1. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

  2. Lenten Mission

  3. Moscow Conference

  4. Ask Father



Article No. 1

On Transparent Cardinals

by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 9, 2013

ROME, March 9 — The papal conclave will commence this coming Tuesday, and the Fatima Center team, including Father Gruner, John Vennari and this writer, is here to cover it. One significant development in the run-up to the conclave has been the silencing of the American cardinals, who seemed to think that part of their mission to participate in the papal election was to stage press conferences about it.

As Rorate Caeli reports, before the General Congregation of the College of Cardinals put a stop to the practice, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “had organized daily press conferences with two American Cardinals each day in the Pontifical North American College — and provided exclusive access of a few American networks to some Cardinals.”

When the Congregation politely ordered the American cardinals to stop talking to the press and the American networks, Sister Mary issued a statement that barely concealed her pique over the gag order: “The U.S. cardinals,” she wrote, “are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations.”

“A process-related overview of their work” is just the sort of bureaucratese one would expect to hear from a nun of the democratized and bureaucratized Novus Ordo establishment. What can one say about Sister Mary Ann Walsh and her press conferences about something as sacred as the conclave to choose a new Roman Pontiff? A picture tells you all you need to know:

As for the cardinals who blabbed away at these press conferences, they seem to have forgotten something: that they are not “committed to transparency” but rather to precisely the opposite: to a vow of secrecy under penalty of latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication for violation of the vow. The election of a Pope in conclave is by its very nature not a matter for “transparency.” What a perfectly crass American thing to say.

The contrast between the showboating Americans, with their “transparency,” and the traditional Roman circumspection in this matter has not been lost on the secular press. A report by Huffington Post, for example, notes that in “reading the official press release published today by Sister Mary Ann Walsh... it is immediately clear just how perturbed the cardinals have become because of the request [to end the press conferences]...” A report by the International Herald Tribune speaks of a “culture clash” between “American-style forthrightness,” supposedly in keeping with “a global church, whose faithful often expect direct answers,” and an Italian institution “where secrecy is the rule but leaks often the norm.”

Direct answers? To what questions? The cardinals are not in Rome to stage press conferences to address this or that issue in the Church, but rather to elect the next Roman Pontiff under a vow of absolute secrecy. The behavior of the American cardinals is grotesque and completely inappropriate to the solemn occasion for their presence in the Eternal City. Indeed, as the International Herald Tribune notes: “Although the briefings might seem routine for Americans... some at the Vatican worried that the Americans looked as if they were campaigning for pope. Others indicated that it put cardinals from other countries under more pressure to do the same.”

Leave it to the Americans to turn everything, including a papal conclave, into the equivalent of political activity, complete with press conferences to insure "transparency" concerning something which is not at all permitted to be transparent, but rather must be done in secret precisely because the conclave cannot allow itself to be influenced by the press or any other outside pressure group. (I am not speaking here of appropriate petitions from the faithful in accordance with their right, recognized by the Church's canon law, to communicate their concerns to the sacred pastors. See, e.g. Canon 212: “The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires”.)

Here we see what led to the Second Vatican Disaster: an “opening to the world” that was largely an opening to the press and its demand for “transparency.” Let us pray that the Holy Ghost maintains the secrecy of the conclave that begins on Tuesday. May God save us from “transparency” and give us, not the Pope we deserve, but the Pope we need, who will consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart and have the strength to finish what Pope Benedict began: restoration of the devastated vineyard of the Church.