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Keepin’ On Keepin’ On: Will Ratzinger/Benedict Become the Vatican’s “Holy Ghost” (Spook)?

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,” [1] wear­ing white and inter­fac­ing with Georg Gan­swein [2], the Ger­man Opus Dei oper­a­tive who has served as the Pope’s right-hand man [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] will shield him from any pos­si­ble legal action, because of the Vat­i­can’s sta­tus of diplo­mat­ic immu­ni­ty. 

“Bene­dict To Be Called ‘Emer­i­tus Pope,’ Will Wear White” by Nicole Win­field [AP]; Talk­ing Points Memo; 2/26/2013. [1]

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. . . .

“Pope Will Have Secu­rity, Immu­nity by Remain­ing in the Vat­i­can” by Philip Pul­lel­la; Reuters.com; 2/15/2013. [5]

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”. . . .

“Pope may change con­clave rules before leav­ing: Vat­i­can” By Philip Pul­lel­la; Reuters.com; 2/20/2013. [4]

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. . . .