Sunday, June 10, 2012

Clean It Up or Pay the Consequences

John Paul II, he left
a sullied heritage and
a Church in need of
During the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI I heard an American priest commentator for RTÉ, the Irish National Broadcasting network, say that what was needed in a pope was “someone who would come in and clean out that rats’ nest of pezzi grossi monsignors, the Roman Curia.”  The commentator was in Rome with the Dome of Saint Peter’s in the background; sitting in the Dublin studio was Bishop John Magee where the show’s moderator asked Magee—former secretary to Popes Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II—if he, Magee, were part of that rats’ nest.  Magee was not amused, but as time has gone on it has become clear that he indeed was one rat among the pack, and that he lost out to bigger rats.  When John Paul’s private secretary, (now Cardinal) Stanislaw Dziwisz wrote his 2007 memoirs of his 40 years of service to Wojtyla both as Archbishop of Krakow and as Pope, he never mentioned Magee, the only aide to John Paul Dziwisz hadn’t mentioned.  Given Magee’s role as secretary and then as Master of Ceremonies to John Paul this was a gratuitous slap to the Irishman and his service.  Dziwisz had been jealous of John Paul’s personal affection for Magee, the nicer and more gentlemanly of the two men.  Unfortunately, a gentleman though he may be, Magee’s bad judgment in the Diocese of Cloyne where John Paul named him bishop, led to one of the most serious breakdowns of justice in the whole Irish sex-abuse scandal and Magee eventually resigned his diocese in disgrace.  Dziwisz, for his part, has since been exposed as a self-serving bureaucrat who made a fortune from the “gratuities” people offered him in exchange for access to the Pope—in other words Dziwisz was selling access to the Pope.  He often dragged the frail and ailing Pope from his quarters to meet some wealthy visiting socialite or politician who wanted a picture with John Paul.  Moreover, in the Pope’s final years Dziwisz practically ran the Church by inserting himself as the only channel of communication between the Cardinals in charge of the various dicasteries and the increasingly incapacitated Pope.   With the election of Benedict, Dziwisz has gone home to Poland as Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, but the rats’ nest of conspiracy and intrigue has continued.  The current Vatican Dr. Strangelove is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a member of the Salesian Order and the apparently the target of the current palace coup that involves the Pope’s butler having leaked confidential papers to an Italian journalist in an effort to expose Bertone’s consolidation of power in his (Bertone’s) office, the Secretariat of State.  (For more about Bertone, look at entries for June 7, 2011, and February 15 & 16, 2012.)  Bertone has nominated named a disproportionate number of his fellow Salesians to be bishops and seems to be engineering a return to an Italian papacy in the next conclave.
        Frankly, I have no idea of what is going on the Vatican other than what I read in the papers, but the idea of the Pope’s personal aide-de-camp stealing state papers and turning them over to journalists, the precipitous firing of the head of the Vatican Bank, the Bank’s failure to meet international standards on fiscal accountability and transparency, the opening of burial vaults looking for evidence in child-kidnapping (see entry for May 15, 2012), the struggles to impose more curial control over Caritas Internationalis and its fiscal power, are all signs that while it has been centuries since something has been rotten in the State of Denmark, much is rotten in the Vatican State. From a historical point of view, the Church is ripe for Reform.  Will it be a reform from within a la Innocent III or a reform from without, Luther style?  That all depends on how willing (and able) the Pope elected that day I heard the RTÉ commentator speak is to come in and clean out that rats’ nest of pezzi grossi monsignori. 

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