It’s been a long media week already, and a story that is being buried under the papal visit coverage is one that came out yesterday from veteran Vatican-watcher Ed Pentin:
Further serious concerns are being raised about Cardinal Godfried Danneels, one of the papal delegates chosen to attend the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family, after the archbishop emeritus of Brussels confessed this week to being part of a radical “mafia” reformist group opposed to Benedict XVI.
The Vatican listed him second in importance out of 45 delegates personally chosen by Pope Francis to participate in the upcoming meeting. He also took part in last year’s Extraordinary Synod as a papal delegate.
At the launch of the book in Brussels this week, the cardinal said he was part of a secret club of cardinals opposed to Pope Benedict XVI.
He called it a “mafia” club that bore the name of St. Gallen. The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it “much more modern”, and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. The group, which also comprised Cardinal Walter Kasper and the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has been documented in Austen Ivereigh’s biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer.
Rod Dreher has picked up the story at The American Conservative, and he emphasizes the importance of the fact that “Pentin got his hands on a copy of the authorized —repeat, authorized — biography” – and that this is where the information is coming from, not some anonymous source.
Marco Tosatti, the Senior Religion Correspondent for the the Italian daily, La Stampa, also did a story on this yesterday, which has now been translated by the good folks at Rorate Caeli:
The election of Jorge Bergoglio was the fruit of secret meetings that cardinals and bishops, organized by Carlo Maria Martini, held for years at St. Gall in Switzerland. This is what is claimed by Jürgen Mettepenningen and Karim Schelkens, the authors of a just published biography of the Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who refer to the group of cardinals and bishops as the “Mafiaclub”.
Danneels, according to the authors, had worked for years in preparation for the election of Pope Francis, which happened in 2013. He himself, however, in a video recorded during the presentation of the book admits that he had taken part in a secret club of cardinals that were in opposition to Joseph Ratzinger. While laughing he calls it “a Mafia club whose name was St. Gall”.
The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, much more modern and up to date, with Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis at the head. And this is just as things turned out. In addition to Danneels and Martini, among the others who made up the group according to the book were the Dutch bishop Adriaan Van Luyn, the German cardinals Walter Kasper and Karl Lehman, the Italian cardinal AchilleSilvestrini and the English cardinal Basil Hume.
The Belgian newspaper “Le Vif” wrote: “ On March 13, 2013, an old acquaintance was at the side of the new Pope, Francis: Godfried Danneels. Officially he stood there in his role as the dean of the cardinal-priests, but actually he had operated for years in secret as the king-maker.”
Danneels has been invited again by Pope Francis to attend the Synod on the Family that will take place in October in Rome. But he has been severely criticized. He tried to dissuade a victim of sexual abuse from accusing the man who abused him, a bishop, who was the uncle of the victim, and because of this, at the time of the Conclave in 2013 there were those in Belgium who asked that he not be allowed to elect the new Pope.
In addition, his positions on homosexual marriage and on abortion, (according to the revelations of two parliamentarians Danneels had written to the king of Belgium urging him to sign the law that permitted it) does not seem to be in harmony with the Magisterium of the Church. And not in harmony as well with what Pope Francis affirms.
As a reminder, Pope St. John Paul II wrote an apostolic constitution called Universi Dominici Gregis, which lays out rules for the conduct of conclaves. Of particular note are these sections:
79. Confirming the prescriptions of my Predecessors, I likewise forbid anyone, even if he is a Cardinal, during the Pope’s lifetime and without having consulted him, to make plans concerning the election of his successor, or to promise votes, or to make decisions in this regard in private gatherings.
81. The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election.
82. I likewise forbid the Cardinals before the election to enter into any stipulations, committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate. These promises too, should any in fact be made, even under oath, I also declare null and void.
83. With the same insistence shown by my Predecessors, I earnestly exhort the Cardinal electors not to allow themselves to be guided, in choosing the Pope, by friendship or aversion, or to be influenced by favour or personal relationships towards anyone, or to be constrained by the interference of persons in authority or by pressure groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force, fear or the pursuit of popularity. Rather, having before their eyes solely the glory of God and the good of the Church, and having prayed for divine assistance, they shall give their vote to the person, even outside the College of Cardinals, who in their judgment is most suited to govern the universal Church in a fruitful and beneficial way.
Excommunication is the penalty for collusion and conspiracy to elect a given candidate. This is serious business. It is astonishing that even someone as brazen as Cardinal Daneels would admit to doing so openly, and on the record.
This recalls to mind something that was written by Robert Moynihan (which I covered here) just before the last conclave began. I can’t help but wondering if the mysterious cardinal in this story knew what was happening:
Dr. Robert B. Moynihan, founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine wrote yesterday of an encounter he had with a member of the curia that lends credence to this concern. After recognizing a certain unnamed cardinal of his acquaintance dressed in the manner of a simple clergyman on the streets of Rome, Moynihan approached him to speak a concern that had been on his mind.
“Your eminence,” I said.
In his eyes he was saying to me that he could not answer any questions.
But he was not excluding all conversation. And so I ventured…
“I only wanted to tell you one thing,” I said. “That I loved Pope Benedict.”
He stood still.
“I did too, and I do love him,” the cardinal said.
“And so I have been troubled and a bit off balance since February 11,” I said.
And then, as if filled with a sudden emotion, I saw the cardinal’s face grow dark and sad, and he said, forcefully: “I love him, but this should never have happened. He never should have left his office.”
I was silent.
“It is like a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and father in relation to their children,” he said. “What do they say?” It seemed he was asking me the question.
I was silent.
“They say, ‘until death do us part!’ They stay together always.”
So I understood him to be saying that he felt a Successor of Peter should not step down from the throne, no matter how weary and tired, but continue until death.
I felt the words he was speaking were the words of an argument that may have been used even among the cardinals, but of course, that may not be the case.
But I felt that I was catching a glimpse of how at least one cardinal was thinking about the Pope’s renunciation.
“Your eminence,” I said, “I’ve forgotten. Are you already above age 80, or not?
“I am not yet 80,” he told me.
“So you will be voting tomorrow.”
He nodded, and a look passed over his eyes which seemed filled with shadows and concerns. I was surprised at his intensity. I was surprised by the whole conversation.
He squeezed my hand. “Is there anything else I can do?” I asked.
“Pray for us,” he said. “Pray for us.”
He turned as if he needed to go.
“I have to go.”
He took a step away from me, then turned again.
“It is a dangerous time. Pray for us.”
I think we should do as he asked.
It is good that we trust in the wisdom of Benedict’s decision, that we believe that whatever the reason, he knew what he was doing. But this should not put us at our ease. I believe in the very core of my being that the cardinal is right. It is a dangerous time for the Church. I can feel it. The forces of darkness are alert, and there is something afoot. What it is, we may never know. But this is far from an ordinary conclave.
It’s impossible to say what will become of this story, but with Daneels on the personal papal invite list for the Synod, it must not be forgotten.
The best time to release a news story if you want it to disappear is either during a major news event or on a Friday afternoon. This originally came out yesterday when everyone (including us) was covering Pope Francis’s congressional address. And here I am, wrapping up our week at 5:30PM on a Friday with this bombshell just as everyone is heading home to enjoy their weekend. It wasn’t my intention to come in at the 11th hour, but time is short. We need to keep this one moving. Please, if you find it worthwhile, consider sharing it.
We’ll update you when we know more.
UPDATE 9/26/15 – DENY EVERYTHING. Perish the thought that these men who glibly refer to themselves as “mafia” would actually collude about a papal election. RETRACT. RETRACT. RETRACT. Color me skeptical.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.