grow into the new office. Shy as he is by nature. I found this on his first major trip back to Cologne for World Youth Day on the ship when I kept telling him: “Holy Father, you must now wave to the youngsters! And not only right, but also to the left, to all sides, “Until he once replied:” you constantly criticise me about it ” Yes, “I said,” until you have learned to be Pope “. The Pope tolerated such familiarity. He stayed really quite natural.

How does he go down in history?
Meisner: As a Pope who, with great intelligence, analysed the present and set the course for the future. I had actually hoped he would still write a great encyclical on the “human condition”, the problems of humanity in our time. No moralizing, but an unfolding of the Christian image that is now often called into question.

Contrary to what you said to your nieces and nephews another conclave is upon you. What sort of Pope do you want to vote for with the other cardinals?
Meisner: For an answer, the news is still too fresh. First comes the 28th February, and I’m curious how this will happen in Rome: Will the Cardinals be there when the Pope leaves office? Is there a retirement party? But if I take a first look at this moment out into the future, the new pope would certainly a man of similar high education to Joseph Ratzinger, with great human experience, and – be of vital health – especially. No older than 70, I’d say. John Paul II once said to me in a face-to-face meeting: “The theological profile of my Pontificate I owe Joseph Ratzinger.” The two complemented each other wonderfully. So a mixture of Wojtyla and Ratzinger would not be bad. But I’ve made really no idea about an appropriate candidate.

Did Benedict XVI miss the counterpart, which he himself was for his predecessor?
Meisner: The Cardinal Secretary of State did not secure this role. During the Williamson affair, I even once, on behalf of a number of cardinals, went to the Pope and said: “Holy Father, you have to dismiss Cardinal Bertone! He’s in charge — as would be the responsible minister in a secular government.” He looked at me and said,” Listen to me carefully! Bertone remains! Basta! Basta! Basta!” [“Enough! Enough! Enough!”]
After that I never brought up the subject again. Incidentally, this is typical: The Ratzingers are loyal. That makes life for them not always easy. The Pope has basically taken his closest collaborators from the CDF when he took over the new office, Cardinal Bertone as well as his secretary, the present Archbishop Gänswein. But the former prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, did not play for Ratzinger a role in the way that he played for John Paul II. And the new prefect, Archbishop Müller of Regensburg, is only just in the office and must find out about his own role. He is a clever man, yet different to Ratzinger himself

The relationship of Germans to “their” Pope was very mixed. What is your assessment?
Meisner: It has always hurt me how dismissively, even maliciously the Pope was spoken about in Germany. What many lacked was a sense of self-awareness, even of pride that for the first time in nearly 500 years, again a German held such an office with this global responsibility. This was completely ignored.



Correction: I wrote yesterday that five journalists would be chosen to form a pool to enter into the hall where the cardinals will be meeting and then report on what is discussed. This was incorrect. Five journalists will be chosen, but they will only have access to the entranceway, where the cardinals enter and leave the hall.

(to be continued)

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