Before heading off for his summer hols at Castel Gandolfo – (where I trust he will have a real break, play lots of Mozart on his Steinway grand, and forget all about the pig’s ear currently being made of arrangements for his state visit to the UK) – Pope Benedict made a number of key appointments, including that of Cardinal Marc Ouellet (pronounced Oo-ell-ette) as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. This appears to be an excellent choice. The cardinal has been, among other satisfactory things, a member of the editorial board of Communio (which places him firmly with the Pope as a defender of the hermeneutic of continuity and an opponent of modern secular values), and he is very unpopular with Canadian feminists for his views on abortion: one newspaper columnist has expressed the wish that Cardinal Ouellet suffer a slow, painful death. So this cardinal is 100 per cent kosher. He will now be head of the dicastery which advises the Pope in choosing bishops.
Now, this looks like a very good appointment. But where does it leave the Church in England (also in Scotland)? How much does he know about the Church here? Will Cardinal Ouellet take his cue over English appointments from Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, already (why?) a member of the congregation? If he does, we have nothing to look forward to but a continuation of the present policy of appointing thoroughgoing liberal secularisers – think Kieran Conry – to English dioceses (see my blog on the Soho Masses).
Many English Catholics had hoped for the appointment to this powerful congregation of Cardinal George Pell, who knows about England, and would take a personal and well-informed interest in the appointment of English bishops. The alleged reasons for his non-appointment, if true, are particularly galling. Cardinal Pell has in the past been accused of sexual abuse and then been completely exonerated by a secular judge. But the mere fact of his accusation, it seems, has ruled him out.
The other reason, according to the same supposedly well-informed source, is that Cardinal Pell had been strongly supported by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and that “Vatican figures” hostile to Cardinal Bertone stood in the way. And who might they be? Well, one of the excellent cardinal’s enemies, undoubtedly, is toxic Cardinal Angelo Sodano (see my blog), an experienced backstairs conspirator. Who knows? But I would not be in the least surprised. Whatever the reason, though, it is bad news, or at least a failure of really good news, for us.