The following comes from a March 4 posting on the blogsite, Whispers in the Loggia.
….”The Cardinals of Camarillo” would make a great book – in all honesty, it’s one this scribe’s wanted to write for some years. In all due praise, though, the Salt Lake Tribune’s Peggy Fletcher Stack went first, producing an immaculate study on two of the group along with the other two bishops from their class back in December. (In retrospect, maybe it’s a good thing the idea never got moved on, as we might just be coming to the culmination of the epic.)
Still, between their backgrounds – Mahony, the progressive activist who John Paul II iconically dubbed “Hollywood” and has since taken to blogging the interregnum in the face of controversy; Levada, the moderate theologian and all-around “fixer” who’d shock many by becoming B16’s first red hat, and Rigali, the quintessential Roman heavyweight formed by Paul VI and the mighty Giovanni Benelli, who’s been spending these days alongside his St Louis protege, now the cardinal-president of New York – together with spheres of influence which respectively reach deep into Latin America and the wider global south, the CDF-centric Curia built by Benedict and Bertone, and the Ratzinger crew’s eternal rivals in the ancien regime of the Secretariat of State, practically every geographic, ideological and situational (e.g. Curia vs. diocesan) base of this Conclave is covered.
Despite their differing experiences and outlooks, the trio have remained close since their start at St John’s Seminary (above) – Levada joins Mahony for part of the retired LA prelate’s annual summer getaway at his Yosemite cabin, and as CDF chief, the former archbishop of San Francisco flew into Philly for Rigali’s 50th anniversary as a priest amid the tumultuous fallout of the 2011 grand jury report on clergy sex-abuse that would expedite the legendary diplomat’s departure.
Last time, however, the triangle wasn’t completed – only with Benedict’s election did Levada become the highest-ranking American in Vatican history with the new Pope’s nod to succeed himself at the head of the doctrine office, a choice born both from their own long, comfortable history, but likewise Joseph Ratzinger’s desire for a US prelate to bring his bench’s experience in tackling clergy sex-abuse onto the global stage. (Despite the flack he’s invariably taken from more traditional elements, it bears reminding that as archbishop of Portland in the late 1980s, Levada was the lone American Ratzinger recruited to serve on the editing commission of what would become the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Within months of each other, only last summer did all three enter retirement. Yet in a voting college where a full quarter were only elevated in 2012 – and at least to some degree, are still getting used to the reality of themselves in scarlet, let alone as papal electors – the dynamic of this Conclave lends an even greater weight to the contacts and memory of the veterans who’ve bestrode the scene for decades and know the elements at hand well enough to start toward a consensus….
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