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Nothing will deflate our Church more than the wrong choice of nuncio

Cardinal Bertone, the Pope appointed you for your orthodoxy: now, send us a nuncio in your own image

By on Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, will appoint the next nuncio to Britain (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, will appoint the next nuncio to Britain (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, last week announced his retirement due to ill health; he will probably end his time here in December. He has been in the post for five and a half years: he was thus the last nuncio to have been appointed to England and Scotland by the disastrous former Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his very welcome replacement, now has a chance to make an appointment which could decisively change the direction of the English Church. The problem we have had here is simple. For the most part, nuncios are not pastors: they are diplomatists. And, in the words of Damian Thompson’s Telegraph blog on Monday: “I don’t want to single out Archbishop Sainz, because he was just one of a string of Apostolic Nuncios or Delegates who represented the bishops’ conferences to the Pope rather than the other way around [my italics]. Like secular diplomats who go native, the Holy See’s ambassadors have allowed the Magic Circle to force the names of second-rate Church politicians on to ternas.”

Damian (not for the first time) is absolutely spot on: well, I would say that; I have been saying the same thing for years. In early 2007, in Faith magazine, I gave as one reason “why Pope Benedict wanted Sodano out and a less ‘diplomatic’ Secretary of State in”, that it was “not dissimilar to the suspicions of the Foreign Office traditionally voiced in British political circles: that it is run by people whose instinct is to ‘go native’.”  Another reason was given by the Pope himself: he explained that he had just appointed Cardinal Bertone because of his combination – just demonstrated as Archbishop of Genoa – of  “pastoral care and doctrinal wisdom”. The question was this:

But why would the Pope want a more doctrinally focused Secretary of State? The answer has to do with another question, often asked in this country. Why was it, when nearly all the present bishops were appointed by Pope John Paul II, that so many of them seemed dedicated to frustrating his intentions? Why, in other words, had he made so many mistakes? The answer is that in recommending a priest to the Pope for appointment as bishop, the Congregation for Bishops in Rome is almost entirely dependent on the information relayed to it by the Apostolic Nuncio of the country concerned, who sends a report of about 20 pages, together with a list of three names (the terna) and his own preference. Why have we had overwhelmingly liberal bishops for the last 30 years? Because we have had liberal nuncios. Who appoints the nuncios? Why, the Secretary of State.

Cardinal Bertone, we need your “pastoral care and doctrinal wisdom” now: send us a nuncio in your own image; it would help if he also spoke reasonable English and was prepared to use it to talk to priests and laity, and not just to the bishops. If you can’t find a nuncio in your existing diplomatic corps who is dedicated to the present Pope’s vision of the Church, look elsewhere (after all, the Pope did when he appointed you).

Your Eminence, we need you to make the right appointment if we are to maintain our hope for the future, which is so much more buoyant now after the papal visit. Nothing will deflate it more powerfully than the wrong nuncio. Please, don’t let us down, as Rome has so often let us down in the past. 

  • paulpriest

    D'you think?

    Dr Oddie : You've read The Man who was Thursday & The Ball and the Cross ; yes?

    Were a Bertone acolyte to arrive upon these shores; a strong adherent to the Benedictine Revolution; the bitterest enemy of the hermeneutic of rupture – a Bellarmine/Borromeo/Bosco amalgam – the living antithesis to the Cormac-Munoz 'axis of accommodation' – the DefCon 1 scenario for the Magic Circle ?

    How would he be treated ?
    Would he ever find himself 'in the loop'' or ever garner enough confidence amongst the Bishops or the elite professional clergy/laity behemoth for them to 'drop their guard' and inform him of the true state of affairs or even assist him in his duties ?
    I do not think so.
    He might rather find himself a victim of a campaign of disinformation; or worse be inflicted with machavellian machinations of divided cabals whispering mendacities against their adversaries.

    He'd have to outsource his intelligence network ; finding trusted friends and allies who'll 'go undercover'- [reminiscent of Ratzinger's 'grigori' who'd report back all the nefarious misdeeds of the USCCB to the CDF]

    …leading to hyper-paranoid Bishops, Vicars General and Quangocrats looking over their shoulders , trusting no-one and ensuring no potential 'mole' was allowed any access to information whatsoever; actuating a two-tier hegemony where official policy on the books said one thing ; but real decisions, objectives and strategies being implemented behind closed doors among 'sound friends' telling a very different story.

    With +Munoz going so native , he became aware of everything, ye gods on occasion he assisted in the implementation or helped instigate certain actions to assist the ancien regime and defy Roman policy ; to go all 'Claudian' – “all the poisons which lurked in the mud – hatched out!”
    Faustino knew all the skeletons, knew where all the bodies were buried [even helped with the shovelling] and was thus fuly aware of every episcopal candidate's foibles, faults and failings; and how these setbacks could be 'worked around' to ensure their appointment.
    Who was not wanted by the hive-collective – irrespective of their talents,intellect, pastoral experience and credentials etc: Who was most defnitely wanted – irrespective of their being ignorant, incapable, a loose-cannon and a liability.
    I think both know who we mean.

    At present the game is being played in open air.

    A devout , orthodox, independent and truly Roman Nuncio would lead to this whole apparatus going underground and retreating to the shadows.

    …and in an establishment run by Archbishop 'status-status-status-quo' Nichols ?
    One might as well carve words ten feet high and as deep as a spear is long on the world ash tree the mantra that would pervade Westminster at all times…


    Bertone has three options :
    a] appoint a visible Bertone-acolyte – a Benedictine man through-and-through – and let chaos commence.
    b] appoint a double-agent – a quicksilver-witted Loki who can play everyone off against each other ; an empathic genius who can read people and events and accommodate himself accordingly to ensure the optimum amount of information can be gathered – appearing all things to all people – while underneath being nothing but a Roman to the core. Ruling like a Louis XI – Acting like a Claudius.
    c] appoint a second Munoz – one who will emulate him in every way – having every door open to him and access to every intimacy and muddy secret and dodgy collusion with governments/big business/enemies of Holy Mother Church; but this time surround him with ostensibly low-key assistants who are the real people in charge and on whom Rome can rely. With a Munoz mark 2 – you wouldn't need to resort to cloak and dagger shenanigans to find out what they're up to – A mere liquid lunch and a free three course dinner would loosen the lips of every cleric and quangocrat I've ever met ; providing you were someone who neither acted nor indicated you were ever a potential threat to them.

    So if you were Cardinal Bertone – what would you do ?
    Short-term mini victory with a hundred future internecine struggles to fight and endure?
    Or a long-term visionary stance where we can truly return Our Lady's dowry back to Rome ?

  • Hugh McLoughlin

    William, you plead of Cardinal Secretary of State Bertone: “send us a nuncio in your own image; it would help if he also spoke reasonable English and was prepared to use it to talk to priests and laity, and not just to the bishops.”
    I just happen to know of the very man: His Excellency Monsignor James Patrick Green, titular Archbishop of Altinum, currently Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Msgr Green was formerly assessore of sostituto Leonardo Sandri and prior to that served as capo sezione of the English Language Section of the First Section, the Section for General Affairs, of the Secretariat of State.

    Msgr Green has now been in South Africa for about four-and-a-half years and a transfer to Great Britain would not be un-timeous. Of course, there is the problem that hailing from Philadelphia Pa. his English aint necessarily all that great, but…

  • Hugh McLoughlin

    Sorry, a wee correction. I was looking at two sets of notes at the one time and got something mixed up. Msgr Green was not assessore, he went from capo sezione to South Africa in 2006. Many apologies.

  • paulpriest

    As a former resident of Pennsylvania [diocese of Erie] the Pa accent isn't that offensive on the ears ; the only real distinction being an insertion of an eeh sound before a short a ; and it's really quite endearing.
    Of course US English is a wonder to behold ! Debark for disembark , acclimate for acclimatise, burglarised for burgled; yet not one american could ever tell me if buoys [pronounced boo-wees] were boy-ant or boo-wee-ant!

    An American might be a shrewd appointment – The British have a predisposition into thinking that unless and american sounds like Gore Vidal or Orson Welles they aren't that intelligent and are easily duped [yes we regrettably possess that virtually-ingrained default presumptuous xenophobia - the British always feel superior!]. A mild-mannered intelligent empath could very quickly and easily assess the situation here ; for once someone is perceived as not to be a threat or a potential irritant ? Our Magic Circle cannot help boasting of, and revelling in, their own greatness….