Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Guess who's claiming the papal vote was rigged?

Back during the 1980s and 90s when I was really adrift in terms of my faith, I somehow got hooked on a little magazine called The Plain Truth, edited by Herbert W. Armstrong and his successors. Remember that guy? He claimed that Americans and Brits are really Israelis, that we should follow Jewish dietary laws, and that Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays and the only "correct" days of worship are Jewish holidays. I had to chuckle at a lot of the magazine's articles as well as the weekly show The World Tomorrow, but back in 1988 they actually had a very insightful article about the Free Trade election in Canada and what was at stake -- covering some points the MSM missed, such as the US needed a viable partner to take on the European Union.

Interestingly, Armstrong to the best of my recollection never specifically condemned Roman Catholicism. In fact, he had audiences with several Popes during his lifetime. He kept saying something about the European Union being the seventh and final "revival" of the Roman Empire but neglected to mention the "sixth" -- the Hitler / Mussolini cabal -- rejected Christianity as a religion for weaklings. (And for what it's worth, the Vatican did turn a blind eye to the Holocaust which is still a stain on its reputation today.)

Fast foward to 2007. Armstrong is long gone, and the copyright of the books fell into the hands eventually of the "Philadelphia" Church of God. It's a long story but let's just say this church decided to publish Armstrong's books under "fair use" laws after Armstrong's old church turned its back on its past and became part of the evangelical movement. Somehow, the PCG won an upset victory over its rival.

The PCG's magazine is called The Trumpet. And while they're certainly right about Wojtyla and Ratzinger taking on the "liberation theologians" they really go into speculation about whether the papal vote was rigged.

I picked up the magazine at a local restaurant. It seems like every third article they find some way to smear the Vatican or mainline Catholics in general, just enough to avoid libel laws. And this is anything but a principled magazine that The Plain Truth was. In my humble opinion, it's a religious version of MAD.

Look, it's no secret that Wojtyla changed the voting rules during the 90s. This was actually picked up by the press, contrary to what the PCG claims. Catholics knew about the change quite well too. The reason for going to a simple majority after 34 ballots (dropping from 2/3)was to ensure a papal enclave wouldn't last for months, as it often did during the Middle Ages. Someone has to be running the government of a country, even the world's smallest.

As for the "amnesia" the PCG criticizes about what actually happened, it's important to remember the cardinals take an oath of secrecy before the conclave beings. Of course there was going to be a denial of the actual vote, even though it eventually leaked out anyway. The McKenna brothers weren't supposed to know Wojtyla won in 1978 by a vote of 99-9 with 9 spoiled ballots, but they did find out anyway. Newspapers weren't supposed to find out Ratzinger led on the third ballot over Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires 72-40, before winning on the fourth 77-34. A cardinal actually confirming this -- or his assistant -- would be excommunicated if caught, but that didn't stop the leak from happening.

So what if Bergoglio won a surprising level of support? Everyone knew it was Ratzinger's election to lose. Everyone said his greatest fear was Maria Martini of Milan.

And besides, Ratzinger is in my opinion at least, talking sense when he says he'd like Europe to rediscover its faith. Is that really a bad thing? One can support the separation of church and state and still be a faithful person. Just because someone said all roads lead to Rome doesn't necessarily make it so. And regardless of what most secular analysts, most religions, teach -- the War Against Terror will eventually be won. Just not the way we're fighting it right now.

Oh, one other thing -- why is the Philadephia Church of God when most of their offices are in Oklahoma?

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