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Dark Horses II: An Italian and two more Germans

A briefing on Mauro Piacenza, Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes, and Joachim Cardinal Meisner.
By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The secular media, with its obession with sex and politics, scandals and hidden agendas, often misses stories that would be of real interest to their audience. This week, as we all wait for the announcement of the date of the opening of the conclave, a lot of people in the Church are asking, “What do we need from the next pope?” What are the priorities of the Church from the point of view of her real mission in the world, the salvation of souls?

A good deal of the answer to that question will come by analysing the priorities of the last pope. While the media was screeching over Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address or condemnation of condoms, it was not being reported that Benedict was quietly reforming the structures of the Church. Recently we heard that while the world was looking the other way, Benedict was cleaning the Augean stables, quietly healing the longstanding wounds of the Church by removing problemmatic bishops around the world.

Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, a Spaniard the Vatican diplomat who is the Apostolic Nuncio to the missionary territories of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, told an audience at the University of Madrid that Benedict had “removed two or three bishops per month throughout the world because either the accounts in their dioceses were a mess or their discipline was a disaster.”

Archbishop Buendia said, “The nuncio went to these bishops and said, ‘The Holy Father is asking you for the good of the Church to resign from your post.’” EWTN news reported that nearly all of these bishops meekly accepted the pope’s request to resign. But not all: “There have been two or three instances in which they said no, and so the Pope simply removed them.” Music to the ears of many Catholics around the world.

Moreover, he said, “This is also a message to the bishops: do the same thing in your dioceses.”

I predict that history will remember Pope Benedict not by the shallow assessments of our sophomoric media, but as the man who started the reform of the Church after the decades of chaos that followed the twin blasts of the Sexual Revolution and the Second Vatican Council. Ultimately, unbiased examination of his accomplishments will show that he was the pope who finally started cleaning out the “filth” of the sex abuse scandals, who broke through centuries-old barriers to Christian unity and brought rational discourse back to religious questions too long infatuated with subjective emotivism.

Today many in the Church are looking at the Cardinal Electors and asking, who will continue this Herculean task?

Here we offer three more “dark horse” candidates – defined as “a little-known person…who emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed”. One Italian and two more Germans:

Mauro Piacenza
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
68 years old, Cardinal Elector
Created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI

 

Cardinal Piacenza was born on September 15, 1944 in Genoa, Italy and ordained priest in 1969 by Cardinal Siri.

In September 2008 Archbishop Piacenza was one of the first bishops to praise the document, “Fit for Mission: Church,” published by UK Bishop Patrick O'Donohue that was heavily critical of the laxity of Catholic institutional discipline in Britain. While the document, that called for a return to “authentic Catholic identity,” was poorly received by O’Donohue’s fellow bishops in Britain, Piacenza called it “an effective, practical instrument for advancing the much heralded New Evangelisation”.

Piacenza also said the Congregation was “somewhat amazed” over the opposition by government to the “Fit for Mission: Schools” document that examined the state of Catholic schools in Britain, calling O’Donohue’s initiative “an appropriate and legitimate exercise of Episcopal authority by a Successor of the Apostles charged by God, and by the Church, to ensure that the Faith is transmitted correctly and in its entirety, to the People of God entrusted to his care”. 

When he was appointed to head the Congregation for Clergy, one of the Catholic Church’s most important posts, he was lambasted in the liberal Italian secular press as being “dangerous” for his “anti-Conciliar,” – in other words overly traditional – views.

Piacenza was viciously attacked on the left side of the Italian secular press, who accused him of being a sympathiser with the “Lefebvrist” Society of St. Pius X and of aiming, with the approval of Pope Benedict, to “bring the Church back centuries”. This, despite the fact that Piacenza is not among those members of the College who are known to have celebrated the Church’s Extraordinary or traditional form of the Mass.

In an editorial, La Stampa said that when Piacenza spoke of the Second Vatican Council, his traditionalist interpretation “emptied his words of all meaning”. La Stampa accused him of metaphorically “going around with scissors” to re-cut liturgical vestments to resemble the pre-Conciliar, “Tridentine,” style. “This man has the concepts of a nineteenth-century priest.”

Piacenza, as the head of the clergy congregation, has oversight of the clergy “crisis” in which vocations to the priesthood in many places in the western, industrialised world, have fallen steadily. In an interview with Catholic News Agency, he rejected the media’s interpretation of the problem and their suggestion that the solution is to abolish celibacy, saying the real solution is to improve the quality of priest by improving their theological formation.

He also firmly rejected the persistent calls for the Church to ordain women. “The ordained priesthood of the Catholic Church and of the Orthodox Church is reserved for men and this is not discrimination against women but simply a result of the unsurpassed historicity of the event of the Incarnation and of Pauline theology of the mystical body,” the Church, described as the “bride of Christ”.

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Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes
Retired in 2010 from Presidency of Pontifical Council Cor Unum (Catholic charitable works)
78 years old, Cardinal Elector
Created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI

Cordes is a strong supporter and personal friend of Pope Benedict. After being made a cardinal in 2007, he was appointed as president of “Cor Unum,” the Church’s coordinating body for charitable activities, until his resignation in 2010. During his tenure he opposed and warned against the secularization of Catholic Charities worldwide.  In 2008 he issued a general caution that Catholic charities must not become “indistinguishable from secular organizations such as UNICEF, the Red Cross, and others.”

“Charitable organizations must not forget the Christian meaning of their activity, influenced by the present philanthropic climate or by excessive reliance on public funds,” Cordes said. Catholic charity, he added, is intended to be a “sign of God’s goodness.” Following Cordes’ tenure in Cor Unum, the pope issued legislation initiating sweeping reforms of Catholic charitable activities that requires them to act in accordance with Catholic teaching, particularly on issues related to life and family.

In 2011, Cordes strongly criticised the German Christian Democratic Party over their support for easing restrictions in the Embryo Protection Act. Cordes said, “If a party has the C in its name, they are obliged to follow the Christian understanding of humanity, otherwise they are operating a labelling fraud. “

Cordes said, “By abusing their parliamentary legitimation, Christian politicians have arrogated the right to instruct the hierarchy.”

Asked this week by a German language news agency about his last visit with Pope Benedict, Cordes responded that it was “at the farewell to the cardinals in the Clementine Hall, shortly before his departure last Thursday and it was my turn.

“The Pope asked me spontaneously and easily: ‘How do you do?’ And I replied: ‘Apart from your resignation - well, Holy Father.’ The withdrawal of this great Pontiff left not only in me but in very many believers a painful void.” Asked if he will meet Pope Benedict again, Cordes responded, “I’ve also asked him if I can. And he gave his consent.”

Joachim Cardinal Meisner
Archbishop of Cologne, Germany
79 years old, Cardinal Elector
Created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II

In 2004 Meisner, in the lead-up to World Youth Day in Cologne, forbade dissident French bishop Jacques Gaillot from speaking in his diocese. Gaillot had been stripped of his diocese by John Paul II in 1995 after publicly taking stands opposed to Catholic teaching on condoms, homosexuality and abortion.

Broadly considered a conservative on social issues, Meisner also led a successful effort by the German Catholic hierarchy to stop a plan by police services to hand out condoms at World Youth Day.

Meisner publicly chastised Catholic dissident Hans Kung who had criticised the conservative movement among young Catholics. He told Catholic News Agency that World Youth Day, “is oriented to be an encounter for young people and not for ‘seniors’.” He said, “There is nothing for them (Küng and Drewermann) here, as young people are not interested in the silliness they fostered for so long."

Earlier this year, however, in a move that surprised many in the pro-life movement, Meisner conditionally approved the use of the abortifacient Morning After Pill for rape victims in Catholic hospital. This came in response to a case in which a rape victim was denied such treatment in a Catholic hospital, causing a public backlash.


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