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Papal Conclave Day One: Secrecy Oath, Black Smoke and 50 Shades of Gray Smoke

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Well today the Cardinals of the Catholic Church entered into their first day of sequester, I mean Conclave which is kind of like sequester but easier to spell. The Cardinals who had completed a number of meetings last week in preparation for the Conclave and today after the completion of the Mass, lunch and a no host bar, entered the Sistine Chapel. Amid the solemn choral sounds of the Vatican Men’s Chorus and Madonna the Cardinals took the double top secret oath of secrecy binding them to absolute secrecy with no real penalties should they break the oath. Their aides and others in the chapel prior to this also took an oath of secrecy which if they break will be excommunicated and get to spend eternity in Hell. Yes, it is a double standard but someone will have to pay if the cloak of secrecy is broken and it will not be Cardinal Roger “Dodger” and Tweeter Mahoney of the “Cardinal Mahoney Love Network.”

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I was watching the procession into the chapel at lunch as I ate my soup. Amid the pomp, splendor and mystery that surround such solemn occasions I was reminded of another solemn ceremony which I saw decades ago for the first time and watch at least a couple of times a year. That ceremony of the young men of Omega Theta Pi of Animal House who also took a solemn pledge, “thank you sir may I have another” is forever etched in my mind. But how can it not be?

After the 115 voting Cardinals swore the oath which among other things they pledged the oath of secrecy:

“In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favor to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

The only thing missing was the Cardinals getting whacked on the backside like Kevin Bacon as they made the oath. But I digress….

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After several hours the now sequestered Cardinals gave an indication of where the process was at. Dark black smoke began to issue out of the temporary chimney above the Chapel indicating that the Cardinals had not yet elected a new Pope. This was not surprising to me because unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame election, seldom does a man become Pope on the first ballot. But then the Baseball Hall of Fame candidates cannot vote for themselves, and don’t get a vote for anyone, they have to depend on Sports Writers. Let’s see anyone but Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal O’Malley get elected if they had to depend on Sports Writers.

Tomorrow the balloting will continue. Most experts expect that the balloting will continue at least through tomorrow evening or more likely Thursday. Actually since I am sure there must be a betting line in Vegas I hope it drags out until Friday or later. I mean what else do these guys have to do? Many work in Rome and those that don’t are probably getting per diem payments while away from home.  Besides, look at the business that it brings to the money changers and trinket sellers in Vatican Square. It is good for their economy and what is good for the economy is good for the economy.

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Could Cardinal Ouellet become Pope Bob? Eh? 

Now there is a lot of speculation on which of the 115 Cardinals will be elected Pope. Honesty I don’t want an American, European, Asian, African, Romulan or Vulcan. I want a Canadian and I want him to choose the name “Pope Bob” which I think would be very blue collar. First because Canadians are peaceful and ecumenical people who love to beat the crap out of each other during hockey or World Baseball Classic games.

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Second because I cannot wait to hear the benediction “In Nomeni Patri Et Fili Spiritus Sancti eh” at the end of each Papal Mass. That would be worth it. When I listened to the Cardinals doing their best Latin during the secrecy oath I just liked the way that the Canadians did it. It sounded right and it would make great fodder for South Park. I would love to see an audience with Canadian Pope Bob and Eric Cartman and the rest of the South Park kids and maybe even Terrance and Phillip.

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Apart from this and all kidding aside, pray for these men as they meet to elect the next Pope. After all, even for non-Catholics a good Pope can do a lot of great things. Besides the Church is always in need of good, holy and decent leaders who have not lost their souls to the institution or their own desire for power. That is possible and it has happened before.

Maybe tomorrow we will see White Smoke, or maybe just 50 shades of gray smoke, but whatever it is important to all of us who the next Pope is.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Papal Conclave Date Set: Cardinals Gather to Elect Pope on Tuesday

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The 115 Cardinals present and eligible to vote for the Next Pope have  gathered including Roger the Dodger Cardinal Mahoney from Los Angeles. Mahoney, a man now banned by his successor from public ministry for his complicity in the cover up of numerous sexual crimes by his clergy will be one of those men meeting to elect Benedict XVI’s successor. The date was determined in the 8th pre-game meeting of the Cardinals and did not include the late Stan Musial, or the still living Tony LaRussa or Mark McGuire. I for one cannot imagine a meeting of Cardinals that does not include any of these men or even Bob Gibson or Rogers Hornsby.

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Politics of Papal elections are quite secretive. The process begins with a morning Mass called the “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass.” Following this Mass and a luncheon with a no-host bar the Cardinals head over to the Sistine Chapel where under the hand of God painted on the ceiling by Michelangelo and the great fresco over the altar of the Last Judgement.

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We do not know who will come out of the conclave as Pope. However the conclave, coming on the abdication of Benedict XVI and the Double Top Secret report ordered by Benedict, a report only to be seen by him and whoever comes out of the Conclave as the next Pope. It is believed by some including those that investigated the Vatileaks scandal that the contents were so disturbing that they led directly to Benedict’s resignation.

That aside, Papal elections, as well as the politics of the Curia are always shrouded in secrecy and often conspiracy theories. They make for great writing, especially in the fiction and mystery genre of literature. This undoubtably will be the case again in this election, especially due to the unusual circumstances surrounding this conclave.  I’ll bet that Dan Brown has a new novel brewing for Tom Hanks to make a movie right now.

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The scandals involving Catholic Prelates, Clergy and institutions around the world have rocked the Church to its foundations and for the most part the Church has not responded well. It is floundering and theologian Hans Kung notes that “behind the facade, the whole house is crumbling.”

When that magic number of 77 votes is reached and a new Pope is elected white smoke will rise from the chimney of the chapel. I think that the chimney is pretty unremarkable and needs to be replaced with something more Papal  with a bit more bling. After the smoke blows the new Pope will pick a name, I personally like “Bob” because it is kind of blue collar and easy to spell.  He will then get fitted for his new white cassock, of which three sizes will be available. Third World skinny, and White Guy Medium and Large, the Large actually being a 2X just in case the new Pope is not just a man of wisdom but substantial stature.

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I do pray for the Cardinals, as well as the Orioles as the conclave commences and the Orioles continue Spring Training games. I also pledge to pray for whoever is elected as the next Pope. Since I have no clue as to who this will be, with the possible exception of not Cardinal Mahoney that prayer is one of faith and trust in God to work through fallible men to select the Pope. This is something that matters to the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide and to non-Roman Catholics alike. I like Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York because he is a baseball fan, but since he is an American I don’t expect him to get the job.

Thus while I approach this with a bit of humor and levity I also recognize how serious this is for both the Church and the world.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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