Progressives, Moderates, Neocons: Notes Before the Conclave

On one side, Ratzinger, Ruini, Bergoglio, Scola with their proposal for a new “Papal Revolution.” On the other side, the list of their opponents, with Tettamanzi as the man for all seasons

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, April 14, 2005 – On Tuesday, April 19, the first full day of the conclave which will elect the new pope, the feast in the calendar of the Roman Church is that of Saint Leo IX. He was pope between 1049 and 1054. He was a standard bearer of the great “Papal Revolution” which, at the beginning of the second millennium, between the 11th and 12th centuries, refashioned the Church and the West. He was German.

And the indisputable front runner in this conclave at the beginning of the third millennium is also German – but above all, he is “Roman.” He is Joseph Ratzinger, and he will turn 78 on April 16. The morning of Monday the 18th, he will be the one presiding over the “missa pro eligendo romano pontifice” at Saint Peter’s. And during the first secret ballot on Monday afternoon, he is expected to receive numerous votes of consensus and esteem, certainly several dozen at least. The quorum necessary to be elected, with 115 cardinals present, is 77 votes. At the tally, Ratzinger and the other cardinals will be watching and judging. They will be standing beneath the terrible gaze of a Judge infinitely higher than they are, the Christ painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

But the proposal that Ratzinger and his party have presented to the cardinal electors is also fearsome and demanding. They want “a Church that is not folded in upon itself, not timid, not lacking in trust, a Church burning with the love of Christ for the salvation of all men,” as Cardinal Camillo Ruini said in a homily at a Saint Peter’s basilica overflowing with crowds, two days after the funeral for John Paul II.

During the last few months Ruini has been, together with Ratzinger, the most active and explicit in defining the scenario of the new pontificate. And many leading cardinals have taken their side, some of them likely candidates for the papacy themselves. In the curia there is German cardinal Walter Kasper, one of Ratzinger and Ruini’s scholarly colleagues since the three were simple theology professors. In Latin America, there are the Argentine of Italian origin Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, and the Chilean Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago. In the United States, there is Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago. In Canada, there is Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Québec. In Australia, there is George Pell, archbishop of Sydney. In Eastern Europe there is Józef Glemp, archbishop of Warsaw. In Italy, there are Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, and Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna. This is the framework for the neoconservative party whose beacon is Ratzinger. Another group of cardinals that has recently drawn closer to this party is the circle of cardinals who are friends of Opus Dei, led by the two who are members of Opus: in the Vatican, Julián Herranz, the leading authority on canon law in the curia, and in Latin America, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima.

The power of the neoconservatives essentially consists in their program. They want a resumption of the active management of the Church’s ordinary governance, its cleansing from “filthiness,” a reinforcement of the doctrinal and moral formation of the clergy, a renewal of basic evangelization and the teaching of the catechism, a qualitative improvement in the celebration of the liturgy, a new missionary campaign.

But it is above all from the perspective of the Church “ad extra” that their program distinguishes itself. The most fearsome conflict of the next decades, Ratzinger and Ruini have both said on numerous occasions, will not be that between the Church and Islam, but rather the cultural conflict between the Church and “the radical emancipation of man from God and from the roots of life,” which characterizes contemporary Western culture and which “leads in the end to the destruction of freedom.” For the neoconservative cardinals, the Church’s commitment to this clash centered in the West must be given absolute priority in the next pontificate.

Their scenario has three other corollaries. The first that the Church will not fight alone in this epochal conflict, but will look for and find allies even in secularist currents of thought far removed from Catholicism; for example, in those represented by Francis Fukuyama and Jürgen Habermas, the two authors cited most frequently by Ratzinger and Ruini of late.

The second corollary concerns …


Full article

Before we discuss the concerns of progressives, moderates and neocons, can we have a clear understanding of what each of these is? Can someone be a moderately progressive neocon, or is that against the rules? What the heck is a neocon anyway a new conservative, sounds like a contradiction in terms. Is that like a traditional liberal?

The second corollary concerns the visibility of the Church. In the wake of John Paul II, the neoconservatives do not want the Church simply to speak privately to consciences, but to act as a guiding social force at the center of the public arena.

The third regards the very essence of the Church. In his last conference before the death of pope Karol Wojtyla, which he gave on April 1 in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger harshly criticized those who “reduce the core of Jesus’s message, the kingdom of God, to the buzzwords of political moralism.” Because in this way, “God is forgotten, and in his place there are only words that are easily turned to any sort of misuse.”

No one in the college of cardinals has presented a complete alternative project alongside the neoconservatives’ program. But there is no lack of serious objections and resistance, and at the beginning of the conclave this will be turned into votes in favor of other candidates.

In the area conventionally defined as progressivist, these objections are of two kinds, each with its supporters.

The first objection contests the priority the neoconservatives give to the confrontation between the Church and secular culture over the vision of man and life.

Cardinals like Cláudio Hummes, archbishop of San Paolo in Brazil, and Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, maintain that such a priority is too restricted to the Western context, and **want the Church to give first place instead to the commitment for justice, peace, and the protection of creation. **

Both Hummes and Rodriguez Maradiaga have long proposed themselves as candidates for the papacy. The first of these read on March 16 in the Vatican, at a conference on “Gaudium et Spes,” a speech that was interpreted as an act of autoinvestiture, the central thesis of which was that “the priority of a servant Church must be solidarity with the poor.” The second of these has had the benefit of a heavy barrage of media coverage. But both of them come to the conclave with few certain supporters.

**The second objection is typically liberal. It proposes a making the Church more democratic internally (see the following article) and a greater relationship of “sharing” with the culture and custom widespread in the West. It calls for new solutions on priestly celibacy, women’s roles, communion for divorced persons who have remarried. It invokes more ecumenism. It is mistrustful of an excessively visible and public Church, and prefers a more interior and discreet Christian life. **

The cardinals in favor of this approach include Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Brussels, Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, Keith Michael P. O’Brien, archbishop of Edinburgh, and Stephen Fumio Hamao, a Japanese cardinal working in the curia. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini can also be assigned to this current, and was its preferred papal candidate for many years. But only in effigy. This current has no chance of imposing itself on the conclave.

But the third and last current, that of the moderates, does have a real possibility of success.

Among its most visible exponents are the cardinals of the curia Angelo Sodano, Giovanni Battista Re, and Crescenzio Sepe, who are rivals among themselves for many reasons, but are united in creating resistance and disruption against the project of Ratzinger and the neoconservatives.

In the days immediately following the death of John Paul II, while the cardinals were gradually arriving in Rome, these three went into a frenetic lobbying effort with the help of other members of the curia who are unable to enter the conclave because they are over 80 years of age, but are also very active: Achille Silvestrini and Pio Laghi.

Neither Sodano, nor Re, nor Sepe can entertain the illusion of having a chance of being elected. But the handful of votes that each of them controls could raise the chances of the only identifiable real candidate in the swampland of the moderates: Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan. The affiliates of the Community of Saint Egidio have also moved into action on Tettamanzi’s behalf. They are very adept at influencing the third rank of cardinals, and especially the Italian and international press, a modern substitute for the power of pressure and veto that was once the prerogative of kings.

Tettamanzi was a high flyer years ago as an expert in bioethics. He helped John Paul II to write speeches and encyclicals in defense of unborn life. But now that these topics have become more crucial than ever in the United States, Europe, and Italy, both inside and outside of the Church, a real “epochal question” in Ratzinger and Ruini’s judgment, he doesn’t talk about them anymore. And instead, he produces the requisite mountains of fluff against globalization, neoliberalism, and media domination.

If elected, he will be hailed as the most progressivist pope possible, an incomparable defender of the status quo.

THat liberal approach stinks to High Heaven and will cause a split in the Church if one of those people become Pope and try to change things like that.

[quote=Scott_Lafrance]Before we discuss the concerns of progressives, moderates and neocons, can we have a clear understanding of what each of these is? Can someone be a moderately progressive neocon, or is that against the rules? What the heck is a neocon anyway a new conservative, sounds like a contradiction in terms. Is that like a traditional liberal?
[/quote]

Let’s see… :hmmm:
Progressive = liberal (modern definition)
Moderate = anti-conservative, but no real personal beliefs
Neo-con = Handy ad hominem club for use against orthodox

Is that about right?

That’s EXACTLY right, except that’s how it’s used politically. It’s a confusion to apply political terms like conservative/liberal to the Church, and (as the main source of confusion) it is the “liberals” who are mainly doing the misapplying.

I’m especially amused by the use of the term “neocon” seeing as how it is almost meaningless in political discourse… it’s application to ecclesial debate is especially laughable.

Let’s use the right terms:
Heterodox.
Lukewarm.
Orthodox.

While we must be open to new Orthodoxies (like St. Francis, et cetera), and should examine “new” ideas fairly, and should be careful to distinguish aesthetics from Divine mandate… still, we can’t be embarrassed to call a heretic a heretic, and that is exactly what many of the so-called “Liberal” Catholics are.

[quote=bengeorge]That’s EXACTLY right, except that’s how it’s used politically. It’s a confusion to apply political terms like conservative/liberal to the Church, and (as the main source of confusion) it is the “liberals” who are mainly doing the misapplying.

I’m especially amused by the use of the term “neocon” seeing as how it is almost meaningless in political discourse… it’s application to ecclesial debate is especially laughable.

Let’s use the right terms:
Heterodox.
Lukewarm.
Orthodox.

While we must be open to new Orthodoxies (like St. Francis, et cetera), and should examine “new” ideas fairly, and should be careful to distinguish aesthetics from Divine mandate… still, we can’t be embarrassed to call a heretic a heretic, and that is exactly what many of the so-called “Liberal” Catholics are.
[/quote]

In that light, a “moderate” is a non-commital heretic, right?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.