Skip to comments.ROME DIARY - April 15: Papal Odds
Posted on 04/16/2005 4:15:12 PM PDT by NYer
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Raymond Arroyo and I had Fr. Peter Gumpel on our EWTN broadcast last night. We thought that would make for an interesting ten-minute segment--but it turned into an utterly fascinating half hour.
Gumpel is from an aristocratic Austrian family and has had personal encounters with popes going back to Pius XI. A "relator" (an independent judge) in the office dealing with the causes of saints, the Jesuit Gumpel has been working in Rome for more than 50 years. While he believes that John Paul II will be and should be declared a saint, he is strongly opposed to rushing the process. The procedures established in the 16th century--including the rigorous examination of alleged miracles by the best medical science of the times--is essential, he insists, to avoid the awkwardness of the subsequent discovery of possibly embarrassing facts. He is also cool to the idea of declaring the late pope "John Paul the Great," although there is no official procedure for applying that title. "Does it mean that other popes were not so great?" he asks. To which I counter, "Does declaring him a saint mean that other popes were not so saintly?" We agree to disagree on the appellation "John Paul the Great."
Of the 264 popes, 78 have been declared saints, many of them martyrs in the early centuries. The comparative merits of popes is always a subject of lively debate, as is evident in, for instance, Eamon Duffy's popular history of the popes, with the unfortunate title Saints and Sinners. In endless conversations this week about carrying on "the legacy of John Paul II," there is frequent discussion of whether the pope to be elected next week should take the title of "John Paul III." Doing that might set him up for unfair and invidious comparisons. The practice of popes adopting a new name upon election goes back to 533 when a priest named Mercury was elected. It would never do to have a pope with such a blatantly pagan name, so he called himself John II. Since then the most popular names chosen by popes are, in order: John, Gregory, Benedict, Clement, Leo, Innocent, and Pius. Were Joseph Ratzinger to be elected, I would not be surprised if he chose the name Boniface, the apostle to the Germans.
As of this writing, Ratzinger is, according to the rumor mills, very much in the lead, with 40 or 50 electors indicating their support. The main mills are run by the Italian newspapers and especially by Corriere della Sera. It is reluctantly admitted by other reporters that the Italian papers have the edge in getting inside information, the claim being that they are on the good side of a talkative cardinal or two.
According to Dublin bookmakers, the odds favor Lustiger of Paris and Martini, formerly of Milan, but nobody here in Rome gives their prospects much credence. One Italian daily is puffing Angelo Sodano, secretary of state under John Paul, as Ratzinger's chief rival, but that, too, is viewed as highly improbable in Rome. Yet another Italian daily claims the American cardinals are forming a bloc in opposition to Ratzinger, but I find that hard to credit since in recent years the American cardinals have not formed a bloc on much of anything, and at least a couple of them are great admirers of Ratzinger. Yesterday one cardinal said the meetings are "tranquil and cordial" while another described the cardinals as "divided and gravely concerned." Take your pick. I imagine the Holy Spirit is amused by the chattering speculation.
This way of selecting a pope is criticized in some circles for being antiquated, secretive, and undemocratic. There is something to that, but then one must ask what would be a better way. Some who are identified as champions of collegiality have proposed that there should be a worldwide consultation of the 4,000 bishops of the Church, including provisions for the contributions of priests and the lay faithful. One can imagine the nightmare of having a three-or six-month campaign season upon the death or retirement of a pope. Presumably the cardinals would be something like the electoral college in the American system, with each casting a vote in accord with the expressed wishes of his region. Such proposals are, in addition to being unworkable, a formula for unbridled politicking and factionalism.
The present procedure is to gather the cardinals, who are the senior bishops of the universal Church and chief consultants to the late pope, for a few days of prayer and getting to know one another, followed by a conclave in which, protected from the media and outside influences, they elect one of their own whom they trust to lead the Church for undetermined years into the future. People who are put off by the inevitable maneuverings and counter-maneuverings are lacking a Catholic and incarnational sensibility that is not offended by God's use of very human means to achieve His purposes. This does not mean that a bad pope cannot be elected. There have been more than a few bad popes in the past. The promise is that nobody will be elected who will be able to destroy the Church or betray what Catholics call the deposit of faith. And maybe, please God, he will be another saint.
It is a cliché to say that the Church is not a democracy, but it is a cliché because so many recognize that it is true. There is always the danger of the arrogance and abuse of power, and patterns of consultation and collaboration can always be improved. But those who claimed after the Second Vatican Council that the Church's affirmation of democracy in the secular realm required, for the sake of consistency, the extension of democracy in the governance of the Church were wrong--and they are still wrong. The political sovereign in the temporal and temporary realm is "we the people." Christ is the sovereign of the Church. Of course, if Christ is Lord, he is Lord of all, but only in the Church is his sovereignty institutionalized, so to speak. In everything, and certainly in the choosing of a successor to Peter, the goal is to discern the will of Christ. And that I have no doubt is what is happening--not despite everything, but through everything--during these days in Rome.
Another thing or two before I leave for this evening's broadcast. On our EWTN broadcast, Fr. Peter Gumpel was especially appreciative of the work of Ronald Rychlak, Joseph Bottum, David Dalin, and others who have written in First Things in response to the many libelous attacks on Pius XII, such as John Cornwell's vulgar and dishonest book, Hitler's Pope. Gumpel spoke movingly of meetings with John Paul in which the late pope expressed his fervent hope that he would live long enough to beatify his esteemed predecessor. That was not to be, but Fr. Gumpel is confident Pius will be beatified in due course.
And then a word about those millions of people, mainly young people, who came to the funeral last Friday. I have seen several accounts, and heard worldly wise reporters, describing the "rock star" attraction of John Paul. In fact, the crowds, stretching more than three miles beyond St. Peter's, were wondrously solemn and prayerful. The Legionaries of Christ and other religious orders posted priests all along the way and there was a brisk business in confessions around the clock. One Legionary priest tells of his non-stop hearing of confessions--from five o'clock in the afternoon until six o'clock the next morning. The mayor of Rome said that not one serious crime was reported in the city during the days when millions were waiting up to 26 hours to view the body. That is hard to believe, but that is what he said.
John Paul went to the world and the world came to him, and they knew why they had come.
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If Cardinal Ratzinger is elected, there'll be no end of temper tantrums thrown by the usual suspects. How many of them will actually have the brass to walk, though?
Lol! And my 70ish neighbor will lead the march!
Pope Boniface? Hmmm.....
The shrill and hysterical vilification of Pius XII was, oddly enough, one of the things that turned me towards the Catholic Church. It became obviously pretty quickly that these folks had an axe to grind -- I was curious as to why, and what they stood to gain. One thing led to another . . .
Wow! This Catholic never had a clue that so many popes had been declared saints.
You cooperated with the Grace of God and foiled the enemies plan! Many more blessings to you!
Did you happen to hear Fr. Neuhaus' wonderful remark yesterday during the EWTN coverage to the effect that the Lord has guaranteed that no Pope will be elected who is capable of destroying the entire Church?
I read the transcript! (I was in the middle of a large pasture and a very wet pond for most of Friday).
I hope and pray though that it is true and will be borne out by this Conclave.
There have been some pretty awful popes in the past, and none managed to bring down the Church!
Absolutely - at least all of the candidates in this case are over the age of 12.
There was a great thread here about the betting that is apparently going on regarding the name that the next Pope will choose. Nomen omen...it will indicate the direction he plans to take in the future. Naturally, of course, God may have other plans. But this will at least give us a hint.
I'm going to be holding my breath until I see that white smoke! And hear the name.
Of course, juries only have temporal consequences . . .
Right after the pope died there was someone on Fox saying that he knew that knowing that Pius XII and the Church didn't speak up during WWII hurt John Paul II so much. I wish I could remember who it was. I was livid. and you know, they never make them defend such statements, they just let them go and the defamation is done and is already in some ignoramouses mind and being repeated as fact.
We're very glad you made the journey. Anyone who knows Greek (and can post in Greek) is a very welcome addition!
They WERE almost entirely in the first few centuries, when most Popes ended up martyrs. But several recent popes have been beatified or canonized.
Mangiapreti means cleric-bashers, literally, "priest chewers." They sicken me
In a literally fundamental sense, ALL popes are "rock" stars.