The procession of cardinals into the 2013 conclave.
As I write this, the cardinal electors are locked inside the Sistine Chapel casting their first round of votes for the new pope. They are completely cut off from the outside world, finally, and there is nothing to interfere with their decision making process. Even electronic devices will be useless within that sacred space during this time, as telecommunications are currently being jammed by devices beneath the Sistine Chapel floor. It's as secret as anything can be made without burying these guys in a cave somewhere, and all I can say is THANK GOD for the secrecy! There are some things the news media should never be part of.
As I reflect on the last month, since His Holiness Benedict XVI declared his abdication to take effect on February 28 of this year, I finally have a moment to pause and take a deep breath. For the first time, just today, the behaviour of the press finally makes sense. The cardinals are now beyond their reach. Their time of influence is over. Now, like the rest of us, they must wait, watch and see.
What the press failed to understand in 2013, just as it did in 2005 and 1978, is that the selection of a pope is not the same as an election of a president, prime minister, or even an elected king. You see the press is looking at this through entirely carnal vision. They see it simply as politics, wherein candidates are jockeying for a frontrunner position, trying to win the approval of their fellow cardinals to "get enough votes" to seize the moment. Naturally, as in all democratic processes, the news press hope to throw its influence into the race as well. You see, in today's world, the news media has come to assert a tremendous amount of control over the leaders of the West. Not only can they promote a political candidate by the stories they choose to run, but they can eliminate candidates by the stories they choose not to run. Their power is not only seen by what is broadcast on the evening news, but even more so by what lands on the cutting room floor. They have become accustomed to this power, and they literally expect to have some kind of influence over the outcome of any election.
So it only stands to reason that the news media would have the same expectations over the papal election - right? There is only one hitch, or so the press assumes, there are a limited number of "voters" (this year 115 in all) and a very limited amount of time to influence their thinking. So almost immediately after His Holiness Benedict XVI announced his abdication, they went to work, putting forward the so-called "frontrunners" that the news media decided should be the "frontrunners," along with ignoring any cardinal who may not fit the media's ideal profile. So what is the media's ideal profile? Well for starters, none of the current cardinal electors fit it, so that must be a bit frustrating to the press. Instead they have to focus on ignoring, or downplaying, anyone who overtly contradicts it. Their profile is a man who is charismatic and likeable -- which is a virtuous character by any standard really -- but also one who is open to "change," and this "change" is the devil in the details of the media's thought process. Most news people are overt liberals, and a good number are militant about it. That's just a statistical fact. They want the Catholic Church to become more "politically correct" in its business, and so that means they want women-priests, more homosexual clergy, as well as an openness to artificial contraception, abortion, and same-sex "marriage." They know they're not going to see any of that happen any time soon. This is not the Episcopal Church USA, or the Anglican Communion, but if they could see the Catholic Church just give an inch on these matters, an entire army of progressives within the Church eagerly await the opportunity to take a mile. So the man the media wants as pope is a man who seems most likely to be willing to "give in a little" on this issue or that. Now that doesn't mean they are right in their presumed selection of "frontrunners," as a cardinal may say one thing in public, but then hold to a much more strict view behind closed doors, but it does give some insight into the mindset of the people reporting the news. They're putting forward their favourites, and hoping the cardinal electors are reading and watching what they report.
It's more than that really. The interregnum period between popes is a grand opportunity for the press to begin trotting out all the dissidents in the Catholic Church, who champion the same views the press holds dear, and we saw no shortage of this over the last month. In this particular case, without the death of a pope to mourn, the news media wasted no time jumping into heavy criticism of the Church, the Vatican and the last pope in particular. "Crisis" and "scandal" became the oft chanted mantras over the last month, repeated so many times that the words themselves begin to sound funny. These are the tools of the trade as far as the press is concerned, designed to destabilise an institution and make it more vulnerable to suggestion. No broadcast minutes were wasted, no ink left unprinted, to make sure this message was clearly conveyed.
Alas, however, their time is now over. They now have no more control over the process than any one of us, and that my friends is a very good thing. In recent decades, the mainstream press has attempted to become a kind of Borgias, seeking to influence (and possibly control) the election of the next pope for the reasons I just cited above. It's a very disrespectful and wicked thing when you really stop and think about it. Even the famous atheist entertainer, Penn Jillette, recently said in regards to the Catholic Church: "Well, I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope's position more than most Catholics. I really take people at their word. And it seems like all of the cynicism and all of the -- who are we going to get in, modernizing -- there's not supposed to be modernizing. It's supposed to be word of God." He was taking CNN reporter Pierce Morgan, a professed "cafeteria Catholic," to school on what it means to be a Catholic. After Morgan objected with the idea that the Church needs to change with the times so as to save lives and prevent suffering, Jillette continued: "This is great, what side you're picking here. I would say on my side that if you have someone who is a conduit to God and is speaking God's word, even if you can't understand exactly what God's plan is, even if you do see suffering, that you consider unacceptable, or any suffering is unacceptable, that still doesn't mean you get to vote on what God actually believes." Again, the "Catholic" CNN journalists objected, saying that Catholics should be allowed to use condoms, women should be made priests, and that all of these things are just a matter of private interpretation, only to be put in his place by the avowed atheist Penn Jillette: "Absolutely. But now you're talking Martin Luther. That was Martin Luther saying that an individual -- I don't think he actually mentioned you by name, but an individual could interpret the Bible themselves. The idea, as I understand it, of the Catholic church is that it's not interpreting the Bible yourself. You have somebody who is actually able to do that. Once you have somebody that is telling you, we are interpreting God for you, it seems like you either agree or you don't. You either say, like Martin Luther, I'm going to have a direct relationship with the word of God, or I'm going to go through a conduit of God on Earth, which would be the Pope." Slam dunk! And in the days leading up to this conclave, an outspoken (and remarkably frank) atheist has just pegged liberal Catholics for what they really are -- Protestants! (No offence intended toward my Protestant friends and readers.)
It seems that CNN, and many other mainstream news networks, newspapers, and media outlets have peppered themselves with "cafeteria Catholics," the likes of Piers Morgan, who are really liberal Anglicans with an identity crisis. Before Morgan encourages the bishops to "come out of the closet" on matters related to human sexuality, he may do well to come out of the closet himself, and finally face the fact of what he has become -- a Protestant of the very liberal persuasion -- but the same could be said of many on the CNN staff, as well as other news outlets. It is incredibly rude, disrespectful and downright wicked, to attempt to change another man's religion to suit your own fancies. Yet this is exactly what the Borgias in the mainstream press have attempted in recent weeks, as in 2005 and perhaps even 1978. They have an agenda, they find "cafeteria Catholics" (really closet Anglicans I suppose) who agree with them on it, and then trot them out in front of the cameras, like the 1960s dinosaurs they are, to tell the world how the Catholic Church ought to do things. All the while, they hope the cardinal electors are listening.
Yet perhaps it is their ignorance that is our saving grace. For the mainstream news media does not really understand the conclave, and that may be a blessing in disguise. You see, a conclave is not "politics as usual." It's far from it actually. You see, the cardinal electors go into a conclave with an entirely different mindset than election candidates and campaign voters. These men enter the conclave with the fear of God weighing heavily on their souls. At every turn, from images on the walls, to the prayers that are chanted, they are reminded of the literal Hell that awaits them if they fail to execute their most solemn duty. Their votes are forever secret, and they know that, as their ballots are literally burned in the stove that emits the black or white smoke from the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Whatever influences that came with them from the outside world will be evaporated with the first puff of black smoke that rises from the chimney. In the hours, or days, that follow no outside influence stands between them and the voice of the Holy Spirit. The pestilence of the mainstream press is over, beyond their reach, no longer able to affect their minds. Their decision really and truly is between them and God now, and the mainstream media can just shut its mouth and wait with the rest of us. For the men inside will not vote for a man who seeks the office. Any "campaigns" or pre-conclave "rallying" behind this candidate or that will quickly fall apart. The cardinal electors enter the conclave with one thought in mind. God has already selected the next pope. He is here among us, and it is our solemn duty to figure out who that is. In the end you see, the conclave is not really an "election" at all. It's more of a "selection," and that is something the mainstream news media has never understood, does not now understand either, and probably never will. For faithful Catholics, and for the Church in general, considering the nature and intent of many within the press, that is probably a very good thing for which we could be thankful.
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