In probably the most serious crisis to hit the Catholic Church in its nearly two-thousand-year history, Pope ABC has abdicated only 21 days after his Election and just nine days after his Solemn Inauguration. The news broke last night shortly after reports emerged that the DEF newspaper group was planning to publish allegations that, as a young priest in his thirties, he was guilty of the multiple sexual abuse of young people and transpersons of several sexes and varied genders.
The abdication takes effect in two weeks. It is thought that this elapse of time is designed to give ABC the opportunity to relocate in seclusion away from the Vatican while still having Sovereign Immunity to protect him from arrest. His departure from Fiumicino airport by private jet late yesterday evening has been connected with a flurry of unusual transactions in the Vatican Bank ... ... ...
In unrelated news, it is reported that the previous pope, ABC's predecessor pope Francis, having recognised a retired reporter lurking at the back of an elderly airliner, forced him to take part in an off-the-cuff interview concerning ... etc.etc..
Perhaps the details of such a scenario are not quite as improbable today as they might have seemed a couple of generations ago. Popes are (by convention rather than by strict law) elected from among the body of Cardinals, and there have been unfortunate cases among members of the Sacred College in recent years. McCarrick ... O'Brian ... rumours involving the name of another dead British Cardinal ... quite apart from reports about disreputable goings-on involving, if not directly implicating, curial officials of various ranks. And: how thoroughly is each papabile Cardinal vetted before the final ballot and the catasterising white smoke? At all?
Yes ... the practicalities. I know. But one way of circumventing this problem would be the careful vetting of all Cardinals before their final admission to the Sacred College. I don't just mean psychometric tests at Manchester; I have in mind searching investigations by professional operators with a track record of uncovering nastinesses which were buried decades earlier.
Corrupt Cardinals and unworthy Popes may have been less of a menace to the Church in past centuries. But the advent of the Global Village with its instant mass communications, combined with the ultra-hyped cult of the godlike 'Holy Father' who is always right because he is reputed to be, daily, guided by the Holy Spirit, make the dangers of a proven criminal pope all the more terrible to contemplate.
Rather than just carrying on as before, fingers-crossed behind her back, I think our indefectible Holy Mother the Church should take steps now to protect herself against future catastrophes just waiting to happen.
Why just cardinals? Why not all clergy? With increasingly detailed checks the higher up the hierarchy. Unlike as under the current buddy system, professional outside investigators would be incentivised to dig deep if paid by the quantity of dirty linen revealed. Bad apples with a past would be less likely to aim for positions of power if they knew the chances of exposure were high.
I have been exercised by the same problem recently. The situation has been exacerbated by extending the red hat to prelates in the peripheries. These new-style electors will know little if anything about each other and so will be ill-judged to assess a candidate's suitability not just in terms of moral status but across the board. They will also be much more prone to being influenced by a well-managed cabal such as the St Gallen Mafia. Looking back, one wonders just how many who voted for PF knew anything about who or what they were getting.
Dear Father. AMEN!!!
On the subject of vetting,I am still waiting for a thorough explanation of the issues that led then-Father Jorge Bergoglio, SJ (or was he already a bishop?)to seek psychological counsel back in the day. He dropped that bomb early in his papacy and no one dug into it. I'm not holding my breath for investigative journalism to take an interest, however.
Expeditus is right to point to the dangers arising from the fact that many members of the Sacred College do not know the others very well. Whose fault is that, we may ask? Well, the present Pope has not convened a working (as opposed to ceremonial) consistory for how many years now? He seems afraid of full and frank discussion among the body of his supposed advisers, even after either years of stacking the college. The scandal is not only some of those in the college, but the names of some who are not.
He can't always be sure that the stacking will work, of course. Cardinal Bo from Rangoon, for example, from the periphery and previously unheard of, seems to be admirably sound. Not what we had in mind ....
Note, by the way, that there are now no Africans in senior positions in the Curia after the mysterious departure of Cardinal Turkson to make way for a European Jesuit. Africans, I presume, are too rigid.
At a lower level, I was simply astounded to hear an archbishop say that he would not ask his clergy if they were observing their obligations of celibacy. Said prelate has several major military installations in his province. If he wants the 'smell of the sheep', he could ask any personnel there who hold positive-vet security clearances about the (highly intrusive) vetting needed to get and keep one of those.
Thinking back to my civil service days, "positive vetting" was a basic requirement for candidates for any sensitive post. The circulars used to discretely explain that the investigators would look for any personal characteristics which might lead to a person being compromised.
Sexuality was one obvious place to look, but I suspect that they checked out things such as compulsive gambling, drug abuse, alcoholism or bad money management which would leave a guy open to blackmail or bribery by foreign agents.
A colleague was quizzed by investigators about another colleague who had applied for such a job. "He's a tall blond guy, like you..." The investigator was lucky to leave with a full set of teeth.
How many of our clergy at any level could survive such scrutiny?
There should be no retirement age for clerics. Seniormost priest in a diocese should become bishop. Seniormost bishop in a province should become archbishop. There should be no metropolitans. Seniormost archbishop in a region should become cardinal. Seniormost cardinal should become pope.
Will such vetting be performed by an AI and BMI (Brain Machine Interface)? That is indeed the solution to all human problems the Vatican officials seem be willing to embrace these days. The algorithms in charge of our data will know us far better than we do. Such is the paradigm the Powers That Be in Davos seem to be eager to spread with the help of Francis and his minions. It would be logical that his successor is at least scrutinized by the forthcoming Artificial Intelligence.
One thing that should certainly motivate the church to thoroughly vet (to begin with) all of the cardinals is that if they choose not to do so it is increasingly likely that others will. In this age of data-mining and ubiquitous surveillance one no longer has to be a state actor with NSA-like capabilities to assemble a thorough dossier of a subject's activities. Eventually this will lead to a scenario along the lines of the one described by Fr Hunwicke.
@Voice: By "seniormost", do you mean "the oldest", "the one who has served longest", or (which may be difficult to determine) "the one who has risen highest"? Whichever it is, in my experience and on the basis of most of the "senior" clergy (however defined) whom I have known, I firmly believe such a policy would be a total disaster – far worse than what we have at the moment, hard though that may be to credit.
Like many ugly men he might suffer from the sin of vanity. Perhaps that formed the basis of the 'dialogue'.
Bergoglio seems curiously attracted to the rock'n roll years when the Jesuits reigned supreme. A time where Nonogerian journalists like Eugenio Scalfari were still young (just about) and wore their tweed jackets with pride as they discussed current affairs on the RAI. Everyone had seen the latest Fellini film but no Italian ever made mention of the NATO bases dotted all over their country ...
I agree. There have been several different systems for choosing bishops and popes, but "oldest to survive" has never been one. Given the existence of Bishop Timothy, who was picked by St. Paul despite being almost too young to be taken seriously, and given the necessity for bishops to be ready to be martyred at any time, there's no reason to think seniority would work.
Also, one hates to point out the obvious (or maybe I'm just a terrible person to think of such things), but one doesn't want to encourage the ambitious to off all their elders.
Probably any secret service worth its 00 licence already has any amount of useful blackmail material on Vatican staff and high ranking clergy elsewhere. It probably accounts for the otherwise incomprehensible cooperation with both Islam and China. If the spooks don't have a full copy of that dossier which allegedly compelled Benedict to resign, they probably have a useful subset of the dirt from various sources.
bravissimo, Reverendo Padre!
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