Rorate Caeli

Conclave reports by Dr. John Rao
I - En route to Rome

Forty years ago, one popped up at the airport at the last moment and filled whatever seat might be open to any city that might be within shooting distance of his final destination. Something appropriate always turned up. Today, getting anywhere at a price that does not involve compromising a family’s entire future - and spending an unwanted day in a connecting airport situated in the opposite direction from one’s goal as well - is more difficult than obtaining an audience with a pastoral-minded prelate.

In any case, what this has meant is that I have had to delay my departure for Rome until tonight. I will be staying in the Eternal City for ten days with my good friend, Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, the Rome Director of Human Life International, who lives just a few minutes walk from St. Peter’s Square. My plan is not only to cover the Conclave and the beginning of the Pontificate for Rorate Caeli, but also to ascertain what our fellow Traditionalists in Europe think of our prospects for the future under the new pontiff.

One silver lining of the delay has been the chance to give my regularly scheduled Church History lecture this Sunday afternoon. Preparing that conference has offered further scope for mulling over our contemporary situation in an historical context both chastening and hopeful in its lessons. In the case of today’s talk, those lessons concern the negative realities of what has positively been spoken of in the Press as the need for “transparency” in Church deliberations.

My topic this Sunday involves the Conclave of 1559 that followed upon the death of Paul IV---one of the most fractious of the Renaissance and Reformation era. Its deliberations began on September 5th and continued through the night of December 25th. After almost seventy fruitless votes, one of the numerous attempts to win the papal throne through election by vocal acclamation finally succeeded. Giovanni Angelo Medici of Milan, a man of modest birth (and only either dubiously or very distantly related to the Florentine family of the same name), left the Conclave as Pope Pius IV (1559-1563).

Why the long delay in reaching this result? The forty-seven out of fifty five cardinals present for the election were divided into three factions: a pro-Spanish group of seventeen, a pro-French contingent of sixteen, and a more or less cohesive force of the fourteen remaining Italians who had not joined either the Spanish or the French camp. More than twenty possible candidates emerged. Costs for keeping the Conclave going soared, the money spent being taken from essential city services, like providing basic security for the population. Elderly Princes of the Church began to sicken. One died. In the meantime, the Holy Roman Emperor, the French and Spanish Kings, and the rulers of the minor Catholic States of Europe managed to violate the standard operating procedures of the Conclave and overwhelm the voting cardinals with suggestions and commands, accompanied by warnings and threats regarding the dismal impact that failure to comply would have on their future careers. In other words, the all too porous walls of the supposedly secret Conclave ensured that the fires of the already blisteringly hot internal factionalism were continuously stoked from the outside.

This brings us to a short meditation on our current pre-Conclave period. That there are in some sense factions among contemporary cardinals is clear. Tension among these factions ought to be quite intense, given the fact that the road that the Church will tread will be very different depending upon which of three possible “parties” comes out of the Conclave victorious: one that will follow Pope Benedict XVI’s lead, but perhaps more consistently brake the Revolution within the Church and ultimately realize that it must reverse it entirely; one that will more openly and enthusiastically join in the dismantling of the pitiful remains of Catholic Christendom; or one that will continue mindlessly to smile and praise the “fruits of the Council” as the Mystical Body of Christ is mocked, outraged, and reduced to utter impotence.

Surely I am not alone in believing that it is that third “party of conciliar disaster denial” that should be the focus of our prayers as the cardinals enter the Conclave. It is probably the largest of the factions within the College. The state of Vatican finances, clerical scandals, and other issues of moment must way heavily upon its members’ minds and hearts, and I am convinced that they do look for guidance from the Holy Spirit to deal with them. Unfortunately, openness to that supernatural guidance is powerfully blocked by their intellectual unwillingness to connect the true cause of the Church’s ills with its obvious effects; a problem eloquently discussed most recently by Professor Roberto de Mattei. Hence, they continue to feel obliged to prescribe more conciliar poisons as the cure for the disease that these toxins have themselves encouraged. Should a candidate of such a mindset win, that would mean a pontificate that will take all too seriously further commitment to “the spirit of the Council”; most especially, the recent calls for a Church of greater “transparency” in all its deliberations and actions.

I am not arguing that secrecy is an intrinsically good recipe for governance or that the day-to-day administration of the affairs of the Holy See is not in need of a thoroughgoing shake-up. What I am arguing is that the call for “transparency” is not the answer to the problems that the Papacy faces. It is but the latest fraudulent bumper sticker slogan of that alliance of proponents of a conciliar-minded aggiornamento with the outside secular world that has never provided anything more than repeated opportunities for the strongest wills to triumph over Christ in the name of Reason and Progress.

“Transparency” sounds like it means a desire for disclosure of the truth about the Vatican Bank. In reality, it actually means openness to secular political and social pressure. It was precisely to avoid the blatant outside family and military manipulation that such “transparency” caused when “the Clergy and the People” of Rome were supposedly in control of the election of the pope that the reform movement of the Eleventh Century transferred electoral privileges to the more restricted College of Cardinals. It was precisely “transparency” that made the Conclave of 1559 the embarrassing hot potato that it was, with all of its arrogant “calls to political order” on the part of emperors, kings, and princes.

The demand for “transparency” in preparing for the Conclave of 2013, along with the praise of such “transparency” as a distinctly American virtue, was not only designed to turn the election of the successor of St. Peter into another manifestation of our own macabre electoral campaigning. It was also a threat. For “transparency” in our pluralist-dominated Global Fatherland really means openly treating the loudest anti-Catholic voices and the most distorted anti-Catholic passions as worthy of discussion by the Princes of the Church both now and forever in the future. It means putting their destructive influence on a much higher level than that of believers who are eager to discuss what is truly wounding the embattled Spouse of Christ. More than this, it means guaranteeing that anti-Catholic forces win, since their failure to do so would be interpreted as an unwillingness to be fully “transparent”. And once they get in control, all concern for “transparency” where it might do some good, such as in treatment of the finances of the Holy See, will cease. In short, “transparency” is another one of the many modern frauds that sound good as mantras but open up trapdoors to hell. Modern freedom, modern Reason, modern democracy, and modern transparency are, once again, merely code words for the Triumph of the strongest anti-Catholic Will.

Thankfully, the Conclave of 1559 fought off the evils caused by the transparency of its own day. Thankfully, the cardinals present---some of them perhaps directly docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit and others guided mysteriously to promote His will while thinking that they were pursuing more selfish goals---elected an effective if unexpected proponent of good change. For Pius IV, who was much less rigorous and reform-minded than Paul IV, nevertheless brought the Council of Trent to conclusion and worked together with a cardinal-nephew who was as holy as he was intelligent and administratively transparent and effective: the future Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo---the Catholic Reformation prelate par excellence. Through prayer for the cardinals of the Conclave of 2013---many if not most of them all too susceptible to the voices calling for a new commitment to the spirit of the Council by acceptance of fraudulent modern transparency---docility to the Holy Spirit might triumph and our new Catholic Reformation take place.

The glorious work of the reform popes from the mid-sixteenth century onwards brought to an end that sense of drift and confusion characterizing the era that began with the return to Rome and the re-establishment of papal unity after the Avignon period and the Great Western Schism. That era began with Pope Martin V (1417-1431). What was the Eternal City like when he arrived there in the second decade of the Fifteenth Century? Let us see what Ludwig von Pastor says in this regard:

“Martin V found Rome at peace, but in such a state of misery that, as one of his biographers observes, ‘it hardly bore the semblance of a city’. The world’s capital was completely in ruins, its aspect was deplorable, decay and poverty met the eye on every side. Famine and sickness had decimated its inhabitants and reduced the survivors to the direst need. The towers of the nobles looked down upon foul streets, encumbered with rubbish and infested with robbers both by night and by day….The city in which these poor creatures lived consisted of a few miserable dwellings scattered through a great field of ruins. Many monuments which had survived the calamities of the Avignon period had been destroyed during the terrible years of the Schism. Amongst these was the Castle of St. Angelo, which, in the spring of 1379, was demolished, all but the central keep, containing the room where was the grave of Hadrian….[S]carcely any ancient sculpture remained standing; it had been used for steps, for door-sills, for building and for mangers for beasts…moreover, the ancient edifices were used as quarries for building materials, and for burning into lime. The other structures in the City had also suffered dreadfully during the vicissitudes of the Schism; most of the houses had fallen, many churches were roofless, and others had been turned into stables for horses. The Leonine City was laid waste; the streets leading to St. Peter’s, the portico of the church itself, were in ruins, and the walls of the City were, in this quarter, broken down, so that by night the wolves came out of the desolate Campagna, invaded the Vatican Gardens, and with their paws dug up the dead in the neighboring Campo Santo.” (Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes (Herder, 1906, pp. 214-216).

Dear friends, the city of Rome does not fit this description today. Unfortunately, our beloved Church of Rome does. Let us pray that the state of the Church can be transformed through solid Catholic change as radically as the city of Rome was renewed through the splendors of Renaissance and Baroque at. But that can only happen if the cardinals in Conclave allow the Holy Spirit and not the Spirit of Transparency of our fraudulent, secular Global Fatherland guide them in their deliberations.



  2. Very fascinating post, Dr. Rao. Lots of interesting bits. Thank you.

  3. Prof. Basto4:26 PM

    Thank you, Dr. Rao. Wonderful article.


    As for the actual names that different factions may rally behind, Tornielli offers his opinion about a few names. The following is the link to the English translation of his most recent article:

  4. "More than this, it means guaranteeing that anti-Catholic forces win, since their failure to do so would be interpreted as an unwillingness to be fully 'transparent'."

    See the front page of today's Hell's Bible.

    This is exactly the play.

  5. Benedict Carter7:20 PM

    Dr. Rao, looking forward to your updates as the Conclave starts.

  6. a well-wisher8:44 PM

    I am concerned that one singular, while eminently expert, analytical approach to covering the upcoming conclave may cause undue anxiety: have we not asked the Father to be merciful to us, through Christ, Our Lord? Have we not prayed that the cardinal electors remain docile to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost?

    Hence, may it not also be helpful to expand this approach, and to include, for instance, a few reports from the perspective that there is only one road in which the Church can possibly tread. In my view, the next organic stage in the progression of the so-called 'reform of the reform' initiated by His Holiness, Benedict XVI involves the examination (and abrogation) of those various indults (Ordinary Form) which so gravely disfigure the Faith - a return to a much stricter application of the universal norms (liturgical and otherwise) is now more timely than ever. Nothing less seems possible. Indeed, as modern warfare is now so media and personality driven, would not the hidden presence of our gentle and beloved hermit, the pontiff emeritus, also be a great blessing, from a 'Public Relations' perspective - (distasteful but sadly now necessary) - a distraction to soften the blow, from the viewpoint of the wider Church, as we could not expect the Supreme Pontiff which the Church now needs most, arguably also one expert in the law and unafraid to turn the keys, to be universally popular?

    I would be grateful, and would find it helpful, to hear the views of others on any specific reforms which they may be praying for, for the good of the Church, (with the caveat (in my view) that any suggestion that a Supreme Pontiff would publically celebrate Mass in any form of any approved rite other than the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is to seriously misunderstand the weight of responsibility of the iron-clad Principal of Unity that comes with this Office. (That the Mass of Paul VI remain the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite indefinitely is an entirely different matter).

  7. RogerThat9:02 PM

    Take a look at the last part of the text in the link below, after '===========' marks:

    (Not to be posted here, if you thinks it's better not to).

  8. LizEst9:20 PM

    John Lupia - not only that, but -- for fun and speculation only, not for putting any faith in it-- he meets three of the most talked about prophecies: The Worthy Shepherd Prophecy (to heal the great schism), the John Bosco Dream (anchoring or steering the Church between the pillars of the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother--he is a monk from a Marian order) and of course Malachy(i): Peter the Roman (In his name, Boutros means Peter. All Maronite Patriarchs take that name because St. Peter once held the see of Antioch before he went to Rome). One of the prophecies also talk of someone coming from the mountains or beyond the mountains. Not only is he from beyond the mountains, but his religious order is in the mountains. He has studied in Rome.

    ps.It is my understanding that His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asked Maronite children to help with the Papal stations of the cross in Rome this year.

  9. NIANTIC11:50 PM

    Excellent and well presented report by Dr.Rao. Yes, this Conclave is going to be momentous. Are we going to continue with the auto destruction or are we going to return to Tradition? Lord have mercy!

  10. Prof. Basto12:08 AM

    According to La Repubblica, the intervention by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz in Saturday's General Congregation was used to make a strong against attack the centralization of authority in the Secretariat of State, and Anti-Bertone applause by a few Cardinals followed.

    But the intervention seemed to also follow the pattern of those asking for a more decentralized governance, by claiming that the Vatican pays little attention to the local churches.

    According to the La Repubblica article, Cardinal Aviz, who serves in the Curia, hit the Curia on transparency grounds, citing the governance of the IOR, the financial scandals and the lack of information about the contents of the Vatileaks investigation.

    Bertone is said to be very upset with the intervention.

    According to the above mentioned article, in the 9th General Congregation, the Roman Curia as a whole was on the defendant's bench, and the article even speaks of accusations of prevarication made against Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.


    In my opinion, there is something strange here. Is it possible that not all Brazilian Cardinals are unted behind the name of Odilo Scherer?

    The media says that they are a united front, but there are also rumors to the contrary.

    If Scherer is the Curia's candidate as we know he is, why would a Brazilian Cardinal of the Curia, supposedly in Scherer's camp, launch such an attack?

    Could it be that there are other reasons? Internal divisions of the Brazilian Church?

    Scherer, after all, lost an election to Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis both ran for the office of President of the Episcopal Conference. In the first round, the Cardinal of Aparecida had 161 votes, against 91 votes for the Cardinal of São Paulo. In the second round, Damasceno Assis obtained 196 votes, against 75 votes for Scherer. 182 votes were needed for election, 2/3 of the total. Other prelates were also voted for in both rounds.

    But what does the said divisions of the Brazilian Church mean? Who is more liberal, who is more conservative?

    Judging by the abhorent Liturgies in the Cathedral of Aparecida that the Catholic TV cable station "Rede Vida" broadcasts on a daily bases, with dances and other Mahony-like inventions, I would say that, at least liturgically, Aparecida is worse than São Paulo, although São Paulo is less than ideal.

  11. I had seen that report, Prof. Basto. How much can we be sure of what exactly was said in the Congregations?... Anyway, if true, perhaps Cardinal Braz de Aviz is launching his own bid...

  12. Prof. Basto12:58 AM


    I think Scherer represents those who want a powerful Curia but not a powerful Pope, with the same amount of authority as today concentrated in the hands of the same players, Filoni, Sandri, Sodano, etc, the Holy See being led from the Secretariat of State, as has been the case since the post-conciliar era.

    Braz de Avis, on the other hand, represent those who want a weaker Pope and a weaker Curia, perhaps with a change of guard at the Vatican, but with more power to the Episcopal Conferences and more decentralization so that local Bishops can do as they please.

    I don't think Braz de Avis has the necessary qualifications to be a candidate, even of that wing. His Latin is so poor that he confessed to Brazilian journalists that he could not initially understand that Benedict XVI was resigning, although he was present at the February 11th Consistory. He understood a few words, but needed confirmation from a fellow Cardinal sitting next to him.

    Braz de Avis as Archbishop of Brasilia tried as he could to block celebrations in the extraordinary form.

    Braz de Avis flirted strongly with Liberation Theology, confessed that he almost abandoned the Church because of it (cf., and claims that he changed his mind later, when he approached the Focolare Movement.

    By the way, the reasons why Benedict XVI appointed him prefect of the Religious are a mistery to me. Maybe the appointment was indeed the result of Focolare influence in the Curia.

    So, if his attack on the Curia is true, it is certainly not launched with the right intention of producing a traditionalist reform leading to a stronger Holy See better prepared to serve the Vicar of Christ and to transform the Church for the better, with the necessary interventions from Rome to face the post-conciliar crisis.

    No, I'm my view the attack by Braz de Avis can only be interpreted as the attack of the left wing of the Church against the very idea of the authority of the Roman Curia. There is talk of reform, but we need to consider the source to try to understand how that reform would be.

  13. OnEaglesWings1:45 AM

    To RogerThat,

    Thank you for the link.

    Very interesting comments about the foolish notion of re-electing Benedict XVI again, as a confirmation of the first election.

    If it were in fact to come to pass, this would become a non-conclave and a joke upon the Church, in my view; and, it would become a circus with the media and a yet another great mockery upon the faithful who hold to the "apostolic" tradition and remain loyal to the Holy Office, again, in my view.

    It seems to me that the Cardinal from Lebanon (now a name that should be crossed off of every voting Cardinal's list of papabili - if ever on it - because he can't think clearly, yes my view) still shows his infatuation with Benedict XVI more so than the Chair of Peter and the Church.

    Benedict XVI has decided to become a hermit in a castle. He is out as of the 28th. He has renounced the Chair of St Peter. It is THE sad reality. Therefore, some very influential poeple just need to quit living in fairytale land.

    Some may not like my tone, but how can anyone in their right mind seriously consider re-electing Benedict XVI? Because it makes no sense whatsoever, it would create a bigger media circus than the 'Vatilieaks' scandals.

    And just how would Benedict XVI fill the curial positions this time? He is not fit to lead the Church any longer. Take him for his word.

    Benedict becoming more powerful as Christ's vicar, if re-elected? Oh, please! It would be the most cruel joke the cardinals could unleash on the Church.

    This is a strange way for the Cardinal from Lebanon to show his loyalty to the no-longer-pope Benedict XVI.

  14. I can't help but think of New Catholic's wise reminder last week of how little accurate information and prognostication is going to be found among these fevered media reports. This is a different kind of conclave than 2005, but one thing seems likely to remain the same: a lot of reporting is going to be proven wrong, badly.

    It does seem that there are multiple camps in play, however; we can say that much, and it is useful to say it. There does seem to be a "Ratzingerian Camp," (not surprisingly; he appointed most of the cardinals, and has a real following of devotion and admiration), which would like second helpings on the last pontificate, only with more governing vigor and reform. For these cardinals, Scola seems to be to have real support, and behind him, Ouellet. This camp also seems to be the largest. Thus, it is not far wrong to think that Scola is the "safe" bet.

    Prof. Basto rightly points to the two opposing camps at work: The Curialists, who would prefer a weak Pope and a strong Curia (or at least Secretariat of State), and, stymied by the lack of strong Italian candidates to carry that flag, seem to be looking at Scherer; and Decentralizers - progressives, really - who want both a weak Pope and weak Curia.

    The problem for the Curialists, however, is that Scherer can hardly count on solid Latin American support, since the continent is badly divided enough that he failed to even win election to the head of the Brazilian episcopal conference. If he stalls, I suspect they'd turn to the likes of someone like Sandri, who is an even more colorless candidate. I think the Curial party is going to have an uphill fight. The College may disagree on many things, but few seem to cotton to the idea of leaving the Curia largely as is, let alone allow it more authority.

    But if life is tough for Curialists these days, how much harder for progressives? They lack an obvious candidate, as Prof. Basto wisely notes. Certainly not Braz de Avis. Madariaga? I just don't have the sense that there's a strong papabile to carry this flag - and thank God for that, if that is true.

    What is most intriguing, however, is the possibility that many Cardinals are eager for something more outside the box, if a suitable candidate can be found - especially if that candidate is outside Europe. I just can't see that man being an American, however much the notion keeps being bandied about. The American cardinals are surely more influential now, and perhaps even possible kingmakers - but they really do not possess a king in waiting. If that is the case, I find it most interesting - and hopeful! - that Cardinal Ranjith continues to pop up on short lists, such as La Repubblica's and Vatican Insider's. Ranjith remains an outside shot, but it seems more likely that he could satisfy the Ratzingerians while providing the charisma and non-European background that could break a deadlock - certainly more than, say, Tagle (too young) or Turkson (too ambitious).

  15. Gratias5:40 AM

    Prof. Basto, thank you for you interesting posts.

  16. Prof. Basto10:42 AM




    Also, any good and serious re-organization of the Curia needs to increase the standing of the other dicasteries, especially of the Congregations, against the Secretariat of State.

    The Secretary of State cannot be the Pope's prime minister. He lacks the graces of state for that; the Pope needs to be in charge.

    If necessary, by means of decisions once again being made in secret consistory. For instance, in my opinion, the Congregation for Bishops should decide Episcopal promotions in the presence of the Pope, instead of just having the discussions themselves and then the Prefect having an audience with the Pope to send just one name to the Pope's desk.


    Tornielli's latest article, in Italian:

    Ranjith is still named, as the potential receiver of a few initial votes.


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