22 April 2005

How the church was won

Universi Domenici Gregis
75. If the balloting does not result in an election, even after the provisions of No. 74 have been fulfilled, the Cardinal electors shall be invited by the Camerlengo to express an opinion about the manner of proceeding. The election will then proceed in accordance with what the absolute majority of the electors decides.

Nevertheless, there can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by an absolute majority of the votes or else by voting only on the two names which in the ballot immediately preceding have received the greatest number of votes; also in this second case only an absolute majority is required.

76. Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected.

Politics, piety mix during convention-like conclave
The late Father Walter Imbiorski, a man with family roots deep in Chicago ethnic politics, once remarked that 'Dick Daley could wire a conclave in 48 hours.' 'That long?' I replied in feigned surprise. He meant the first Mayor Daley. Not that the current Mayor Daley could not figure out the politics of a conclave that quickly. The conclave, you see, is a political event, arguably the political event par excellence.

Some will think that such a comment approaches the edges of blasphemy. In fact, politics, the art of governing, is according to Aristotle (who ought to know!) the second most honorable art, ranking only after poetry. Politicians are masters of the art not of the perfect but of the possible, of supporting the candidate who can win, and not the best possible candidate, of the broadest possible collation rather than the most admirable. It is through them the Holy Spirit works.
If one is looking for a model to which to compare a conclave, one might choose American political conventions in the old days (as depicted brilliantly by the late Steve Neal in his Happy Days Are Here Again), though in the case of a conclave all the campaigning is done indirectly, behind the scenes, and by subtle hints and conversations, winks, slight nods of the head, and pregnant silences that are typical of both the Roman style and the Irish smoke-filled room.

Liberal cardinals bite bullet and join in show of unity
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of English and Welsh Catholics and a sympathiser with the progressive camp, also gave his firm support to Benedict, but appeared to undermine his case with a slip of the tongue.

Asked why the cardinals picked Cardinal Ratzinger to succeed John Paul II, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor initially said "they chose this man" before correcting himself by saying "we chose this man".

In what some felt was equivocal praise, he said: "We have a good man who will be a good Pope." He argued that Benedict was an intelligent and courteous man who would listen to all points of view and could come up with "a few surprises".

"When Cardinal Ratzinger was the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had a particular task to do. Now that he is Pope it is entirely different. Now he is Peter for the whole church.

"I feel very content," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said.

Ratzinger was always the man to beat
Marco Politi, writing in La Repubblica, suggested that support had been coalescing around Cardinal Ratzinger as early as Christmas, given the realisation that John Paul's health was seriously declining.

Going into the conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger had active help in mustering votes from powerful cardinals of the Roman curia in charge of important departments, including Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, and Julian Herranz, a priest member of the conservative lay group Opus Dei. Giovanni Battista Re, Crescenzio Sepe and Angelo Sodano were also mentioned as his backers, perhaps in the second round.

The tipping point came, Politi wrote, when two crucial Italian cardinals - Camillo Ruini, John Paul's longtime vicar for Rome, and Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, also mentioned as a candidate - threw their support behind the German.

The prospect of a drawn-out battle - and the message it would send about church unity - scared off the liberal opposition, and their leader, Carlo Maria Martini, sent his votes to Cardinal Ratzinger, Politi suggested. Cardinal Martini may have had an inkling of what might be ahead. A priest who had seen him the previous weekend said in an interview that the Milan cardinal appeared distressed.

Some time late on Tuesday afternoon Cardinal Ratzinger reached the 77 votes needed for election. The cardinals gasped, and then clapped, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor recounted.

"He couldn't have been unaware," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said, "that this was quite likely to happen."

And almost before the electors knew it, the grave atmosphere of the conclave was over, and they were singing Latin songs, eating chicken cordon bleu and toasting the new Pope with spumante.

Groundswell Swept Ratzinger Into Office
The Latin Americans' conquest of turf in Vatican City also meant that many had little interest in decentralization, a priority of U.S. and Central European moderates, he said.

The remnants of resistance to Ratzinger faded during the two ballots Tuesday morning. Glemp, the Polish cardinal, said the consensus resulted from patient discussion.

"Calmly, calmly, without propaganda, we talked and two-thirds thought he was the best," Glemp said.

The shift in allegiance to Ratzinger included prominent members of the reformist camp aligned with Martini, according to several accounts. Marco Politi, the Vatican correspondent for the Rome daily La Repubblica, reported that Martini sealed the outcome when he acquiesced.

At midday Tuesday, "Ratzinger's position had become so strong that it was up to the other electors — if they did not want to give an impression of great disarray, disastrous for the church's international image — to take a step to give their votes to the most prestigious, and finally most unifying, candidate," Politi wrote. "That's what happened with the blessing of Martini."

After the decisive ballot Tuesday afternoon, the cardinals applauded Ratzinger. Sodano, the secretary of state, then asked the ritualistic question: "Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?"

"Yes, I accept," Ratzinger responded.

Ratzinger then told Sodano he had chosen the name Benedict XVI. Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Germany said the new pope looked "a little forlorn" as he headed into the chapel's Room of Tears, a name that refers to popes who have wept as they donned white vestments.

Pervasive 'non-campaign' fractured rules of secrecy
'Marco finally got it right'
When John Paul began to fail, members of some of the "new movements" began to spread the same ideas to anyone who would listen, providing interpretations for media personnel that contributed to the atmosphere that Ratzinger was both the right candidate and a sure winner when the cardinal electors assembled in Rome.

I emphasize that there was nothing wrong with the behavior. Rather, it was intelligent politics -- and as I have insisted in this series of columns, a conclave is an exercise in politics, the art of government. Only after the pope's funeral and the cardinals' imposition of silence on themselves did the murky business of counting votes begin.

Each day of that week, the Italian media began to publish remarkably detailed lists of electors who had been lined up for the Bavarian cardinal. In the past, such lists had proved wrong. This time, they turned out to be accurate. As someone pointed out to me, "This time, Marco [Marco Poleti, Italy's most famous Vaticanologist] finally got it right."

At this point, two questions must be asked about the "non-campaign." Were cardinals violating the rules of silence they had imposed on themselves and the conclave rules that the late pope had legislated and canvassing for votes? Were cardinals or their aides passing these tallies to local journalists?

If they were, and whatever the ethics of such behavior, the pretense of secrecy had become porous. Behind the scenes, precinct politics were taking place, which, if they did not shape Ratzinger's plurality, certainly publicized it. His candidacy obtained what in American election we call the "big mo" -- momentum. One hears today that after the first (of four ballots), there was almost no doubt about the outcome.

Was it necessary?
In the pragmatics of electioneering, there can be no objection to the canvass of votes, the selection of a winner and even the proclamation of that winner before the voting begins. The rules of secrecy and silence were, however, fractured. I conclude that the rules are a mockery and cannot be sustained in a communications society, the like of which exists in the contemporary world.

We do not know exactly who voted for whom on the first ballot and who contributed to the emerging Ratzinger two-thirds majority -- though the names published in the press could provide excellent hints. Nor do we know who were the campaign managers who orchestrated the events of the final week. The first issue is not especially relevant. The second is important, and perhaps someone will find the answers.

Finally, two more questions: Was the "non-campaign" necessary, and secondly was the Holy Spirit behind the outcome?

Given the absence of an organization and a clear candidate among the progressives and the conservative tilt of the Sacred College, the "non-campaign" may have been exhilarating but unessential.

As to the Holy Spirit -- at the risk of being told by hate mail that I do not deserve to be a priest -- I submit that to claim God's spirit for one's own cause comes dangerously close to idolatry. The spirit blows whither he will. No one can claim his patronage.

As Ratzinger has said, it is wrong to assert that the spirit is responsible for the outcome of a papal election because there have been popes the spirit could not have chosen. Yet we can always pray to the spirit to help and protect Benedict XVI.

None of this, of course, proves that Curia and the new movements succeeded in imposing a candidate on the conclave or makes the result illegitimate. Nor does it say much about what kind of pontiff Pope Benedict XVI will be. There have been too many Gorbachevs, and for that matter too many Nixons in China, to read all that much into the future pontificate from the pope's past record. Nevertheless, it is fairly clear that the new rule allowing election by 1/2+1 after 30 ballots has fundamentally changed the way the conclave works. A determined candidate who can hold his votes together can offer simply to wait until the lower majority kicks in.

We have yet to see how Benedict XVI will answer the challenges facing the church. It will not b enough to assume that challenges like the scandal of clergy abuse are restricted to the 'dying' churches of Europe and North America. Nor will it be enough to assume the shortage of priests only effects the northern churches. Honduras has 5 million people and 400 priests. The Philippines is short by 25000 priests. A sacramental church that cannot administer the sacraments is in trouble whether that happens in the global north or the global south.

Next there'll be an Apostolic Blog

New pope keeps old guard for the moment
For the new pope, a new e-mail address
Got a prayer or a problem for the new pope? Now you can e-mail him.

Showing that Pope Benedict XVI intends to follow in the footsteps of John Paul II's multimedia ministry, the Vatican on Thursday modified its Web site so that users who click on an icon on the home page automatically activate an e-mail composer with his address.

In English, the address is benedictxvi@vatican.va.

Maybe universidomenicigrex.blogspot.com?

20 April 2005

What's in a name?

Pope Benedict XV
His pontificate was dominated by the war, which he termed 'the suicide of Europe', and its turbulent aftermath. His early call for a Christmas truce in 1914 was ignored, and though he organised significant humanitarian efforts (establishing a Vatican bureau, for instance, to help prisoners of war from all nations contact their families) and made many unsuccessful attempts to negotiate peace, his effectiveness even in Italy was undermined by his pacifist stance. The best known was the seven-point Papal Peace proposal of August 1917, demanding a cessation of hostilities, a reduction of armaments, guaranteed freedom of the seas, and international arbitration. Only Woodrow Wilson responded directly, declaring that a declaration of peace was premature; in Europe each side saw him as biased in favour of the other and were unwilling to accept the terms he proposed. This resentment resulted in the exclusion of the Vatican from the Paris peace conference of 1919; despite this, he wrote an encyclical pleading for international reconciliation, Pacem Dei munus.

In the post-war period Benedict was involved in developing the Church administration to deal with the new international system that had emerged.

In internal Church affairs, Benedict calmed the excesses of the campaign against 'modernist' scholars within the Church that had characterised the reign of Pius X, though his first encyclical condemned errors in modern philosophical systems and no excommunicated scholars were returned to the faith.

Benedict also promulgated a new Code of Canon Law in 1917 and attempted to improve relations with the anticlerical Republican government of France by canonising the French national heroine Joan of Arc. In the mission territories of the Third World, he emphasised the necessity of training native priests to replace the European missionaries as soon as possible, and established a Coptic college in the Vatican.

In his private spiritual life, Benedict was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the modern Popes was the most fervent in propagating the wearing of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, endorsing the claim that wearing it piously brings 'the singular privilege of protection after death' from eternal damnation, and giving an indulgence for every time it was kissed.

Benedict, 'blessed', is a really interesting choice of name. I'd expected Pope Benedict XVI to name himself John Paul III if elected. The new pope has a grim reputation, but perhaps he is telling us something by taking the name of a pope who moderated the rigours of the pope before him. Hope, I guess, springs eternal.

I'll never say: 'Who goes in a pope, comes out a cardinal' again. (Well, at least until the next conclave)

18 April 2005

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Yellowstone

Anyone watching Supervolcano tonight probably went happily to sleep thinking to themselves that Yellowstone is a long way from Australia. Welcome to Lake Toba

According to the Toba catastrophe theory, modern human evolution was affected by a recent large volcanic event. It was proposed by Stanley H. Ambrose[1] (http://www.anthro.uiuc.edu/faculty/ambrose/), of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Knowledge of human prehistory is largely theoretical, but based in fossil, archaeological, and genetic evidence.

Within the last three to five million years, after human and ape lineages diverged from the hominid stem-line, the human line produced a variety of human species. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, a massive volcanic eruption changed the course of human history by severely reducing the human population (called a 'bottleneck'). Around 75,000 years ago the Toba caldera in Indonesia erupted with a force three thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens.

According to Ambrose, this led to a decrease in the average global temperatures by as much as 15°C. This massive environmental change is believed to have created population bottlenecks in the various human species that existed at the time; this in turn accelerated differentiation of the isolated human populations, eventually leading to the end of all the other human species except for the branch that became modern humans (see volcanic winter).

Some geological evidence and computed models support the plausibility of the Toba catastrophe theory, and genetic evidence suggests that all humans alive today, despite their apparent variety, are descended from a very small population (see mitochondrial Eve). Using the average rates of genetic mutation, some geneticists have estimated that this population lived at a time coinciding with the Toba event.

And just to ensure we all sleep sleep soundly at night...

Sleeping giants present the biggest threat of all
Ray Cas, from Monash University's School of Geosciences, said Lake Toba's next blast could be big enough to disrupt the world's climate and send a tsunami surging towards Australia.

Professor Cas said none of the world's 100 or so active super volcanoes had erupted in modern times. However, if one did, it would be 100 to 1000 times more powerful than Krakatoa's 1883 eruption.

He feared the threat was being overlooked, just as the danger posed by Indian Ocean tsunami had been ignored.

"The Boxing Day tsunami was going to happen sooner or later, but there were no warning systems. A super volcano will happen sooner or later, and there are limited warning systems," he said. "We certainly need to be improving our monitoring of super volcanoes. If any of these were to erupt we would see disaster on a magnitude greater than we have ever experienced."

When Lake Toba erupted 73,000 years ago the world's climate was balanced on the edge of an ice age, Professor Cas said.

"The eruption released 1000 cubic kilometres of ash and rock debris into the atmosphere, much of it as fine ash which blocked out solar radiation, kicking the world back into an ice age."

In addition to cooling the world, with devastating results for global agriculture, Lake Toba's next eruption would probably send a pyroclastic flow - a rush of superheated gas and ash - crashing into the sea with enough force to trigger a tsunami.

The volcano was definitely still active, influenced by the same movement of tectonics plates that triggered the December 26 and March 28 earthquakes.

Another super volcano overdue for eruption was Taupo, on New Zealand's North Island. "It has a big eruption every 2000 years and it last erupted about 2000 years ago".

The Lake Toba super eruption measured 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Scale. Tambora in 1815 measured 7 and Krakatoa in in 1883 was a 6. The 1980 Mt St Helens eruption was a 5.

17 April 2005

We will be called...

Why Il Papa's name is a key
Vatican watchers suggest that if the next Pope chose John, that would invoke memories of John XXIII, the reformer who launched the Second Vatican Council in 1962. But Pius - the name that has dominated the past two centuries, with seven Piuses reigning for 125 of the past 183 years - would suggest extreme conservatism, because all have been reactionaries.

Over the centuries, John has been the most popular name, followed by Gregory (16), Benedict (15), Clement (14) and Leo and Innocent (both 13).

Mercurius was the first Pope to take a new name, because he didn't want the pagan associations of his given name to sully his pontificate. Soon it became a tradition. Melbourne theologian William Johnston pointed out in the April issue of the literary magazine Quadrant that no Pope has taken a new name since Lando in 913. Exploring the merits of various names - and the reason why no Pope is likely to follow Pelagius (a heretic), Boniface (arrogance leading to schism in the church) or Julius (overwhelming ego) - Johnston suggests Vatican watchers could be misled. For example, a pope might take John Paul to placate conservatives while planning in fact to be entirely different.

He says that Martin, Urban, Leo or Felix would be both short and memorable, whereas Alexander, Sylvester and Celestine are unlikely. Johnston's own favourite would be Ambrose, after Ambrose of Milan, who died in 397 having "excelled equally as pastor, liturgist, administrator, writer and thinker... An Ambrose in the papacy might summon the courage to begin to apply to the workings of the Catholic Church at every level and in every locale precepts of Christian ethics.

Johnston is critical of John Paul II:
William Johnston: Yes, well here I think the Austrian example is very appropriate. This is where the Austrian bureaucrats would talk one party line and their Jewish critics would point out the hollowness of it, and I wish there were more Jewish critics of this papacy who could satirise this kind of thing, that it’s hollow, and very sad that the authorities can continue to talk about human potential being fulfilled and blossoming through the leadership of this Pope, which is to give one example. Most people contemplating old age today ion the democracies, talk about it as a widening, a broadening, an opening of horizons. This Pontiff modelled exactly the opposite; he narrowed, he constrained himself, he’s the exact opposite of a humanistic process of ageing, and yet we’re being told to celebrate him as a model of the opposite.

If I might, I’d like to read two verses from a poem by the great Australian poet, A.D. Hope, which he wrote on the death of Pius XII in 1958.

Stephen Crittenden: It’s a great poem.

William Johnston: And there are two verses, where having talked about the fire in the trees in New England autumn when the death occurred, he had heard that this Pontiff in his last years, Pius XII in his last years, had been spiritualised.

If to some lives at least, comes a stage

When all the active man now left behind,

They enter on the treasure of old age,

This autumn of the mind.

Then while the heart stands still

Beyond desire,

The dying animal knows a strange serene.

Emerging in its ecstasy of fire,

The burning soul is seen.

Will anyone say that of the last days of John Paul II? Because the ageing of this Pontiff was not about a burning soul going inward and being spiritualised, it was about a control freak exerting power over the leaders of his organisation, he’s, if you will, a bureaucrat to the end. It’s a cruel thing to say but that’s how I see it.

Stephen Crittenden: Will Johnston, thank you very much for being on the program.

William Johnston: Thank you, I enjoyed it.

Stephen Crittenden: Apparently, he was appointing bishops and accepting resignations literally on his deathbed.. William M. Johnston was Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts from 1965 to 1999 and he now teaches at the Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne. His book ‘The Austrian Mind’ is published by University of California Press, and he has an article on the names chosen by the Popes in Quadrant this week.

Johnston appeared on the ABC (no transcript yet) and actually called for a new name, pointing out that 913 was the last time a new name was used. He suggested Paschal for the Easter mystery or Francis for obvious reasons. Before the last conclave it was said the new pope would take a name expressing his regard for all three of his predecessors and be called John John Paul Paul, but fortunately wiser counsel prevailed. I like Paschal and Francis. Patrick would be fine. John XXIV would be wonderful. John Paul III would b a disaster.