Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quote of the Day

God took Abram outside and said: "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so," he added, "shall your descendants be." Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
--Genesis 15:5-6

Is a Homosexual Lobby Manipulating the Vatican?

We certainly live in strange times. A few years ago I would never have dreamed of what is suggested in the headline above, much less of writing it. But now it seems we have to face the possibility of answering this question in the affirmative.

Two days ago, in an e-newsletter from Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican, I received an unconfirmed news report that a ring of homosexual activists has infiltrated the highest levels of the Vatican and is manipulating the internal affairs of the Church’s government in order to advance its loathsome agenda. Apparently this homosexual lobby has been secretly bribing and even blackmailing various cardinals and other curial officials into complying with its demands.

According to an “unnamed Vatican source” who is apparently close to the Holy Father, this rumor originates from a confidential 300-page report given to Pope Benedict XVI on December 17, 2012. The report was written by a select group of three cardinals whom the Pope had commissioned to investigate the “Vatileaks” scandal that erupted last May. That scandal involved the papal butler, Paolo Gabriele, who had stolen confidential documents from the Pope’s desk and smuggled two of them to an Italian journalist who published them. Paolo and his accomplice, a computer technician named Claudio Scarpetti, were arrested and charged with aggravated theft and aiding and abetting a crime, respectively.

When asked why he did it, Gabriele claimed that he was dismayed by the corruption he witnessed everywhere within the Vatican and by how the Pope was kept in the dark about various important matters he should have known about. Paolo said that he acted for the good of the Church, which he deeply loved.

Naturally, Pope Benedict was deeply hurt by his butler’s betrayal of his trust, although he did a good job of concealing this pain from public view. Gabriele was well known within the Vatican for being very loyal to the Pope. Also, he and his family were close to the Holy Father, and Gabriele was seemingly a pious Catholic by all accounts. Psychological examination of Gabriele following his arrest revealed a sane, sincere, and strongly religious character fully aware of and responsible for his actions who at the same time harbored a deep-seated insecurity that compelled him to draw attention to himself.

In October, Gabriele was convicted of theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Vatican court. Shortly before Christmas, one day after Pope Benedict received the cardinal commission’s report, he officially pardoned Gabriele, forgiving the remainder of his sentence.

The Vatileaks case included several puzzling mysteries. Foremost among these is the fact that the police who raided Gabriele’s home at the time of his arrest apparently confiscated and removed from his house a larger quantity of documents than it could physically hold. In the thirteen hours spent inside the butler’s home, they found and confiscated several computers and hard drives; stacks of books about spying and Freemasonry; and reams and reams of copies of Vatican documents from the Pope’s desk. In all, we are told that the police removed some 80 crates of documents from Gabriele’s modest home. At his trial, one of the police remarked that it was going to be fun sorting through all that material. But none of this vast amount of material was used at the trial as evidence against Gabriele—only the two documents he had actually smuggled to the press were used. Why? And how could all of that material have come from inside Gabriele’s rather small house? Furthermore, given the size of the building, why did it take thirteen hours for the police to search it?

If the alleged report about homosexual spies in the Vatican turns out to be true, it would explain a number of things. It would partly explain why Pope Benedict XVI has decided to resign the papacy at this particular moment in Church history; with his advanced age and his declining health, he is ill-equipped to deal with a corruption scandal of this magnitude. It would confirm that Paolo Gabriele was telling the truth about corruption existing everywhere within the Vatican (although even this grave matter does not justify what Paolo did to bring attention to it; it’s always wrong to do evil so that good may result), and why Gabriele was so upset when he heard of the Pope resigning (in his insecure mind, he probably felt that the Pope was “giving up” and running away from the challenge of cleaning up the corruption within the Church). It would explain why God allowed a dramatic bolt of lightning to strike Saint Peter’s Basilica on the day the Pope announced his resignation as a sign of his displeasure with the evils festering inside the Vatican. It would explain why Pope Benedict pardoned Gabriele immediately after receiving the report that revealed the corruption within the Holy See: what Gabriele did was wrong, certainly, but the corruption within the Vatican is far worse, and Gabriele hates it as much as the Pope does. And it would also begin to explain some of the mysteries surrounding the Vatileaks affair.

(To be continued)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quote of the Day

“Pope Benedict has offered a brave and intelligent defense of truth against a relativist tide.”
--Rev. R. Albert Mohler, president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who Will Be the Next Pope?

When the papal conclave unfolds next month in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, who will the cardinal electors choose to succeed Pope Benedict XVI? Of course, we cannot know for certain the answer to this question due to the absolute secrecy of the conclave proceedings and the vast field of possible candidates for the papal office. In theory, any baptized man is eligible for the papacy. In practice, however, a variety of informal qualifications, traditional requirements and longstanding rules govern potential papal candidates, rendering some men much more likely than others to be elected Bishop of Rome. These include:

• membership in the College of Cardinals;
• being well known to the other cardinals;
• being an archbishop;
• excellent education and above-average intellectual abilities;
• experience in the Roman curia (the select group of cardinals who work in Rome assisting the pope with the administration of the Church);
• strong organizational and leadership qualities;
• remarkable diplomatic skills;
• fluency in multiple major languages;
• good PR and media skills;
• remarkable and well-known intellectual, pastoral, administrative, and/or diplomatic achievements;
• an ability to communicate with and relate to ordinary lay Catholics;
• reasonably good health and not too advanced of an age;
• irreproachable personal character;
• a humble and cheerful personality; and
• personal holiness.

Since only a handful of men in the Church today exhibit all or nearly all of these characteristics, we can make some reasonably educated guesses as to who might be chosen to fill the soon-to-be vacant Chair of Saint Peter. With these qualifications as guidelines, I have researched and compiled the following list of papabili or likely candidates for the papacy to succeed Pope Benedict XVI:

1. Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, Archbishop of Milan, Italy
2. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, former Archbishop of Quebec, Canada, now Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
3. Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, 70, Archbishop of Paris, France
4. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, 68, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria
5. Cardinal Pedro Odilo Scherer, 63, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil
6. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 69, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy and President of the Italian Bishops' Conference
7. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, 65, former Archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil, now Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
8. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, Italy, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
9. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 64, Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
10. Cardinal Kurt Koch, 62, former Archbishop of Basel, Switzerland, now President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
11. Cardinal Angelo Amato, 74, Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
12. Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, 67, former Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, now Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
13. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 62, Archbishop of Lyon, France
14. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, 68, Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
15. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, Argentina, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
16. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, 69, Italy, President of the Fabric of St. Peter, Vicar General of His Holiness for the State of Vatican City and Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica
17. Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, 69, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
18. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, 70, Archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico
19. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 70, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and President of Caritas Internationalis
20. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina
21. Cardinal Peter Erdo, 60, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary
22. Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 64, USA, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
23. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, 72, Italy, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome
24. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 69, France, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
25. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, 66, Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
26. Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, 67, Poland, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
27. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Florence, Italy
28. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 76, Archbishop of Madrid, Spain
29. Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, 75, Italy, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples
30. Cardinal Robert Sarah, 67, former Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea and President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
31. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 63, Archbishop of New York, USA and President of the U.S. Bishops' Conference
32. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 55, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines

In assembling this list, I have placed those whom I consider more likely to be elected pope nearer the top and those whom I regard as long shots at the bottom. For example, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York may be a widely known and respected leader in the Church today, but his lack of familiarity with the Roman curia and his status as an American are significant disadvantages that make him an unlikely papabile. (The cardinals tend to avoid electing a pope from a powerful country because this could jeopardize the diplomatic independence of the Holy See.) Nevertheless, I have included Cardinal Dolan because I think that his election is not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

Why are so many Italians included here? Because I foresee a possibility that, after two non-Italian popes, the cardinals may at least temporarily revert to the centuries-old tradition of electing an Italian pontiff. Many of the Italian cardinals have extensive experience working in the curia, which is a major plus for a potential pope, and their high-profile positions in the Vatican make them well known to the other cardinals around the world in the process of dealing with Church administrative matters.

The thirty-two men listed above represent the cream of the crop--the finest and best-known leaders in our Church today. It is highly likely that one of their number will become the next pope. Have I overlooked anyone? That is possible. My experience at guessing or predicting who will be elevated to the papacy is quite limited--after all, this will be only the second conclave of my lifetime. Moreover, as an outsider to the Vatican I am at a disadvantage compared with those who observe the inner workings and dynamics of the Holy See at closer range, and who are therefore more qualified to predict who the next Roman Pontiff will be. Nevertheless, over the past ten years I have done a fair amount of research on the subject of papal elections, and this has given me some idea of what to expect when the conclave of 2013 takes place.

In researching the cardinals and compiling the above roster of papabili, I have attempted to be as rigorous and objective as possible. Of course, it is difficult to be entirely unbiased. I frankly admit that I have placed Cardinal Schonborn so near the top mainly because I personally like him and would like to see him elected pope, despite his relative lack of experience in the Roman curia which could be a minus for his electability. On the other hand, however, he is among the best-known cardinals in the world, well-respected, a brilliant theologian and writer (not unlike Pope Benedict in many ways) with a charismatic personality, and he also has most of the other informal qualifications for a serious papal contender.

But thankfully, it's not up to me to decide who will be the 265th Successor of Saint Peter. The responsibility for deciding that rests with the 117 cardinal electors, who will try to listen to and follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their choice of a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. We should keep them in our prayers as they prepare to undertake this challenging duty of such momentous importance for the life of the whole Church. Regardless of whom the cardinals pick as our new Holy Father, I will gladly accept and embrace him without the least hesitation, fully believing and trusting that the Holy Spirit, through the new Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him, will continue guiding the Church so that it teaches the truth of Christ faithfully and without error as it has done uninterruptedly for the past 2,000 years.

Copyright © 2013 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI Is Leaving Us

I just found out this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he has decided to resign from the papacy for health reasons. Although I am deeply saddened by this announcement, I completely understand the pontiff's reasons for relinquishing the Chair of Saint Peter, and I accept his decision. While he is still in very good health for his age (he will turn 86 in April), the pope's strength has been gradually declining over the eight years of his pontificate, and especially over the past year or so he has been getting noticeably weaker. Unlike most men who reach his age, and unlike Blessed John Paul II before him, Pope Benedict has no serious illness or disease, so despite his growing weakness, he may continue living for years to come. He does not want the Church to suffer as a result of his inability to carry out the functions of his office. Therefore, after several months of thoughtful consideration and prayer, he has decided to give up the papacy for the good of the Church. I think he has made the right decision.

Although initially I was shocked by the news of Pope Benedict's resignation, I am not really too surprised; in fact, I was sort of expecting it, knowing Pope Benedict and having observed his papacy pretty closely. Even the casual observer can tell that this man is not a clone of Pope John Paul II. He has his own personality, his own ideas, his own approach and style, and he is comfortable being himself. He thinks for himself and then he does what he thinks is right, whether it is popular or not, whether it is expected or not, whether it has been done before or not. And he takes full responsibility for his decisions.

It is very rare for a pope to resign. This will be the first time in 598 years and only the fourth time in Church history that a pope has stepped down. The last pope to voluntarily renounce his office was Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 during the Great Western Schism to allow for the proper election of a successor.

Pope Benedict XVI has set a wonderful example of humility and wisdom for the whole Church. He has fully understood and put into practice the Christian concepts of servant leadership and obedience to God's will. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger never wanted to be pope. Already in his late seventies at the time of John Paul's death, he would have preferred to retire to his native Bavaria and write books in quiet solitude. When elected pope on April 19, 2005, he initially felt that he was not up to the enormous task of governing the universal Church. However, he humbly accepted his election as God's will, setting aside his own preferences, referring to himself as "a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," and trusting that God would give him the necessary graces to carry out the papal mission. And God certainly rewarded his trust. Now, as he begins to lack the necessary strength to fulfill his ministry, Pope Benedict XVI has the humility and wisdom to recognize that his time as Supreme Pontiff should come to an end. Both in accepting the papal office and in giving it up, as well as throughout his papacy, he has been a humble servant of God, always putting the good of the Church and of others first.

Our brilliant, scholarly, humble and wise Holy Father has served the Church very well over the past eight years, carrying out his many responsibilities with total dedication and careful attention. His accomplishments are too numerous to list here. He has successfully ushered the Church into the post-John Paul II era. The profound theological riches of his encyclicals, apostolic letters, homilies, addresses, and other writings and speeches will be mined for decades to come.

A very fond farewell to one of the holiest and greatest popes the Church has ever known. May God bless his remaining days on earth. When he passes from this life and stands before God, I'm sure God will say to him, "Well done, my good and faithful servant...Come, share your Master's joy" (Matthew 25:21).

P.S. Of course, Pope Benedict is not really "leaving us," just leaving the papacy. I'm sure he will keep us all in his prayers, and let's do the same for him.