Progressives, Moderates, Neocons: Notes Before the Conclave
On one side, Ratzinger, Ruini, Bergoglio with their proposal for a new “Papal Revolution.” On the other side, the list of their opponents, with Tettamanzi as the man for all seasons
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, April 14, 2005 – On Tuesday, April 19, the first full day of the conclave which will elect the new pope, the feast in the calendar of the Roman Church is that of Saint Leo IX. He was pope between 1049 and 1054. He was a standard bearer of the great “Papal Revolution” which, at the beginning of the second millennium, between the 11th and 12th centuries, refashioned the Church and the West. He was German.
And the indisputable front runner in this conclave at the beginning of the third millennium is also German – but above all, he is “Roman.” He is Joseph Ratzinger, and he will turn 78 on April 16. The morning of Monday the 18th, he will be the one presiding over the “missa pro eligendo romano pontifice” at Saint Peter’s. And during the first secret ballot on Monday afternoon, he is expected to receive numerous votes of consensus and esteem, certainly several dozen at least. The quorum necessary to be elected, with 115 cardinals present, is 77 votes. At the tally, Ratzinger and the other cardinals will be watching and judging. They will be standing beneath the terrible gaze of a Judge infinitely higher than they are, the Christ painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
But the proposal that Ratzinger and his party have presented to the cardinal electors is also fearsome and demanding. They want “a Church that is not folded in upon itself, not timid, not lacking in trust, a Church burning with the love of Christ for the salvation of all men,” as Cardinal Camillo Ruini said in a homily at a Saint Peter’s basilica overflowing with crowds, two days after the funeral for John Paul II.
During the last few months Ruini has been, together with Ratzinger, the most active and explicit in defining the scenario of the new pontificate. And many leading cardinals have taken their side, some of them likely candidates for the papacy themselves. In the curia there is German cardinal Walter Kasper, one of Ratzinger and Ruini’s scholarly colleagues since the three were simple theology professors. In Latin America, there are the Argentine of Italian origin Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, and the Chilean Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago. In the United States, there is Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago. In Canada, there is Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Québec. In Australia, there is George Pell, archbishop of Sydney. In Eastern Europe there is Józef Glemp, archbishop of Warsaw. In Italy, there are Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, and Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna. This is the framework for the neoconservative party whose beacon is Ratzinger. Another group of cardinals that has recently drawn closer to this party is the circle of cardinals who are friends of Opus Dei, led by the two who are members of Opus: in the Vatican, Julián Herranz, the leading authority on canon law in the curia, and in Latin America, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima.
The power of the neoconservatives essentially consists in their program. They want a resumption of the active management of the Church’s ordinary governance, its cleansing from “filthiness,” a reinforcement of the doctrinal and moral formation of the clergy, a renewal of basic evangelization and the teaching of the catechism, a qualitative improvement in the celebration of the liturgy, a new missionary campaign.
But it is above all from the perspective of the Church “ad extra” that their program distinguishes itself. The most fearsome conflict of the next decades, Ratzinger and Ruini have both said on numerous occasions, will not be that between the Church and Islam, but rather the cultural conflict between the Church and “the radical emancipation of man from God and from the roots of life,” which characterizes contemporary Western culture and which “leads in the end to the destruction of freedom.” For the neoconservative cardinals, the Church’s commitment to this clash centered in the West must be given absolute priority in the next pontificate.
Their scenario has three other corollaries. The first that the Church will not fight alone in this epochal conflict, but will look for and find allies even in secularist currents of thought far removed from Catholicism; for example, in those represented by Francis Fukuyama and Jürgen Habermas, the two authors cited most frequently by Ratzinger and Ruini of late.
The second corollary concerns the visibility of the Church. In the wake of John Paul II, the neoconservatives do not want the Church simply to speak privately to consciences, but to act as a guiding social force at the center of the public arena.
The third regards the very essence of the Church. In his last conference before the death of pope Karol Wojtyla, which he gave on April 1 in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger harshly criticized those who “reduce the core of Jesus’s message, the kingdom of God, to the buzzwords of political moralism.” Because in this way, “God is forgotten, and in his place there are only words that are easily turned to any sort of misuse.”
No one in the college of cardinals has presented a complete alternative project alongside the neoconservatives’ program. But there is no lack of serious objections and resistance, and at the beginning of the conclave this will be turned into votes in favor of other candidates.
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In the area conventionally defined as progressivist, these objections are of two kinds, each with its supporters.
The first objection contests the priority the neoconservatives give to the confrontation between the Church and secular culture over the vision of man and life.
Cardinals like Cláudio Hummes, archbishop of San Paolo in Brazil, and Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, maintain that such a priority is too restricted to the Western context, and want the Church to give first place instead to the commitment for justice, peace, and the protection of creation.
Both Hummes and Rodriguez Maradiaga have long proposed themselves as candidates for the papacy. The first of these read on March 16 in the Vatican, at a conference on “Gaudium et Spes,” a speech that was interpreted as an act of autoinvestiture, the central thesis of which was that “the priority of a servant Church must be solidarity with the poor.” The second of these has had the benefit of a heavy barrage of media coverage. But both of them come to the conclave with few certain supporters.
The second objection is typically liberal. It proposes a making the Church more democratic internally (see the following article) and a greater relationship of “sharing” with the culture and custom widespread in the West. It calls for new solutions on priestly celibacy, women’s roles, communion for divorced persons who have remarried. It invokes more ecumenism. It is mistrustful of an excessively visible and public Church, and prefers a more interior and discreet Christian life.
The cardinals in favor of this approach include Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Brussels, Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, Keith Michael P. O’Brien, archbishop of Edinburgh, and Stephen Fumio Hamao, a Japanese cardinal working in the curia. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini can also be assigned to this current, and was its preferred papal candidate for many years. But only in effigy. This current has no chance of imposing itself on the conclave.
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But the third and last current, that of the moderates, does have some possibility of success.
Among its most visible exponents are the cardinals of the curia Angelo Sodano, Giovanni Battista Re, and Crescenzio Sepe, who are rivals among themselves for many reasons, but are united in creating resistance and disruption against the project of Ratzinger and the neoconservatives.
In the days immediately following the death of John Paul II, while the cardinals were gradually arriving in Rome, these three went into a frenetic lobbying effort with the help of other members of the curia who are unable to enter the conclave because they are over 80 years of age, but are also very active: Achille Silvestrini and Pio Laghi.
Neither Sodano, nor Re, nor Sepe can entertain the illusion of having a chance of being elected. But the handful of votes that each of them controls could raise the chances of the only identifiable real candidate in the swampland of the moderates: Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan. The affiliates of the Community of Saint Egidio have also moved into action on Tettamanzi’s behalf. They are very adept at influencing the third rank of cardinals, and especially the Italian and international press, a modern substitute for the power of pressure and veto that was once the prerogative of kings.
Tettamanzi was a high flyer years ago as an expert in bioethics. He helped John Paul II to write speeches and encyclicals in defense of unborn life. But now that these topics have become more crucial than ever in the United States, Europe, and Italy, both inside and outside of the Church, a real “epochal question” in Ratzinger and Ruini’s judgment, he doesn’t talk about them anymore. And instead, he produces the requisite mountains of fluff against globalization, neoliberalism, and media domination.
If elected, he will be hailed as the most progressivist pope possible, an incomparable defender of the status quo.
The Dream, and the Reality, of a More “Collegial” Church
Among John Paul II’s projects, there is one that remains uncompleted. So uncompleted that the only thing he left about it is a title: “To find a form of exercising the papal that, while in no way renouncing the essence of its mission, will be open to a new situation.” This is what it says in the 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint.” Never another word.
But the cardinals who will name his successor are producing a number of words on the topic. Progressivists, moderates, neocons, all are convinced that John Paul II took the principle of papal primacy too far, and that this principle must be balanced by an extension of the bishops’ power.
“It was indispensable that there be a strong pope. Now it is important that we have a strong pope together with a strong episcopacy. It is a question of balance,” Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Brussels, the ensign of the progressivist current, said a few days ago.
But Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a brainiac of the neocons, had maintained the same idea before him, on repeated occasions.
Each cardinal brings the most different reasons possible in support of the balancing of papal primacy. For many, this is the obligatory means for making peace with the Churches separated from Rome, both Protestant and Orthodox. For others, this is the only way the Church can get in step with the times: with less monarchy and more internal democracy. Still others simply cannot endure the overweening power of the Roman curia.
It remains to be seen how far the victorious current will be able to go in the encounter that will decide the outcome of the conclave. It will certainly not go so far as the “dream” of a democratic Church as enunciated by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in a memorable address to the synod of bishops in 1999.
Martini then “removed himself from the fray,” according to his stated intentions. Only once during the last year has he broken his silence and returned to the idea of a “permanent council that would rule the Church together with the pope.” But on the eve of the conclave, at the general congregation of the cardinals on April 11, he again intervened to call for more collegiality.
This is an idea that has been brought out on the eve of all the preceding conclaves of the last half century.
In 1962, the “annus mirabilis” of the opening of Vatican Council II, calls for a radical democratic revolution in the Church came from young Swiss theologian Hans Küng, destined for a brilliant profession as a dissident. He made his appeals in a large volume entitled “Structures of the Church,” and the ideas he expressed in the book fed a growing series of attacks against the popes who were elected after this, from Paul VI to John Paul II: the latter of these was the target of yet another of Küng’s countless denunciations last March 26, seven days before his death.
In 1978, the year of the two papal elections of Albino Luciani and Karol Wojtyla, the pressure for a democratic rebalancing of the Church’s governance became even stronger.
At the vigil of both conclaves, the cardinals received privately a packet in which they found a detailed program for reforming the papacy. It had been written and delivered by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and his disciples of the study group he founded in Bologna, with professor Giuseppe Alberigo foremost among these. The document began with a very pessimistic view of the present state of the Church, “increasingly more inadequate to the needs of the life of men.” And in seven points it enunciated what the new pontiff must do to put an end to the papacy-as-monarchy.
The sixth point was entitled “The first hundred days,” and it went into even greater detail.
During the crucial opening phase, the newly elected pope was supposed to dismiss his vicar and dedicate himself personally to the diocese of Rome; to create a collegial body of a dozen bishops and cardinals to meet two times a week and make the most important decisions together; to endow with “real and proper legislative capacities” the worldwide synod of bishops, and convene the group twice a year; to scale down drastically the Vatican curia; to have new bishops elected by the “ecclesial communities concerned”; to abolish the apostolic nunciatures and cut off relations with states “as a power among powers”; to prepare the convocation of a new ecumenical council involving all the Christian confessions; to free himself from the residual “monarchical symbols of power and authority,” beginning with the “trappings of the papacy like the residence, garments, titles, secrecy, etcetera.”
John Paul II didn’t do a bit of this, neither during his first hundred days nor during the following twenty-six years of his pontificates. Nor would he ever have accomplished the gestures for which he has passed into history (from the meetings in Assisi to the “mea culpas”) if he had entrusted them to the collegial decision of cardinals who, for the most part, disagreed with him.
But meanwhile, some of the proposals contained in that program of the first hundred days have found supporters, not only among the Catholic intellectuals of the opposition, but also among bishops and cardinals. Apart from Martini, the living cardinals most clearly supportive of such theses are Japanese cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao and Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, of Scotland. The most battle-hardened supporter among the bishops is John Raphael Quinn, archbishop emeritus of San Francisco, author of a book entitled “The Reform of the Papacy.”
In the present conclave, these proposals for the radical democratization of the Church are, in any case, shared by a tiny minority. The Bologna center of studies has recently tried to fire up support again with two books. The first, written by historian Alberto Melloni and entitled “Mother Church, Church Stepmother,” maintained that the papacy and the Church of Rome find themselves today in the same critical state in which they found themselves in 1978. And the second book, written by a group of authors and dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the Bologna study “workshop,” published in its entirety for the first time the document delivered in 1978 to the cardinals taking part in the two conclaves that year, ideally relaunching it as a program for the Church of tomorrow. In the conviction that, sooner or later, the “dream” will come true.
A synopsis on six names, in alphabetical order
JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO. Archbishop of Buenos Aires, 69 years of age, born in Argentina to parents who had emigrated from the Italian region of Piemonte. Since 2002 he has continually been the Latin American cardinal with the best probability of being elected, in spite of never having lifted a finger to present himself as a candidate: in the conclave, it is Ratzinger’s party that would launch his candidacy. As a bishop, instead of sermons on social justice he preached to the Argentines in the thick of economic disaster that they should put into practice the ten commandments and the Gospel beatitudes.
CLÁUDIO HUMMES. Archbishop of San Paolo in Brazil, 71 years old. As a young bishop, he got himself mixed up in the struggles of laborers and farmers. He then espoused more moderate principles, became close to the charismatics, and was promoted to the largest diocese in Brazil. Lately he has again advanced proposals for social justice and has gained the public support of his friend, president Luiz Inácio da Silva Lula. He is the progresssivist alternative to the neoconservative Bergoglio, in the case in which the conclave would opt for a Latin American. But when he was called to the Vatican to preach at the Lenten retreat for the pope and the curia, he ended up boring everybody.
JOSEPH RATZINGER. A German, he was the pillar of doctrine during the pontificate of John Paul II, especially toward the very end. In spite of the fact that he is 78 years old, there would be nothing of the short-term papacy about his election: the scenario he has designated for the Church during the following decades is almost revolutionary, and has won him respect and agreement from beyond the neocon cardinals closest to him, but also strong resistance. If he is chosen, the team he selects will be important: he has never shown great skill in the practical matters of governance.
CAMILLO RUINI. Vicar of the diocese of Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, 74 years old. Unlike Ratzinger, to whom he is very close intellectually, he excels for his ability to command. In the autumn of 2003 he was the one who filled the gap left in regard to Iraq and the Middle East by a confused and uncertain Vatican secretariat of state: the turning point was his homily for the Italian soldiers killed in Nassiriya. As head of the Italian bishops’ conference, he gave the Church unprecedented public prominence in Italy. He has rarely appeared in the current lists of candidates for the papacy.
ANGELO SCOLA. Patriarch of Venice, 64 years old. He is the youngest and least experienced of the papal candidates in the party of Ratzinger and Ruini. He was the star pupil of Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, and one of the model students of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a theological giant of the second half of the twentieth century, together with two of the other most recently appointed cardinals, Philippe Barbarin of France and Marc Ouellet of French Canada. He has created an institute of higher study in Venice, the Marcianum, and founded a magazine published in multiple languages, including Arabic and Urdu, “Oasis,” as a bridge to the East and in order to favor, not a clash, but a “hybrid of civilizations.”
DIONIGI TETTAMANZI. Archbishop of Milan, 71 years of age. He is the only Italian cardinal outside of the curia who has campaigned to be the pope. But his chances of being elected depend upon the defeat of the neoconservative party of Ratzinger, Ruini, Bergoglio, Scola, etc. at the conclave. And they presuppose that he would receive the votes of the Latin American progressivists, the European liberals, the circles in the curia represented by Sodano and Re, and other cardinals influenced by the Community of Saint Egidio and Focolare. Tettamanzi would need to satisfy all of them, as the master of compromise that he is.
For more information on the program of the neocon cardinals, see on this site:
> After Wojtyla: A “Papal Revolution” for the Third Millennium
> The Pope and His Two Consuls
The complete text of the memorandum on “The first hundred days” of the pontificate, delivered to the cardinals before the two conclaves of 1978:
> Goodbye, King Pope. The Progressivists' Plan at the Conclave
English translation by Matthew Sherry: > email@example.com
Go to the English home page of > www.chiesa.espressonline.it
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Sandro Magister’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org