The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a shock to the Catholic Church and the world. In the last month pundits have examined and speculated on the reasons for his sudden retirement and the tremor that went through the Catholic faithful in the aftermath of the announcement.
In what is being touted as his farewell speech, the Pontiff sited failing health and energy as the reason for his unconventional departure from the throne of Saint Peter. Canon Law (Canon 332, No. 2) states “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” In other words, he can leave and no one has the right to say “No you can’t go!” It seems that the only restriction is that he can’t take his red shoes with him into retirement.
Catholics have an expectation the their Pope will die in office. The departure of Benedict, without benefit of death, opens many wounds that should be addressed by the Conclave. It should be noted that the last Pope to “retire” St. Celestine V, was imprisoned by his successor and died in a papal prison. Scholars believe that the line “who made from cowardice the great refusal” in Dante’s The Divine Comedy was a reference to Celestine V.
So here we are on the first night of the Conclave. Ballot 1 resulted in black smoke. Tomorrow we will see up to four more polls of the assembled Cardinals. These men are as far removed from the teachings of their Lord as can be. Take a look at the media coverage during the last month. Think of the image that is being presented by the princes of the church in their blood-red, silk cassocks and hand tied fine lace. Each in what seemed to be different patterns of finery. Is this what the successor of Peter should look like? Or are we seeing the excesses of royalty in a church wracked with scandal? These men are addressed by grand titles such as “Your Eminence”. Have they become the modern-day Pharisees, enamored of their titles?
These men are sweeping away the numerous scandals and crises in the church as they prepare to crown a new monarch. They talk of looking to the future (why look at the carnage in their wake?). They ignore the sex abuse crisis that has seen children and vulnerable adults preyed upon by sexual predators. The church continues to protect these monsters. As much as Cardinals would like the “scandal” to be over, new stories come forward every day detailing the loss of innocence, faith and trust.
The Vatican Bank has been a scandal for decades. Can you believe that the bank run by the Vatican is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world? It has consistently failed to be in compliance with international standards. The Pope’s bank has been involved in laundering money for years! Can someone tell me why the Vatican needs to be running a bank? Are there no Italian Banks that can serve the needs of the Curia, while adhering to Italian law and international banking practices?
The fact that the Vatican is a sovereign nation unto itself also makes me wonder what these men in red silk are up to. Although, most of these men are citizens of other countries, they are voting for the head of state of another nation. Should Cardinal Dolan’s American citizenship be revoked because he is an official of a foreign government?
It seems that the men in red silk are a little taken with themselves. They parade around in their finery, vote under the watchful eye of Renaissance masters and try to look like humble servants of the church. I wonder if Jesus was alive today if he would be throwing these pretenders to the throne of Peter out of the temple, exposing them as the frauds that they really are.
Benedict spoke of his concern that the “Lord seemed to sleep”. I would theorize that it is Catholics who are sleeping. They allow crisis after crisis, scandal after to scandal to go unabated. There are no consequences for the princes of the church. Perhaps the forces at work in the Vatican are not those of light and salvation.
Benedict XVI should be wary in his retirement. He did not have the good sense to die. Celestine V was imprisoned by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII. He was seen as a threat that could be used to destabilize the Holy See. He would die in his prison cell, some scholars think he was murdered by order of Boniface.
In the meantime, the world is glued to their smart phones, computers, iPads, tablets and televisions waiting for white smoke to rise from the makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. I guess we will know who will be wearing red shoes soon enough.