The Making of a Pope
The election of Albino Luciani as the Catholic church's 263rd Pope was the product more of intense pre-conclave lobbying than of divine inspiration. Vincent Browne has been to Rome to examine the problems facing the new Pontiff, to analyse the uneasy coalition of forces that now constitute the Catholic church and to probe the electioneering and arm twisting that resulted in the surprise swift election.
HIGH above Vatican City on the morning of Sunday, August 27, the day after the election of the new Pope, the United States cardinals met the international press on the lawn of the American college. Coyly avoiding any direct questions about the conduct of the conclave, they assured reporters that it was indeed the Divine Spirit who had guided their hand in choosing the new Pontiff.
Later that day in the elegant cool apartments of the English college, Cardinal Hume repeated with more credible assurance: "it was totally the work of the Holy Spirit."
If so, the Holy Spirit had many helppmates through whom He worked in curious and often devious ways, for the election of Albino Luciani as the Roman Catholic Church's 263rd Pope was the product of intense lobbying, not just over the previous few weeks but stretching over the last several years. And the choice of the Patriarch of Venice was a consensus of conflicting trends. within the Church, as perceived by a highly unrepresentative group of electors, as well as a recognition by the electors of the appropriateness of his personality .
The name of Albino Luciani was unknown to most of the cardinals as they arrived in Rome following the death of Pope Paul, but already a consensus had emerged among a majority of them on the kind of Pope that was required for the next inevitably traumatic decade for the Church.
As far back as 1966 Pope Paul fuelled speculation about his successor by hinting at early retirement when he visited the grave of Pope Celestine V, one of the last Popes to resign (in 1294). Two years later he ruled that all bishops on reaching their 75th year must offer to resign and be prepared to have their resignation accepted. It was noted that in 1972 Paul himself would be 75 and it was hardly unreasonable to presume that as he considered that age too old for a bishop the same applied for the Pope.
And indeed there are indications that he was thinking of doing just that, provided he could arrive at an acceptable means of choosing his successor and could be reasonably assured that such a successor would be acceptable to him personally. Initially it seems he was in favour of abolishing the old conclave system which he regarded as a product of the Middle Ages. But serious divisions within the Church on Humanae Vitae and problems related to Vatican finances, as well as an appreciation that a majority of the then existing cardinal electors were traditionalists and unlikely to favour a continuance of his policies, dissuaded him from either resigning or then attempting to radically alter the mode of Papal election.
Although Paul did not resign when he reached 75, his frail health gave rise to continued speculation about his successor and his repeated hints at resignation suggested that he might resign on his 80th birthday, Sepptember 26, 1977.
This speculation gathered further momentum when in 1972 Paul began the first of his "reforms" of the conclave system by decreeing that cardinals over 80 years of age would be excluded from the election of a new Pope. Then in 1973, according to a former Curialist, Malachi Martin, author of The Final Conclave, he proposed a further radical change. At a secret Consistory of Cardinals on March 5 he asked about the possibility of "utilizing in the election of a Pope the contribution of the Oriental Patriarchs and of elected representatives of the episcopate, that is to say, of those who make up the permanent Council of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops."
Certainly such a change was widely mooted in the Vatican at the time, although the involvement of non-Catholic representatives, which would achieve de facto union with the Eastern Churches, was never seriously connsidered and in any event it appears the Eastern Patriarchs weren't interested.
But the plan ran into trouble for other reasons, because the involvement of a representative sample of bishops from around the world, it was thought, would devalue the status of the papacy. Those protestors included internationallists-those who want a non-Italian Popeewho believed that the down-grading of the papacy to little more than the status of the Bishop of Rome would imply that the choice would always have to be an Italian. •
In recognition of the opposition in the Church to any radical overhaul of the method of election of the Pope, Paul contented himself in 1975 with a mere revision of the Conclave rules. It must also be noted that he himself had a dramatic change of heart about the wisdom of including 15 representatives of the Synod of Bishops in the Conclave after Asian, African and Latin American bishops won a clear majority in the 1974
Synod on incarnating the Church in their respective cultures, thereby ending European cultural domination. The Third World bishops followed up this victory by electing onto the Secretariat of the Synod most of those who led the movement for change. Paul was deeply alarmed by this development and was not going to incorporate this brazen radicalism into the Conclave.
Thus he reiterated the ban on cardinals over 80 taking part in the election, he limited the total number of Cardinal Electors to 120 and, to avoid long Conclave discussions, he set a limit of three days on voting-if at the end of three days voting is fruitless, there is to be one day of prayer and free discussion. But although Paul failed to achieve any substantial alteration in the method of Papal election he did broaden the representativity of the electors by greatly reducing the Italian proportion and by geographical dispersal.
FOR the first time since the introoduction of the Conclave system in the 12th century, Italians were in a minority-of the 116 cardinals eligible to attend the conclave only 27 were Italian. There were 31 Europeans (other than Italian) 18 Latin Americans, 13 North Americans, 10 Africans, 12 Asiatics and 5 Oceanics.
There was also an unprecedented age dispersal among the electors. Twentyythree were in their fifties and over twoothirds were between 63 and 75. It is also significant to note that 105 of the 116 cardinal electors were given their red hats by Paul himself.
While all this is evidence of dissparity, in fact it gives an exaggerated impression because an examination of the social backgrounds of the cardinal electors reveals a uniformity which is entirely unrepresentative of the church at large.
According to Gary MacEoin in The Inner Elite: Dossiers of Papal Candidates, "a key element is isolation from the normal influences of human experience at an early age and immersion in a homogenized ecclesiastical - culture." Most of the cardinals entered seminaries between the ages of ten and twelve. Cardinal Paul Zoungrana of Upper Volta entered at eight, a practice common in Africa in the colonial period, when missionaries from Europe and the United States believed they had to detribalise candidates to make them into good priests. Hardly surprisingly, Zoungrana is one of the most traditionalist of Africa's twelve cardinals.
Another significant fact about the cardinal electors is that a great many of them come from modest backgrounds and MacEoin notes: "a child from such a home environment, especially in countries with strong class disstinctions, tends to accept and assiinilate
without question the views and values offered by the one in authority, in this case the seminary professors and spiritual directors ... if he is personally insecure, and most people are to some extent, he may even positively reject his background and insist that his only personality and concern is the class into which he has been incorporated. And the class of the cardinal is an exclusive one, a prince of the church, often carrying honours and benefits of a secular prince too."
Most of the cardinal electors underrwent a process of indoctrination in a papal institute of higher learning in Rome. There, at least in their time, the textbooks were the product of connservative authors of the so-called Roman school, "legalistic, casuistic, steeped in the Aristotelian and Scholastic concepts of unchangeable essences, objective truths, definitions frozen for all time."
And the fact that they have become cardinals at all is a testimony either to their success in the Curia or in the Vatican Diplomatic Service, and these
have their own limited criteria of success, or through becoming bishop in one of the important Sees and here too the Roman Curia has exerted its own selective' filtering processes.
While this cautious, deeply connservative, emotionally underdeveloped, inflexible and authoritarian profile emerges from this analysis, it is obviously true that many of the cardinals have overcome their conditionings, which incidentally have also demanded of them high intelligence, efficiency and political acumen. Nevertheless it is relevant to remember that these are the background psychological pressures under which they operate. Thus they are almost entirely unrepresentative of the Church at large, even of the bishops who have had a wider and more diverse formative experience.
IT is not clear why the Holy Spirit should have chosen these electors to appoint the Vicar of Christ for until the 12th century the clergy and people of Rome chose their bishop in the same way as other bishops around the world were then chosen. The system of election by the College of Cardinals is just over eight centuries old and has been modified 32 times. The cardinals were originally 25 priests in charge of Rome churches, 13 deacons from Rome and its vicinity and seven bishops close to the city.
Limitation of voting to cardinals and exclusion of outsiders from their deliberations did not come about because of abuses. An elite simply succeeded in concentrating power in its own hands and isolating itself from its popular base-exactly similar to the process whereby democracies are controverted into oligarchies and dictatorships.
The practice in no way avoided abuses for it wasn't until the present century that every conclave wasn't dominated by the imperial interests of Austria, France and Spain.
BUT it was not just their psychological formations and perrsonal predictions that were to be the determining influences on the cardinal electors in their choice of a new Pope-although these factors clearly indicated the paramaters within which they would make their choice. Their decision was to be made against the background of the most turbulent decade the Church had underwent since the Reformation and it is necessary now to consider briefly the developments of that decade.
Vatican II represented almost a seaachange in the mentality of the Catholic Church that is difficult even now to fathom. Peter Hebblethwaite in The Runaway Church contrasts the preeVatican II attitudes with those that followed the council thus: "lumped together under the heading 'pre-conciliar' were the following attitudes: an excesssively rationalist approach to theology which thought of revelation in terms of 'inside information' about God; stress on purely individual piety; a view of the liturgy in which the congregation were mere spectators; a suspicion of other Christians and an inbuilt superiority over them; thoroughgoing opposition not only to communism but to all the other isms which solicited or dominated the modern world ...
"Post -counciliar" meant the contrary of all these deplorable features. So it came to mean: seeing revelation as the response of man to God's perpetually renewed summons and invitation; a readiness to loosen up scholastic categories by means of more 'existenntialist' ideas; a view of the liturgy that stressed its communal aspect and a view of other Christians which emphasised dialogue and what was in common; an 'opening to the world' and a readiness to learn from it."
But above all, the image of the Church as a single authoritarian monolith was shattered. The Vatican Council presented the spectacle of bishops arguing vehemently among themselves and doing so before the eyes of the world's press. These bishops went through the healthy process of de-mythologisation. They ceased to be remote pompous figures and instead became people who waited at bus stops (at least in Rome) like everyone else.
But the vigour of disagreement was too traumatic to gain explicit recognition, thus Council documents were ambiguous compromise texts which were frequently open to interpretation in divergent ways.
Thus, for instance, defenders of papal monarchy could point to the fact that the teaching of Vatican I on papal prerogatives was repeated in its entirety and therefore was in no way to be whittled down; but those who wanted to see the Papal office as a function serving the unity of the whole Church could point out that this traditional doctrine was set in a fresh context, that of the cooresponsibility of all the world's bishops, and that consequently it was in principle modified.
The same ambivalence is evident on the question of ecumenism, which was simultaneously described as the work of the Holy Spirit (in Christian language the highest seal of approval of any event or person) while the position of the Catholic Church as "the one true Church" was reeasserted. Where was the emphasis to fall?
This ambiguity contributed to the unleashing of an avalanche of challenges to the traditional dogma and authority of the Church and its rulers from Pope Paul downwards were seized with alarm? for they feared that the situation was slipping out of control despite repeated warnings and threats.
The Council gave rise to high expecction of radical change in a variety of spheres, but in all- almost without exception - those expectations were dissappointed by an agonised Pope who approved in principle but feared the consequence.
THE first change came in the Church liturgy and immediatley posed a threat to the overall authority and sense of continuity of the Church: if change were possible in the sphere of liturgy, which for centuries had remained invariable, then change could be possible in any area of religious life-where would it all end?
That question was posed with even more alarming significance-to the tradiitionalists-on the issue of democratisation of the Church. The Council made "the People of God" the central concept in understanding the Church, a concept which introduced a radical motion of equality between those 'People of God.' While the watchword of the revised liturgy was "active participation" it was only to be expected that there would be a search for some way of expressing the participation of the laity in church order and government.
A network of consultative bodies was set up at all levels in the Chruch ranging from the parish council at the base to the Synod of Bishops at the summit. All the ensuing talk and discussion at parish level was disturbing for it but an end to the idea of an all-wise, omni-competent, and omniscient bishop with special access to God, and set him in the context of the whole Church seen as a learning and participating community.
Pastoral councils, diocesan councils, priests senates and, of course, the Synod of Bishops were set up ostensibly to share in the democratisation of power within the church. But although the old authoritarian structures swayed a little, they were not fundamentally displaced.
In 1972 Rome made it clear that the Church's government and pastoral policy was not a matter for discussion: they were to be kept firmly in the hands of bishops. Everyone else-vicars general, religious superiors, priests and laity were to be granted merely a consultative voice.
Even the Synod of Bishops was to experience frustration at being deprived of any real voice in the governance of the Church. Peter Hebblethwaite, summarissing the experience of that body, has written, "what began in 1967 as a hopeeful exercise in consulting the whole Church through the bishops has declined into a routine exercise in letting people from the remoter provinces have their say, and then carrying on exactly as before."
As the bishops were to retain their old powers (but no more) almost intact, "participation" in some degree might have been effected by the involvement of the priests and laity in the appointment of bishops in the first place. But here, too, there was evidence that whereas connsultations were undertaken, decisions were still the exclusive perrogative of Rome.
One of the most spectacuar expectations Pope Paul himself aroused was the prospect of radical reform of the Roman Curia. Reform indeed did take place but the net effect was to enhance. the power of the central Vatican bureaucracy and particularly the office of substituto to the Cardinal Secretary of State, who was given overrall co-ordinating responsibility' for the work of the new congregations, such as those for Christain Unity, Non-Believers, and the Commission for Justice and Peace. For the most critical years of Paul's reign that post was held by one of the ablest, though authoritarian-inclined churchmen, Giovanni Benelli, about whom more later.
More than for any other group within the Church, Vatican II had profound significance for theologians, who had endured intellectual repression and restriction under Pius XII. The Council legitimised full-blooded theological enquiry and whereas many bishops thought of the Council in terms of arrival, theologians looked upon it as a point of departure. The text of ecurnenism was particularly welcome to theologians as it spoke for the first time of "an order or 'hierarchy' of truths" Which vary in their relationship to the foundation of Christain faith. This permitted enquiry and questioning of all but the most fundamental doctrines of Christainity and even legitimised debate on what the fundamentals were.
A Theological Commission was set up and, even though it was a nominated body, its voluminous reports received little attention and increasingly official pronouncements castigated "unhealthy" and "unconstructive" theological enquiry which "threatened to disturb the simple faith of the ordinary church-goer."
Matters came to a head with the "trial" of Hans Kung for preaching doctrinal errors on infallibility, on the nature of the Church's teaching authority, and on the possibility of any validly baptised person validly consecratting the Eucharist. Kung refused to attend the "trial" because they wouldn't allow him to be represented by a lawyer and there was a presumption of guilt before innocence could be proved. While Kung got off lightly - he was merely adrnonished - the wider signiificance of the episode was clear to all theologians. Their role remained that of apologist for known truths.
We have already noted the ambiguity of the Council's statement on ecumenism but the very fact that it asserted the primacy of the Holy Spirit in ecunemical work implied that the unity of the Church cannot depend in the first place on structure or organisation or church order, be it papacy or episcopacy or whatever, but on the Holy Spirit transsforming hearts from within. That docuument aroused extravagant hopes but these too were disappointed.
A former member of the Secretariat for Christain Unity wrote in 1972 "the ecumenical movement between the Roman Catholic Church and other Churches has come to a halt: there is no progress on intercommunion; the legislaation on mixed marraiges is unsatisfactory; the evangelical Churches have given up hope of the discussion on the validity of their ministry ever getting anywhere ... " (August Hasler: Rome Closes The Door to Ecumenism.)
And then there was Humanae Vitae which did to the reign of Pope Paul what the escalation of the war in Vietnam did to the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, in the apt analogy of the American reporter, Garry Wills in Bare Ruined Choirs.
HUMANAE VITAE was significant primarily not because of its teaching on birth control but· because of its implications for Papal authority. The whole question of authority in the Church had been thrown into the meltting pot by the very convocation of the Vatican Council. But Pope John who clearly perceived the council as the beginning of the transfer of power from the papal monarchy to the Church as a whole, failed to embody the conciliar concept in the permanent machinery of church government. Pope Paul attempted a compromise between the conciliar church and the monarchial church by allowing the council to continue its deliberations but by reemoving from its competence two critical subjects which he reserved for his own decision: clerical celebacy and contraception.
Surely either the Council was sovereign I in the Pope's eyes or it was nottand remember one of the key documents of Vatican II had asserted that the true source of authority was plural: "the body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief. Thanks to a supernatural sense of the faith which characterises the people as a whole, it manifests unerring quality when 'from the bishops down to the last member of the laity' it shows universal agreement on matters of faith and morals."
If the Council was sovereign why should it not deal with contraception and clerical celebacy; and if the Council was not sovereign why should it deal with any issues?
The church had traditionally taught that birth control in any form was sinful, despite the absence of any scriptural authority to support the teaching. St. I
Augustine had defmed the teaching as far back as the fifth century AD. He believed that marriage was solely procrative in purpose and for even a married couple to have intercourse without actively willing conception was in his view immoral.
That teaching was later elaborated and confirmed by Aquinas and endorsed incidentally by both Luther and Calvinnit remained the othrodox ' teaching of all Churches until after the first world war.
The Anglican Church accepted artificial contraception at the Lambeth conference of 1930 and shifted the moral theology to a consideration of whether the married. couple's intention Was selfish or not. This analysis Was later adopted by most Protestant churches. .
In his encyclical Casti Connubi of 1930 Pius XI reiterated the traditional view in the most forceful of terms but in 1951 Pius XII, in an address to Italian Catholic Midwives stated that the use of the "safe-period" as system of birth control was lawful, provided the inntention was justified by circumstances. This shift clearly undermined the Augustinian teaching and therefore the traditional teaching of the church on the matter. ThePontifical Commission on birth control was set up by Pope John in i962. Membership went from 6 to is in 1964 and increased eventually to 64.
A crucial turning point was reached on April 2, 1966 when the four conservative theologians on the commission who upheld the traditional opinions, 'admitted that they could not show the intrinsic evil of contraception On natural law alone. They were thereefore thrown back on authority as the last line of defence-they had long since abandoned any scriptural argument.
The Commission's report, obviously influenced by the remaining theoologians on it developed the insights of Vatican on marriage and the family, which stated that' marriage is' not instituted solely for procreation, that it was an enterprise of love, merging the human with the divine. The Commission concluded that the decision on the use of artificial means of birth control should be left to the individual couple, not as an arbitrary choice but as a conscientious one, made' in the light of a COmplex set of values.
In the encyclical Humanae Vitae, published on June 29, 1968, Pope Paul rejected the Commission's report and in a language and theology more in keeping with the pre-conciliar church stated: "every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life." ,
One of the theologians 'who acted on the Commission stated in an interview with Magill last month that he was sure that the decisiye element in Paul's mind was the question of themagesterium or authority of the Church, If fundamental' church teaching on an issue of such direct relevance to people's daily lives were to change so dramatically, there could be no certainty among the faithful about any of the fundamental teachings of the' church and all authority would be thereby undermined.
But the magesterium of the church was undermined anyway, for Paul himself in repeated statements before the publication of the encyclical had conceded ambiguity on the matter by saying that the issue' wasn't yet decided. And in any event the setting up of a Pontifical Commission on the subject was a public affirmation that there was no doubt about the Church's teaching.
In the decade since the publication of Humanae Vitae there has been wideespread evidence of the decline of the teaching authority of the Church. Millions of catholics throughout the world have chosen to disregard the teaching, and subsequent statements by the Church on moral issues have met with scant attention. For instance even in the Pontifical Gregorian University III Rome the church's latest pronounceements on sexual morality have been treated not as authentic teaching but as interesting subjects for academic analysis and debate.
Turbulent and agonised the decade was and it was around the problems which it threw up that the debate revolved on the nature and person of the future Pontiff.
The Italians, both Curial and nonnCurial, were predictably the first to start the discreet soundings on who was to be the next Pope. Several ambitous candiidates had come though the supposedly reformed Curia who were fancied as future Popes and from an early stage two of these made the running, certainly in the international press, not just there.
The first of these was the head of the Secretariat of the Congregation of Bishops -effectively the body which appoints and liases with bishops throughhout the world -Sebastino Baggio. He assumed that position on the retirement of Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, who was to play a pivotal role in the election of the new Pope, in 1973.
The Congregation for Bishops was obviously a powerful base from which to launch a campaign for the Papacy-and in spite of all the reverent mystique which that office is associated cardinals do and did campaign vigorously for it. Baggio represented the conservative faction within the Curia behind a witty and smooth exterior and almost from the time that he succeeded Confalioneri he was being spoken of as a possible papal candidate. Baggio had come through the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic service and was made a cardinal in 1969.
The other contender from within the Curia was Sergio Pignedoli, who was widely regarded as Pope Paul's own favoured successor. He too worked mainly in the Vatican bureaucracy and won steady promotion, thanks mainly to the benovelence of his patron, Giovanni Montini, later Pope Paul. In the late sixties he became secretary of the Congregation of the Missions and in 1973 head of the Secretariat for NonnChristians.
In this capacity he travelled the world making contacts and friends almost everywhere. It is said of him that he has an index file of 10,000 acquaintances ace ross the world and that he corressponds regularly with each. Pignedoli was the representative of the more liberal eleement within the Curia, although to an outsider the two factions are almost inndistinguishable. Because of his interrnational experience he is somewhat more open to outside influences, more tolerant of the diversity of local churches throughout the world and less hard-line on issues such as Humanae Vitae, though he would never have espoused a flat reversal of its teaching. His chances of succeeding to the Papacy were' badly damaged at a joint Islarnic-Christain connference in Libya in 1976. There he signed a declaration which classified zionism as a form of racism, which went considerably beyond the official Church position on the Middle East question. This was widely regarded as a gaffe and as an indication of his unsuitability for the Papacy.
Pignedoli was talked about as a future Pope even before he was made a cardinal in March 1973.
In addition to these two, a hard line traditionalist within the Curia was aiso being spoken of as early as 1972. This was Pericle Felici, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law. He is credited with having done more than any other individual to minimise the impact of Vatican II.
He held the key post of secretary general to the Vatican Council and he used the procedures and protocol of the Council to frustrate time and again the liberal faction within it.
Although both Vatican II and the 1967 Synod of Bishops clearly demanded not just a revision but an entire retion of Canon Law, Felici has successsfully resisted this demand and mainntained the old authoritarian spirit of the law, albeit in a brillantly conceived fresh context.
There has always been a sizeable faction within the Church and especially within the Curia that has- regarded Vatican II as a disaster for the Church and Felici is clearly one of these. However the orthodoxy of Catholicism nowadays demands rhetorical obeisance to the .. ideals of the Council" - the Traditionalists as much as anybody else respond to these demands not entirely unsincerely for, as we have noted preeviously, the Council's documents were so worded as to allow for any interpretation in many cases. Therefore the fact that a new Pope or Papal candidate announces that he "wants to continue the work of Vatican II" means almost nothing. Felici has one other distinguished mark on his record. He roundly insulted Dr. William Potter, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches at the 1974 Synod of Bishops. In the convoluted language of ecclesiastics he questioned the status of the WCC and criticised it for trying to "relativise" the one authority named by ..;.: Christ, the Catholic Church. He did this from his position as chairman of the session at which Potter spoke. Some of the Traditionalists harboured an admiraation for the dissident right wing Archbishop Lefebre.
While the Italians, with one exception, Cardinal Pellegrino of Turin, divide between these three factions-moderates (Pignedoli), conservatives (Baggio) and traditionalists (Felici), this by no means fully represented the church as a whole. From an early stage two other factions emerged which looked for a while as. though they would individually play an important part in the selection of the new Pope and which together formed a formidable force. These were the
progressives led by the two Benelux Cardinals, Suenens and Alfrinic and the Third World radicals led by Lorscheider of Brazil. The progressives simply want develop the libera-l spirit of Vatican II, they much regret Humanae Vitae both for its content and for its re-assertion of traditional authoritarian practices within the Church and they deplore the foottdragging on ecumenism.
The Third World group are adherents of the new liberation theology which holds that Christ's teaching must be interpreted in a radical social and economic form in situations where there is repression, economic exploitation and in justiceJhe"liberationists" use the tools of Marxist analysis but reject the Marxist philosophical ideas of dialectical materialism. By no means all of the Third World Cardinals would have identified themselves with this group-for instance the Columbian Cardinals who would have been closer to the Tradiitionalists.
While neither of these latter groups at any time vigorously campaigned for a Papal candidate of their own choosing, their very existence posed a threat to the other factions and prompted a number of lobbying iniatives long before the death of Pope Paul.
The name of Edwardo Pironio, the Argentinian cardinal, was mentioned frequently as a possible nominee of these two groups. It was perhaps his personal appeal more than the combined strength of the progressives and radicals that so alarmed the conservatives, traditionalists and even moderates.
In 1975 the American cardinals began to get alarmed about the possibility of a link up between the Third World faction and some Eastern European prelates from countries with whom the Vatican had established working relations. The Americans had been alarmed for some time anyway over Paul's encyclical Populorum Progressio which The Wall Street Journal had dubbed "communist".
The Americans were also worried about the election of a Pope who would do deals with communists in Western Europe and in certain conditions would at least remain neutral in elections where they threatened to come to power.·.
The Americans calculated they could copper-fasten the Polish cardinals who were hostile to the Vatican's Ostpolitik in any case and through them influence the Hungarian and Czechoslovak cardinals. They were also assured they could rope in the Austrian and Germans cardinals, thereby forming a sizeable block in the conclave against an alliance of progresssives, Third World and some Eastern European cardinals.
Throughout 1975 and 1976 cardinals are tripping around the world ostensibly on great matters of ecclesiastical imporrtance but in fact sounding out opinion among their fellow cardinals.
The 1977 Synod of Bishops provided a welcome meeting ground of the future conclavists and there are reports of several "soundings" during this period. But it still seemed that the choice rested between the three Italian front-runners, Baggio, Pignedoli and Felici, with Pinonio offering only a slight-though to the right wing element, alarming-threat to these three.
But the shift of the centre of power away from the Italians had to have some impact on the election of the future Pope, although the suggestion that this shift would result in the choice of somebody radically different from what had gone before ignored the very similar backgrounds and formations of the cardinal electors.
When Pope Paul died on August 6 there was by no means a consensus on who would replace him but some facts were clearly evident. The first and most decisive of these was that the conservaatives and traditionalists had between them a clear majority in the conclave. One of the most experienced of the Italian Vatican correspondents, Giancarlo Zizola, author of Quala Papa? divided the cardinal electors into three categories: radical evangelical, moderate reformer and conservative.
He calculated that there were 27 radical evangelicals, 45 moderate reeformers and 45 conservatives. This break-down would have suggested that a moderate reformer would have been elected - it looked like Pignedoli - but as this did not happen it is interesting to enquire why it didn't.
Once the Pope was dead the college of cardinals took over responsibility for the daily running of the church. The Dean of the College of Cardinals was an octoogenarian Carlo Confalonieri and he was to play the decisive role in the choosing of the new Pope, although under Paul's revised Conclave rules he was precluded from taking part in the election itself.
Confalonieri chaired the daily morning meetings of the cardinals and it seems it was at these formal meetings that he did his mq§,t telling lobbying. What form it took is" not clear but, as he remarked himself in a newspaper interview after the election, very few knew of Albino Luciani at the time of the Pope's death but he ensured that all cardinal electors knew of him by the time they went into conclave.
Confalonieri as former head - until 1973 -of the Congregation of Bishops was well acquainted with most of the cardinals. In addition he was clearly in a disinterested position to advise them on how to vote in the conclave as he himself could hardly be a benificiary of the proocess, whoever was elected. He also knew the system intimately.
He attended the 1922 Conclave as private secretary to Cardinal Ratti, when Ratti was elected and became Pius XI. He remained on as private secreta ray during the resign of Pius XI and served Pius XII in that capacity for two years until 1942. He was made a cardinal by Pope John XXIII and was appointed prefect of the Sacred Congregations of Bishops by Pope Paul in 1967.
It seems that Confalonieri had made his mind up about Luciani some time before the death of Paul for once he assumed the chairmanship of the college of cardinals he began to lobby for his candidate.
Confalonieri first became acquainted with Luciani through two senior Curial officials, Bishop Civaldi, who incidentally and probably significantly was secretary of the Conclave, and Msr. Dell Acqua, the substitute to the Secretary of State before Benelli took over. Civaldi and Dell Acqua used to spend their holidays in the Venice area and regularly stayed with Luciani whom they came to admire.
Luciani was introduced to Confalonieri around the middle 'sixties and they became firm friends-Confalonieri himmself took to holidaying in the Venice area. When Cardinal Urbani died in 1969, Confalonieri pressed Pope Paul to appoint Luciani as Patriach of Venice.
Confalonieri saw his opportunity to press for the election of Luciani once the first batch of cardinals-the Frenchharrived in Rome for the late Pope's funeral. These made it clear that both they and the cardinals they had been in touch with were prepared to have another Italian as Pope but he must fulfill three basic conditions: non-Curial, the right age (i.e. 63 to 68) and have pastoral experience. The arrival of the other cardinals during that week connfirmed that consensus.
However it does seem that Connfalonieri assisted the formation of that consensus which had one great attraction for the anxious cardinals who were worried about a deep idiological divide in the conclave. The consensus obliterated all the differences on policy and subbsumed them under the homely tag of pastoral. Confalonieri 's achievement was not so much in having his nominee elected but in so phrasing the criteria for the new Pope that there was little choice available.
For many cardinals the choice of another Italian appeared essential because of the fluid and to them, menacing state of Italian politics with which only an Italian could be expected to deal with competently.
The majority of non-Italian and nonncurial electors however insisted on one major criterion however: that the new Pope be pastoral rather than of the curia on diplomatic service. The opting for a pastoral candidate smoothed over a great number of contentious issues related to authority in the church, ecumenism, liberation, collegiality etc.
It seems that these issues, though the dominating ones. over the previous decade, were hardly discussed atall explicitly by the cardinals either immmediately before or during the conclave. Instead there was a consensus one pastoral candidate who would understand the needs of pastoral bishops around the world and whose view of the church would not be conditioned by the distortting prism of the curia or the diplomatic service.
Once the choice was to be restricted to Italians between the ages of 63 and 68 who were pastoral and non-curial, there wasn't much of a choice, as Confalonieri knew well when the consensus was being formed.
There were really only two other cardinals who fitted the criteria: Poletti of Rome and Poma of Bologna. Both are in the orthodox mould of Italian cardinals but both have recently been involved in well publicised controversies- Poletti involved in the scandal of the wealth of the Vatican in the city of Rome and Porn a on liturgical reform on which he was uncharacterristically too radical for the Vatican's liking.
Thus the choice fell on the humble pastoral Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani, who was almost unknown outside Italy.
"Almost," for he did make some contacts during his years in Venice which were to prove of significance to him. Venice has been host to five ecumenical conferences over the last number of years and because of this Luciani got to know some of the Cardinals most involved in ecumenism. These included the two liberal Dutch Cardinals Alfrink and Willibrands, both of whom formed a favourable impression of the unassuming Patriarch. Not that he shared their ecumenical zeal-he didn't- but he exhibited a spirituality and simplicity which they both believed were essential to the Papacy at this time.
Luciani's travels have been restricted almost entirely to Italy and again "almost" for he made two trips which were also to prove significant. Two years ago he visited Italian migrant workers in Mainz, where he met an influential German Cardinal, Hermann Volk. Again he made a favourable impression. He also travelled to Brazil two years ago and there met one of the key Cardinals of Latin America, Aloisio Lorscheider where yet again he made a favourable impression because of his palpable sincerity and concern for the poor.
These two foreign contacts were invaluable for in their respective caucuses Volk and Lorscheider were able to give assurances about the appropriateness of Luciani.
While Confalonieri was, unquestionably his most important backer,' support he won from two other Italian cardinals were, also of crucial importance. The first of these was Felici who, as stated earlier, was himself a Papal candidate, representting the Traditionalists. Just two months before the conclave Felici spent two weeks in Venice staying with Luciani and got to know him sufficiently to be prepared to support him when asked to do so by Confalonieri. But the most important backer after the Dean of the College of Cardinals was Giovanni Benelli (see photograph on page 49). Benelli had, got to know Luciani only during the preevious years through the episcopal connference of ltalian bishops but he became assured that Luciani shared his view of the church and, perhaps more importanttly, his view of Italian politics. Benelli had been secretary to Giovanni Montini when the latter was substituto to. the Secretary of State under Pius XII 'in the 'fifties. He had been through the vatican Diplomatic Service and when Montini was exiled to Milan by Pius XII he resumed his diplomatic career.
He came back to the Secretary of State's office under Cardinal Vilot, this time as substituto in 1967 and held the job for 10 years. During that decade he was widely regarded as the most powerful man in the Vatican after the Pope, for his co-ordinating function and liaison role with the Pope gave him powers over the whole range of Church activity and direct access to the Pontiff.
It was he, almost more than Paul himmself, who battoneddown the hatches after Vatican II and stifled initiative after initiative in the church throughout the world. He represents more forcibly than almost anyone else the tendency which regards Vatican II as a development which modernised the church in many respects but left undistrubed the whole corpus of fundamental doctrine and authority that had been inh~rited from at least the 15thcentury.
Benelli himself was often spoken of as a Papal candidate himself but that was not "on" at this stage for several reasons. Among them was his age (a decade too young) and the hostility he generated.
"Benelli's time will come some day", Paul is reliably quoted as saying however.
Because of the central role he played in Church politics for a very critical decade and also because of his personal brillance and limitless energy, Bennelli continues to be a powerful figure in the Church and so he proved in the days before the conclave. He rallied Curial and other Italian support for Luciani and he was on hand to. assure the many foreign cardinals with whom he had contact, that the Venetian Patriarch was the proper choice. Because of the central role he played in the election of Luciani, it is widely believed that Benelli can return to Rome as Secretary of State if he so wishes-this is especially so as Luciani desperately needs someone who knows the Curia intimately- but that may not transpire just like that.
Benelli needs to acquire as much pastoral experience as possible if he is to be a contender when Luciani passes on and in any event Luciani may not wish to so publicly acknowledge his debt to his campaign manager.
There was another figure in the backkground to the election - another octoogenarian, Cardinal Octavani, now almost deaf and blind. He contested the papacy against Roncali in 1958 and came periloussly close to being elected. Some days prior to the conclave he held a meeting of 5 Italian cardinals in Tutto San Giovanni in the Vatican and there a line of action was hammered out. It seems that it was agreed that a staunch traditionalist, Giuselle Siri, should stand on the first ballot and that if he didn't seem to be in with a chance, his votes should transfer to Luciani. Aged 72 Siri was virtually disqualified anyway but the significance of his candidacy was that it brought out the hard line reactionary vote among the Cardinals, for Siri has forthrightly stood against eveything that Vatican II represented. He once said of Pope john: "it will take 40 years to undo the harm John did to the Church in four years". His final comment on the texts of Council after they had been approved of by the Pope was: "they will not bind us".
Siri went as the candidate of the tradiitional style because as a pastor he fulfilled at least one of the criteria framed by Confalonieri in consultation with the cardinals.
Pignedoli canvassed assiduously prior to the conclave, entertaining lavishly-some months ago a bishop was wined and dined by him and when the bishop insisted he was not a cardinal and therefore would not have a vote, Pignedoli said he wasn't taking any chances.
While it is not possible obviously to get any clear idea of what went on during the one day the conclave was in session, Italian journalists with contacts among "top Vatican sources" (as they write in the trade) state that on the first vote Luciani, Siri and Pignedoli were almost equal with about 33 votes each and a few votes going to people such as Suenens, Pironio and others. On the second count Luciani went slightly ahead of the others. He was almost elected on the third count-getting close to the 7S votes required-and he won nearly 100 votes on the final ballot.
Luciani has been elected for the following reasons: (a) his pastoral experiience; (b) his age; (c) he is an Italian; (d) his engaging personality; (e) his appeal to the traditionalists and (f) his simplicity and concern for the poor.
If anything his papacy will represent a retrenchment-an attempt to block the floodgates burst open by Vatican II and unsuccessfully controlled by Paul. The windows of the Church do not need to be re-opened -at least according to the dominating influence within' it at present-rather they need to be bolted up again until the dizziness caused by an excess of fresh air is dispelled
In writing this article extensive use was made of a number of books including:
The Runaway Church by Peter H ebblethuiait; The Final Conclave by Malachi Martin; The Inner Elite by Garry McEoin; A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson; and Bare Ruined Choirs by Gerry Wills.