(Melbourne) David's previous articles
in Ducal Hall
exotic strain of cognitive dissonance has
recently been detected in the Vatican. The organisation psyche is freeze-framed,
the Church body corporate is imploding from above, the foundations are eroded
and the world, as John Dominic Crossan
describes it, is no longer supported by the mythos
that created it. It would seem that all this is obvious to almost all except
Pope Benedict hosted a large group of Cardinals for lunch in the Vatican’s Ducal
Hall. It was an opportunity for Benedict to thank his chief advisers
for their greetings and congratulations on his birthday. He had turned 85 on
April 27. The occasion also marked the seventh anniversary of his election to
an outsider’s perspective, it was no ordinary friendly luncheon. The rather
exotic, medieval, venue itself spoke volumes for itself in terms formality as
did the strict protocols of courtesy and deference which occasioned the
Sodano, the Dean of the Sacred College expressed his congratulatory remarks and
pledges of abiding loyalty on behalf of the Cardinals. They, after all, are
bound by a special oath to defend the Pope even to death. This pact was
acknowledged and affirmed once again during that lunch in Ducal Hall.
men are the ones who these days make scorched earth around the person of the
Pope. They commit themselves to establish and preserve a protective wall around
the very institution of the papacy and to guard it at all costs. In return, Pope
Benedict was effusive in his praise and gratitude for their duty but also for
providing him with a circle of ecclesiastical men among whom he felt safe and
whom he could call friends. Safety and
friendship were clearly in the very
forefront of Benedict’s mind on this occasion as he referred to the present
climate in which the Church found itself as warfare.
is very important to have friends in battle, and I am surrounded by friends from
the College of Cardinals; they are my friends and I feel at home. I feel safe in
the company of these great friends who are by my side and all of us together are
with the lord…
thank you, Eminence (Sodano),
for all that you have done for this thing now and for everything you always do.
Thank you for the communion of joy and pain. Let us go forth, the Lord said: be
brave, I won the world, we are on God’s side and thus we are in the winning
team. Thank you to you all, may God bless you all. Let us now raise our glasses.
indeed should Benedict profoundly thank the Cardinals, most of them from the
Roman Curia. Many of them had worked with him and served him during the long
years when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It
was during that time, under the pontificate of John Paul II, that Cardinal
Ratzinger virtually assumed control of the Church and set out on the long and
calculated path to re-edit modern Church history and to reinterpret the Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council according to the criteria of his own growing
conservatism and increasing revisionist mentality.
and his Curial war cabinet were and are indeed on the winning team if absolute
power and control are the criteria. To claim Christ as a team mate might however
be rather dangerously presumptuous in the present circumstances. A lesson might
be learnt about those who emblazon Gott mit Uns on their
Benedict has intensified the rhetoric of his predecessor both in relation to the
Church’s mission to evangelise the world and also to re-catechise - read indoctrinate
- the faithful. These are the two prongs of the New
Evangelisation, the mission without
and within the Church. The world, the ad
extra, is in urgent need of conversion from its culture of death,
from its growing secular moral relativism and claimed for Christ. The body of
the Catholic faithful, the ad intra,
need to undergo a radical reconversion to Christ. In effect, though, Benedict
see this process of renewal as the fruit of compliance and obedience to the
Magisterium and it mediated through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Almost
everything is covered except the Holy Spirit who is not coextensive with
doctrine as Cardinal Bea said in reference to Card. Ottaviani’s curial Schemata on the eve of Vat II.
over the last two pontificates this mission of re-evangelization has been
compromised, almost terminally by the counter-witness of the very institution of
the Church itself. While the Catholic Church under JP II and Benedict XVI has
raised the theoretical bar of moral purity and authority it has fallen victim to
its own human hubris and relativism.
The world is not so much hostile to the Church as simply refusing to be
persuaded that Catholicism stands for anything more than that which it condemns.
sheer level of ‘us v them’ culture wars rhetoric has become so elevated in some places
that it borders on the bizarre. Peoria, Illinois, is synonymous in the US with
Vaudeville as in, Will it play in Peoria?
and with bad memories as the joke goes, ‘Have you ever been to Peoria? Yeah,
I spent four years there one night! Recently, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky
delivered a fiery sermon that was worthy of the Mexican Cristeros
in its tones of combination wailing victimhood and defiant protest. It
probably did little either for the credibility of the Church or its message.
is not alone in this kind of histrionic behaviour. Cardinals George of Chicago,
Dolan of New York and Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia among others are stellar
performers in this kind of theatrics. They are largely performing for one
another and for the selected few. Among these are the monitors in the Vatican
who are watching the situation closely and constantly monitoring the intensity
of loyalty to the Pope and his Magisterium. Jesus Christ is seldom mentioned.
faithful have now become so fundamentally and utterly scandalised by the moral
corruption of an inept leadership and the failure of the very structures meant
to support and protect them, that they have largely stopped listening and have
simply walked away. Church leadership is increasingly showing the signs of
collective delusion in this regard, has become reactive instead of responsive,
and has insanely, even cruelly, turned on its own people especially the
vulnerable. Examples abound and are readily accessible on the v2catholic.com
site. One contentious issue recently exposed by Garry Wills paints a picture of
the Vatican power apparatus targeting a large and very significant group in the
Catholic Church and charging them with collective heterodoxy.
the ongoing displays of hubris and projected rage at its own systemic failure,
Vatican leadership is showing itself up as infantile, misguided and ludicrous.
It is no wonder that the People of God have become bewildered, disenchanted and,
above all, disengaged. Active
participation in the West is now uniformly in the low teens or even less.
Curia, it seems, has long ago lapsed into a state of self-satisfaction and
security now that the valued Reform of
the roll-back of Vatican II, is in place, codified and beatified. What is
increasingly obvious, though, is that there is a growing sense that the very
pontificate which valued, nurtured and empowered all this is quickly coming to
an end. The façade of strength in unity is crumbling at an astonishing pace
and, predictably, a rather ruthless and extremely embarrassing power struggle is
going on to secure the various spheres of influence. None of this has anything
in common with Christ or the Gospel. It’s just power and now, quite openly,
the People of God are naming it for what it is.
the centre of this conflict and jockeying for power are two ageing Cardinals,
Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, and Angelo Sodano, Dean of the Sacred
College. These two have been among the principal players responsible for the
creation of scorched earth around the Pope.
Now the fire is burning back on them and the Pope is left standing isolated in a
heap of ashes. Both these Cardinals are now under suspicion from many quarters
and rightly so. They are bullyboys in a gang fight.
Magister recently described the elevated levels of toxicity surrounding
Bertone, the climate of
internecine in his own department and the Byzantine plots to isolate him from
Benedict and oust him from the corridors of
The so called Vatileaks are not doing him any favours either especially in the
exposes of his alleged attempts to leverage influence with the Vatican Bank in
dodgy business deals. Even more damaging for Bertone is his unilateral decision
to moderate information traffic into and out of the Vatican. As Secretary of
State, Bertone is not a member of the Curia but he has nevertheless walked over
the backs of this powerful, secretive and self-protective managerial class. For
his efforts, he has succeeded spectacularly in isolating himself even further in
Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, has long been the object of close
scrutiny especially for his alleged protection of the infamous pedophile Marcial
Marciel of the Legion, acceptance of financial considerations and subsequent coverups of Mariel’s crimes.
Jason Berry of the NCR has written lengthy and detailed exposes of Sodano and his
accomplices. So too has the conservative British commentator William Oddie. He
warned years ago that Sodano was the equivalent of a ticking time bomb in the
Vatican and continues to represent a grave threat to any remaining papal
credibility. The Cardinal was described by Oddie as ‘a catastrophe waiting to
and Bertone are increasingly regarded in the public eye as promoters of
ecclesiastical infighting and are perceived as privileged, protected prima
donnas and showboats. They
and their factions represent the very worst in the Church. They and their
cohorts have placed a stumbling block in the path of Christian discipleship. It
would be a welcome reform to retire them both and then begin on a total reform
of the whole Vatican bureaucracy.
leaders have unfortunately assumed that, de facto, they alone represent the real
identity of the Church but in so doing they have effectively made themselves the
end and not the means of
establishing the Kingdom. Clericalism has once again become endemic within the
leadership of the Catholic Church. They are perceived as an elitist, gated, sub
culture of the detached and separated ones, institutionally alienated from the
incarnational realities of the People of God.
non ordained are looking for a leadership which is Christ-like not
business-like. They deserve this both by virtue of their Baptism and the
authority of Christ’s Gospel. This is precisely not
the experience of the majority of the faithful and this must be addressed as a
matter of urgency if the Church is to survive beyond a cocooned, compliant and
this coming Year of Faith in the Universal
Church and the overlapping Year of Grace,
there is ample opportunity to address itself to systemic reform in its
governance structures and procedures. A major obstacle to be overcome
immediately is the very definite possibility that while Catholics take time out
to contemplate the face of Christ and
to do a nostalgia tour through Vatican II with its new guide book, the Catechism
of the Catholic Church, the opportunity for structural as well as spiritual
renewal will be passed up or sidelined.
at the February consistory, set the boundaries of any profound change in the way
the Church is. He declared to the new Cardinals that major structural change in
the Church is not possible by virtue of its divine institution. This kind of
thinking from the chief Shepherd is delusional, gravely mistaken in theology,
flawed in history, nerveless and profoundly unenlightened by any standard. It is
indicative of the ecclesiology of Gregory VII and the eleventh Century. As a
young theologian, Ratzinger set out to reform that church. As Pope Benedict,
he wants and is re-establishing it.
ossification and sterility are not native to the living, growing community of
the People of God. Mens sana in
Corpore Sano – A healthy mind/spirit in a healthy body. Neither are
healthy at the moment.
Berry’s two part series on Cardinal Sodano and others in the Marcial Marciel
coverup was published in the NCR
10/04/06 and 12/04/10.
has published a further Sodano report on alleged corruption in nepotistic
business deals involving Church property. Berry insists, among other things,
that the Vatican has no alternative but to sack Sodano as Dean of the College of
Timbs writes from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.