the conclave begins…


I wish I could have heard the reflection about the state of the Church given by Fr. Cantalamessa to the cardinals last week. Of course, it wasn’t made public. I think he’s someone both deeply rooted in Christ, and one who understands how to take that knowledge and love and bring it to bear on the current situation. I’ve read his meditations on virginity and poverty, as well as occasional Lenten or Advent homilies on ZENIT.

George Weigel has his own assessment of what the Church faces today; it’s contained in an essay called The Next Pope… and Why He Matters to All of Us. It’s worth a read. He highlights three current issues of concern for the Church: Europe, Islam and the BioTech Revolution.

For a perspective from Rome this week, I recommend the Rome Diary by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Here’s an excerpt from last week:

The present procedure is to gather the cardinals, who are the senior bishops of the universal Church and chief consultants to the late pope, for a few days of prayer and getting to know one another, followed by a conclave in which, protected from the media and outside influences, they elect one of their own whom they trust to lead the Church for undetermined years into the future. People who are put off by the inevitable maneuverings and counter-maneuverings are lacking a Catholic and incarnational sensibility that is not offended by God’s use of very human means to achieve His purposes. This does not mean that a bad pope cannot be elected. There have been more than a few bad popes in the past. The promise is that nobody will be elected who will be able to destroy the Church or betray what Catholics call the deposit of faith. And maybe, please God, he will be another saint.

It is a cliché to say that the Church is not a democracy, but it is a cliché because so many recognize that it is true. There is always the danger of the arrogance and abuse of power, and patterns of consultation and collaboration can always be improved. But those who claimed after the Second Vatican Council that the Church’s affirmation of democracy in the secular realm required, for the sake of consistency, the extension of democracy in the governance of the Church were wrong–and they are still wrong. The political sovereign in the temporal and temporary realm is “we the people.” Christ is the sovereign of the Church. Of course, if Christ is Lord, he is Lord of all, but only in the Church is his sovereignty institutionalized, so to speak. In everything, and certainly in the choosing of a successor to Peter, the goal is to discern the will of Christ. And that I have no doubt is what is happening–not despite everything, but through everything–during these days in Rome.

Rather than getting caught up in the frenzy of speculation about Who Will Come Next, I’m trying to give some time to prayer… praying that the Holy Spirit gives abundant wisdom to the cardinals, courage to the man they choose, and generous hearts to all of those who will receive him as the next shepherd of the Church.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

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