Babylon. Behind the quiet revolution of Benedict XVI, guerrilla. From inside and outside the Church
«The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. […] As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church». Benedict XVI said these words during the flight to Portugal, in May 2010. During that trip, he put the Church – shocked by clergy abuse scandal – in penance. And he began thinking about the Year of Faith, to make men turn back to God. It is useless to take care of the Curial squabbles, the fight for the power, the utter chatter. The Pope knows that Church can be saved only if it turns back to God. This is the sense of his Papacy. This is why he accepted the «axe» who was going to fall on him – as he revealed to German pilgrims come to Rome for the inauguration ceremony of pontificate.
The sword of Damocles of the Past
More than an axe, it is a sword of Damocles, made up of a past that hangs above Benedict XVI, but does not refer to Joseph Ratzinger. When he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger used to work in the same way he worked as a theologian: he did not want to raise up a school, he preferred to build a team; he did not oppose to any one, he preferred harmonically match ideas of different kind; he did not acted a short-sighted protectionism of pre-judicial positions, he preferred looking at innovative foods for thought. This attitude had been the same of his Papacy. With a starting point: the search for truth. Benedict XVI dedicated the first of his Messages for the World Day of Peace to the truth. The theme was: «In truth, Peace». It is important to notice that the Message for the World Day of Peace has a very strong diplomatic impact: it is delivered to the Chancellors of all over the world, and it is the trace on which the Secretariat of State develop the traditional Papal new year speech to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
Yet, only after seven years, this Papacy’s address seems to be in some ways understood. Before, medias provided just a distorted image of Benedict XVI. Then, medias began to put the Pope up everything, as if he was an ascetical, evanescent and out of the current business of the Church leader. But Benedict XVI, little by little, shaped the face of his Curia. His men trained in the Holy Office he leaded, applying the canon law and being kind with people and understanding to ideas. This Curia knows Ratzinger’s modus operandi, that is determined and accommodating at the same time. This Curia now can prepare for the final act of this quiet revolution: the Year of Faith.
«Scoops» against the Pope?
Right when the year of Faith is up to come, informing papers are delivered behind the curtain of the Roman Curia and are leaked to the press. The last «scoop» would be about a plot to kill the Pope. It is a note written in rough German – probably by a non German speaking person – , that Cardinal Darìo Castrillòn Hoyos brought to Vatican Secretariat of State. The note was a summary of a report of non well précised Chinese officials. These latter were reporting what they learned by cardinal Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo that went mysteriously (maybe to encourage Chinese business in Sicily) to China the last November. Romeo would say that the Pope was not supposed to live more than 12 months. The newspapers made headlines news of the plot. «It seems to me something that is so far from reality that I don’t even want to address it», Father Federico Lombardi, s.j. director of the Holy See Press Office said. Evidently, somebody has all the interest that these news, this «nonsense» were headlines.
Before, The letters that msgr. Carlo Maria Viganò – former General Secretary of the Governatorate of Vatican City State – addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and to card. Bertone, Vatican secretary of State, to denounce the «corruption » in procurements of Vatican City State administration had been profusely highlighted by the Medias. According to the press, Viganò had been appointed as Papal nuncio to the United State because of this letter.
Then, an internal memo of the Authority of Financial Information – the Vatican body that controls all Vatican finances – had been leaked to the press. The memo was part of an inside debate if the new Vatican legislation was to be considered a retroactive legislation, and if it was to be applied in the so-called IOR case (that is the seizure – ordered by Italian magistrates – of 23 million euro transferred by the IOR). Can this memo be considered a proof that the Holy See does not want to cooperate with Italian Magistrates? Actually, the reform itself of the Vatican Law n.127 (the anti-money laundering law) shows that Holy See is going to accomplish the international standards, yet not denaturalizing the nature of Vatican finances (in the Vatican there are no market and no banks).
Some days later, Luca Tescaroli – the Rome prosecutor who has pursued a 30-year-old case concerning the worst scandal at the IOR: the death of Roberto Calvi, the Catholic banker who helped managed the Vatican’s investments and was found hanging from London’s Blackfriars Bridge in 1982 – has recently revived judicial requests to the Vatican for information about IOR/Ambrosiano scandal. He complained that no information has been provided by the Holy See. But these international requests never got to the office of the Protocol of the Secretariat of State, nor they had ever passed through the Italian Embassy to the Holy See. His requests did not probably fulfill all the requirements of an international submission by a foreign prosecutor, the same requirements needed for all States.
Is Bertone under attack?
While speaking about these cases, Vatican had been treated by Italian medias as any multinational company whose seat is in Italy, while prelates had been always depicted as sharks money-makers. «We defend the Pope, not Bertone», was the slogan within newspapers offices. Bertone was in fact the executor of Benedict XVI’s will. In a meeting with the heads of Vatican offices, he asked for more cohesion and stigmatized the «small chatters», that weaken the Church.
In a passage of the last document leaked to the press, one can read that the Pope «barely stands Bertone». It is false. Let’s make a step back in the past. In June 2006, the Pope had to announce that - after his return to Rome from his trip to Bavaria - his first act of governance will be the change of the secretary of state, with cardinal Tarcisio Bertone replacing cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Benedict XVI’s initial plans did not include making the announcement as early as he did, with an official statement in June 22, 2006. But the resistance he encountered within the curia convinced him to nip the opposition in the bud. Many in the Curia were discontent. Bertone not only was not a career diplomat – as almost all the secretaries of state have been in recent centuries – but he came from the ranks of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which he was the secretary from 1995 to 2003. He was the number two man, with Joseph Ratzinger as prefect, and now he is again becoming the main collaborator of the new Pope. Even after his election as Pope, Ratzinger has kept him as an adviser and a friend: not a week was gone by that they have not spoken together or seen each other.
Bertone’s appointment as Secretary of State signed a sort of “vindication” for the Holy Office. Called by this name until the 1960’s, the Congregation was referred to within the Vatican as «la Suprema». Its highest official was the Pope himself, and the rest of the curia hinged upon it. But then came Paul VI, and the secretariat of state became the central axis of the curia. With John Paul II, who had little interest in Church governance, the power of the secretariat of state in the Church’s internal and external affairs grew even greater. It is no surprise that in the last change of the papacy, the two head honchos of diplomacy and of the curia – cardinals Sodano and Achille Silvestrini – were the ones most staunchly opposed to the election of Ratzinger, just as they later tried to block the appointment of Bertone.
More than diplomacy, it is important to Benedict XVI that his secretary of state be highly skilled «in pastoral practice and doctrinal understanding». And Bertone, in the Pope’s view, had both of these prerequisites. Ratzinger discovered him in 1988, and since then he has had him work on the most intricate and controversial issues: the schism of the ultra-traditionalist archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, liberation theology, the married men with children who were ordained as priests in communist Czechoslovakia, the third secret of Fatima, the apparitions of Medjugorje, the scandal of pedophile priests in the United States, the marriage of archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to one of the members of the sect of Sun Myung Moon.
One can understand many of Benedict XVI’s choice in Bertone’s appointment. Last but not least, the appointment of Charles J. Brown – a non-diplomat that served in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – as Papal nuncio in Ireland. The next consistory, in fact – so marked with well-formed experts in Canon Law, as Antonio Maria Vegliò and Francesco Coccopalmerio – is the signal that Benedict XVI want to get back to the solidity of Law, more than entrust on the liquidity of diplomacy. More firmness in Faith, acknolewdge of law and catechism and pastoral care, less diplomacy: these seem to be Benedict XVI’s word orders.
And behind the curtain is…
After Bertone’s appointment, Sodano refused to leave his office as Secretary of State, waiting for the works in his new office to be ended, and so Bertone had to work for about a year in a little office. Sodano is still secretary of State when the Pope goes to Bavaria, in September 2006. There, the Regensburg case on the lecture of the Pope bursted. It seems a Benedict XVI’s owngoal, it is instead the opening of unprecedented path of dialogue with Islam.
There was something else that made Sodano’s remaining in office questionable: his maneuver to put out of commission the then Pope’s vicar and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, CEI, Camillo Ruini, when this latter turned 75 years old and handed over to the pope the letter of resignation that every bishop is required to write when he turns 75.
In 1991, 1996, and 2001, John Paul II, each time before he made Ruini head of the CEI, asked for the advice of the presidents of the sixteen regions into which the Italian episcopacy is subdivided. But that time – and this was at the end of January 2006 – rather than the pope, the secretariat of state extended the consultation to all of the 226 bishops in office. To each one, the then nuncio in Italy Paolo Romeo sent a letter under the seal of Pontifical Secrecy, asking the recipient to «indicate ‘coram Domino’ and with gracious solicitude the prelate that you would like to suggest».
The letter began by stating that «next March 6 the mandate of the Most Eminent Cardinal Camillo Ruini as president of the CEI will come to a conclusion». And it continued by asserting that «the Holy Father thinks that a change in the office of the presidency is in order».
The letter bore the date of January 26, 2006, and the only one to whom it was not sent was Ruini. But he was immediately made aware of it, and Benedict XVI – who intended to keep Ruini at his post – was also informed. On February 6, 2006 the nuncio who signed the letter, Romeo, was called by Benedict XVI for an audience. The Pope asked him how and why this initiative came about. Romeo left the audience in shambles, but Sodano was the one who was really trembling. On February 9, 2006 Benedict XVI received Ruini together with his then right hand man, the secretary general of the CEI, bishop Giuseppe Betori. They both received the Pope’s reassurances. News of the letter had not yet leaked to the outside.
But a few days later, the news agencies and newspapers were writing about it, attributing the idea for the letter to the pope and to his desire to decide «more collegially» on a replacement for Ruini. And in fact, on the morning of February 14, 2006, as soon as he saw the complete text of the letter published in two newspapers, Benedict XVI picked up the telephone and ordered that his confirmation of Ruini as president of the CEI be made public immediately.
New stories, old people
Paolo Romeo is also one of the characters of the mordkomplott against the Pope. Behind him, there is still the same cardinal Sodano, that wanted to show his solidarity to the Pope before of the Easter Mass in 2010 – in the spite of clergy abuse storm – attacking the revelations on sex abuses as «petty gossip», and «the chatter of the moment». Yet, it was the same Sodano that for years debarred to make investigations on Marcial Maciel, the founder of Legionaries of Christ, who was found to live a double life, with illegitimate sons and a past of abuses on his seminarists.
A quiet revolution
In the meantime, Benedict XVI went on with his governing project, bringing on his quiet revolution. With time, he changed men in the key posts. It is not sufficient. The strikes does not come from the upper levels, but from the lower ones, clerks within the Secretariat of State that have nothing to lose if they leak some document, and that are still linked to the previous administration. It is a problem that deals with the quality of men. After the fall of the Wall of Berlin, within the Catholic Church, there had been the persuasion that the choice of clerks and official could be made with some more superficiality. Was not the War against the Communism over? An ex clerk of the Secretary of State – who served at the end of card. Agostino Casaroli administration and at the beginning of card. Sodano administration – tells that «suddenly, hiring conditions changed. I had been attentively analyzed, for our psychological quality and our intellectual attitudes. The new clerks hired in Secretariat of State did not seem to have any of these requisites, but a certain good will».
A weakened Curia
Step by step, the machine of the Curia is weakened from the inside. The new pieces of this machine are fascinated by privileges and at the same time they are unconscious of prestige and importance of their role. It is a machine with defective pieces, where an attack against the universal Church and its sovereignty can be easy stroke.
Right after the fall of the Wall of Berlin, the medias spoke only positively about John Paul II. On the other hand, they depict the Curia as rotten, as something that needs to be changed. So rotten that it would be better the Pope to pray, and for the Church not to involve too much in the current affairs of the world. Is it part of the strategy to undermine Holy See diplomacy? Pressures are made against the moral authority of prelates, and at the same time lay government confer upon Churchmen and Churh communities some financial privilege – e.g. tax cuts or financial aids. These tax cuts and financial aids are sometimes legitimated by the law (they are the same acknowledged to other companies and associations), but they are conferred with such a dim procedure that it is easy to create a misgiving climate. The “hottest” case are set aside, in order to use them at the most proper moment.
In the mean time, European Union is formed, and market is always more allowed to dominate policy. At the beginning, Vatican machine is not even aware of the new challenge: it is still appeased on precedent positions. Casaroli’s ostpolitik is considered good in every contingency, from the dialogue with Islam to Chinese situation. The Church is diplomatically weakened – even if still able to fight good fights, e.g. in U.N. Conferences in Beijing and Cairo. Benedict XVI took over this weakened Church. He wants – he has – to repair. He begins changing some piece of the machine. Giovanni Lajolo is appointed as Vatican foreign minister, and his growing agreement with the vision of Benedict XVI was made evident by the sequence of his actions and addresses as the Holy See’s foreign minister, which display a progressive distancing from the «realist» politics treasured by secretary of state Angelo Sodano. Benedict XVI wait the right time. In 2009, msgr. Gabriele Caccia and msgr. Pietro Parolin, number 3 and 4 of Vatican Secretary of State under Sodano’s administration and the under Bertone’s one, are promoted as Papal nuncios. For the first time, the “upper level” of the Secretariat of State has been appointed under Bertone’s administration. The Papal homily at the episcopal ordination of Parolin, Caccia and three other bishops is meaningful. The Pope said: «We do not bind people to us; we do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. We lead men and women toward Jesus Christ, hence toward the living God. In so doing, we introduce them into truth and into freedom, which derives from truth. Fidelity is altruism and, in this very way, liberating for the minister himself and for all who are entrusted to him. We know how in civil society and often also in the Church things suffer because many people on whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves rather than for the community, for the common good».
These are the first signals of the fact that the Church changed its attitude, and gets back – modernly – to the origins. The world map goes on changing. States hand over sovereignty to markets, and there is an economic crisis in 2008. In 2009, European Union communicates that the Monetary Agreements with the Vatican is to be reviewed, if Vatican wants to remain hooked to the European Monetary. But Eu commissioners show their hostility, and the Convention will be signed by the European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia and by the Papal Nuncio to the European Union André Dupuy in separate rooms. To face the global crisis, Benedict XVI delivers a social encyclical, the Caritas in Veritate: handed by several people – many do not even agree with the Church -, the encyclical keeps its prophetical message. This prophecy is rooted in the request for more democracy and for an authority with universal competences, whose members are chosen democratically and whose goals is the common good, by regulating the market (thus facing the new Leviathan: international finance) and letting the State develop in a just way. The encyclical is destructured, not understood, un-focused. It is 2009.
The annus horribilis
In the mean time, international scenario changes again. A new global crisis is up to come, and men of Trilateral Commission works for having less democracy – as a paper by Zbigniew Brzezinsky, former U.S. National Security Advisor, states. Holy See has a different idea: at the international tables, Holy See asks more multilateralism, and – on economical scenario – it auspicates a new Bretton Woods, whose winner would be this time John Maynard Keynes ideas.
And here comes the 2010, the annus horribilis. Pedophilia scandals swept all the world, clergy abuse are brought into life, while they had always been hidden. Things are slightly different, and medias do not speak unambiguously, aiming to attack the Pope. It is the same strategy experimented by Adolf Hitler. Together with moral attacks, Hitler obliged the faithful of each religion to pay Kirchensteuer, a tax on religion. It is the reason why religions in German countries became rich and powerful, even if overlooking its focus, as Benedict XVI underlined during his last trip in Germany.
While the Year of Faith is being prepared, bankers took over in Europe. Italian Prime Minister is Mario Monti, Greek Prime Minister is Nicolas Papademos. They both come from Goldman Sachs and Trilateral commission; they both have been appointed, not elected. They must guide Europe to be always more market-oriented. Mario Monti – who claims himself Catholic – give a signal when he went to visit the Pope: one of the Italian Prime Minister’s presents was a book – Il governo dell’Economia e della Moneta – that he wrote in 1992, and this book was one of the pillars of the Maastricht treaty.
Jesus is the key
Attacks to the Church come from the outside, and they are favorite from the inside by incapable officials. Now, these attacks are going to strike the Pope. The tailor-made suite for the Pope is similar to the one tailored on John Paul I: a poor man alone, closed in an ivory tower, taking care of paintings in his apartments and of his clothes – both liturgical and non liturgical. He would make a revolution, but he cannot. Facts says that revolution has come. It was a revolution of faith and thought. A revolution whose symbol is Jesus of Nazaret, to whom Benedict XVI – not casually – already dedicated two books.
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