The Papal Conclave is now set to begin in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 12th. This gives the cardinal electors another two and a half days to sort priorities and settle on the man they personally think can best fulfill those priorities. The priority most often cited as primary--after the obligatory 'holiness'-- is governance. Here's John Allen's take on the issue of governance from an extract of an article posted to NCR.
If it wasn’t already, it’s become abundantly clear in the week since Benedict’s papacy ended and the sede vacante began that governance -- or, if one prefers, business management -- is a titanic concern.
Yet if the 115 cardinals who will soon file into the Sistine Chapel seem in basic agreement about the question facing them, they don’t appear to have an equally clear answer about who the right man is to be that governor.
Well before Benedict’s surprise resignation announcement on Feb. 11, many cardinals were convinced that something was rotten in the Vatican bureaucracy. Speaking on background, many cardinals have grumbled that when bombs go off in Rome, they’re the ones left to pick up the pieces in their dioceses and with their local and national media......
.......Just in the past few days, the cardinals have had additional reminders of the point. They arrived in Rome last week to be greeted by explosive reports of a supposed “gay lobby” within the Vatican, allegedly based on a secret report prepared for Benedict XVI on the leaks scandal by three retired cardinals. While cardinals may be inclined to chalk those reports up to media sensationalism, they also realize it wouldn’t have happened if somebody had prevented the leaks in the first place.
They’ve also watched as press briefings delivered by American cardinals were cancelled after concerns about leaks in the Italian papers. It struck many as the wrong solution, since the leaks weren’t coming from those briefings, and it also made some Americans -- the second largest bloc in the conclave, with 11 votes -- even more inclined to support a shake-up.
The net effect has been to make “reform of the Roman curia” the shibboleth of the 2013 papal election, much like “continuity” was in 2005.
What do the cardinals mean by “reform”? Listening to them over the past week, both on and off the record, their version of reform seems to rest on three pillars.
- Transparency: Internally, they want a curia that’s clearer about the logic for its decisions and about who’s making them; externally, they want the Vatican to do a better job of communicating with the outside world, including greater savvy about how to engage the media.
- Accountability: Cardinals want to see the right people put into the right jobs, and then held accountable for poor performance. (Privately, many cardinals would concede that this wasn’t Benedict’s strong point, noting that he stuck with his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, well after many of them were convinced his sell-by date had passed.)
- Modernization: Cardinals want a curia that’s more in tune with 21st century standards of business management, including a capacity to process business in a timely fashion. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, for instance, said in an NCR interview that the church can no longer afford the Vatican’s traditionally glacial pace, because “we’re less patient, and the world moves faster than it once did.”
The problem inherent through out Allen's article is he is giving the wrong diagnosis. The real diagnosis is the Vatican is not just a business, it's a nation/state. Governance is not just an issue of updating internal business practices, it's about getting to the root of the corruption and that corruption comes precisely from the fact the Holy See is a nation/state. Unlike international corporations, the Holy See has diplomatic prerogatives which place it above international accountability. Diplomatic immunity is just one such prerogative. In other words, the Holy See is an autocratic monarchical government and not a corporation. Corporations don't have embassies and ambassadors. The Holy See is not Taco Bell, nor is it treated as if it were Taco Bell.
I can not forget that upon elevation to the position of Cardinal these men receive Vatican citizenship and the diplomatic immunity that goes with it. This is important because of what it says in the oath Cardinals take upon receiving their red berreta:
I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff _______, and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to any one what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law.
Note that they pledge 'faithfulness' to Jesus Christ and the Gospels, but total OBEDIENCE to the Church and it's pontiff. They also pledge 'not to reveal to anyone what is confided in secret', not to divulge what may harm or dishonor the 'Holy Church', and to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which they are called by the Church in accord with the norms of the law. Because 'norms of the law' is not defined, it's a safe assumption this means Canon Law. Taken in it's full meaning, a Cardinal is no longer a loyal citizen of where he might live, but a loyal administrator of the directives of the Holy See and it's Secretary of State.
It is not at all surprising to me that Cardinals who have tasted the power politics of the Secretary of State's Office, participated in JPII's agenda of global domination, and enjoyed the 'fruits' of this participation, are loathe to let go of their control of this bizarre nation/state. Let the non Europeans have the Papacy, the Italian curia is focused on keeping the Secretary of State position securely in their own hands. Obviously the Sodano's and Bertone's of the curia world know where the real power lies and that doesn't seem to be in Jesus Christ. They also know how this power operates and protecting that knowledge has to be another driving force in keeping entrenched Italians in charge of the Holy See.
It's unfortunate that most Catholics don't seem to be able to see that the Vatican represents two entirely different institutions with two entirely different agendas. One agenda is representing the spiritual and religious patrimony of Catholic Christianity, the other is functioning as a global power player. I fail to see how any man can serve both Churches. JPII came close, but the spiritual and theological development of the Church was crucified in service of his geo political ambitions. Benedict tried to emphasize the other Church and the curia crucified him. I don't see a papal candidate that can serve both these masters. I do see a couple that might see through to the problem inherent in trying to run a nation/state and a global religious enterprise. Trouble is I don't know that such a pope would be elected much less obeyed if it came to dismantling the nation/state. Assuming such a man was allowed to rule.
John Allen and other commentators can keep defining the real problems in the curia as those of 'bad business' practices. It plays into the hands of the Sodano crowd and other individuals and organizations who really want to see the Holy See continue as usual and who need the Church's spiritual mission subordinated to theirs and others political agendas. I'm sure these men would have no problem with some 'reform' of the business practices, especially in terms of efficiency because that would give the Secretary of State's Office even more centralized control. Sodano and his followers represent the governments, men, and organizations whose agendas need liberation theology crushed, need heterosexual male dominance preached, need gays as scapegoats and women as subordinate, and love the opportunities inherent in a corrupt Vatican bank and the global presence of obedient Catholics in all corners of the globe. All of this has made them wealthy and powerful men, papal kingmakers whose presence is always tolerated and never disciplined and this, in and of itself, is a very powerful message to any reforming Cardinal who might be elected pope sometime next week.