Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Does One Reform A Two Headed Monster Without Chopping Off One Head?

This two headed monster is the real issue facing the Conclave.  They can't be reconciled unless the Cardinals agree compromise with the direct teachings of Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately I've seen even stranger logic from some of these guys.

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 is that a conclave can’t stop with diagnosis. It also has to find a cure, meaning it has to figure out which candidate is most likely to deliver this sort of reform. 


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.


  1. Once again, Colleen, you've put your finger on the problem. Just this morning I received the following fantasy (from an old friend), who writes:

    "On the way to the office this morning I was contemplating the conclave. Wishing that someone would put a creative video on YouTube. My vision: a bunch of people dressed as cardinals in their red hats and capes, etc, gathered in prayer. Jesus enters, whether through a door or wall or from a painting, looking as though he just came down from the cross or risen from the tomb. Carrying a whip. And drives them all out like he did with the money changers. collapses in tears. The last cardinal comes to him, takes off his cape and places it on Jesus, and then leaves.

    Forget all the pious chatter about this cardinal the theologian or that cardinal, the diversity guy, or whatever. We just need one reformer who will pick up the whip and behave like Jesus driving out the money changers. Perhaps Pope Justitia. We have never had a pope with that name."

    It's clear. The trappings of power have got to go! I'm not sure that's possible. Neither is my old friend.

  2. Bullseye! The dilemma couldn't be made clearer.

  3. It is possible but it would take a man of very very great courage. He could start by inviting the Hague to follow through on the legal case in front of the International Criminal Court regarding clerical sexual abuse, second, he could give the forensic accountants of Interpol complete access to the Vatican Bank, third, he could suspend the activities of all Vatican embassies and disband the current Vatican diplomatic corps until and if a decision was made about the legitimacy of functioning as a nation/state. After that he could then call a universal synod of bishops and laity whose task would be to develop avenues for power sharing including a permanent global synod with elective representatives from all areas of the globe whose first task would be to determine whether the Church should continue as a nation/state and should that decision be in the affirmative, they would then develop a constitution and bill of rights.

  4. Jayden, there is so much double speak in the air right now which seems to me is specifically designed to cloud the issue of Roman Catholicism as corrupt nation/state.

  5. Yup... but why stop at "he"? If they appointed a she, that might do the trick! ;)

  6. That was the point of Queen's Counsel Geoffrey Robertson's book, The Case of the Pope: end the diplomatic immunity and make the Vatican accountable for human rights abuse.

  7. Too political a view of the Holy See Coleen !!!!!
    This is Christ's Church and the Holy Spirit will ensure that the light of Christ will overcome the darkness ~ have faith !
    We are dealing with the "mystical body of Christ" ~ not American politics !

  8. Carol, the Holy See is the name of the nation/state, not the religious/spiritual entity known as Roman Catholicism. The Holy Spirit protects the religious/spiritual entity and not the Holy See.

    It's all designed to be purposefully confusing so I'm sure my take looks too political. It isn't really too political as I am not remarking on the mystical part of the church, just it's secular political nation/state part.

  9. The Holy Spirit blows where it chooses, and embraces ALL aspects of the Mystical Body Of Christ,( including The Holy See)
    Is your God too small to embrace that reality ?

  10. No not at all. Actually God has been on my case for over 10 years in vision after vision to get Catholics to understand this corruption. That's the main reason I started this blog. It's our Church created for our spiritual path. It is not up to God to fix it, it is up to us. It's our mission to create a Church which reflects our worth and that of the God we worship and love. It is supposed to be a Church based in the power of love, not the love of power.

    This ain't it, and the Holy See is the biggest reason.

  11. I know this is an 'Impossible Dream,' but, I think the only solution to the power hungry hierarchy is for other countries to strip away that power by refusing to recognize them any longer as a nation/state; refuse to give them ambassadorial status or diplomatic immunity, and to start going after the nasty, greedy bastards to the full extent of the law.Lay Catholics ought to quit funding this outfit until they get their priorities in line with Christ's. I will never see this Dream in my lifetime....sigh!

  12. He would probably end up poisoned about three months into his pontificate, sadly.

  13. Terri, I really hate to say this, but that won't happen as long as the Vatican is such a valuable source of on the ground intelligence information. If there is real change it's going to have to come from the Vatican itself. That will take a miracle.

  14. The Harlem Shake version:

    First part: Cardinals kneeling in prayer. Jesus dancing around, in their faces, gesturing, pleading. The cardinals are totally oblivious to his presence.

    Second part: Cardinals doing a little exit shuffle as Jesus shows them to the door. Displaying anger toward some, giving others a pat on the shoulder like "Well, you tried." As the last of the cardinals is going to the door, Jesus sits down and weeps. The last cardinal sees, comes back and ministers to him like Mary Magdalene.

  15. So no more tax breaks and no more immunity from registering for the draft for clergy? And police can come into churches looking for criminals without special permission? No more Vatican passports?
    Garibaldi would be very pleased!

  16. Not the going into Churches thing, have to keep the police out of Churches, all Churches. The rest of it? Why not?

  17. Which is just as anachronistic, medieval and backwards as the others. If someone robs or beats up someone else, or rapes in a church, you don't want to have the police be able to come in and arrest him? Why? Why do you want thousands of mini-states within the country? Do you want pedophiles to be able to hide in church rectories-"This is a church! We will excommunicate you!"? A few years ago, Bernard Law had to fly from Boston to Rome and then hide in the Vatican; how is it an improvement if the police in Massachusetts cannot lay a finger on him if he's hiding in one of Boston's churches?

  18. I was thinking more of political refugees, not criminals. It really doesn't matter what I think, the police have jurisdiction with a duly signed warrant.

  19. And who gets to determine who's a "political refugee"? Anyone from Guatemala?
    Essentially, you'd like two laws in one country.