21 February 2013
PADDY AGNEW, in Rome
Italian daily La Repubblica this morning sensationally claims that Pope Benedict’s resignation was at least partly prompted by an internal report prepared by three senior cardinals, alleging that various lobbies, including a gay lobby, exercise an “inappropriate influence” in internal Holy See affairs.
The newspaper suggests that such was Benedict’s dismay when presented with the details of the report on December 17th that it hardened his long-meditated decision to resign. The internal report prepared by Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi had been commissioned by Benedict himself.
He had ordered it in response to the so-called Vatileaks scandal which culminated with the arrest and subsequent conviction last autumn of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, found guilty of having stolen confidential documents from the papal apartment.
In this morning’s article, it is claimed that the cardinals reported that various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking the sixth and seventh commandments, namely “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not commit adultery”.
The “stealing” was in particular related to the Vatican Bank, IOR, whilst the sexual offences were related to the influence of an active gay lobby within the Vatican.
Last week, when presiding over the Ash Wednesday celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict spoke of “divisions” which “besmirch” the face of the church. In a famous homily at the 2005 Via Crucis Easter celebrations in Rome, just days before the death of John Paul II, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had spoken of the “filth” in the church, a comment interpreted by many as a reference to the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.
However, La Repubblica claims the cardinals’ 300 page report speaks of “Impropriam Influentiam” on the part of various lobbies, some of them of a “worldly nature”, reflecting an “outside influence”. The Rome daily recalls the figure of papal gentleman, Angelo Balducci, accused three years ago of being a member of a gay ring active within the Vatican and involving choristers and seminarians.
The paper does not explain the source of its information on the cardinals report nor does it provide a direct quotation from any part of the report. Rather it claims that its findings are based on information received from an unnamed Vatican source.
A Vatican spokesman this morning had no comment to make on the allegations.
Vatican sex and graft scandals pushed pope to resign – report
The Nation (Thailand)
February 21, 2013 6:32 pm
Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign after an internal probe informed him about the extent of sex and graft-scandals inside the Vatican, an Italian newspaper reported on Thursday, quoting unnamed sources.
Three cardinals, including the former chief of the Vatican’s secret services, were asked to verify the allegations of financial impropriety, cronyism and corruption brought up by the publication of confidential papal papers in the so-called VatiLeaks affair.
On December 17, 2012, they handed to the pontiff two red-leatherbound volumes, almost 300-pages long, containing “an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish” inside the Holy See, daily La Repubblica reported.
“It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,” the report suggested.
The Vatican’s press office declined to comment on the story.
Benedict is leaving his post on February 28. So far, the Vatican has insisted that his decision – the first papal resignation in 600 years – was due to his advanced age and had nothing to do with Vatican plots.
The information he received from the cardinals “is all about the breach of the sixth and seven commandments,” a man described as being “very close” to the authors of the report told La Repubblica.
The commandments are “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not steal.” The cardinals were said to have uncovered an underground gay network, whose members organise sexual meetings in several venues in Rome and the Vatican City and are prone to blackmail because of their sexual orientation.
Among those mentioned in the report is Marco Simeon, a manager at state television RAI whose name was mentioned in the past in connection with one of the key VatiLeaks revelations: the plot to oust Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano from the chairmanship of the Vatican City Governorate, following his attempts to introduce greater financial transparency.//DPA
Vatican Feuds, Fiefdoms, Betrayals Await Next Pope
21 February 2013
By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press
VATICAN CITY February 21, 2013 (AP)
If evidence was ever needed that the next pope must urgently overhaul the powerful Vatican bureaucracy called the Curia, the scandal over Pope Benedict XVI’s private papers is Exhibit A.
The pope’s own butler stole sensitive internal letters to the pontiff and passed them off to a journalist, who then published them in a blockbuster book. The butler did it, he admitted himself, to expose the “evil and corruption” in the Vatican’s frescoed halls that he believed was hidden from Benedict by those who were supposed to serve him.
And if that original sin weren’t enough, the content of the leaks confirmed that the next pope has a very messy house to clean up. The letters and memos exposed petty wrangling, corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The dirt ranged from the awarding of Vatican contracts to a plot, purportedly orchestrated by senior Vatican officials, to out a prominent Catholic newspaper editor as gay.
Ordinary Catholics might not think that dysfunction in the Apostolic Palace has any effect on their lives, but it does: The Curia makes decisions on everything from church closings to marriage annulments to the disciplining of pedophile priests. Papal politics plays into the prayers the faithful say at Mass since missal translations are decided by committee in Rome. Donations the faithful make each year for the pope are held by a Vatican bank whose lack of financial transparency fueled bitter internal debate.
And so after 35 years under two “scholar” popes who paid scant attention to the internal governance of the Catholic Church, a chorus is growing that the next pontiff must have a solid track record managing a complicated bureaucracy. Cardinals who will vote in next month’s conclave are openly talking about the need for reform, particularly given the dysfunction exposed by the scandal.
“It has to be attended to,” said Chicago Cardinal Francis George. With typical understatement, he called the leaks scandal “a novel event for us.”
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German who retired in 2010 as the head of the Vatican’s ecumenical office, said the Curia must adapt itself to the 21st century.
“There needs to be more coordination between the offices, more collegiality and communication,” he told Corriere della Sera. “Often the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”
Sandro Magister, the Vatican analyst who most closely follows the comings, goings and internecine feuds of Vatican officials, said the “disaster” of governance began unfolding in the 1980s, in the early years of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate.
“John Paul II was completely disinterested in the Curia; his vision was completely directed to the outside,” Magister said in an interview. “He allowed a proliferation of feuds, small centers of power that fought among themselves with much ambition, careerism and betrayals.”
“This accumulated and ruined it for the next pope,” he said.
Benedict was well aware of the problems, having spent nearly a quarter-century in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But he never entered into the Vatican’s political fray as a cardinal — and as pope left it to his No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to do the job.
“Some of his choices were shown to be counterproductive,” Magister said. “Cardinal Bertone didn’t produce the results that Benedict XVI had hoped for.”
Bertone himself became a lightning rod for division within the Curia. A canonist, he had no diplomatic experience coming into the job, and the main battle lines drawn in the Curia today come down to his loyalists and those still loyal to his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Taken as a whole, the leaked documents seemed aimed at undermining Bertone.
To be fair, the Vatican under Benedict made great strides on some internal governance fronts: the pope insisted on greater financial transparency, and the Vatican passed a key European anti-money laundering test last summer. He insisted on a Vatican trial, open to journalists, for the butler who betrayed him. And as cardinal, after priestly sex abuse cases bounced for years among Vatican offices, the former Joseph Ratzinger took them over himself in 2001.
But some analysts speculate that the revelations from the leaks at the very least accelerated Benedict’s decision to resign. In early 2012, he appointed three trusted cardinals to investigate beyond the criminal case involving his butler. They interviewed widely inside the Curia and out and delivered their final report in December. Its contents are sealed, though speculation is rife that the cardinals minced no words in revealing the true nature of the Curia.
Benedict’s biographer, Peter Seewald, asked Benedict in August how badly the scandal had affected him. He replied that he was not falling into “desperation or world-weariness,” yet admitted the leaks scandal “is simply incomprehensible to me,” according to a recent article Seewald penned for the German magazine Focus.
The Holy See’s bureaucracy is organized as any government, though it most closely resembles a medieval court — given that the pope is an absolute monarch, with full executive, legal and judicial powers.
There’s a legal office, an economic affairs office and an office dedicated to the world’s 400,000 priests. Three tribunals tend to ecclesiastical cases and a host of departments take up spiritual matters: making saints, keeping watch on doctrine and the newest office created by Benedict, spreading the faith.
John Paul’s 1988 apostolic constitution “Pastor Bonus” sets out the competencies of the various congregations and councils, and they function more or less as independent fiefdoms, albeit in consultation with one another when the subject matter requires. In the end, though, the real power lies with two departments: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the secretariat of state, which can block virtually any initiative of another office.
“Who is influential isn’t so much dependent on what your office is or your title but whether you have access to the king, or in this case the pope,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of “Inside the Vatican,” a bible of sorts for understanding the Vatican Curia.
The same could be said for any executive branch. But in the case of the Vatican, there’s a difference.
“Obama can fire anybody he wants from his cabinet,” Reese said. “When you make someone a bishop, you make him a bishop for life. When you make him a cardinal you make him a prince of the church. What do you do with a cardinal (who doesn’t work out)? He can’t go to K Street and get a job as a lobbyist.”
Though increasingly international, the Curia is also a very Italian creature, which affects its priorities, weaknesses and style of governance. “Genealogy is important, who begat whom,” noted one recently departed Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as to not antagonize former colleagues.
The typical Italian way of getting things done via personal stamps of approval, or “raccomandanzione,” guides introductions. The Italian way of persuasion, less overt power play than Machiavellian machinations, governs consensus-building and decision-making.
Italian commentator Massimo Franco recently concluded on the pages of Corriere della Sera that the Vatican bureaucracy today is simply “ungovernable.”
Though it’s open to interpretation, Benedict’s final homily as pope could be read as a clear message to the cardinals who will choose his successor.
Two days after announcing he would resign, a weary Benedict told his flock gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for Ash Wednesday Mass to live their lives as Christians in order to show the true face of the church — a church, he said, which is often “defiled.”
“I think in particular about the attacks against the unity of the church, the divisions in the ecclesial body,” he said. He told those gathered that “moving beyond individualisms and rivalries is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent to it.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was wrong to interpret the pope’s words as being directed at the Vatican Curia, saying the pope’s message was intended as a call for unity among all Christians, a priority of his as pontiff.
“Differences and diversity of opinion are part of the normal dynamic of any institution or community,” Lombardi said. He said the way the Vatican’s governance problems are often described “do not correspond to reality.”
Rachel Zoll in New York and George Jahn in Vienna contributed.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
“Zero Hour at the Vatican: A Bitter Struggle for Control of the Catholic Church
Spiegel Online International
18 February 2013
Naked and goaded viciously by hornets and wasps, his blood sucked by loathsome worms. Such was the fate of a pope in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” who “by his cowardice made the great refusal.”
Benedict XVI, in short, knew what could happen to one who rebelled against a centuries-old tradition in a church in which suffering is far from foreign. But he also knew that it wasn’t just a matter of his own suffering — it was a matter of the exhaustion, weakness and sickness of the church at large.
The pope from Bavaria has given up. Nevertheless, when he announced his resignation last Monday, hastily and almost casually mumbling the words as if he were saying a rosary, as if he were returning the keys to a rental car rather than the keys to St. Peter, there was still a sense of how deeply his move has shaken the Catholic empire.
Archbishop of Berlin Rainer Maria Woelki calls it a “demystification of the papal office.” Already, he says, the pope’s resignation has changed the church.
So was it an act of liberation? A handful of bishops have, cautiously, made their voices heard. Gebhard Fürst, the bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in southwestern Germany, called for reforms to promote the advancement of women. Although he didn’t demand that women be allowed to become priests, Fürst did suggest that more women assume leadership positions in the church.
German bishops will convene for their spring meeting in the southwestern city of Trier this week. Conflicting groups are already taking shape within the German church, with fundamentalists battling reformers, and with everyone anxiously determined to preserve or expand his vested rights under a new pontiff.
And the desire for change is palpable. “A pope can be a theologian, a minister or a general,” says a prominent German cardinal, and he makes it clear that he has seen enough of philosopher-popes for now. “A general is needed to lead the universal church.”
A shift is taking place in the otherwise immovable Catholic Church. A global struggle has begun over the prerogative of interpretation, opportunities, legacy and positions — a silent battle for Rome.
The ultimate effects of the pope’s resignation are thus far impossible to predict. But it is clear that previous certainties will now be up for debate — certainties that were once just as firm as the understanding that the position of pope was for life.
In the modern age, a pope has never resigned from the office, one that some believe is the most important on earth. There hasn’t been an ex-pontiff since the last years of the Schism, after Gregory XII and the Avignon pope agreed to resign to reunite the church. That was the last time that an ex-pope spent the rest of his days strolling around the Vatican gardens as nothing but a simple brother. Never before has the decision of a single pope presented such a challenge to the Catholic Church as this one. Zero hour has begun at the Vatican. The pope’s resignation was certainly “great” within Dante’s meaning. But it was not made through cowardice. On the contrary, it was probably the most courageous step in a long-drifting papacy marred by scandals and misunderstandings.
With his revolt against tradition and the church machinery, Benedict XVI may have brought more change to the church than he did in the seven years and 10 months of his papal reign.
Benedict has repeatedly raged against a “dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” And this is the man who is now weakening the office of pope, making it dependent on human deficits and efficiency?
If, as Benedict implied in his statement of resignation, the office is too difficult for one man in the modern world, power must then be ceded to Catholic bishops and to world regions. If the Petrine office can be vacated like a seat in parliament, then it’s time to put an end to the church’s rigid stance on other questions of doctrine. Why exactly should spouses remain together until death if the pope can simply resign from his post?
And if Benedict now assumes the right of resignation, shouldn’t every future pope expect to face demands for his resignation, not unlike a politician, when he becomes infirm or is deficient in the discharge of his office?
It’s no surprise that some at the Vatican have a bad feeling about the questions that will face Rome in the coming weeks. The pope’s decision to elevate his person above his position presents a challenge to the entire Vatican system. Last week, a prelate suggested shunting the ex-pope to a monastery in Germany, in other words, as far away from Rome as possible.
Pope Benedict had hoped to bring the listing ship of the Catholic Church back onto an even keel with clear directives, even if that meant a shrinking crew. He sought to counteract the church’s general dissolution by focusing on core issues. He had hoped to revive faith with reason or, to use the Greek term, logos.
Instead, more and more dirt came to light, and Benedict was confronted with a growing lack of understanding. After an endless series of scandals, he must have realized that the office was too much for him.
“It was,” the Italian recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature Dario Fo said on Thursday, “the attrition in the curia, Vatileaks and all the sharks who surrounded the pope, spied on and betrayed him. Age certainly isn’t the only thing that burdens him.”
On Ash Wednesday, when everything was almost over, Benedict XVI is sitting, hunched over, in St. Peter’s Basilica, dressed entirely in purple, the liturgical color of atonement. He seems tiny under the bronze canopy by Bernini. Gregorian chants mingle with calls from the nave. “Viva il Papa,” say the faithful, as they stand up and applaud for several minutes. They form a cordon through which he is rolled toward the exit in the wheeled platform he uses because of knee pain. He seems calm and tired, but also relieved. He apologizes for his mistakes. He can do that now, because he has nothing left to lose. In stepping down from his post, the pope seems strong, almost modern. Benedict has also lightened the load for his successors. Now, future popes will not have to face being dragged out of his Vatican office on a stretcher, like someone dying in a hospice.
There is something rebellious about Benedict’s action. If it is God who calls someone to the throne, abandoning the post voluntarily can be seen acting against God’s will.
A Series of Last Words
Pope Paul VI once compared his job to fatherhood — something that was impossible to give up. “One does not step down from the cross,” John Paul II reportedly said. The traditional view is that the body of the pope is not his alone. As with an absolute monarch, the office and the body are inseparable.
There were signs, but few interpreted them as such. During a visit to the Italian region of Abruzzo, why did Benedict lay the pallium, the papal woolen cloak, in front of the altar containing the relics of St. Celestine? Celestine was the only one of his predecessors who had voluntarily resigned, an act for which Dante had apparently banished him to hell. Did Benedict see the hermit pope as a kindred spirit?
But no one was paying attention, just as no one had paid attention to the pope in light of the commotion surrounding the church. Benedict spoke quietly and softly, and yet his words were chosen as carefully as if they were to be set in stone. For those who listened, his message was clear: It was a series of last words.
This was especially evident in the way he addressed German Catholics. On his visit to Germany, he warned of the need to take greater care of God’s creation, one of several forays into ecology. In Freiburg, he advocated “de-secularization” and called upon Catholics not to adhere to structures. But there was no response to his efforts. The German episcopate also ignored the “Year of Faith” he proclaimed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
Tired and worn down, he completed his final tasks. He made his longtime confidant and loyal friend Georg Gänswein an archbishop, and he ensured that a conservative dogmatist, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of the Bavarian city of Regensburg, would assume leadership of the Vatican’s doctrinal office.
At the very beginning of his term in office, Benedict spoke of the “yoke of Christ” that he was now assuming, and of the willingness to suffer. But even then, in his inaugural mass, he said ominously: “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”
Part 2: The Power of the Pope Emeritus
Now, it seems necessary to speculate whether it wasn’t perhaps a few wolves in sheep’s clothing that made life difficult for Benedict. He was all too familiar with the machinations of the members of the curia. But only Benedict himself can judge how greatly he despised this reality and how alien it must have been to him.
The groups are beginning to coalesce. Time is short until next month’s papal conclave, but the fronts are hard-fought. Reformers (a few) face off against opponents of reform (more than a few), curial cardinals against those arriving in Rome from around the world, incorrigible Europeans against fresh non-Europeans, conservative Africans against open-minded South Americans. Four rounds of voting in 26 hours, as was the case in the Ratzinger election, are hardly likely to suffice this time.
“God has already decided,” says Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schönborn, as if to console himself. Nevertheless, the princes of the church are positioning themselves to make that decision known to the general public, as well as to push it through against deaf and undiscerning colleagues.
Benedict’s mumbled announcement of his resignation was the starting gun for preparations ahead of the pre-conclave. It is a time when cardinals come together — purely coincidentally, of course, for reasons having nothing to do with Benedict’s resignation. They converse quietly in small seafood restaurants outside the Vatican, they pray — and they consider coalitions and subversions.
This was already evident in Rome on Ash Wednesday, two days after Benedict’s announcement. While the line of pilgrims circled once around St. Peter’s Square and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone quickly reviewed his farewell speech, a book was being presented in a brightly lit bookstore near Rome’s Termini train station, one in which facts and fiction quickly become intertwined.
The book is about the “bloody war of the cardinals before the conclave,” about the Vatican bank IOR, the Opus Dei society, and a secret dossier on sexual abuse, and it describes how two favorites for the papacy eliminate each other and two others die. There is a new pope in the end — a Chinese pope.
A Frenzy of Interpretation
It’s only a novel, of course, but “Le mani sul Vaticano” is certainly inspired by the realities that exist within the curia. For several years, author Carlo Marroni has been one of the most influential Vaticanisti, the correspondents at the Vatican, and the diplomatic correspondent for the business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. His book now reads like something of a forecast of the conclave.
Vatican correspondents agree that there will be a battle for control. The focus is already on holding on to power, the threat that heads will roll and on the web of relationships within the curia after Ratzinger’s departure.
Only a day after Benedict’s announcement, two former enemies are appeared together in public, seemingly on good terms, with newspapers launching into a frenzy of interpretation. It was Cardinal Secretary of State Bertone, the man who wields the most power at the Vatican after the pope, and Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference. Bertone has been sharply criticized for his dubious role in the Vatileaks affair, while Bagnasco was his subtle adversary. Both men are “papabili,” or possible successors to Benedict.
The man whose ascension both men are trying to prevent, according to rumors spread by Italian newspapers, is Angelo Scola, the 72-year-old archbishop of Milan. Scola, a student of Ratzinger, is the favored candidate of the fundamentalist group within the curia, and is closely aligned with the conservative lay movement Comunione e Liberazione, which in turn is associated with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The conservative Scola is currently considered the Italian frontrunner for the papal election.
The battle between Secretary of State Bertone and his predecessor, Angelo Sodano, is also heating up. Sodano holds Bertone responsible for “depravity” in the “poorly run Vatican state,” says Marco Ansaldo of the Italian daily La Repubblica. According to Ansaldo, both men will gain more power after Benedict’s resignation, and they will also come into conflict with each other. Sodano will head the conclave, and has begun mobilizing his supporters. Bertano, who, as “Camerlengo”, manages the property and revenues of the Holy See, is doing the same thing.
There is a saying in secular Rome: “morto un papa se ne fa un altro”, or “if a pope dies, one simply makes another one.” But it isn’t that easy this time. The pope is still alive and the curia is divided, which makes everything so difficult to predict.
Influencing the Vote?
Joseph Ratzinger, Bishop of Rome emeritus, will not be present at the conclave. He is five years too old for that. For days, papal spokesman Federico Lombardi has denied that the soon-to-be-ex-pope could nevertheless influence the conclave’s decision, saying that Benedict is too modest. But no one believes Lombardi.
Every word Benedict will utter in the coming days will be carefully analyzed and possibly even interpreted as a message to the conclave. This was already evident at the Ash Wednesday mass, at which Benedict spoke of “religious hypocrisy,” of “individuals and rivalries” and of “sins against the unity of the church and divisions in the body of the church.” All of this is unambiguous criticism, a settling of accounts, as well as an allusion to the conclave and a preview of what could come in the next few weeks.
Benedict is giving up power and, at the same time, is accusing his underlings of being obsessed with power, and of clinging to power and of thus being unable to follow their hearts, as he has done. A comparably explosive constellation hasn’t been seen at the Vatican in a long time.
Power brokers and lobbyists are already nervously testing the waters to determine what snares could entrap the next pope. Most of all, what will it mean for him if his predecessor isn’t already in his tomb, but is still in full command of his faculties and residing only a few steps away from the Apostolic Palace?
Benedict has been careful to point out that he intends to “hide from the world.” Nevertheless, he will be a source of conflict for as long as he lives. How will the cardinals behave when a new pope makes mistakes, when he spoils his relationship with key factions in the curia or when he launches reforms blocked by his predecessor? Benedict himself won’t even have to comment, as long as real or supposed confidants whisper anything about how the old man feels about the change of course — and his successor’s position will already be weakened.
Tensions are already looming. Benedict’s closest confidant, Gänswein, will perhaps be serving two masters in the future. The 56-year-old curial archbishop will “remain prefect of the papal household and will also be secretary to Benedict,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
‘A Shadow Pope’
As a result, Gänswein is likely to become one of the most influential bishops in the Roman court. At the same time, he will live near Benedict’s new residence in the monastery opposite St. Peter’s Basilica, where they will be able to receive visitors together and discuss the condition of the church. Gänswein will also play an important role as prefect of the papal household.
“Benedict threatens to become a shadow pope,” says Swiss theologian Hans Küng. One cannot simply stop being pope, says Benedict biographer Andreas Englisch. “In the worst case, a part of the church would split off, perhaps because Ratzinger believed that his successor was doing great harm to the church.”
Vatican expert John L. Allen, on the other hand, believes the radicalism of Benedict’s gesture could encourage the cardinals to “think outside the box and assume the risk of taking a new step.” The signal, murmured in Latin on Monday, couldn’t have been clearer: It can’t go on like this.
In other words, it is quite possible that the conclave will bring about a change in direction, even though the current pope appointed 67 of the 117-member electorate. Perhaps it will mean that a non-European will be elected for the first time, or someone who is not as fixated on the supposed cultural decay as Benedict. Or perhaps it will lead to a McKinsey pope, a man equipped with sufficient managerial qualities to bring the wind of change into the administration of the Catholic empire.
The shadow of the “good” Pope John XXIII will also hang over the conclave — as a hope for some and a warning for others. He was a surprise pope, largely unknown, who suddenly had the courage to open up the church. With the reform council of 1962 to 1965, John XXIII led his church into the 20th century.
A new John would have to do the same for the 21st century. He would have to transform the globalized church from an empire into a commonwealth, in which regional differences are possible and not every theologian whose views are deemed objectionable could be silenced by a papal pronouncement from Rome.
Part 3: The Need for a New Beginning
Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, the former advisor to the German Bishops’ Conference, deplores the pope’s need for harmony. “Being Catholic also means unity in diversity. Bishops and the pope must come to terms with this tense relationship. The universal church now needs a pope who is willing to relinquish more of his power.” There is no alternative, says Mitschke-Collande, in light of globalization, the diversity of regions and the differences in the nature of Catholics worldwide. He believes that the assumption that only one monolithic church is a strong church is fundamentally incorrect. “Using this approach, no corporation today would be able to market its products worldwide anymore,” says Mitschke-Collande, who made his career as a consultant at McKinsey.
On the other hand Ratzinger, a former council theologian, tried to counteract the centrifugal currents. He was a pope of the Restoration, and many priests, and members of their congregations even more so, hope that those days are now gone.
It was not a happy pontificate for Benedict XVI, but rather one of suffering. The world witnessed a shy person who regards the present with deep pessimism and, no matter how hard he tried, was unable to hide his feelings.
Last year, Benedict repeatedly experienced how every step forward was weighed down by the shadows of the past, including charges of abuse and betrayal. Furthermore, his pronouncements were often thwarted, especially in his native Germany. Indeed, church attendance in his homeland has declined to 12 percent of the population and elementary religious beliefs — that of the creed and the belief in the resurrection and the Holy Trinity — are now held by only a minority of the population.
If he already felt worn out from these battles over faith, the years in which butler Paolo Gabriele betrayed his trust must have finally pulled the rug out from under his feet. When Secretary Gänswein assumed all of the blame and offered to resign, the Holy Father wanted nothing of it. With a sigh, he said: “But we must trust each other up here. It doesn’t work without trust.”
Benedict’s Parting Gift
But the treachery had found its way into his own chambers. According to a report last week by the Milan newsmagazine Panorama, Dec. 17, the day on which three cardinals handed the pope the secret report describing the background of Vatileaks, complete with witness statements, was apparently the moment he decided to resign. Before that, Benedict had “learned of conditions in the curia that he would never have thought possible.”
He was, after all, a teaching pope and not a governing pope. Benedict sought to use the word to exert influence. His speeches in Regensburg and in Paris, and before the parliaments in Berlin and London, were invitations to the non-Catholic world to join Catholics in thinking about the ethical basis of the political, and to consider other things, too, like the law of nature and an expanded concept of reason.
“The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur — this is the program,” the pope said in his Regensburg lecture. And quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, he added: “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God.”
With his decision to resign, Benedict has given his church a final gift: the chance for a new beginning. And that is exactly what Catholics in his native Germany long for. Benedict’s resignation comes at a time when the standing of the Catholic Church in Germany has arrived at a new low.
Church doctrine and social reality have drifted so far apart in many areas that even devout Catholics believe the time has come for change. Karl-Josef Kuschel, a religious scholar in the southwestern German city of Tübingen, says that the church is now confronted with “fundamental mistrust.”
This cannot be blamed entirely on the outgoing pope, and yet Benedict didn’t manage to stop the trend, at least not in northern countries. In 2010, the number of people leaving the church in Germany, more than 180,000, was for the first time substantially greater than the number of baptisms. Today more than a third of Germans are members of no Christian church at all. The number of baptisms, weddings and even church funerals is dropping rapidly. There is also a colossal shortage of priests.
Atmosphere of Fear and Suspicion
In total, the church lost about 3.8 million Catholics in Germany between 1990 and 2011, a number almost twice the size of the Archdiocese of Cologne. And the trend has shown no signs of reversal.
As a result, the church is losing importance in Germany. Its influence over legislation, important national debates or on culture is limited today. “The church is in a crisis of faith, trust, authority, leadership and communication,” Mitschke-Collande, an active Catholic, writes in an analysis.
And then there are the devastating results of a recent study by the Sinus Institute, based in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, on the growing isolation of the Catholic Church in most social environments. The study makes it very clear that it isn’t just external critics, so-called enemies of the church, but also the core and even the substance of loyal Catholics in the church that no longer has any confidence in the pope and the bishops.
The crisis has reached the center of the church, and the bishops are at a turning point. Business as usual isn’t an option, and yet the bishops are only thwarting one another. “No one wants to come out from cover first,” says a bishop’s aide. “No one dares to go it alone, because everyone fears that the others will attack him and that, in the end, there will only be trouble with Rome.”
This culture of making statements on the quiet is reminiscent of the final stage in East Germany, when an atmosphere of fear and suspicion had taken hold. But how can a church be attractive when it is internally divided, disunited and demoralized? Pope Benedict XVI and his most loyal representatives in Germany, be it in Cologne, Limburg or Regensburg, have allowed this disunity to develop, or they have even promoted it.
Referring to this issue, one cardinal’s spokesman says: “You have to be able to say something without being immediately assailed, and without denunciation in Rome or on the Internet. If this climate of mutual suspicion isn’t put to an end now, we will fail in our efforts to launch a new beginning. The church must be able to tolerate more criticism, more diversity and more freedom without its ranks.” The role of the bishops, he adds, will be more important than that of the pope in the future, and the local mood will be crucial to people, be it in Germany, Asia, Africa or Latin America.
Catholic youth groups are calling on their bishops to address current debates from the center of the church, and not to leave the field to ultraconservative Catholics. This, they say, also includes a discussion on what “can be left up to the conscience of the individual,” when it comes to sexual morality. Helmut Schüller, the co-founder of a pastors’ initiative, says that the Vatican can no longer be the center of a universal church that “emanates fear and terror, where people are harassed, removed from office and denied the right to teach.”
For now, such critique has been but a murmur. But it is rapidly getting louder.
Under the current papal rules, the secret election of the 266th pope, the conclave, must begin between 15 and 20 days after Benedict’s resignation. As such, in mid-March, 117 cardinals will be locked in seclusion “cum clave” in the Sistine Chapel. There, they will pray, carry their folded ballots to the altar, count them, burn them and begin all over again.
Days — in the past, even weeks and months — can pass before a two-thirds majority materializes. But this time the electorate won’t have much time. The new pope is expected to complete the traditional foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday, preside over the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum on Good Friday and, on Easter Sunday, pronounce the Urbi et orbi from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the blessing for the city of Rome and the rest of the world.
Will the succession be decided among the Europeans, or will they succeed in bridging the gap with the non-European churches? Will the pope remain a man of the Restoration, as Ratzinger was, or will he be a reformer, like Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn or Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, the notoriously progressive president of the Pontifical Council for Culture?
Can one line even exist in the stricken Catholic Church — a single line uniting the 30 cardinals of the curia and the much larger number of cardinals traveling to Rome from all over the world?
The church faces massive and fundamental issues: connecting to the modern age and decisions on key questions such as celibacy, the ordination of women, ecumenism and large numbers of faithful leaving the church in some regions.
Part 4: Looking for a Miracle
It needs a contemporary crisis manager, someone who can master the conflicts within the church with a strong hand, and can weather or, better yet, avoid scandals. He should be just as intellectually gifted as Ratzinger, as spiritually steadfast as Jesus Christ, as charismatic as Karol Wojtyla and, of course, just as young. Wojtyla was 58 when he was elected. In a nutshell, the church is seeking a mediator, a cleanup man and a tough man, and yet someone is nevertheless tender in his faith.
What it’s seeking is a miracle.
The Vaticanisti agree that, given this job description, none of the six German cardinals (Paul Josef Cordes, Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Reinhard Marx, Joachim Meisner, Rainer Maria Woelki) is a possibility. If the new pope is to be a European, he will most likely be an Italian.
After almost 35 years of foreign rule, first by a Pole and then by a German, an Italian pontiff would certainly be desirable. The problem is that the Italians in the curia are divided, into both territorial groups and theological factions. Their advantage, on the other hand, is that they would not be troubled by conditions in the curia. They are accustomed to confusion, intrigues, vanities and a meticulously practiced lack of interest in reform. It’s the only reality they know, both in the curia and in politics.
A few days before Benedict vacates the Apostolic See on Feb. 28, a new parliament will be elected in secular Rome. The news of Benedict’s resignation is already affecting the election campaign today. It has become calmer and more objective — for one simple reason: Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who depends so greatly on media attention, is getting much less exposure now that all eyes are on the Vatican. According to rumors in the halls of parliament, Berlusconi is livid as a result while Mario Monti and the leftists are overjoyed.
The key question is how the global composition of the College of Cardinals will affect the papal election. The conclave is still just as colorful as it was before Benedict’s election. It will include cardinals from 50 countries, 61 Europeans, of which six will be German and 28 Italian, 11 cardinals from the United States, five Indians, 19 Latin Americans, 11 from both Africa and Asia, and one from Australia.
The Latin Americans, among others, have great expectations. They hope to see an end to the “Eurocentric Vatican,” writes respected columnist Elio Gaspari. He believes that the “theologian and bureaucrat” Benedict will now be followed by a “shepherd” from the Third World. “He would combine the useful with the pleasant.”
The members of the curia are worried about the latest developments in Latin America, where there is a shortage of tens of thousands of priests, and where many rural churches are abandoned. Millions are defecting to the Protestant Pentecostal churches. The Protestant pastors are true entertainers, their services are shows for tens of thousands of people, they sing and dance, and many sell CDs by the millions.
The Catholic Church hasn’t found an effective response yet, though it has made some rather helpless attempts. Some Catholic priests, known as pop padres, are now holding their services in giant venues, and their masses have come to resemble pop concerts. Still, this hasn’t stopped the growth of the Protestant churches.
Africa too is hoping for a change of course. In 2010, 15.5 percent, or about 180 million of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, were Africans. Thanks to demographic changes, their continent, along with Asia, is among the major growth regions in the global faith market. Tens of thousands of church institutions built by missionaries in the last 150 years, such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and AIDS wards, feel like islands of hope on a continent plagued by mass poverty. The church wields considerable political influence in countries that are unable to perform their social duties. The Catholic Church is considered the only functioning national institution in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example.
But the popularity of Pentecostal churches and Protestant sects is also on the rise. Both proclaim a simple feel-good gospel, a much more appealing message to many of the poor than the doctrines of the Catholics, Anglicans and mainstream Protestants. An African pope could be more adept at meeting this challenge; at least many Africans think so.
The churches in Africa are still filled on Sundays. White missionaries rave about the deep religiosity and strong faith of the Africans, and about their colorful liturgy and experience of spirituality. Some believe that Africa exudes the rejuvenating force that could revive the leaderless official church of the north. The church does a lot of good in Africa, and yet it is also controversial. Catholic preachers are among those in Uganda who are fomenting hatred of gays in Uganda. And on the subject of AIDS, most Catholic dignitaries in Africa adhere to the recommendations of old men from the Vatican, demonizing the use of condoms. When it comes to birth control, same-sex marriage, homosexuality or assisted suicide, they are often even more dogmatic than the Vatican.
‘Obama of the Vatican’
“For God’s sake, let’s hope it’s not an African!” Stefan Hippler, a foreign priest in South Africa, said in April 2005 before the white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel marking the beginning of Benedict’s papacy. The ultra-conservative Cardinal Francis Arinze from Nigeria, now 80, was among the favorites at the time.
This time around, though, Hippler would consider 64-year-old Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson a good choice. The Ghanaian, already dubbed the “Obama of the Vatican,” is multilingual and has been a member of the Roman curia for more than three years. He is also ranked highly on gambling sites. Turkson is relatively young and open-minded on social issues. He represents positions of Liberation Theology and advocates a cautious correction of course on the issue of condoms.
A 63-year-old Brazilian with ancestors from the German state of Saarland, Odilo Pedro Scherer, is also on the list of likely possibles, as is French-Canadian Marc Ouellet, a close friend of Ratzinger who could garner the votes of North and South Americans, thereby bridging the old and new worlds.
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, 63, a representative of the wealthy US church, is also frequently mentioned as a possible candidate.
And then there is another candidate, the “Wojtyla from the Far East, Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines. He is said to possess the brain of a theologian and the heart of a shepherd, as well as being more charismatic than most in the College of Cardinals. But at 55, he is also the second youngest in the College of Cardinals, practically a baby by Vatican standards.
Taking Advantage of Zero Hour
In short, the result of the conclave is as difficult to forecast as it was in 1978 when, after several rounds of voting, a largely unknown Pole stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The next pope could be a black man, an African. He could be a charismatic South American or an Italian apparatchik or a reformist European. He could be someone who continues Ratzinger’s course or someone who takes advantage of zero hour.
Only one thing is certain: Next Thursday, at about 5 p.m., a white Sikorsky Sea King helicopter will lift off from the landing pad in Vatican City into the skies above Rome. The pope will be on board and sitting next to him, in all likelihood, will be his private secretary, Georg Gänswein. Their destination is less than 25 kilometers (16 miles) away: Castel Gandolfo, the beloved papal summer residence, with its beautiful view of bottle-green Lake Albano.
Three hours later, at precisely 8 p.m., the pope will no longer be a pope. His chair will then be “vacante,” as the sede vacante beings. There will be a simple dinner at Castel Gandolfo. The new pope will assume his office by Easter. Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, will perform his duties until then.
Joseph Ratzinger will move out of the papal palace and into his new home in the former Convent of Mater Ecclesiae, a simple, ochre-colored, 450-square-meter (4,840-square-foot) building in the Vatican gardens, with 12 rooms, as small and sparse as prayer booths. Until November, the building was occupied by 11 nuns with the Salesian Sisters, who harvested lemons and planted tomatoes, zucchini and the whitish-yellow “John Paul II” rose. Now the building is hastily being renovated, as construction debris is carried out and the library enlarged to accommodate Benedict’s books — and the two Georgs, Gänswein and Benedict’s 89-year-old brother. Both men will likely visit the ex-pope’s new home for a session of ora et labora.
Georg Ratzinger remembers a day, a few months ago, when they were sitting together in the room that the pope had set up for his older brother in Rome. They talked about all kinds of things. Then Benedict said that he intended to resign from office. According to his brother, he made the announcement very matter-of-factly and unemotionally, and seemed neither relieved nor sad.
“I had a few more questions relating to the implementation, but that too was discussed matter-of-factly, and the issue was settled. It didn’t play a major role in our conversation. We have a great deal to discuss when we see each other, and that was only one issue,” says Georg Ratzinger.
Benedict XVI, now Joseph Ratzinger once again, will remain at the Vatican, in the midst of his church but no longer at its center. He will pray and write and talk and have discussions with the two Georgs.
It’s quite conceivable that he will be happy. It will be a return home, after seven years and 10 months in an office and world that were not his own.
BY FIONA EHLERS, JENS GLÜSING, BARTOLOMÄUS GRILL, FRANK HORNIG, MATTHIAS MATUSSEK, CONNY NEUMANN, ALEXANDER SMOLTCZYK and PETER WENSIERSKI
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
New Pope. Same church?
The Irish Times
16 February 2013
PADDY AGNEW, Rome Correspondent
Pope Benedict’s resignation is the most radical move in the Catholic Church in 50 years. Could it open the doors to a wider transformation? Don’t count on it
So, ironically, Benedict XVI, a pope widely perceived as a safe pair of hands and even more conservative than his predecessor, may have provoked the greatest change in the Catholic Church’s modern history. Cautious, timid, stubborn old Benedict, by stepping down from the Seat of Peter, could have initiated a process of radical rethinking not seen since the second Vatican Council, in the 1960s.
The holy father’s resignation is an intrinsically modern act, one that seems more temporal than spiritual, even for a man of deep faith. It makes him look less like the holy father of the universal church and more like the resigning CEO of a multinational company with a staff of 1.3 billion.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the former private secretary of John Paul II, said in a widely reported comment this week that popes “do not come down off the cross”. While the cardinal of Cracow might claim that his comment was taken out of context, it nonetheless touched on a cornerstone of Catholic experience.
Canon law and theological argument suggested that a papal resignation was always a possibility, but no one has lived through one since the time of Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415. Popes, we thought, go out with their boots on. But if the idea that a modern pope never resigns was simply a question of custom and practice rather than anything to do with Christ’s teachings, all sorts of possibilities present themselves.
Clerical celibacy and the ban on women priests, to name but two issues, are also expressions of custom and practice more than of any specific teaching by Christ. So can they now change, too?
Last week in St Peter’s Square, this correspondent ran into the worldwide head of one of the oldest religious orders in the church, a man with a vast experience of missionary work, especially in Latin America. He was positively bubbling. He confessed that in 2005, when he saw Joseph Ratzinger step out on to the papal balcony as Benedict XVI, he was deeply depressed, adding that it took some time for him to overcome his negative feelings about the new pope.
Now he and many others hope that the resignation can change some of the ground rules, making it possible for the church to reconsider its position on myriad issues, from social justice to sexual mores.
It is equally conceivable, though, that the conservative forces that have gripped the Catholic Church for the past 35 years of Wojtyla and Ratzinger rule will continue to run the show.
A couple of months ago, at a Vatican-run ceremony in a central Rome church outside the holy see, I ran into a distinguished Italian lawyer.
The conversation quickly turned to church affairs and in particular to the turbulent recent times experienced by the pontificate of Benedict XVI, as most dramatically illustrated by the trial last autumn of the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, the man convicted of stealing confidential documents from the papal apartment.
My learned colleague shook his head sadly. Things have got badly out of hand, he said. This whole mess should never have happened. “What we need here, right now, is an Italian pope. The Italian popes know how to run the church.”
In one sense, my lawyer friend has a point. Italians know how to manoeuvre their way around a holy see that the dissident theologian Hans Küng this week called a “medieval/baroque court”. They are playing a home game, with the language, the fans, the media and usually the referee, the old guy in white, on their side.
When you move around the holy see, attending news conferences and ceremonies and interviewing senior figures, one thing is clear. Without Italian, you are dead. It is not just that the procedures, the thinking and the office culture are all Italian; it is that they are Italian in the style of the court in a 16th-century Tuscan city republic.
The issue is about more than media communication. The holy see, seat of governance of the Catholic Church, is peculiarly Italian but it is also riven with internal power struggles, rivalries and jealousies, as the papal butler’s “Vatileaks” made clear. As Küng pointed out this week, it might matter little if the college of cardinals picks an African, an Asian or a Latin American as the next Pope; such is the “romanisation” of church HQ that unless radical organisational changes are introduced to the curia, the Vatican’s administrative apparatus, the new man will simply be absorbed by its medieval ways and rendered relatively ineffective.
Küng argues that the “medieval-baroque Vatican court” must be transformed into a “modern, efficient central church administration”.
Is that really possible in this country? Italy does very good Chianti, extraordinary historical patrimony, wonderful fashion and many other things, but it does not do modern, efficient administration.
It is not a modern, transparent, accountable democracy. Transparency International, the body that monitors corporate and political corruption worldwide, rates Italy 72nd, just above Bosnia, Montenegro and Tunisia.
The Italian influence does not stop at linguistic advantage or curia squabbling. When the 117 or so elector cardinals, who are under 80 years of age, go into conclave to elect the new pope in the middle of next month, Italy will still be hugely over-represented, with 27 cardinals, a formidable conservative rump. By comparison, Latin America will have 19 cardinals, even though 483 million Catholics, or 41.3 per cent of the world’s Catholics, live in that region. Given this, and the fact that all the elector cardinals have been nominated either by John Paul II or Benedict, is it unrealistic to expect radical change from the next pope? Perhaps not.
By any measure, this will be an unprecedented conclave. For a start, the cardinals around the world have had plenty of time to prepare a strategy and avoid their mistake of 2005, when most of the cardinals arrived in Rome to find that a group of senior curia cardinals already had their candidate, Cardinal Ratzinger, up and running. And as dean of the college of cardinals, Ratzinger was so impressive in the manner in which he handled interregnum set pieces, such as the funeral of John Paul II, that many of the local cardinals simply nodded and said, “He’ll do.”
The resignation will make this conclave radically different. There will be no period of mourning. The grief that hung over Rome throughout April 2005 will be missing. Rather, this will be a state-of-the-church moment when just about everyone with something to say about the future of the church will be able to make themselves heard.
The lobby group for women priests will be burning pink smoke during the conclave, gay-rights activists are getting ready to protest in Rome, and we can expect much else besides, especially from the lobbies for the victims of clerical sex abuse. To protest when a much-loved figure such as John Paul II died seemed utterly inappropriate. To protest now, well, that’s different.
Discussing modern issues
Even if the conclave ran off against a background of tranquillity, many of the “modern” issues that dogged Benedict’s pontificate will have to be discussed not just in the conclave but also in the meetings the cardinals will hold in Rome beforehand.
Relations with Islam; relations with the Jews; sexual mores; the clerical sex-abuse crisis; the role of traditionalist groups such as the Lefebrvists; the fall-off in first-world vocations; ecumenism; the growth of groups such as the Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland (there are others all over Europe); the persecution of Christians in parts of Africa and the Middle East; Catholic divorcees denied the Eucharist; these and others are all issues that sure to be in the cardinals’ minds, if only because these are some of the many challenges that will face the new Pope.
As to who it will be, the field is wide open. Most church insiders say the new Pope will have to be young – that is, in his late 50s or early 60s – vigorous, in excellent health and, of course, a stout defender of the fundamental tenets of Catholic teaching. After that, the geographical question of a European or a non-European pope is secondary. First of all, he has to be able to do the job whether he comes from Milan or Manila.
What will almost certainly be debated over the next six weeks is the Eurocentric nature of Benedict’s pontificate; his insistence that the traditional home of the church had to become the theatre of a new evangelisation. With the church in relative crisis in the developed world, this might seem to make sense. Yet, given that Europe now represents 277 million Catholics, or 23.7 per cent of the universal church, does it really make sense? Has the time come to radically change tack?
Another unprecedented aspect of this conclave concerns Benedict himself. He will take no physical part; that is clear. But will the fact that he is having his tea and playing his piano just a couple of hundred metres round the corner influence anyone?
In his address to the Roman priests on Thursday, for example, Benedict spoke at length about Vatican II, appearing to attribute misunderstandings and “banalisations” of the council to the media. Was he saying that his successor would do well to prepare himself a strong PR machine, something manifestly lacking in Benedict’s pontificate?
When Benedict was elected, many saw him as someone who would steer the Catholic Church through the transitionary period that would follow the 27-year pontificate of John Paul II. That time has passed. Many in the church may now be ready for change. But is the college of cardinals equally ready?