By Terry Swales
“Obedience to God comes before obedience to men”, was the response of Peter and the apostles to the High Priest after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps Pope Francis had this comment in mind when in one of his Easter sermons he reminded people that Christ is the centre of the Church and not Peter’s successors. Jesus made it abundantly clear that his kingdom was not of this world. If the Church’s role is not a spiritual one of leading people to God what is the point of membership?
Francis immediately before the Conclave opened had made caustic comments about the Church’s reliance on internal self- referencing combined with a narcissistic theology. When elected he knew the kind of changes required could not be effected without reconstruction of the medieval court he had inherited, namely the Roman Curia, a kind of court with hangers- on and a quasi-civil service of mainly promoted clerics. At his service he has a Secretary of State and other high ranking Secretariats, each headed by a Cardinal Prefect. These bodies have expected local hierarchies to do their bidding, and bishops throughout the world have compounded the problem by their deference. Worse, why have ordinary Catholics been asked by these same bishops to pray, do penance and purify themselves?
When writers use the terms Holy See, Vatican, Rome, Holy Father and even Curia interchangeably one must remember that the Pope also is a Head of State and Absolute Monarch. Before the success of Garibaldi leading later to the unification of Italy in 1870 the Papal States stretched over some 500 square miles of Italy. In 1929 under the Lateran Treaty Mussolini, for services rendered, awarded the Vatican just over one square mile of territory. A cardinal from one of the Offices of State is the top administrator of Vatican City. The current appointee was drafted into to the job to sort out some serious problems mentioned in the final paragraph of this article.
The Catholic Church is the only religion to have Religious / State recognition almost throughout the world (170 countries approx.). The Church of England could hardly compare even with its internal privileges where all bishops have seats in the House of Lords and wider spiritual leadership beyond English shores. The Holy See sends nuncios, receives ambassadors and has greater influence than its simple observer status with the United Nations would indicate. Despite its perverse attitude to population control and related issues it is hugely admired because of the vast amount of missionaries/charity workers involved in areas of health, education and social projects throughout the developing world. Will this aspect of the Church’s work remain unchanged?
So far the College of Cardinals has not been mentioned. This is the large number of his peers, with a title that outranks all others, that elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Their function is to assist/advise the Pontiff on the government the Church, according to the Catholic Directory of England and Wales. Unlike his predecessors, the new Pope appears instinctively to know this. Thus he has chosen a representative from each continent to examine the Roman Curia with “all its works and pomp”.
Without doubt this is the same stable that Pope John Paul I was determined to clean out and the Masons / Mafia with it before his premature death more than three decades ago. Well into the second month of the new papacy it seems amazing that no one has highlighted the similarity between the two men. Both shun pomp and ceremony, favour “a poor Church for the poor” and want to reform the Curia especially the corrupt and more temporal aspects. Albino Luciani was known for his liberal anthropology. It was thought he would revoke Humanae Vitae which Pope Paul had specified was not an infallible document. At the moment we know that Pope Francis, unlike some contemporaries in South America, is not a liberation theologian. What is the import of his use of the term narcissistic in relation to the Church’s conservative stance? Does the complaint about Church’s self –referencing indicate some modification of canon law is in the offing?
The Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) has a long history of corrupt practices, the perfidious business dealing of its Directors and close association with the Banco Ambrosiano. Pope John Paul II was seen by some as their protector even if by his inaction, none more so than of his protégé, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus. The Masonic- Mafia link realised it was business as usual when the Pope’s predecessor was no longer a threat. An Italian journalist named Carmine Pecorelli just before he was murdered had taken the precaution of sending the Archbishop of Venice a list of the Roman Hierarchy who were members of P2 the all-powerful Masonic Lodge. Ironically this is the organisation that some writers hold responsible for the assassination of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I.
The most renowned convicted criminal banker/ fraudster in the group with links to the IOR was the Grand Master, Licio Gelli belatedly prosecuted (but not convicted) for the murder of Roberto Calvi (of Blackfriars Bridge fame). What a coincidence that Gelli had strong links with members of the Argentine Junta? He is credited with brokering the deal that saw French Exocet missiles used in the Falklands War!
More recently Pope Francis together with vast numbers of pilgrims to the eternal city will recall problems caused by insistence on cash payments only. Was it just before the VatiLeaks scandal that the Deputy Governor of Vatican City, Archbishop Vigano’, blew the whistle on corruption in the Administration and in the Bank? He was due for a Red Hat but for his courage was immediately posted to the United States. The world awaits the disclosure of the research (now locked in a Vatican safe) commissioned from three Cardinals just before Pope Benedict’s resignation. The road ahead looks to be a long one.