March 4, 2013, Monday — Steady As She Goes

“Like a boat taking on water, we have betrayed you.” —Benedict XVI, addressing Christ, speaking for the members of the Church, Meditation on the Way of the Cross, 9th Station, March 25, 2005, almost 8 years ago

“In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church.” –Ibid.

The world’s press may have to extend their reservations in their Roman lodgings.

Ten or twelve days ago, the conventional wisdom was that the cardinals, following the departure of Pope Benedict on February 28, would move quickly to elect a new Pope.

The thinking was that the cardinals would gather already before the end of February, would meet on March 4 and vote to “move up” the start of the Conclave to March 9, or 10, or 11, and elect a Pope by about March 15.

But the signs now seem to point to a slower, more deliberate process. The watchword seems to be, in the midst of all the stunning developments in recent weeks, “Steady as she goes.”

Or maybe: “Haste makes waste.”

The cardinals did meet today. They took their seats, and then, one by one, took an oath of secrecy, not to reveal anything about their discussions. They pledged “rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

They did not take a vote to move up the date of the Conclave.

In fact, such a vote is not yet possible, because all 115 of the voting cardinals must be present before such a vote can be taken… and only 103 were present today. So, 12 cardinals are still not in Rome.

And this fits with what I have heard from cardinals in recent days — that they would prefer the process of assessing the situation of the Church, and the needs of the Church, and the men best suited to lead the Church, to unfold without haste.

As of today, the Vatican Museums have still not been closed to pilgrims and tourists. This is another sign.

The Sistine Chapel must be prepared with a riser over the entire floor, then a number of large tables for all the cardinals to sit at, and more than 100 chairs, and then the chapel must be carefully swept to clear it of all possible bugs and surveillance mechanisms.

The Chapel must be made ready for the Conclave.

Before the last Conclave in 2005, this process took seven days. If we are to imagine that the process will take the same amount of time this year, then the Conclave cannot begin until seven days after the Sistine Chapel is closed to the public. But the Sistine Chapel is still open.

It could close tomorrow. But, even if it does close tomorrow, March 5, the most reasonable date for the Conclave to start would be March 12.

So, all the early projections of a start on March 9, or 10, or 11, seem now likely to be proven wrong.

The full College of Cardinals must still gather. Only 103 of the voting cardinals were here this morning.

It is even possible that one or two are staying away to very quietly prevent the vote to move up the date of the Conclave from being taken.

Two other little pieces of news: (1) The cardinals today agreed they would write a letter to Pope Benedict XVI. When they do, the Pope could respond to that letter. It would be his first public statement since stepping down from the papacy. (2) The cardinals decided not to have afternoon sessions later this week, only morning sessions. This would suggest that they would like more time to speak informally with one another, during the afternoons and evenings.

Meanwhile, Ignazio Ingrao has done it again. In a 3-page article in the Italian weekly Panorama today (issue dated March 6) he claims that he has uncovered evidence of a massive campaign of surveillance inside the Vatican in recent months carrid out by the Vatican police.

This surveillance, he claims, has meant that all phone calls, all emails, and even all movements of Vatican officials and guests — even of bishops and cardinals — have been monitored by a special team of the Vatican gendarmes, under orders from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, and that this was approved by Pope Benedict XVI himself (“con il placet di Benedetto XVI”).

“One fact is certain,” Ingrao writes. “For months in the Sacred Palaces, no one is any longer willing to speak on the telephone or to express confidences via email… Lists of who comes in and out of the Vatican after 9 p.m. are being saved. Emails are being monitored with automatic (computerized) systems.”

Ingrao claims that in recent months, the Vatican gendarmes have actually followed Vatican prelates on foot to determine their habits, and their network of friendships (“I gendarmi sono stati coinvolti in azioni di pedinamento. In questi mesi sono state ricostruite le abitudine e le frequentazioni anche di prelati, si e cercato di comprendere quale fosse la rete delle loro amicizie e dei loro rapporti.”) (The words “pedinamento” means to follow on foot.)

I can confirm that, in recent months, I have occasionally had to sign in and out of the Vatican after 9 p.m. Still, by itself, this did not at the time, and does not now, seem peculiar; rather, it is something one would expect, if one is going in and out of any large enterprise, or government building, after working hours.

I do not know whether the claim that all Vatican email and telephone calls are being monitored has any real basis in fact.

Ingrao also returns to the story of the secret dossier gathered by the three cardinals, Herranz, Tomko and De Giorgi. He says that “Paoletto” (Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s unfaithful butler, who now works in a local hospital, where his job is to… run a photocopy machine), when he gave his testimony to the three cardinal investigators, mentioned other names of people he had been in contact with (“ha fatto altri nomi con i quali e stato in contatto”). And Ingrao adds that, on the basis of this testimony, along with other testimony that they gathered, the three cardinals asked to speak with Cardinals Paolo Sardi, Angelo Comastri, and also Angelo Sodano. Ingrao also claims that other cardinals of the Curia were questioned by the commission of three. He does not say how he was able to obtain this information, since the report is secret. He does not cite the report, and evidently has not seen the report.

Ingrao also writes that “it is not to be excluded” that the head of the Vatican gendarmes, Domenico Giani (photo, with Pope Benedict; Giani is the man on the left wearing glasses), the man ultimately in charge of Vatican security, “may leave the Vatican after the election of the new Pope.” (“Non e escluso che lo stesso Giani possa lasciare il Vaticano dope l’elezione del nuovo Papa.”)

He further says that the Italian government in recent months has proposed Giani — who used to work for the Italian secret service — to the UN as… the supervisor of the security forces of the United Nations. (“Proprio nei mesi scorsi, il governo italiano lo ha candidato alla carica di supervisore alla sicurezza alle Nazioni Uniti.”)

The three cardinals (Herranz, Tomko, De Giorgi) who carried out their still secret investigation, parallel to the official investigation of the “Vatileaks” affair carried out by the Vatican gendarmes under the direction of Giani, are attending the sessions which all the cardinals are attending this week. Today was a day of “house-keeping,” of taking assigned seats, and of swearing an oath of secrecy, and of asking a few questions about procedural matters.

It would seem logical that, during the next three or four days, some of the sessions of the cardinals’ meetings would be centered on the “Vatileaks” affair, and on the report of the three cardinals.

And it would seem plausible that the cardinals may not vote to enter into the Conclave until they have been given some clarity on these matters — matters which certainly caused great pain to Pope Benedict, as has been confirmed by those close to him, like his brother, Georg Ratzinger, 89 — matters which therefore may have played a not insignificant role in his decision to resign at this time…

Like “A Boat Taking On Water” — Cardinal Ratzinger on the 9th Station of the Cross

Here is a report, and then the whole text, of the famous Good Friday meditation of Joseph Ratzinger on March 25 in 2005, eight years ago, just a week before Pope John Paul II died…

April 19, 2005 ( — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — offered a very somber picture of Church affairs less than one month ago, when he led the Stations of the Cross in the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday.

At the March 25 ceremony, as he mentioned the failings of contemporary Catholicism, the German cardinal provided some clear insights into the attitude that he will bring to the papacy…

During that Good Friday service, Cardinal Ratzinger prayed that Jesus would “help us to take up the Cross, and not to shun it”…

In perhaps the most striking passage of his meditations, the prelate who would soon become Benedict XVI did not shrink from describing the Catholic Church as “a boat about to sink, a boat taking on water on every side.”

He lamented the “soiled garments and face” of the Church in our day.

Explaining these harsh words, the meditations mentioned the abuses against the Eucharist, the deformation of Catholic teaching, and the failure to defend the dignity of human life. Because of these problems within the Church, he said in his prayer, “the face of God — your face — appears obscured, unrecognizable.”

Nevertheless, the memorable Good Friday meditations preached by the German prelate concluded with a message of reliance on God and trust in his Providence.

“At this present hour of history, we are living in God’s darkness,” he said. “And yet, on the Cross, you have revealed yourself. Precisely by being the one who suffers and loves, you are exalted. From the Cross on high you have triumphed.”

Here follows the full text from that famous 9th Station of March 25, 2005. The words of the Meditation and Prayer are those spoken by Joseph Raztinger. The images below are all of Ratzinger…


Jesus falls for the third time

V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Book of Lamentations. 3:27-32

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust — there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.


By Joseph Ratzinger

What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us?

We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?

How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!

How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!

How often is his Word twisted and misused!

What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!

How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!

How much pride, how much self-complacency!

What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!

All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison ­ Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).


Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side.

In your field we see more weeds than wheat.

The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion.

Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures.

Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall.

When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered.

But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up.

Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

(to be continued…)

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