Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Thoughts re: Papal Transition

February 19th, 2019, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Last weekend, The Catholic Thing ran an article authored by William Kilpatrick, speculating on the possible mechanisms for a transfer of power from Pope Francis to his successor. The trigger for such speculation was cited as the pope’s very recent (and understandably objectionable) appointment of the controversial Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Farrell as camerlengo, i.e. administering certain Vatican activities during a papal transition. The complaint about the selection of Farrell is about his having lived with the now-laicized Theodore McCarrick in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. for six years, and being such an unseemly appointment made just days before the laicization of McCarrick!

The article by Kilpatrick is titled: “If Francis Should Resign, What Then?” It is an awkward title, which can be read as either “If Francis has an obligation to resign, what then?” or “If Francis happens to resign, what then?” The word play is around “should” and either version could be a scenario. Also, it is important to say, that Kilpatrick’s article, and even my own commenting, causes a personal discomfort, such as I experience in hearing the Prodigal Son ask for his inheritance, implying that he somehow desires the death of his father.  There is no gentle way to make such inquiries or speculation.

Setting that discomfort aside, one still sees the need to comment on what Kilpatrick wrote. Simply said, regarding a process which has long been considered one of the most highly structured methodologies in the world, even Pope Benedict’s resignation required breaking new ground, and either a resignation by or death of Pope Francis will still have modifications to any process.

Kilpatrick sets forth three scenarios:

  •           “If Pope Francis did resign, much would depend on the manner of his resignation.  The reasons he gives for resigning will help determine the direction that the Church takes after he steps down.  If the pontiff fails to “acknowledge his mistake,” and simply claims age and failing health as an excuse, then there will be no resolution and no indication that the next pope should take the Church in a different direction.”
  •           “Francis could also choose to continue to present himself as a victim [and] consent to step aside for the good of the Church… to present himself as a martyr … thus likely ensuring that the man elected to succeed him will be someone who will carry on the “martyr’s” mission.”
  •            “Or suppose that the pope does admit his errors, and has a complete conversion of heart of the type that Viganò is calling for?  He then steps down on the grounds that he is unworthy to lead the Church.”

The dilemma associated with any of those scenarios is the large number of appointments made by Pope Francis, especially elevations to Cardinal-electors, of people who, as might be expected, are very supportive of Pope Francis’s entire agenda. Kilpatrick points out 59 of the cardinal electors have been appointed by Pope Francis,  47 by Pope Benedict XVI and 19 by Pope John Paul II, with those appointed by the two prior popes not getting any younger, and so tipping the balance more toward those named by Pope Francis.

Kilpatrick’s conclusion is to restructure the Cardinal electors by forced resignations, and that could be why the gay abuse issue in particular is becoming ever more persistent, in the shadow of a summit which seems reluctant even to address the reality of the matter. The author concludes: “Forced resignations are the most efficient and permanent way of removing some very bad actors from powerful positions.  An added and obvious benefit is that it also removes their ability to vote in the next conclave”. Unfortunately, each “forced” resignation will probably be fought, dragging out the process and creating more animus. How bad does it have to be for a resignation to be forced, and who will decide? The camerlengo?

Might other issues also be considered?

Almost any scenario can’t be directly administered (hence the importance of the camerlengo) ‘by the book’. It is going to need interpretation or tweaks, so it’s worth putting other ideas “on the table,” some not considered in the Kilpatrick article in The Catholic Thing. Enough attention has been given since election of Pope Francis to realize that there was manipulation before and during the conclave according to public testimony by Cardinal Danneels of Belgium in the plotting by the St. Gallen Mafia, which included  Cardinal Walter Kasper who had no hesitation in immediately pressing his agenda after the election of Pope Francis. It even looked like “payoff” on many levels as the current papacy moved to more ‘progressive’ or ambiguous positions, leading to confusion. The symbolism of the lightning strike at St. Peter’s Basilica, the bragging by Danneels and others about their influence, all lead to a perception of manipulation which should be much more diligently investigated. It would be likely, given such choosing of sides, for that very group to have been the source of pressure against Pope Benedict for his resignation, again which would be illegal.

The question which deserves to be addressed is whether or not a fraud was perpetrated on the Church and its Faithful during the election process and, if so, what impact should that have on the next transition, and even on “reconstruction” during and following a transition. It appears that nothing has been done to correct or punish those who acknowledge their participation in a fraud. How can a new conclave convene without addressing such issues or, for such matter, including any Cardinals who today refuse to use their powers to excommunicate Catholic legislators and governors who support infanticide, or those who are found to have covered up clerical abuse?


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