Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The Sistine Chapel, which will be closed to visitors for the duration of the papal conclave, is being readied for occupation by the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church when they gather to elect a new pope.  Along with the mandatory oath of secrecy taken by all the cardinals before official meetings begin, security to prevent leaks through electronic devices will be put in place in the Sistine Chapel.
Yet while the world will primarily notice the familiar four rows of tables lining the chapel's sides to the rood screen, the most intense piece of the preparation literally begins at ground level – as in 2005, a whole-room platform will be built to lift the floor and provide for the installation of a warren of signal-jammers underneath to ensure that the voting site is kept free of any attempt at wireless communication. 

The jammers likewise surrounded the Domus Sancta Marthae last time to maintain, but given the degree of technological evolution over the last eight years, the de-bugging operation at this Conclave – both to maintain its secrecy and keep the cardinals out of contact with the world – promises to be ever more intense, and is likely to include the confiscation of all devices belonging to the electors before the voting begins. 
Charles Pierce at his Esquire blog asks why the intense emphasis on secrecy.
We are told repeatedly that the cardinal-electors fulfill their office at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Even silly American TV reporters repeat this, whether they believe it or not.) That being the case, why is it necessary to cloak the work of the Spirit in secrecy? Scripture tells us that the Spirit is available to us all. It came upon the disciples and the first thing they did was run right out and proclaim it, gobsmacking the daylights out of the people who'd come to Jerusalem just to buy a goat or two.
Exactly.  What is so secret about the movement of the Holy Spirit that The Clan of the Red Beanie (Thank you, Charles) must conduct the business of electing a new pope under tight security?  Of course, word will get out.  The princes of the Roman Catholic Church are not entirely above harmless leaks about the process, and not long after the election, we'll be reading articles and a little later entire books about what took place inside the walls of the Sistine Chapel. 


Anonymous said...

Secrecy can protect from outside pressure and home governments who might not approve of how a cardinal votes. And the Church system is less opaque than our own American oligarchy, where informal cliques of donors and party insiders pick who gets put on the ballot before any actual voter can even consider the choices.

BTW, I read a blog post tonight which argues that your favorite cardinal (Burke) will be elected the next Pope because he's such a stern disciplinarian and devoted traditionalist. At almost every reason listed, I kept thinking "He'd be a disaster for the Church!". Hopefully the post was just wishful thinking on the part of Catholics who would have preferred that Vatican II never took place.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Are the cardinals accountable to home governments? Perhaps in some countries, but certainly not here. I can't see a cardinal caring at all about what the Obama administration thinks. In some parts of the world, the pressure might be on for a pope who is anti-gay, but, let's face it, all the cardinals are anti-gay, even the gay cardinals. The process seems pretty opaque to me. I don't know that money changes hands, but the pressure is still on with certain factions wanting to have things their own way. See the story at The Lead.

My "favorite" Cardinal Burke would be the worst kind of disaster as a choice, but I believe the chances are slim that an American will be chosen pope.