Thursday, March 02, 2006

Stato of Confusion

Sandro Magister takes his turn at putting the puzzle pieces together on the most fraught relationship in the current curia: San Damaso (the Secretariat of State) vs. the Pope -- a disconnect which bears consequences all over.... He makes no bones about who's to blame:
Sodano, 78 years old, from Isola d’Asti in Piedmont, seems to have no intention of leaving. On the contrary; in recent weeks he has sought instead to put out of commission another cardinal whom he has always considered his archrival, the pope’s vicar and the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, CEI, Camillo Ruini.

The trouble is that Ruini is incomparably more highly favored by Benedict XVI than Sodano is. And as a result the latter’s maneuver has turned back against himself. In the current secretary of state, pope Joseph Ratzinger now sees more of an obstacle than a help....

In 1991, 1996, and 2001, John Paul II, each time before he made Ruini head of the CEI, asked for the advice of the presidents of the sixteen regions into which the Italian episcopacy is subdivided.

But this time – and this was at the end of January – rather than the pope, the secretariat of state extended the consultation to all of the 226 bishops in office. To each one, the nuncio in Italy Paolo Romeo sent a letter under the seal of pontifical secrecy, asking the recipient to “indicate ‘coram Domino’ and with gracious solicitude the prelate that you would like to suggest.”

But there’s more in the letter. It begins by stating in no uncertain terms that “next March 6 the mandate of the Most Eminent Cardinal Camillo Ruini as president of the CEI will come to a conclusion.” And it continues by asserting that “the Holy Father thinks that a change in the office of the presidency is in order.”

The letter bears the date of January 26, and the only one to whom it was not sent was Ruini. But he was immediately made aware of it. And Benedict XVI was also informed, and discovered that it said the opposite of what he was planning to do.

On February 6, the nuncio who signed the letter, Romeo, was called by Benedict XVI for an audience. The pope asked him how and why this initiative came about. Romeo left the audience in shambles, but Sodano was the one who was really trembling.

On February 9, Benedict XVI received Ruini together with his right hand man, the secretary general of the CEI, bishop Giuseppe Betori. They both received the pope’s reassurances. News of the letter had not yet leaked to the outside.

But a few days later, the news agencies and newspapers were writing about it, attributing the idea for the letter to the pope and to his desire to decide “more collegially” on a replacement for Ruini. And in fact, on the morning of February 14, as soon as he saw the complete text of the letter published in two newspapers, a very irritated Benedict XVI picked up the telephone and ordered that his confirmation of Ruini as president of the CEI be made public immediately. The pope’s order was so peremptory that the Vatican press office released the news before any of the other communications of the day.

By confirming Ruini, the pope invalidated the letter of Romeo, a.k.a Sodano, which had pegged Ruini as a has-been.
Observant readers will have already known that San Damaso is an edgy place these days..... But here's the real kicker:
With [Sodano] gone, also gone will be a barrier to a decision on the fate of the powerful founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, with whom Sodano is very close. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has completed a thoroughly detailed preliminary investigation of the accusations against Maciel – sexual abuse of his seminarians and violation of the sacrament of confession.

Last Good Friday, shortly before he was elected pope, Ratzinger indicated this sort of “filth” as one of the evils that must be eliminated from the Church.
Oooh -- he called Maciel "filth."

Stay tuned.