00 11/17/2009 8:35 PM
'Pride and Prejudice in the Vatican'
Book review by
Translated from

Nov. 17, 2009

It is difficult to say who might be the anonymous cardinal who, with an all-knowing (and sometimes competent) tone, has come out with this so-called Confession d'un Cardinal, written 'anonymously' with the help of French writer Oliver Le Gendre [itself a pseudonym, according to our Beatrice], published in France in 2007 and now in Italy as Orgoglio e Pregudizio in Vaticano (Pride and Prejudice in the Vatican).

But basically, it does not matter. [He could well be a fictional construct himself - since his self-description in the book would narrow down the possibilities to a handful of cardinals, none of whom fits the bill of particulars exactly. Unlike the cardinal who first 'broke' the secrecy of the Conclave with his 'revelations' in October 2005, about whose identity a consensus was easily formed; he has since died.]

What matters is the book's premise, which is to demonstrate subtly -
sometimes openly, sometimes not, sometimes revealing it, sometimes masking it - that the Church today needs a new wind of change.

And therefore, it needs a Pope who does not fear science, democracy and modernity, one who is not entrenched in archaic positions. As though the present Pope were all that. and that, in fact, he is the anti-modern Pope!

So the premise of the book is that the Church needs a Pope who is open to modernity. But to proffer such a premise, it posits the certainty that Joseph Ratzinger is anti-modern, something that needs to be demonstrated, which in any case, this book does not!

Leaving aside the book's thesis, and quite apart from the progressivist fervor of this so-called cardinal who claims he could not participate in the 2005 Conclave because he was by then seven months past his 80th birthday [so we must assume he turned 80 in September 2004], that he had been the head of a Curial congregation and that he knows the world of Vatican diplomacy as few others do - in short, detaching oneself from the idea developed in the book that a great deal, if not everything, in the Vatican is 'pride and prejudice', we may derive something interesting, at least about the 2005 Conclave.

Of which much was already 'known', in the sense that much has been written about what went on in the Sistine Chapel then [despite the secrecy oath taken by each participant on pain of excommunication].

According to the most common version, Joseph Ratzinger got 45-47 votes in the first ballot, followed by Carlo Maria Martini and Jorge Bergoglio who had about 10 votes each. These results remained substantially the same in the second ballot of the first day.

On the third ballot taken the following morning, the future Pope had 75 votes, two short of the necessary two-thirds majority, and Martini was no longer in the running, whereas Bergoglio got 35 votes. This might have produced a stalemate that could have led to a compromise candidate, as in the Siri-Benelli competition that led to Karol Wojtyla's election in 1978.

Instead, and surprisingly [????], many of those who had voted for Bergoglio shifted to Ratzinger who became, after the fourth ballot, Benedict XVI.

What is less known is whether Ratzinger himself had anticipated his own election. The anonymous 'cardinal' says he did not, that he thought of himself more as a 'kingmaker'. [Sounds unlikely, the kingmaker thing, given Joseph Ratzinger's personality, and the fact that, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, he could not very well propose, not even covertly, any specific candidate for Pope. Of course, one still wonders who he voted for, in all four ballots.]

And that this explains some events preceding the Conclave. In particular, the Via Crucis meditations prepared by Cardinal Ratzinger for Good Friday 2005, when the condition of John Paul II was visibly worsening and everyone had the succession in mind.

The Cardinal jolted everyone by stating that the boat of the Church seemed to be sinking and that the soiled garments of the Church were a cause for dismay.

Why then did he say these things? 'Anonymous' says it was because Ratzinger did not consider himself at all to be a candidate to the papacy, but wanted to be a witness, with his words, and as a hinge element of a precise orientation in the College of Cardinals, "to organize a coherent force for the benefit of someone else".

But for whom? Who was he thinking of? 'Anonymous' does not give an answer, but says that "In his [Ratzinger's] actions, I saw the confirmation of a scenario that not only I but many others had foreseen would happen, namely, a repetition of 1978".

[Well, they were wrong. Besides, in addition to what Benedict XVI has said since then, there have been enough statements made by friends of his attesting that he pleaded with them not to consider him for Pope.]

Rodari's review is necessarily sketchy. I now wish I could get a copy of the book, out of curiosity. Early last year, I remember Beatrice did a six- or seven-part 'deconstruction' of the book on her site,

and also pointed to a series of commentaries in Eucharistie misericorde by the knowledgeable Abbe Barthe who has a reputation for being well 'wired into the Vatican'.

In any case, the conclusion seems to be that the book - written in the 'interview' style used by Vittorio Messori and Peter Seewald with Cardinal Ratzinger - is a detailed 'manifesto' for a progressivist group called Sarepta [a Biblical town mentioned in the Gospel]

whose website is called 'Salt of the Earth', and in which one reads the following:

Who are we?

An international network of Christians.
We have learnt to know each other.

In common we share several convictions:

• the “crisis” of the Church is not due to recent causes, objects of futile feuds among the progressives and the traditionalists,
• the Christian message will again be audible if people of faith want to incarnate, wherever they live and for the service of the world, the tenderness of God,
• a myriad of individual or collective initiatives are executed in this spirit,
• these initiatives are carried out in discretion, experienced in prayer, opening up to the very poor, for the purpose of giving the Christian faith an expression as close as possible to the Gospel.

Sarepta allows such faithful people to get to know each other, to share their projects and expectations, to confirm themselves on the road they have chosen to follow.

Sounds completely commendable, but the site contains nothing else apart from instructions on how to become a member and how to communicate through webaster.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/18/2009 9:59 PM]