A saint on the wretched condition of the Church while waiting for a new Pope to be elected.

I have not written much about whom I believe the new Pope ought to be, nor about whom I think the next Pope will be.  Yes, I have thought through both.  I am prepared to talk about them both in the right venue.

But in my thinking about them, I must also take into consideration this great letter of 1774 by St. Alphonsus Liguori to a bishop.

Clement XIV had died on 22 September 1774.  Clement had, among other things, suppressed the Jesuits and knighted the 14 year old Mozart.  He had been Pope for only about 5 years.

As if he could have been writing about our own time, about a month after the Pope’s death Alphonsus wrote…

Live Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Arienzo, 24 October 1774

Your Excellency My dear friend and Lord,

As regards my opinions concerning the present state of the church with relation to the election of the new Pope, what opinion of any weight could a miserable, ignorant, and unspiritual person like myself possibly give? [HA! And so I should give an opinion?  HA, again!] There is need for prayer and much prayer. All the human science and prudence that there is cannot extricate the church from the present state of relaxation and confusion in which every section finds itself; the all-powerful arm of God is necessary.  [Do I hear an "Amen"?]
As regards the bishops, very few of them possess genuine zeal for souls. Almost all religious communities – and one could omit the “almost”– are relaxed. As a result of the present state of general confusion, observance has collapsed and obedience is a thing of the past. The state of the secular clergy is still worse: so, in a word, there is a need for a general reform of all clerics and ecclesiastics if there is to be any improvement in the present great corruption of morals among the laity.[Let us begin with the discipline of our liturgical worship!]

So we have to pray to Jesus Christ that he would give us as head of the Church one possessed of more spirit and zeal for the glory of God than of learning and human prudence. He should be free of all party attachments and devoid of human respect. If, by chance, for our great misfortune, we should get a Pope that does not have the glory of God as his sole purpose, the Lord will not help him greatly and things from their present condition will go from bad to worse. However, prayer, which can provide a remedy for so many present ills, will move the Lord to put his hand to the problem and remedy the situation.

For this reason I have not only instructed all the communities of my humble Congregation to pray to God with greater fervor than ever for the election of the new Pontiff, but I have also instructed all the priests of my diocese, both secular and religious, to recite the prayer pro electione Pontificis in all Masses. [We should start doing this even now.  Yes, Benedict is still Pope, but his intention is clear and who can imagine that he is not also praying for this?] I also hope that the Lord will inspire the Sacred College of Cardinals to instruct Papal Nuncios throughout the whole Christian world to see to it that this prayer is recited by every priest at Mass. This is the first advice that a miserable old man like myself can give. [And I, a miserable old blogger...]

I shall not omit to pray several times each day for the election of the Pope but what use will my frigid prayers be? Nevertheless, I trust in the merits of Jesus Christ and Our Lady that, before my death, which is now quite near on account of my years and the infirmities which afflict me, the Lord will grant me the consolation of seeing the church restored.

I assure you, my friends, that I desire, like yourself, to see remedies for so many and such unfortunate situations. In all this matter a thousand ideas circulate in my head which I feel like telling everybody about. [Not much of a blogosphere in 1774.] But, mindful of my own unworthiness, I have not the effrontery to publicize them lest I should appear to wish to reform the whole world. [sigh... I guess I do want to reform the whole world...  but...] So I share these ideas with you not from any arrogance but for my own peace of mind.  [I wish and pray that I were more perfect in my own motivations.]

Since there are many vacancies in the College of Cardinals, I would hope, in the first place, that the new Pope would select as cardinals from among the candidates proposed to him only the most learned and zealous for the good of the Church. [sigh] He should convey to the princes of the various countries in the very first letter announcing his election that when they wish to nominate candidates to be promoted as cardinals they should propose only those of proven piety and learning. Otherwise, he could not in conscience promote them. [Let us thank God that Pres. Obama cannot propose cardinals.]

I should like to see the new Pope being determined to refuse further benefices to those in the Church who are already well provided for in this respect with sufficient income for their appropriate maintenance. In this matter I should like to see him standing firm against all efforts to the contrary. [As affluence grows, very often a religious sense dies.  This is perhaps the greatest challenge that this Pope addressed, for it concerns directly the "dictatorship of relativism".  It is surely going to be the biggest challenge for the next Pope, even in the face of the "emerging churches" which have so many pundits and Vatican observers so mesmerized.]

I wish that he would control the extravagance of all prelates. For this purpose he should determine precisely for everybody (otherwise there will be no remedy in this matter) the exact number of their retainers in accordance with what is appropriate for the different groups of prelates: so many butlers and no more; so many servants and no more; so many horses and no more. That will ensure that the enemies of the Church will have no further reasons for their criticism. [He is not saying that bishops in his time should not have a court.  He is saying that the court shouldn't be ridiculous.]

The new Pope should be vigilant to confer benefices only on those who have loyally served the Church and not just anybody indiscriminately. [We can translate this to "ecclesiastical offices" rather than "benefices", which is a thing of the past.  Although I am not sure we are better off now without them than they were with them.  With human beings it's going to be one problem or another.] He should use particular diligence in this choice of bishops since it is on them that the service of God and the salvation of souls mainly depends. He should pay great attention to informing himself beforehand about their moral conduct and their leaning, both of which are necessary for the good government of their dioceses. And as regards those bishops already in their dioceses, he should inform himself secretly from the metropolitans and others about their conduct, to ascertain if they are paying little attention to the good of their flock. [Not just delegate the choice and not just look at the surface of the record.]

I wish, furthermore, that he would let it be known to all and sundry bishops who are careless in their duties, who transgress in the matter of residence or in the luxury of their retinue or in excessive expenditure on furnishings, life-style, and similar matters, will be suspended or replaced by the appointment of vicars apostolic in order to remedy the situation. [How many bishops did Benedict remove?  And of what sort were they?] It is important to make and example from time to time. [Taking one red hat would also make a point.] Examples of this sort will make other bishops take notice and moderate their extravagance accordingly.

I hope that the next Pope will be very slow in granting privileges which weaken good discipline in religious life. [Let the LCWR types read this thoughfully... (fat chance!)...] Such, for example, would be permission for enclosed sisters to leave the enclosure out of mere curiosity just to see the things of the world, readily to dispense from their vows and allow them to return to secular life – a practice from which many scandals result. Above all else I should hope that the Pope would be able to recall all religious to their primitive observances, at least in the most important matters. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

That is all for now; I do not wish to bore you further. We can do nothing more than pray to the Lord that he will give us a Shepherd full of His Spirit, one who will be able to deal with the matters I have mentioned here briefly and all for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Accept my deep respects as I declare myself you Excellency’s devoted and humble servant.

Alfonso Maria, bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths.

As a bishop, he was talking about himself when talking about what bishops needed to be.  He encountered not a little resistance in his lifetime.

The next Pope elected would be Pius VI, Braschi, Pope at the time of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.   He was eventually taken prisoner by Napoleon and died in captivity in France in 1799 after one of the longest pontificates on record.

It would be great were some Redemptorist out there to hunt up the actual number of the letter.

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45 Responses to A saint on the wretched condition of the Church while waiting for a new Pope to be elected.

  1. VexillaRegis says:

    Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Non.
    We are sadly the same.

  2. Shamrock says:

    I am just reviewing now how Popes were chosen during the first thousand yrs or so….before 1059
    and I must say I am not sure HOW we claim Apostolic succession given the messiness of the
    history of the Papacy, the way they were chosen or not chosen, the same shenanigans we see
    in today’s political world were much in evidence….while not so much the Holy Spirit. I think
    with the current system of the college of cardinals and the rules for conclave we think this is
    as it was always. It was not! much to my horror and dismay. It helps to see the big picture and
    not focus on the nitty-gritty as in this case. This MUST be the true Church…it could have fallen
    apart completely so many times….and yet, here it is, almost 2000 years later, defiled and descecrated in so many ways, but not defeated. Amazing Grace, indeed!

  3. Andreas says:

    As per, ” but I have also instructed all the priests of my diocese, both secular and religious, to recite the prayer pro electione Pontificis in all Masses. ” Please forgive my ignorance in this regard, but I was always under the impression that all Priests are (and must be) religious. What is a secular Priest?

  4. Thomas S says:

    Shamrock,

    What’s the relevance of messy papal selections to Apostolic Succession? I don’t see the connection.

  5. Mariana says:

    “prayer pro electione Pontificis”

    Tried to google this but wasn’t able to find anything. Does ayone know of a suitable prayer? Or perhaps someone could compose one?

  6. Andreas, a secular priest is a diocesan priest, one who is not a member of a religious order under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. A secular priest is under promises of obedience to his bishop and chastity, but is not under a vow of poverty (though many live in poverty).

  7. stuart reiss says:

    Dear fr z,
    I’m not a redemptorist but love st Alphonsus. I own a copy of the Berthe/Hardcastle biography of St Alphonsus, and in its index it says the letter written on oct 24 th 1774 was to Traiano Trabisonda, probably a member of Cardinal Castelli ‘s (Giuseppe Maria Castelli Cardinal-Priest of S. Alessio; prefect of the S.C. for the Propagation of Faith) Household. St Alphonsus’s first biographer Rev.Fr. Tannoia claims that this was written at the request of Cardinal Castelli, and he intended to show it to the sacred college. But the conclave began on October 5 th and lasted till Feb 13 th of the following year, and quite likely the letter was not not received as contact with the outside world was not allowed. Does this help?

  8. VexillaRegis says:

    Andreas: A religious priest belongs to an order, such as the Dominicans or Franciscans etc , while a secular priest answers directly to his bishop. Religiös just means believing or pious in German (and in the Nordic languages), but religious in English has two meanings (that I know of :-). )BTW, nuns are religious too.

    Gute Nacht in Tirol!
    Vexilla, the Viking

  9. Jason Keener says:

    We must indeed pray fervently for the next Supreme Pontiff. He will have an enormous task ahead of him. Unfortunately, I think the post-conciliar Popes in general have been too lax in dealing with liturgical abuses and wayward bishops, priests, theologians, and religious orders, Catholic politicians, etc. I am hoping that our next Supreme Pontiff will go down in history as “The Hammer of Heretics.” If Bishop Fellay is to believed, it would also seem the Roman Pontiff has many working against him in the Roman Curia. I hope that is not the case, but if it is, we will need a young and strong Pope who will bring the Curia into line. I can think of no one better for the job than Cardinal Burke. We will soon see what the Holy Ghost thinks about the matter! :-)

  10. sprachmeister says:

    Mariana, the Collect from the Mass “Pro eligendo Papa vel Episcopo” is as follows:

    Deus, qui, pastor aetérnus, gregem tuum assídua custódia gubérnas, eum imménsa tua pietáte concédas Ecclésiae pastórem, qui tibi sanctitáte pláceat, et vígili nobis sollicitúdine prosit. Per Dóminum.

    which in the new translation is:

    O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and for us show watchful concern. Through our Lord.

    You can find the Roman Missal in Latin at http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/ and then scroll down the side bar on the left until you find “Missals & similar”. It has both OF (2002) and EF (1962) missals.

  11. boxerpaws1952 says:

    all i know is how sad i am(for the time being). The closer the day gets the more real it becomes. I sometimes wonder did i really hear that we will no longer have a Pope Benedict XVI? No reading conspiracy theories, commentary on who the new Pope might be or in the case of some media folk outright what direction he should take the Church in. Just sadness. Is the Church in turmoil,being persecuted,attacked from within and it just never happened? Seems Acts of he Apostles puts that to rest. Does the Church come out stronger? Yes, Are there future battles? Always. Is Superman one of the Pope’s titles? Don’t think so. I thought my father was superman. I found out otherwise as he aged. Just sad but sure it will pass. Grateful too.

  12. Jason Keener says:

    Here is a prayer that I have composed and am praying every day for the new Supreme Pontiff:

    “Dearest Christ the King,
    We earnestly implore You to send your Holy Spirit upon the Princes of the Church who will soon elect a new Supreme Pontiff. May the College of Cardinals choose a Bishop of Rome who will be truly outstanding in doctrine, ever solicitous for the dignity and beauty of the Sacred Liturgy, and fearless in confronting the many enemies of Holy Mother Church. May your new Vicar on Earth guide the Barque of St. Peter so that all peoples, governments, and nations will finally cry out in one voice, “Long Live Christ the King.” We humbly ask all of this through the intercession of St. Joseph, Protector of Holy Mother Church, and St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Amen.”

  13. Mariana says:

    sprachmeister,

    Many thanks!

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Andreas,
    A secular priest is a priest who does not belong to a religious order, in other words, a diocesan priest. The majority of priests in parishes are secular priests.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    Oddly, we always seem to be looking back to a time when things were supposed to have been perfect, and now we resent having to strive to make them better. But that’s not how Christianity works. We’re supposed to recognize that this isn’t heaven and strive for the sake of the Church, for holiness and heaven. Yes, things are a mess, but we should expect that, and work for God, not for some heaven on earth. There is no such thing as a heaven on earth that we can create by our complaining.

  16. mamajen says:

    @Jason Keener

    I often wonder how many of our Church’s problems even reach the pope. The Vatican has as much red tape as any other bureaucracy, I think. It wouldn’t at all surprise me to learn that there are people on the inside with their own evil agendas. The Church is huge, so I’m not sure to what extent things could improve, but it would be nice if things could be simplified a bit. I think Pope Benedict had made a good start. I got the impression that he liked to know what was happening and be very involved.

  17. mamajen says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. It is simultaneously somewhat comforting and extremely frustrating.

  18. Andreas says:

    To Miss Anita Moore, O.P. and VexillaRegis: Many thanks for your time and help…I am most grateful. Alles gute aus Österreich!

  19. Matt R says:

    Thomas S,
    I think Shamrock is pointing out something that Catholics often say: if the Church were not divine, we would have long deviated from Christ and the apostles, and destroyed the Church. The election of Popes prior to the late 11th century is evidently one of these items for Shamrock.

  20. LisaP. says:

    Shamrock,
    I get ya, but wanted to note that it’s a modern prejudice that committees are the best way to make decisions — and, considering the success rate of committees, a weird one.

  21. SegoLily says:

    Jason K, thank you for the prayer. It is “spot on” regarding my own yearnings. I will cut and paste it and pray it daily. God Bless You.

  22. StJude says:

    That was seriously cool to read that letter.

  23. Stumbler but trying says:

    “Nevertheless, I trust in the merits of Jesus Christ and Our Lady that, before my death, which is now quite near on account of my years and the infirmities which afflict me, the Lord will grant me the consolation of seeing the church restored.”

    Timeless words that so reminded me of our beloved Papa Benedictio. As the time for his departure draws near, I too, am feeling uncertain, sad and at times lonely. The words of our Lord come tome though and I am reminded to trust in Him above all else. I have been praying my novena to St. Joesph daily, asking him to keep watch over our Holy Father as well as to protect him. I am also asking St. Joseph to obtain from our Lord Jesus the wisdom and integrity that the conclave of Cardinals will need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Of course, like many of you, I too have already begun to pray for our new pope.

    I found St Alphonsus letter revealing and yet consoling at the same time. I will start to ask him to pray with me and to intercede for us as well. I found it consoling to know our beloved Church despite her many challenges, despite her sins and imperfections, is protected, held up, looked after, loved, betrayed, mocked, and yet….and yet, the power of Christ Jesus is what has sustained her after all this time. The pockets of the faithful scattered throughout the world, many unknown to us, many hidden, I have always believed where it not for those holy souls well, who knows what shape we would be in.

    And so I will hope as always and hold fast to the promise made to St. Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
    Matthew 16: 13-19

    Thanks again Fr. Z for sharing this article with us.

  24. JKnott says:

    @Jason Keener, Thank you for your beautiful prayer. I am going to use it and pass it along to some friends if you don’t mind.

  25. Bill Foley says:

    Cardinal Search

    Since I am 72 years old, I think that this is possibly my last papal conclave. I want to state categorically that I absolutely believe and assert that the Holy Spirit has complete control of the election process for the next Holy Father. We are living in a golden age of the papacy beginning with Blessed Pius IX; he and the subsequent popes have been outstanding pontiffs–some even saints. (In fact, I can never thank God enough for allowing me to live during the papacy of Blessed John Paul the Great. I anticipate that his canonization will be shortly forthcoming, and I would rate him and Mother Teresa as the two great saints of the twentieth century.) The Holy Spirit will make sure that the next Vicar of Christ will be faithful to the deposit of faith and that he will guide the Catholic Church in the perennial teaching on doctrine and morals.

    I have done an Internet research on the current cardinals, but I have especially zeroed in on those in the 60-year old age bracket. The reason for this is the following: I have examined the ages of the popes of the modern era at the time of their election, beginning with Blessed Pius IX. Pius IX was 54, and John Paul II was 58. Both had unusually long pontificates, but I do not think that the cardinals will elect someone who will be in the office for 20+ years. John XXXIII was 77, and Benedict XVI was 78. I do not believe that the electors will chose an elderly person. Leo XIII was 68; Pius X was 68; Benedict XV was 60; Pius XI was 65; Pius XII was 63; Paul VI was 66; John Paul I was 65; the average of these is 65 years old. This means that of the past 11 popes, 7 were in their 60’s when elected; therefore, I believe that there is a strong possibility that the next pontiff will be someone in his 60’s. Of course, this does not mean that someone at age 70 or 71 might not be chosen.

    Before I disclose the results of my research, I want to make a disclaimer. I am a fallible human being, and perhaps I have made a poor judgment about one or more cardinal. Also, there are several cardinals in the 60-age bracket for whom I could not find enough information to make a decision. There are also fine candidates aged 70 and 71. My criteria are based on what the man has done, said or written and also about what others have stated or written about him in areas of doctrine, morals, liturgy, spirituality, and discipline. The overall results are wonderful and positive because they reveal that there are some outstanding cardinals. The following is a list with my comments.

    Marc Ouellet (69); Canadian; Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops; formerly archbishop of Quebec; a linguist; when a bishop comes to Rome of the ad limina visit, his first question is: “How is your prayer life.” has come out strong against euthanasia, abortion, and homosexuality.

    Antonio Canizares Lovera (67); Spanish; Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; formerly archbishop of Toledo; supports Holy Communion on the tongue and while kneeling; has come out strong against abortion; strong supporter of the extraordinary form of the Mass; supports liturgical reform in music, art, and architecture; known as the “little Ratzinger.”

    Mauro Piacenza (68); Italian; Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy; has produced very spiritual writings about the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist; sent out a beautiful letter to the mothers of seminarians and priests.

    Philippe Barbarin (62); archbishop of Lyons; made cardinal at age of 52; one of 11 children; has a seminary in which the future priests are trained in the ordinary form and in the extraordinary form of the Mass; fluent in French, English, Italian, German, and Malagasy (was a priest in Madagascar for a while); very strong in defense of marriage; have viewed him on video—seems kind, spiritual, highly intelligent, and full of energy; my dark horse.

    Raymond Burke (64); we all know about him; an acquaintance of mine, who is a close friend of Cardinal Burke, has visited him in Rome, and Italians have told him that Cardinal Burke is “papabile.”

    Juan Luis Cpriani Thorne (69); Archbishop of Lima; member of Opus Dei; has mandated Holy Communion on the tongue for his diocese; would not allow a homosexual group to have official status at the Catholic University.

    Kurt Koch (63); President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; formerly bishop of Basel, Switzerland; strongly defended Pope John Paul the Great when Swiss theologians called for his resignation in 2004; supported the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when it defended “subistit” in Lumen Gentium; has stated that progressives and traditionalists suffer from the same ailment.

    John Njue (68); Kenya; very strong against abortion and condoms for aids.

    Polycarp Pengo (68); Tanzania; sent letter to priests to not perform weddings if bride and bridesmaids not modest; called homosexuality a most heinous sin; very strong against condoms for aids;

    Malcom Ranjith (65); archbishop in Sri Lanka; spent time in Vatican; fluent in 10 languages; mandated Holy Communion on tongue and while kneeling for his diocese; writings show great spiritual depth—see Adoremus Bulletin; supports the reform of the reform in liturgy; my preference is for a third world pope, and this is my choice—forgive me Holy Spirit!

    Stanislaw Rylko (67); Polish; President of Pontifical Council of Laity; speaks Polish, Italian, German, English; said: “Christians must be valiant witnesses of Christ.”

    Robert Sarah (67); from Guinea, Africa; President of Pontifical Council Cor Unum; speaks French, Italian, English; made bishop at 34 years of age; said: “Clergy who fail to preach against abortion and homosexuality will be condemned by God.”

    By the way, I attend and prefer the ordinary form of the Mass.

  26. MarrakeshEspresso says:

    My stars, I’m just giving thanks that it’s not anywhere from around 800AD – 1700AD.

    I’ve just been reading vol 2 of Warren Carroll’s marvellous History of Christendom series, and the awful situation in which the Papacy found itself again and again, through human faults and failing, is really sobering.

    That’s the great thing about the Church – no matter how bad it may seem, chances are it’s been worse before!

  27. eiggam says:

    I don’t think speculation on who the new pope by the general public will add value to the process. Let us pray the excellent prayers added in this comment section and leave the election to the Cardinals inspired by the Holy Spirit. The writings of St. Alphonse’s are excellent.

  28. StWinefride says:

    Jason Keener, thank you for that beautiful prayer!

    “Long live Christ the King!”

    Opportet illum regnare! – He must reign!

  29. Clinton R. says:

    “All the human science and prudence that there is cannot extricate the church from the present state of relaxation and confusion in which every section finds itself; the all-powerful arm of God is necessary.”

    Obviously, St. Alphonsus’ words have as much resonance today as they did in his time. The Church now as in the 18th century is much in need of the mercy of Our Lord. While some of those to whom the Holy Church in entrusted have abused her, the Church remains because of Her Divine Bridegroom. May Our Lord Jesus bless us with a faithful man to reign as pope. +JMJ+

  30. guans says:

    Here is an online novena for Pope Benedict:
    http://www.praymorenovenas.com/novena-for-pope-benedict-xvi/
    (they will also start another for the conclave)
    ps. Fr at mass suggested we pray for a pope to be elected who can save the most souls from
    loss of eternal salvation.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Andreas,

    while your question has been sufficiently answered… let me just throw these two cents in:

    “religious” (and “religiosus”) sometimes do not translate as “religiös” into German (which means something more along the line of “pious”), but also into the seldom-used word “religios” (as in: Religiosenkongregation).

  32. MargaretC says:

    Fascinating letter. Thank you, Father, for posting it. It’s always good to be reminded that there are no “Golden Ages.”

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1. Would it be appropriate during this period to pray for the intercession of Saint Peter and some of the canonized Popes?

    2. I think it would be an appropriate gesture for some of us to commit to pray regularly for Pope Benedict in his retirement. His position will be unprecedented, and I’m sure he will benefit from the support our prayers.

  33. sw85 says:

    I second the request for the text of “pro electione Pontificis.”

  34. Gail F says:

    Plus ca change…

  35. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LisaP.,
    wanted to note that it’s a modern prejudice that committees are the best way to make decisions — and, considering the success rate of committees, a weird one.

    OT: Well, you can say all sorts of bad things against modernity. But not this… Committees may be the way modernity uses to run things, but the prejudice (i. e. the attitude present in the populace at large) is totally against them.

    “When someone has no further clue,
    a working group is that what’s due.”
    (translation from: “Wenn einer nicht mehr weiter weiß, der gründet einen Arbeitskreis.”)

  36. Starhemberg says:

    President Obama cannot propose cardinals!!! Just wait awhile, I am sure that is something that he would love to do!!

  37. PostCatholic says:

    [Taking one red hat would also make a point.]

    If he didn’t do it with Bernard Law, why would he do it with Roger Mahoney?

  38. wmeyer says:

    If he didn’t do it with Bernard Law, why would he do it with Roger Mahoney?

    My research may be deficient, but from what I have found, it appears that Card. Mahoney presided over a much larger total payout for sexual abuse cases, including a very substantial percentage of the total which was given to people whose cases were apparently without merit. That not only damaged the archdiocese, but arguably damaged the real victims.

  39. Gregg the Obscure says:

    “If he didn’t do it with Bernard Law, why would he do it with Roger Mahoney [sic]?”

    The world being a big place, it seems to me that Cdl. Mahony, while his conduct regarding sexual abuse was simply the most glaring of several sordid aspects of his reign, isn’t the only cardinal whose demotion could be salutary pro multis. That being said, I’d still be surprised if the Holy Father did rescind the cardinalatial dignity from anyone at this point.

  40. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Pope and the Philistines, by Tracey Rowland for the Catholic World Report.
    Search on page for the word:
    unity

  41. Elizium23 says:

    To Bill Foley –
    I don’t know if that post was written by you, or a quote, but the Holy Spirit does not guide the conclave as it so boldly asserts. Even Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not think so: http://www.thesacredpage.com/2013/02/no-holy-spirit-doesnt-choose-pope.html

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    …….”Then the clincher: “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

    True enough.

  43. ocleirbj says:

    Whenever I think about Pope Benedict’s decision, I keep imagining [because of course we don't really know] that his heart is breaking for the sad state of the Church today, and that he feels impelled to give up everything else so that he can pray for her constantly. This is a huge sacrifice – giving up his spiritual position and influence in the church, as well as the pre-eminence that the world gives him, even giving up his own reputation (so much debate about whether he “should” have done this), But also I remember that he is the chief shepherd, and he knows personally what it was like for the church during the long decline of Blessed John Paul II – I wonder if he is also thinking pastorally and wants to spare the church from having to go through this again. I see him withdrawing into the heart of Jesus as he withdraws physically [geographically?] into the heart of the Vatican. He will hold the Church up before the throne of Heaven in a way that no other person can.

  44. jenniphd says:

    My family is praying the Miraculous Rose novena each day until a new Holy Father is selected. We pray this for the conclave and the fortitude of the new pope. Obviously, we’re praying it for longer than 9 days. It seems to us that the Little Flower would be a good person to ask for guidance.

  45. joan ellen says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for the letter. Jason Keener for the prayer. Would also like permission to forward it.
    Am praying for God’s ordaining will. Surely the Holy Spirit’s movement and the prayers of the Mystical Body play a part in this process as well as God’s good, holy, perfect, and pleasing will.
    Am remaining trustful and hopeful that the next Pope will attend to the needs of the Church as Our Blessed Lord would have him do.