Cardinal O'Brien and another Papal Cat...

This time not the Holy Father Benedict's pet but... a cat among the papabile pigeons!

In an interview earlier today he expressed his support for what was once, from the time of the apostle Peter onwards, the universal discipline of the Church. Indeed, it is still the discipline of Eastern Rite Catholics, as well as Orthodox, Coptic and other Christians who follow the ancient apostolic customs. Only the Latin Church has changed on this, admittedly 1000 yrs ago, but it was still a massive breach of the universal discipline of the Universal Church. So, it is good we have a real traditionalist in Cardinal O'Brien.

The problem is that the discipline in question is that of mandatory celibacy for ALL priests. It is one of the issues which gets everyone hot under the collar, especially traditionalists. It was also an issue that the Cardinal solemnly promised, when made a cardinal, to hold and promote the current Vatican discipline on. Going public with his views, even when we might agree with him, creates an impression of disobedience, of not taking oaths seriously. I think the Cardinal spoke sincerely, and off the cuff, but even so it adds a rather disturbing note in the atmosphere.

Currently the media, and especially Catholic blogs and media outlets, are all, understandably, animated about what the future holds. As the papal abdication came out of the blue the usual years or at least month long politicking hasn't had a chance so everything is taking place under pressure and the public gaze. Catholics of all persuasions have a vested interest in the outcome of the papal election, and so it is quite right that they express their hopes and fears directly to the Cardinals they know, and indirectly through the media such as this blog. The laity have often played quite dramatic roles in the elevation of bishops and of pope's, so it really isn't something that should surprise or alarm anyone.

Yet the powers in the Vatican seem twitchy. It has issued a statement asking for cardinals to avoid airing their view in the media or adding to the speculation. On one level the reasoning is reasonable, that the media is so far removed from the Christian view of things that its view of things will be totally inappropriate. (Though lets not forget the positive role the media played in raising the issue of child abuse and the need for the Church to address this in more than a token way). But it seems an over reaction. Why not send a letter to each Cardinal directly, and in private? Public statements...are... public, ironic given what the statement was saying!

This has to be added to the decision of Pope Benedict to release to all the cardinals responsible for the election of his successor with the Vatileaks report. Whatever its contents, that he has made this directive now, rather than leave it to his successor, suggests that it must be pertinent to the decision the cardinals will make. We have to wonder, how?

In this context, that Cardinal O'Brien felt free to express his hopes about clerical celibacy in public, and add that to Cardinal Turkson's interviews, suggests that there is something less than a strong sense of mutual collegiate respect. The lack of any strong or obvious candidate, as well as the long running gossip about divisions at the highest levels within the Vatican, suggests that we now face a college of cardinal's far from a common mind .

These divisions are not about liberal or conservative, at least I would be surprised if they were after all the cardinals have been appointed by either John Paul II or Pope Benedict, and as with the case of Cardinal O'Brien, their loyalty on the key theological and moral issues has been put under the most intense of pressure so the theological room between most candidates is going to be more of a matter of nuance than anything else. So, why are the cardinals so lacking in a sense of common brotherhood?

Surely it is time for us to pray, and pray hard.