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Vatican.va(cant) | What Next?


Who is Who in the Papal Succession?

By: Gilberto Nascimento, Viomundo
Translation: C. Brayton

The German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger earned the nickname”the Rottweiler of the Pope”during the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, he presided over the all-powerful Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, formerly known as the Holy Inquisition. An influential advisor to John Paul II — whom he would later succeed, in 2005 — Ratzinger was a fierce defender of episcopal power and a  return to orthodoxy.

Ratzinger mobilized his forces against liberation theology, playing a role in the decimation of a Catholic Church dedicated to the poor, based on Vatican Council II (1962-1965) and principally applied  in Latin America. Ratzinger served as symbolic executioner of the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, a former student of his, on whom Ratzinger imposed “obedient silence” in 1985.

As pontiff of the Holy See, Benedict XVI has surrounded himself with conservative cardinals, reinforcing a line of action inherited from the papacy of John Paul II. He has also empowered Catholic movements of an authoritarian and ultraconservative bent.

Infiltrating the fabric of the Roman Curia, these groups launched a fierce dispute for power and control. A number of Vatican officials were accused of financial wrongdoing and other scandals, such as pedophilia among the priesthood.

Unable to control this situation, Benedict XVI — on the eve of his resignation — discovered too late that it is not possible to govern alone. In the midst of so much intrigue, vanity and ambition, he lost his power to command. He found himself with no loyal soldiers to carry out his orders.

Papal nominations that failed to follow common practice also provoked a strong response. The recruitment of former collaborators for key posts under Benedict XVI ran counter to deeply rooted special interests inside the Church.

Before the 1990s, for example, the divide within the Church was conceptualized as a struggle between so-called converatives and progressives. In the present, Benedict has been sabotaged by members of right-wing groups whom he has angered.

After announcing his resignation, the Pope spoke out against “divisions in the body of the Church” that “distort the true face of the Church.” He denounced “religious hypocrisy” and the vanity of those who revel in public exposure, seeking “applause and approval.”

Benedict XVI did not, however, identify what he meant by these “hypocrites” who lust shamelessly for power inside the Holy See.

Key participants in these power plays, however, are powerful conservative movements such as Opus Dei, deemed a veritable “Army of the Pope.”

Another high-profile group is the Communion and Liberation Movement, whose members came to be known as “the Stalinists of God” and “the Rambos of the Pope.” During the papacy of John Paulo II they were known as “Wojtyla’s monks.”

Opus Dei and Communion & Liberation are the two most powerful forces in the present-day Catholic church. Other conservative movements are on the rise as well, such as Focolares, Neocatecumenals, and the Legionaries of Christ

Opus Dei, founded in 1928 in Spain by the priest Josemaria Escrivá — canonized in 2002 —  grew in power during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, from 1936 to 1975. Today, Opus Dei is present in 90 countries, with some 89,000 followers worldwide.

Its mission, according to leadership, is to disseminate the Christian way of life.

Certain practices attributed to its followers are criticized, such as the supposed practice of auto-flagellation. Followers are obliged to reveal their innermost thoughts to their superiors.

A significant number of Opus Dei adherents occupy positions of social leadership and popularity. The organization includes 2,000 priests, along with cardinals and bishops. Opus maintains centers of higher education such as the University of Navarra (Spain), a seminary in Rome, 600 high schools and 17 business management post-graduate programs.

Among these academic programs, the Masters em Jornalismo program — now affiliated with IICS. the International Institute of Social Sciences– and the transnational networked IESE.

Opus and Navarra were also early users and developers of new media as a strategy for propagating Catholic precepts in a world without frontiers. The pioneering and highly influential Innovation Mediaconsulting, for example  is the brainchild of Navarra professor Juan Antonio Giner, among others. ECuaderno, the personal-professional blog of Navarra professor J.L. Orihuela since at least 1998, is a good example of the movement’s networking style.


The business education arm of the order is the IESE Business School, which has a campus in Brasília and plans to offer courses in — among other subjects — media management to 500 students per year. Prominent Brazilians with ties to Opus Dei include legal scholar Ives Gandra Martins and communications professor Carlos Alberto Di Franco among others.

Di Franco consults with a number of major media groups — the NY Times, for one — and runs a journalism-slash-public-relations course, the Masters [sic] in Jornalismo. Any number of local journalists have earned their M.A. there, including a good chunk of the staff at O Estado de S. Paulo.

São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin once revealed in an interview that Josemaria Escrivá’s “The Path“was on his bedside table. He says he admires the ideas of the Spanish priest, but denies being a member of Opus Dei.

In a surprising interview during the 2006 campaign, di Franco claimed to be Alckmin’s supernumerary, or spiritual adviser.

Present in 80 countries with 200,000 members worldwide,, Communion & Liberation has in the Cardinal of Milan, Angelo Schola,  its most distinguished exponent.

Scola has close ties to Benedict XVI. Communion & Liberation was founded in 1954 by the Italian monsignor Luigi Giussani and is led today by the Spaniard Julián Carrón. The group’s members view culture as “a key to the reading of history.” Social conflicts, in their view, should be analyzed in terms of culture and not in terms of class struggle or economic doctrine.

Founded in 1943, in Italy, by Chiara Lubich, the Focolares movement today has 100,000 members. One of its most principal adepts is the Brazilian cardinal João Braz de Avis, prefect pf  the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Lofe and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Braz de Avis is much discussed as a potential successor to Benedict. A former Archbishop of Brasília, Avis is also a member of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

The Focolares movement is considered “an association of private, lay individuals whose  practicioners say they are “consecreted by poverty, chastity and obedience.”.

With a presence in 15,000 communities and 105 nations, and a membership of a million persons, the Neocatecumenal movement emerged from Madrid, during the 1960s. It was created by the Spanish painter Francisco Argüello. Its object was to help parishioners evangelize the faith in societies becoming less and less oriented by Christian values.

Another religious tendency is the Legionaries of Christ, founded in Mexico City in 1941. Its founder, the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel, was accused of sexually abusing underage seminary students.

After a special commission, nominated by Benedict XVI, was sent to look into the charges, the Holy See intervened in the organization.

Entangled in so many webs of competing interests and visions, the Roman Curia could only watch as conflicts grew. In the search for power, religious offices are hotly disputed..

When the Pope names a representative of one group to an important post, he displeases others. Tensions were high, for example, after such nominations as Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, an Opus Dei adept, to the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), known as the Vatican Bank. Tedeschi took over in 2009 and was fired last year for mismanagement.

A personal friend of the Pope, Tedeschi may have been the victim of a plot on the part of bank board members in order to undermine him. Behind this apparent campaign was Cardinal Tarcísio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, according to documents made public during the so-called Vatileaks scandal. The bank is charged with receiving funds from dubious sources.

The nomination of Bertone as Secretary of State may also have angered some. The reason for this dissatisfaction is that Bertone is not a career diplomat, whereas Papal tradition is to elevate a career diplomat to the post. A former secretary to Ratzinger in Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Bertone is a Salesian.

Benedict VXI also dismissed Vatican spokesperson Joaquim Navarro Valls, an Opus Dei follower who was quite close to John Paul II. Valls has occupied the post for 22 years and was replaced by Jesuit father Federico Lombardi.

Also raising eyebrows was the 2011 transfer of Cardinal Angelo Scola, primate of Venice and holder of various offices inside the Roman Curia, to the Archbishop of Molin.

Scola, a member of Communion and Liberation, is pointed to as one of the favorites to succeed Benedict XVI. His transfer to Milan may indicate that he is Pope’s own preference as a successor, sources inside the Vatican say. The Pope also transfered a Brazilian bishop Filipo Santoro, from Petrópolis to a diocese in Italy so that he can participate more directly in the Communion and Liberation movement.

A former aide to the National Council of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) and a Vatican scholar, father Manoel Godoy, currently executive director of the Saint Thomas Aquinas Institute in Belo Horizonte, warns that the next pope will have to bring about major changes if he is not to be held hostage to current power structures. According to Godoy, emeritus cardinals who remain at the Holy See are forming conspiratorial groups with the aim of destabilizing the papacy. “The retired cardinals are still present. They have plenty of time on their hands in order to elaborate plots and plans and will not allow the Pope to govern.

Some of these emeritus archbishops such as the two Italians — Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Giovanni Batista Ré — the Slovak, Josef Tomko and the Colombian Dario Castrillón Hoios, are said to be sympathetic to the interests of Opus Dei.