COMMENT: There are numerous indications that “fascist-friendly” institutional continuity will be maintained at the Vatican.
The Pope will have the title of “Emeritus Pope,” wearing white and interfacing with Georg Ganswein, the German Opus Dei operative who has served as the Pope’s right-hand man and who will serve the new Pope as well.
As a result of this gambit, Ratzinger/Benedict may well be able to function as an eminence grise, wielding clandestine power behind the scenes.
The Pope’s proposal to move up the conclave of cardinals who will select the new Pope has also been seen as favoring a continuation of the reactionary bent of the Vatican, reminiscent in some ways of the Mohamed Morsi’s decision to speed up approval of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood constitution in Egypt.
In addition, Ratzinger/Benedict’s residence in the Vatican will shield him from any possible legal action, because of the Vatican’s status of diplomatic immunity.
EXCERPT: Pope Benedict XVI will be known as “emeritus pope” in his retirement and will continue to wear a white cassock, the Vatican announced Tuesday, again fueling concerns about potential conflicts arising from having both a reigning and a retired pope.
The pope’s title and what he would wear have been a major source of speculation ever since Benedict stunned the world and announced he would resign on Thursday, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Benedict himself had made the decision in consultation with others, settling on “Your Holiness Benedict XVI” and either emeritus pope or emeritus Roman pontiff.
Lombardi said he didn’t know why Benedict had decided to drop his other main title: bishop of Rome.
In the two weeks since Benedict’s resignation announcement, Vatican officials had suggested that Benedict would likely resume wearing the traditional black garb of a cleric and would use the title “emeritus bishop of Rome” so as to not create confusion with the future pope.
Benedict’s decision to call himself emeritus pope and to keep wearing white is sure to fan concern voiced privately by some cardinals about the awkward reality of having two popes, both living within the Vatican walls.
Adding to the concern is that Benedict’s trusted secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, will be serving both pontiffs — living with Benedict at the monastery inside the Vatican and keeping his day job as prefect of the new pope’s household. . . .
EXCERPT: Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.
“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
This could be complicated for the Church, particularly in the unlikely event that the next pope makes decisions that may displease conservatives, who could then go to Benedict’s place of residence to pay tribute to him.
“That would be very problematic,” another Vatican official said.
The final key consideration is the pope’s potential exposure to legal claims over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals.
In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests. . . .
. . . That would continue to provide him immunity under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts while he is in the Vatican and even if he makes jaunts into Italy as a Vatican citizen.
The 1929 Lateran Pacts between [Mussolini’s] Italy and the Holy See, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state, said Vatican City would be “invariably and in every event considered as neutral and inviolable territory”. . . .
EXCERPT: Pope Benedict may change rules governing the conclave that will secretly elect his successor, a move that could move up the global meeting of cardinals who are already in touch about who could best lead Catholics through a period of crisis. . . .
The Vatican appears to be aiming to have a new pope elected and then formally installed before Palm Sunday on March 24 . . . .
CONCERNS ABOUT EARLY CONCLAVE
But some in the Church believe that an early conclave would give an unfair advantage to cardinals already in Rome and working in the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.
“A short period before a conclave helps the curial cardinals in Rome operating on their home turf,” said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and author of several books on the Vatican.
“The curial cardinals are the ones that cardinals from outside Rome turn to for opinions about the other cardinals. The longer the pre-conclave period, the more time non-curial cardinals have to talk to each other and to get to know each other. The longer the period prior to the conclave, the less dependent outside cardinals are on the curial cardinals.”
There is speculation in the Vatican that, if the rules are amended, the conclave could start on March 10, lasting a few days, and the new pope could be installed on March 17, both Sundays. But much would depend on the length of the conclave.
During the conclave, cardinals live in a residence inside the Vatican and vote twice in the Sistine Chapel. They are not allowed to communicate in any way with the outside world, nor are they allowed to listen to radio, watch television, make phone calls or use the internet.
Benedict has hand-picked more than half the men who will elect his successor. The rest were chosen by the late Pope John Paul, a Pole with whom the German pope shared a determination to reassert a more orthodox Catholicism in the new millennium. . . .