Pastor General's Report


The big news over the weekend, of course, concerns the death of Pope Paul VI. The pontiff was close to 81 years of age, having ruled over the Roman Catholic Church for 15 years, ever since the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963. He presided over the church during, perhaps, some of its most tumultous years of modern times, initiating many changes in Roman Catholic beliefs and customs while affirming traditional views in other areas, such as celibacy and birth control. He was a heretic to some, a stubborn arch-conservative to others.

Attention now turns to the selection process for the papal successor. The balloting by the college of Cardinals will begin 15 to 18 days from the date of Paul's death. Who emerges on top will largely be determined by the relative strength of the various factions comprising the electors.

According to Vatican observer Malachi Martin, in his recent book The Final Conclave, the Roman Catholic Church is today split into four-major factions. 1) The first is the Progressivist, composed of the Christian Marxists (who advocate a close alliance between Christians and and Communists), the "New Theologians" (who believe that practically everything in the Church is out of date and in need of modernization) and the Charismatics (who place great emphasis on the "gifts of the Spirit"). The Progressivist faction is believed to control about 26 votes out of the 118 voting Cardinals. 2) The Traditionalist faction, with 50 votes, holds that Pope Paul VI was a heretic and a traitor. The Traditionalists want to reverse most or all of the changes he made in the Church since his election in 1963. 3) The Conservatives, with 35 votes, decry both the Progressivists and Traditionalists. They prefer to steer a steady course with some gradual changes now and then. They feel that Pope Paul may have gone a bit too far too fast, but in no way consider him to have been a "heretic." 4) The fourth faction is the Radical, with but 7 votes, which feels the Church should divest itself of all political and financial entanglements, and concentrate its energies on spiritual concerns alone.

Interestingly enough, one of the Cardinals who is mentioned as one of the "frontrunners" to become the next Pope is a man who was given the job, by Pope Paul, of actually pushing for a United Europe! He is Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, 57, the former righthand man of Pope Paul VI as the Vatican's Undersecretary of State. Benelli is a "traditionalist... in the Catholic Church who led the battle against Italy's new abortion law. In his book, Martin notes that Benelli has acquired such nick names as "the Gauleiter," the "Cossack, " "Il Duce," and "the Hangman." Furthermore, he has, in Martin's words, "set out to recreate the idea of a unified Europe." Martin states that Pope Paul VI gave Benelli the role of "organizer of a 'new soul' for Europe." He goes on to predict: "Benelli will seek to galvanize political, religious, economic, and cultural interests in, and support for, a new unity in Europe."

While Benelli's open sympathy for the Catholic archtraditionalist dissident, Archbishop Lefebre, has weakened his political standing in the Vatican, he is still considered, in the words of an Associated Press report, as "one of the kingmakers in any papal election."

Gene Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportAugust 07, 1978Vol 2 No. 30