Catholics Bound To Elect Francis-Like Successor

Most conservatives are quite aware of the problems associated with Pope Francis. This is no secret.

Just the News suggests that schism may be in the works. But given the fact that Francis is 87 years old, it is entirely conceivable that the College of Cardinals will be electing a new pope in the relatively near future. The composition of the College of Cardinals raises grave concern, however:

A new pope is elected during a conclave made up of up to 130 so-called “cardinal electors,” the group of active cardinals under the age of 80. As of mid-February Francis had appointed 95 cardinal electors

Pope Francis has rooted out theologically conservative bishops and cardinals, and replaced them with folks in his own image. It is very likely that the next pope will be nearly identical to Francis with regard to worldview and approach.


2 thoughts on “Catholics Bound To Elect Francis-Like Successor

  1. What the author of this message says is historically correct. Since the time of Peter, popes have been elected, selected, assigned, or designated by various means. For more than a thousand years, they mostly were subject to the whims of the emperor of the Empire or Holy Roman Empire as it is better known today that eventually became neither holy nor Roman and slipped quietly into the dustbin of history. In their heyday prior to the Reformation in the 16th century, popes were viewed as monarchs and had control of the Papal States, about three-quarters of today’s Italy. Some of the cities in the Papal States, like Florence and Venice, were quite wealthy and had leaders that furnished candidates for pope. The Borgia and Medici families had several popes running things while other members of the family intermarried with other monarchs to cement political relationships in an emerging “Europe.” Marriage back then was a strategic instrument of foreign policy.

    The Reformation that began with Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, in the early 16th century was the first doctrinal crisis for the papacy since the Great Schism of 1054 that split the church into East and West factions. Successive popes felt obliged to make St. Peter’s basilica and the entire Vatican enclave the showplace for western Christianity. Artisans were hired to build enormous buildings and monuments to Christianity, but they didn’t work pro bono and demanded to be paid for their artistry. This imposed an enormous debt on the pontiffs who turned a blind eye to bishops and priests who hawked indulgences to naïve but pious followers. Luther complained that this was wrong and the pope at first tried to placate him, but Luther would not be bought off or threatened into silence. Over time and not much of it, he exposed the venality of Rome and its pope. Nations with preexisting likes and dislikes of Rome lined up accordingly. For the popes to survive they needed the kings of the “Catholic” nations of Spain and France for support but France and Spain, in turn, demanded and received papal permission to appoint bishops. Meanwhile, Germany, England, Holland and what we know today as Scandinavia went with Luther.

    At the same time, the Ottoman Turks were threatening war against Christianity because of the crusades that were unsuccessful but greatly angered the Turks. Suleiman the Magnificent, the head of the Turks, was smart and cut deals under the pope’s nose with cities like Florence that openly traded with the Turks. The pope needed the Protestants if there was any hope of holding off the Turks who, by the middle of the 16th century, were closing in on Hungary. The answer was the Council of Trent, also known as the Catholic counter-revolution. It was called to respond to Luther’s claims that by then had consumed half of Europe and included secretly some Catholic bishops.

    The council was split between refuting Luther outright and trying to come to terms with his doctrinal claims. The issue of indulgences was quickly decided in Luther’s favor and the pope and bishops “prohibited” the selling of them henceforth. On the doctrinal side, the issues were more serious and complex and the key one revolved around “justification,” the notion of how man is saved. Luther claimed that Christ’s crucifixion and death freed everyone from the punishment of their sins and simply believing this was enough to save one’s soul. The pope and his bishops and cardinals were spilt on this and believed that Luther’s claim was only partly true and that to be saved a person needed to believe in Christ’s redemption and perform good works as instructed by Jesus in the bible (e.g., love they neighbor, help the poor, etc.).

    While we tend today to look at these councils and get-togethers by the Church as stocked with brilliant scholars and theologians, I’m afraid the opposite was all-too-frequently the case. The Catholic Church, unlike any other institution of its time – as far as I can tell – was like a mini-United Nations. Its members, that is, the bishops and cardinals, were united in theology by their faith but because many of them were selected by their home-state monarchs, they often reflected the political and temporal interests of their nation-states rather than those of the Church. As is often said, history books are written by the victors and so today many of these council meetings appear to have been tranquil and above board. Scholars like Hubert Jedin, digging up original letters and manuscripts tells a different story in which rivalries among factions were common and even “beard-pulling” occurred during flareups among the cardinals and bishops.

    When the people of Europe began to feel the need for participation in government, the monarchs’ role began to give out to parliaments and other forms of popular representation. This trend did not pass by Rome nor was the pope immune from its effects. By 1870, the Papal States were gone, taken over and united as part of the new monarchy of Italy. The pope was left without his temporal kingdom. For more than a half century, the pope was in and out of trouble and often forced to take refuge in his castle. It wasn’t until Benito Mussolini negotiated the Lateran Treaty in 1929 that peace with the Church was re-established. Mussolini ceded to the pope Vatican City as an autonomous enclave in Rome.

    The “election” of popes began in the 11th century and back then bishops and cardinals often selected as pope the oldest and sickest among them so they could agree to disagree over having to select more suitable candidates who, for various reasons, might be unable to gain a majority vote. It was a semblance of fairness but being that bishops and cardinals came from different countries and many had been selected by their kings, the winning candidate for pope often represented a compromise candidate. Sadly, this virtually guaranteed mediocrity and worse, some outright villains being “elected” pope. Papal stuffing of bishops and cardinals became the norm as popes looked to continue their legacy beyond death by ensuring a “college of cardinals” created by them specifically for that purpose. This obvious flaw in the system remains today and the writer of this blog message notes that many members of the current slate of selectors were appointed by the current pope.

    Lastly, let me opine that the pope today enjoys great symbolic meaning to Christians and non-Christians throughout the world. This is a far cry from the days when Napoleon and others sacked Rome and imprisoned the pope in his chambers for years. Catholics still revere the pope to some extent but it’s somewhat akin to how the British people revere their monarchy. It all rests on keeping them away from the family car. Give them money and fame, pomp and circumstance, but when it comes to running the church, Catholicism today is pretty autonomous and run by dioceses that, in turn, are run by bishops. This is probably a good thing, in that it forces today’s Catholic to focus on the faith, the bible, Christian doctrines, and the traditional beliefs, rather than the views of another person no matter how important he may be in a temporal sense. The goal of every Christian is, or should be, salvation, not simply satisfying the whims of a “monarch” we’ll probably never meet and who, himself, is trying to reach the very same goal.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Coleman, for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you that the real control in the Catholic church is at the diocese level with the bishops, archbishops and cardinals. The problem is that Francis has appointed many of these men, and they are therefore roughly similar to him from the standpoint of worldview and approach.

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