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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Machinations in the Roman Curia

Here is my rough translation of an interesting article in Il Velino: Santa Sede, “duelli” all’ombra del Cupolone. It reports on a piece in the Italian weekly magazine "Panorama" but I have not been able to track down the text of that article online. It is all very intriguing (and, in my judgement, for what it's worth, probably fairly accurate) but should be taken with a health warning.
Rome, 25 June (Velino) – The weekly Panorama, in the issue published on Sunday, unveils “clashes” at the top of the Roman Curia, despite the exhortations issued by the Pope to his co-workers to “abandon careerism and power struggles.” The weekly from the Mondadori group writes: “The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is preparing to blow apart the ‘Sacra Corona’, an ironic definition to indicate the entourage of the substitute for General Affairs, Mgr Fernando Filoni. In the corridors of the Vatican there has been talk for some time of the departure of Mgr Gabriele Caccia, assessor of General Affairs, a key man in the “Sodano administration”, of Mgr Paolo Sardi, editor of the papal speeches and vice-chamberlain, and of Mgr Carlo Maria Viganò, delegate to the pontifical representatives. But there are also those who lay bets on the removal of Filoni himself, currently number three in the Ratzingerian Curia, a high-profile diplomat of the Wojtylan pontificate, but called to Rome by the present Pontiff himself. A French dossier reported by the Italian press at the time of the embarrassing incident of the lefevbrian bishop Williamson, pointed the finger at several of these monsignori for the “leak” in the organisation of the Roman Curia, ascribing to them also intentions contrary to the policy of the new pontificate; and therefore on a collision course with the present Secretary of State.

It would be unreal and idealistic to think of a Curia in which everyone agreed; indeed there are, and have always been, differences of opinion among the cardinals on many sensitive points – which Panorama cites – from the question of the lefevbrians, to relations with the Jews, to dialogue with China, to the beatification of John Paul II. Panorama maintains that the present “clashes” are the beginning of “manoeuvres for the next conclave”, notwithstanding the fact that “an MRI scan and other analyses undetaken in the past weeks have ruled out any serious jeart problems for the Pope.” But possible moves inside the Curia could be the outcome of a settling of accounts and of a reorganisation particularly as a result of the “Williamson affair”. The weekly also ascribes to the duels an opposition between the US Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the enpurpled Spaniard Antonio Canizares. Both came to Rome nominated by Benedict XVI, the first at the beginning of the pontificate, the second a few months ago. These suggestions give support to those who hold that the nominations of the present pontificate will be revealed in time to have been almost all mistaken.

Further: the process for the beatification of John Paul II was probably the cause of frictions between the ex-secretary of State Angelo Sodano and the ex-personal secretary of Karol Wojtyla, Stanislao Dziwisz, the two men who were longest at the side of the Polish Pontiff. That would give rise to a rebellion against the Secretary of State, Bertone, guided by the over-eighty year old Achille Silvestrini (writes Panorama) who is also a long-time diplomat. In any case, the empurpled roman is not the only one among the princes of the Church to bear a grudge that the command of the Curia should be entrusted to a salesian theologian. It is no secret that the criticism of the present secretariat of state forms a fairly broad cross-party alliance. Among this number is also Sodano himself; people remember his reluctance to leave his apartments in the Apostolic Palace at the Secretariat of State, which he lived in for several months, in the Torre di San Giovanni, inside the Vatican gardens.
(The ironic "Sacra Corona" reference is to a mafia-like organisation in Puglia. I don't quite get the "magnetic resonance" sentence - happy if someone sheds light on it.)

Health warning? It all reminds me of a passage in Newman's "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk", (chapter 7), concerning the Syllabus of Errors, where he said:
Now, the Rock of St. Peter on its summit enjoys a pure and serene atmosphere, but there is a great deal of Roman malaria at the foot of it. While the Holy Father was in great earnestness and charity addressing the Catholic world by his Cardinal Minister, there were circles of light-minded men in his city who were laying bets with each other whether the Syllabus would "make a row in Europe" or not.
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