Episode Two: "Lamentabili Culpa"
For well over 40 years most of the world had wandered aimlessly in the desert of uncertainty, caving to the whims of fleeting goals. This hour promised a respite. Civilization this day would discover the long sought-after oasis that would provide the never-ending well-spring of bounties and grace that had been absent for nearly five decades. Parched by this vacuum of virtue, many might have first regarded it as a mirage. But there was no mistaking it. The Pope of Rome was there before them on their screens wherever they tuned, on the radio, everywhere there was communication. What he would say might possibly rock society to its senses.
In New York and Eastern time zones, the daily soap operas would be pre-empted, as would the programming in the Midwest and Mountain regions.
In Dallas the morning sun had calmed the Texas prairie winds, slowly ridding the snow drifts that were now melting under the warming rays. From a burnt-out bar and grill on the southwest side of the city, Ben O'Fallon tinkered with a shovel, trying to unearth keepsakes and memorabilia from The Crooked Spigot that had been engulfed in the explosion at the Metroplex Mirror. As he continued extricating items from the rubble, an announcer, on the portable radio O'Fallon had brought along, broke in with the news. He instinctively blessed himself and maintained what he was doing, ratcheting up the volume so his ear could be more attuned to what the Holy Father would say, praying also for his good friend Vic whom he had not heard from. Ben feared the worst. In his heart he knew Van Wess had given his life to save mankind. Silently he said a prayer for Vic's soul as he continued digging.
In the Western time zone, citizens would not be able to watch the Today Show this morning nor could those commuters, moving like snails on the freeways of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Seattle, listen to their favorite tunes, rehash last night's game on the 24-hour sports talk stations, or envision themselves debating with the pompous talk show host on the latest political issue or why the attack on the Vatican late last night. In Hawaii, the sun had still several hours before it would peek over the horizon of the Pacific.
In Australia it was nearing 2 a.m. tomorrow. Bars would be closed soon. Most were asleep. Yet in Sydney, in the studios of Global NetSat, things were seemingly in chaos. Phones were ringing constantly. Administrators had forwarded all calls after 9 p.m. to a message line. There was no need to answer. All knew who were calling. The most powerful media moguls and their flunkies the world over were irate over the piracy of the airwaves by GNS...again. Colin had instructed his people to avoid any phone conversation. It was always easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Rembert had lived by that code.
Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 6, 4:40 p.m.
Captain Schuster had given Stephen's Penultimate to Cardinal Kabwela while also returning Cardinal Marcini's Penultimate to the handicapped prelate on the platform. Cardinal Marcini had been prepped on what to do as he focused his beam on the Pope from his perch on the temporary ramp in the back. Meanwhile Cardinal Kabwela positioned himself in the front, holding Navarro's Penultimate within four feet to capture close-up shots of His Holiness' face.
These appointed cardinal "camera men" would just point, for the selection of shots were left to the discretion and creativity of Colin's capable GNS technical director back in Sydney.
Cardinal Mendoza looked out over the assembly, and spoke in a clear Latin tongue. "To the Venerable Brethren gathered here, to the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See."
He stepped back and gracefully gestured for the Holy Father to begin what would be the most important, and inspired words he had ever proclaimed, indeed anyone had uttered in the last 50 years; one which would forever be known simply as Lamentabili Culpa. In Church annals it would rank with the greatest, most profound of Papal decrees.
An inner strength swelled up within Clement's being as he began.
"With truly lamentable fault, and with a firm purpose of amendment We come before you today. We have veered far from the path of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the intentions He directed for His Apostolic Church."
The Pope's words, delivered in the Mother tongue of the Church through a fairly thick Italian accent, were echoing across the universe and being recorded in Pat's Reflector card connected to Stephen's Sony VAIO. This would be the basic data for translating Lamentabili Culpa from Latin into every major language and disseminated to every corner of the world, every parish, every home in the days, weeks and months to come. For now Pat had set it to directly translate and beam out within nine seconds in English to the majority of the world. This same transmission was available to those within the Sistine and around the Vatican thanks to the interpreter headsets distributed prior to the Conclave. It was on this Pat listened, knowing very little Latin, but understanding in the vulgar tongue of his own ancestry what the Holy Father was saying.
"Though We speak to you from this mobile chair beneath the glorious paintings that adorn this room, We speak today from the Chair of Peter, ex cathedra, for We speak on faith and morals through the grace of the Sanctifier."
His Holiness took a deep breath. One could see the IV's containing antibiotics and sustenance, which Dr. Ghislieri had authorized and was at this moment monitoring as the Pope spoke. Many assumed these remedies had improved his condition considerably. There were a few in the room who realized medicine had nothing to do with it. This was God's doing.
Intuitively, Clement knew this as well as he continued his landmark address.
"The catastrophic events of this last week have left an indelible mark on Our heart and soul and on the hearts and souls of every man, woman and child regardless of race or creed. Is civilization on the brink of Armageddon? While it might seem thus to many, We do not think that, nor do the Scriptures indubitably confirm that conjecture. Rather the world has been standing at the crossroad of civilization without a reliable and wise guide. As your humble Servant of the Servants of God, We have failed you. We beseech God to have mercy for Our dereliction. We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have left all wondering, as well as wandering, without being the responsible Shepherds We were all appointed and anointed to be.
The Holy Father was now sitting erectly, his natural tendency to gesture animatedly had returned. If he was running on adrenaline, he would peter out soon; if he was fueled by God, he could go on as long as he needed to in conveying this most vital message; in making amends.
"We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have been lukewarm in our response, failing to fully don the armor of God, ashamed of the breastplate of justice and the shield of faith. This truly lamentable fault has left us vulnerable, as the holy Apostle Paul warned so clearly in Ephesians, chapter six. We, in Ours and that of Our recent and immediate Predecessors' inaction and hesitation, in Our tolerance for sin and Our comings and goings, have left Our flock prey to the principalities and powers of the citadel of darkness.
"In truth, while We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, sought over these many scores to better understand the sheep and their ways, the shepherds were distracted from the purpose of their sacerdotal duty. Slowly practices not in harmony with the Will of God crept into a culture that had become too comfortable in its vices, too willing to sin again and again, refusing to heed Christ's charge to the infirm man and the adulteress, given in John chapter five and eight respectively, and meant for all for all time: 'Sin no more.'"
His deep brown eyes bored into the soul of every man in this room.
"Because of Our laxity in adhering to the constituted evangelic tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, We have, in contradiction to Our solemn pontifical Oath, shifted from the sure path of Calvary. We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, as well as Our Apostolic brethren, set the example of the reckless, careless man of the Gospels who was foolish. We, and Our Apostolic brethren here present, have failed to wear the protective helmet of salvation; We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have failed to shod our feet with the Gospel of peace; rather We have slippered through Our days in the heavy clogs of Adam's guilt and had no remorse for our behavior. The holy Apostle of the Epistles would chastise Us greatly and rightly for Our transgressions and tepid apathy. The beloved Apostle John foresaw on Patmos the Vicars of this modern generation in describing the Lord's reaction, repulsed by Our half-heartedness, we might well expect Him to expel the entrails of Our petitions and Our prayers and Our deeds because We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, were neither hot nor cold."
Clement motioned to Cardinal Bondi for a glass of water. Taking the glass gratefully, he relished the cool liquid refreshing his throat. The protuberances in his larynx experienced the sensation of a spring rain; the nodules were relaxed and soothed, ready to pitch in to boost the tone and smooth the trachea.
"During Our time of exile, a full week, We had much time to ponder Our plight, the plight of Holy Mother the Church and the just punishment for Our sins. We could assimilate with Jonah his time in the belly of the whale for indeed We found Ourselves in a suspended void. Were it not for the heroic virtue of a loyal son We would not be addressing Our Apostolic Brethren at this moment. We cannot praise highly enough, the most honorable Captain Riage Benziger, who, in the ranks of the devoted and vaunted Swiss Guard, gave his life for the Apostolic See as a martyr. Due to his courage and the grace of God, We were delivered from the jaws of hell. Upon being deposited on the shores of consciousness, We were moved to reflect on the causes and effects that have carried Holy Mother the Church to the brink of the abyss. The fate of the Church Militant, all of civilization, teeters on that dangerous precipice.
"With a full understanding of Our truly lamentable fault, We saw both Our soul and the collective soul of the Mystical Body of Christ. Were it not for the mercy of the Almighty, We dare say survival over Our awesome transgressions and sins would not have been possible. For it was Our responsibility, and that of Our recent and immediate Predecessors, to safeguard the Sacred Deposit of the Faith, upheld and preserved for two millennia. Albeit, We have been duly warned."
Gregorio waited patiently for the Holy Father to finish his drink, then gently took it back as Clement continued where he left off.
"In assessing Our duty and the situation now prevailing, We repeat here in part what Our noble Predecessor Paul IV pronounced. We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this gravity is so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff, who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fullness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith. Remembering also that, where danger is greater, it must more fully and more diligently be counteracted. We have been concerned lest false prophets or others, even if they have only secular jurisdiction, should wretchedly ensnare the souls of the simple, and drag with them into perdition, destruction and damnation countless peoples committed to their care and rule, either in spiritual or in temporal matters; and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place."
The Supreme Pontiff extended his arthritic legs past the platforms of the wheelchair. Dr. Ghislieri rushed toward him, but the Holy Father nodded no; he was just stretching as he craned his neck back, moving it from side to side, then refocused on the Cardinal Electors.
One by one he looked into the eyes of each one from his position, asking more than once,
"Have We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors and Our Apostolic Brethren here present, not seen that very desolation? Have We and you not seen the abominations in the parishes of every diocese? And what did We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, do about this? What did you do about this deplorable destruction of the Mass? We can answer what We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, did: Nothing! Rather than admitting the truth and turning our backs on such folly, We, and Our recent Predecessors, persisted in persecuting those John the Baptists and Athanasiuses and Robert Bellarmines of these times, the very same who warned us and rightly reminded Us of how far We had wavered. So stubbornly We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, clung to Our struthious ways that We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, buried Our heads in the sands of denial, unfairly denigrating and calumniating men like Ottaviani, Lefebvre, Thuc, Gruner, and others who tried to steer us back to the narrow and only path Christ commanded. We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, failed to heed their counsel. Now, We must. Oh, the wide path We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have traveled: No more! No more! No More!"
The blood had rushed to his neck veins. The muscular features of this hearty Italian, even though he was on the late autumn side of life, had fared him well. But now he was weakening. He knew instinctively that his heart was failing him, a heart so heavy this day.
"Therefore," determined the Holy Father, "in accordance with the directives of Our Predecessor Paul IV, who upheld the need for moral reform in the 16th century, and now, by virtue of the Apostolic Office which, despite Our unworthiness, has been entrusted to Us by God, We are responsible for the general care of the flock of the Lord. Because of this, in order that the flock may be faithfully guarded and beneficially directed, in fulfilling Christ's charge to 'Feed My sheep,' We are bound to be diligently watchful after the manner of a vigilant Shepherd in feeding the lambs and to ensure most carefully that certain people who consider the study of the truth beneath them should be driven out of the sheepfold of Christ and no longer continue to disseminate error from positions of authority.
Several Cardinals shifted uneasily in their sedelias, the guilt welling up in their minds and penetrating their hearts and souls. The Triune Divinity had marvelous methods of reaching man. One such vehicle was seated this day in the wheelchair, spilling his own heart out, divulging his sins which were their sins as well, all of our sins for good men had done nothing, allowing evil to spread and infect the innocent.
"We refer in particular to those who in this age, impelled by their sinfulness and supported by their cunning, are attacking with unusual learning and malice the discipline of the orthodox Faith, and who, moreover, by perverting the unalterable Decalogue imparted to Moses and held sacrosanct in the Old Testament and passed on as the infrangible law of the New Covenant, are striving to rent the unity of the Catholic Church and the seamless tunic of the Lord.
"In order to restore that unity and keep the tunic from being ripped asunder, it is Our solemn duty to right the Barque of Peter, to steer Christ's Ship back on its proper course. This can only be done by retracing our path, by returning to the beacon that could not fail, the very lantern so brilliantly kept bright by Our holy predecessor St. Pius V in his infallible Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum. We, along with Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have failed to heed his warning; that warning subsists in the very fact that any diversion from what was established will incur the wrath of Almighty God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Indeed, We have felt that wrath; all have felt that wrath over this week and earlier today. The buildings are gone that once stood. They can destroy the body, but they cannot destroy the soul. They have tried, now they must be thwarted. This mayhem must cease. Only We can put a stop to the unholy and unyielding monster called mammon. True to the Savior's words in Matthew and Luke, 'No man can serve two masters.'
"Through Our truly lamentable fault and that of Our recent and immediate Predecessors, We have not only allowed the smoke of satan, as Our recent Predecessor Paul VI first termed, to cloud Our sensibilities and deform the received Tradition, so disfigured and grotesquely absent in Our sacred liturgy and the great Deposit of the Faith today, but through Our truly lamentable fault We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have allowed it to grow out of control; to become a bonfire of vain temporal and fatal damnation for all the sheep, affecting first and foremost the shepherds whose responsibility was Ours to curb and to reprimand.
"Alas, we did not. The truly lamentable fault lies with Us, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, who were deceived by those very men who had long ago compromised the principles of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
"The Son of God the Father confirmed to all how every man would know a good tree. By their fruits. Sadly, through Our truly lamentable fault, We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have not tended to the orchards of souls; consequently the weeds have grown up around the Church, choking out the truth and absolutes of the Word. Because of this failure to act responsibly there are many bad trees which have not borne fruit; many of these had been planted long ago, others eighty years, sixty years, forty years, even a decade ago and, yes, a few years prior as well. In some the roots grow deep and gnarly, twisting the tenets of the Faith. In order to prune the vineyard, it is necessary therefore to cut down the bad trees and consign them to the furnace; to till the soil and root out bad roots that, if not attended to, could once again rise up and stifle the life of His sheep."
"Because of the necessity and gravity of the situation, We must take drastic measures to rid the Church of the cancer that envelops her. Therefore, by virtue of Our Office and the power imbued in Us by Christ Himself as His Vicar, We hereby decree and command that all that was promulgated since the convening of the Second Vatican Council is hereby suspended."
Several of the Cardinal Electors stirred beneath each baldachinum, murmurs and grumbling could be sensed from various sectors of the room.
It mattered not, Pope Clement XV was intent on rooting out once and for all the damage that had been wrought in the departure from the tried and true that had worked for nearly 19 centuries. The Holy Father would not be daunted from his appointed round with destiny, which at this point he anticipated a goodly time in Purgatory, God-willing he could escape the fires of hell.
"By virtue of this Apostolic Office, We hereby defer to holy Pius V's words: 'Furthermore, by these laws, in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force.' "
All could definitely see the Holy Father had no visible script. By his inflection, one could readily assume he had not memorized his words. The conclusion obvious to all in this room had to be that his words were truly inspired, not coming from him but rather through Christ's Spirit, Who Jesus perpetually promised. The Paraclete was Clement's voice, and it was only growing more robust and profound.
"By Our truly lamentable fault, We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have not followed Our holy Predecessor's command. Now, We can clearly see the 'fruits' of that 'non serviam' mentality. Because of the massive reorganization and transmutation of the Faith over the past 50 years, much has been lost. We ask all to recall the constituted evangelic traditions, beginning with the Missale Romanum of Pius V. It has become known simply to many as the Tridentine Mass. More appropriately it is the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Mass of Saints Peter and Paul. It must be revived and soon.
Regardless of the personal agenda of most every Prince of the Church who entered this Conclave today, the great majority were moved by what this successor of Peter had the gall and grace to admit.
"Therefore, to right the wrongs so long denied, We order, decree, command and demand that all shepherds have until the Feast of the Chair of Peter on February 22 next year to initiate the changes back to what was always the rule and standard of the Faith, and professed in perpetuity by holy Pius and the infallible nature of the dogmatic Council of Trent. Other than the Eastern Ecclesiastical Churches in union with the Apostolic See, all other liturgical functions will henceforth be conducted in Latin, the tongue of Holy Mother the Church seated in Rome and built upon the rock that is Peter. Those who have not fully complied by said feast - referring here to any ordained who continues the New Order - the Novus Ordo Missae - after that date will incur not latae sententiae, but ferendae sententiae - a much more serious offense and be considered anathema!"
"It is absolutely necessary, there be a total purification of the Institutional Church. Over the years, in pursuit of placating man and nations, We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have, through Our truly lamentable fault, allowed bureaucracy to take precedence over Christ's simple message of the Gospel. Souls, too innumerable to count, have been sacrificed on the altar of pharisaic platitudes and the unholy chalice of political correctness offered up at the expense of orthodoxy. A poisonous pestle, containing the lethal toxin of the seven deadly sins, has poured forth the heretical plaudits of the enlightenment - humanism, ecumenism, modernism - while the altars of the Holy Sacrifice have been removed and an unholy sacrifice has replaced the propitiatory offering to the Father. Fellow Brethren of the Assembly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can never be replaced."
A righteous rage echoed in Clement's voice, his gestures animated, as he carried on.
"Do you realize dear Brethren of the Electorate that the Savior's prophecy in chapter 24 of Matthew's Gospel, verse 15 has occurred and We were none the wiser? Or were We? That is a question We ask each of you to ponder and resolve. Realize that God has allowed this exile from the roots of the Faith, allowed Us to wander far from Him in the same manner He reminded His chosen people of the Old Covenant of the consequences - dire consequences of sin - when they strayed. We have strayed greatly. We seek to be reconciled with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost - One God in Three Persons. However, we can only try the patience of the Almighty so far; there are consequences, severe and infernal consequences for presuming on His mercy. While He is all merciful, He is all just as well. We advise all to strongly remember that truth."
The Pontiff's words were penetrating hearts and consciences. People the world over were searching their own souls. Perhaps, from this day forward more would strive to be a little more considerate, a little more Christ-like. One could always pray.
"We also advise and encourage all who can to avail yourselves of the Holy Sacrifice and to do penance in reparation for the sins against God. Pray for the holy souls in the Church Suffering. We also ask and strongly urge all ordained to make themselves available at any time during the day or night to hear Confession, and to institute with utmost prudence and reverence Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Eucharist, confected during the Latin Canon, and providing afterwards accessible time and space for the faithful to spend with Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. We must all figuratively clothe ourselves in sackcloth and ashes and ask mercy, falling upon our knees as we say with the centurion, 'Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.'
His Holiness took a deep breath. "It is no secret that the state of the world continues to deteriorate. Yet, We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, sought earthly means to stem the tide, to compromise with mammon. It cannot be. The peace of man cannot be without the Peace of God. Therefore, to implore the Almighty to have mercy and reverse the trend to totalitarianism, We hereby command and order all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops in communion with the Apostolic See to Rome so that We --."
A sharp pain seared through the Holy Father's chest, preventing him momentarily from completing the sentence as Dr. Ghislieri rushed to his side, greatly alarmed.
"Like the centurion of Christ's time, all mankind is unworthy in the presence of the Infinite; none more unworthy than We. None do We chastise more than Ourselves. We exclaim with David from Psalter 67: 'Me expectaverunt peccatores, ut perderent me; testimonia tua, Domine, intellexi'.' We shudder in fright the acknowledgment that We failed to take or keep the holy Oath prescribed for Us and all our Predecessors. Therefore We decree henceforth forevermore, the holy Oath shall and must be taken; pronounced and kept by every Successor to the Apostolic See at the Coronation ceremony. He shall do so after receiving both the Triregno tiara and symbolic pallium. This tradition We order be revived immediately for We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have failed to fulfill this holy Oath. Woe be to us for indeed, We cry, be merciful to Us, Lord, for We have failed Thee in not protecting faithfully all that Thou hast revealed; We have failed Thee in allowing contradiction to the canonical order and the divine ordinances of Heaven; We have failed Thee in not adhering to what the first councils and Our predecessors from Peter on have proclaimed. Because We have permitted vagaries to filter in and blur the absolutes as passed down, We realize Thou mayest not be merciful to Us on the dreadful day of divine justice. We cast Ourselves on Our knees for Our blasphemous ventures. We are not worthy of Christ's mercy, yet We plead for it and vow to do all in Our power to right the wrongs."
All in the room and those the world over whose attention was now totally fixed on this frail, dying man held their collective breath. They knew in their hearts he was dying. How much longer? Ghislieri whispered something to an assistant, but Clement weakly gestured no. "I must finish, Giuseppe."
It seemed like a moment - a pregnant moment no less - before Clement continued with more visible difficulty, but picking up right where he left off as though bid directly by Heaven.
"Or the next Sovereign Pontiff to succeed Us, upon His coronation can also, in union with all the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the world, consecrate Russia to the Most Holy Mother of God's Immaculate Heart as the private revelations of Fatima have urged for nearly a century. Indeed, these were prophetic signs to the Church and the world from none other than Theotokos, and We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, chose to suppress, even alter the warnings from Heaven and have even sabotaged."
The Pope held aloft for all to see the mysterious envelope and two pages Stephen had retracted from the hollow base of the shattered statue of St. Catherine of Siena in the basement of the Apostolic Palace, a statue that had once graced the Papal Apartment of Papa Pacelli.
"I was this day handed a sealed envelope from His Holiness Pius XII of happy memory who was under much more danger than anyone knew. He wrote two pages in which he divulged his findings. They are catastrophic and shed much light on what has occurred since that night of July 15, 1958. I would ask His Eminence Gregory Zachmunn to explain the contents of His Holiness' letter to you after I have finished. For this needs to be revealed, warts and all."
Most in the Sistine Chapel were on the edge of their seats, one could hear a pin drop in this cavernous chapel. One thing was obvious. Clement was weakening, yet he insisted on finishing what he had started.
"This is another of the areas of tradition We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have been greatly and stubbornly deficient. No more! If the world desires peace, true peace, and we all do, then it can only be ushered in by doing as the Blessed Virgin has instructed and Heaven ordains - specifically consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart so that her errors spread no further and in the end, true to Our Holy Lady's promise: in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
The Holy Father took a deep breath. The Cardinal Electors all assumed the Pope had finished as they moved uneasily in their sedilia. One could hear a pin drop. The silence was broken as Clement XV unexpectedly continued, clarifying further all he had uttered.
"It could very well have triumphed prior to now and preserved us from this terrible chastisement we must face had we heeded Heaven's plea. Because of these grave transgressions committed by Us, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, We feel unworthy to hold such an august office, to direct the flocks for indeed We have become the very one Jesus addressed in Matthew 16: 23 when He rebuked Our first Sovereign Successor - the holy Peter, 'Go behind Me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto Me; because thou dost not relish the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.' In deference to such weakness and dereliction, We join Peter in our wretchedness. Like Peter, we despair not but fall upon Our knees in penitence before Our Lord and Savior and ask Him to save Us, to guide us in guiding others. Therefore, We still enforce our final decree of all that has been said here. Therefore, We, in the tradition of Our Predecessors of Tridentine times, direct that printed copies of this same edict signed by a notary public and made official by an ecclesiastical dignitary possess the same indubitable validity everywhere and in every nation, as if Our manuscript were shown there. Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition, and should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."
"We realize these measures are drastic and it will take much sacrifice on the part of the clergy and all the faithful in the Church Militant to adapt back to the ways of the Holy Roman Church. So, too, might the threat of schism once again raise its despicable head. So be it, even though, as Our Predecessor Pius XII stated in Mystici Corporis Christi in 1943, 'For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.' As severe as this is, it is better to cut off a member of the body than to destroy the entire body, no matter how diminutive the remnant whole may dwindle to; Christ will build it back up in His time, but now it must be cleansed, purified and the weeds cast into the thresher.
His Holiness cleared his throat, coughing to such a degree that Cardinal Bondi brought another glass of water and Dr. Ghislieri tended to the Pope's needs, as nervous Cardinals throughout the room did the same, many sipping from the water glasses at each station, quite possibly by swallowing they could better hide the lump in their own throats.
"It will take time and toil to rebuild, to rekindle the spark that fostered and inspired the origins of so many religious orders, the charisms of which have been lost in this new age of accommodating sin. Many have never known the Latin tongue. We urge an emphasis on the basic education of this Romance language in all curriculums. We realize for many it will take several generations to recover the culture of Catholicism. While to many indoctrinated in the ways of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this action may be exorbitant, We assure you it is very, very necessary for the life of the Church and Her flocks."
"Wherefore, We repeat the dire necessity for Us and all of Christendom to heed the Apostle Paul's admonition given to the Galatians, 'But though we, or an Angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you beside that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.' So crucial was this warning, that Paul repeated himself, 'As we said before, so I say now again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.' The crux of this is in the following passage in which he states quite clearly, 'For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? If I did yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.' Alas, We, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, have not been the servants of Christ for We have sought, by Our most lamentable fault, to persuade men. Because of this grave, grave error, We are not worthy of the honors afforded Us.
Gasps escaped from every lung in the room, from millions watching around the world, from the thousands crowded in and around the reconfigured St. Peter's Square. Were they hearing right? Was the Pope announcing his own impending death? The answer came soon enough.
"Because of Our lamentable fault, and because We know in our heart that Our time is at hand to stand before the Lord at Our Particular Judgment, We deem it wise for the Cardinal Electors gathered here to remain in Rome for nine more days, praying and petitioning Our dear Lord and asking His Blessed Mother Mary to intercede so that you may choose a worthy, holy successor to this Office. As one of Our final acts We also wish to reveal to you two of your own whom We had, for the good of souls everywhere, kept secret - in pectore - and who now, though quite possibly posthumously, we can reveal that His Eminence Donte Cardinal Baptista and His Eminence Fasif Cardinal Khadid are to be recognized as noble extraordinary Cardinal Bishops of the Church. Finally, for those venerable Brethren present, who have surpassed their 80th year, you are encouraged to stay the course. There is no longer an age restriction. Indeed, We profess that the wisdom of age should be utilized for they often can better hear the whispers of the Holy Ghost. That will be necessary for the Spirit wills for you to reconvene in this holy place on November 15, to elect the next Sovereign Pontiff."
"We shall also leave it to Our successor to announce the Consecration of Russia and the next Consistory. After We depart these chambers, We humbly ask your prayers for Our soul that God will be merciful to Us, great sinners that We have been. Along with His Grace Lord Zachmunn, His Grace Cardinal Mendoza will make a few other announcements. More that We have approved this day shall be forthcoming in the succeeding days in order for all to digest them wisely, and in segments of time. Therefore, nothing else is necessary to say at this juncture by Us, for, indeed it is time for Us to retreat into prayer, to make Our peace with God."
Pope Clement XV, who would, from this day forward, be known both as the 'last of the Vatican II Popes,' and the one who restored Christianity to the Church, was visibly weaker as he tried to hold his head up. The paralysis, that had plagued his body for many years and intensified during the 7-day exile, was now taking its total toll. Yet, he would finish what he began.
"We care not how We will be remembered in history, only that We did not fail you in the final hour, that We will be able to retrieve the lost souls from the precipice, including Our own. We pray for the poor souls annihilated not only on the Field of Abraham in Iraq, but all lost souls over the last century, one in which Satan has claimed more than his share. Enough! Our soul will not rest until it rests in God."
Clement had just a few minutes of life left, if that, as the beads of a death sweat beaded upon on his forehead. Dr. Ghislieri dabbed it, knowing all too well the signs as the Holy Father, with all the energy he could muster, was determined to finish this decree.
"In all perpetuity we command that no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition, and should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."
The stamina had left him, as his voice grew weaker.
"We hereby declare again, as Our final act, the abrogation of all Constitutions and Orders, Decrees, Councils, Bulls and Motu Proprios issued since October 9, 1958, and We declare completely null and void anything done or promulgated by any person, whatever his authority, knowingly or unknowingly, since the death of Pope Pius XII. in any way contrary to this Our Apostolic Decree. We utter with Christ: 'Feed My Sheep.'"
Noticeably weaker, Clement nodded to Mendoza who nodded to Gregory, who stepped forward.
Cardinal Zachmunn turned, looking directly at the Penultimate Cardinal Kabwela was holding, "I ask the messengers in the Communications Office to produce the official text that His Holiness might affix his Papal Seal to the official document of Lamentabili Culpa."
Within seconds, Pat had transferred the completed document from his Mirror Reflector card to Stephen's lazer printer and it shot out 7 pages on parchment paper. Handing it to Ogidi, Colin already had the door open. "We must make tracks, Doctor. Let's fly."
Ogidi didn't say a word as both sped down the marble hall toward the Sistine Chapel.
Meanwhile, in the Sistine, Clement XV had been wheeled back around behind the table and rolled to the center for his one final act as Supreme Pontiff before God would call him home.
Shortly, panting heavily, Ogidi and Rembert arrived at the entrance to the Chapel. Captain Schuster took the document and proceeded quickly to the front, placing it on the table before the Holy Father.
This man who had tempted death's door more than once this past week, weaker from the rigors of this Papal decision, now stood in place at the threshold of expiration. Both doctors helped him stand erect as best they could while the dying Pontiff leaned on the sturdy arms of each. His Holiness was handed a pen, signing his name below the last paragraph on page 7. Then coming forward was Prince Elisio Borundici with a small container of melted red wax. Gently, Clement removed the Fisherman's Ring and dipped the embossed seal into the melted wax, then pressed firmly on the last page of the document.
Still standing, but leaning forward and clinging to his two physicians, he looked out on the Assembly for the last time. "We hereby declare again, as Our final act, the abrogation of all Constitutions and Orders, Decrees, Councils, Bulls and Motu Proprios issued since October 9, 1958 and We declare completely null and void anything done or promulgated save for this document, by Us, and Our recent and immediate Predecessors, and any person, whatever his authority, knowingly or unknowingly, since the death of Pope Pius XII. Let nothing be done contrary to this Apostolic Constitution and the divine institution of the Holy Roman Church. Again, with Christ we proclaim: 'Feed My Sheep.'"
He slumped back into the wheelchair, almost totally expended, but still with enough energy to weakly say, "Finally, We ask you to also keep this wretched, sorrowful, and sinful Servant of the Servants of God in your prayers. I first entered this Assembly as a Cardinal a few years ago, I now leave for the final time a humbled soul at peace and ready to face my God. I proclaim and urge you with Christ: 'Feed My lambs.' Cor Jesu Sacratissimum, miserere nobis."
Clement XV had completed his mission on earth, nobly and with great heroic virtue at the final hour. No sooner than he had pronounced 'Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us,' life left him and he expired there in the hallowed halls of the Sistine Chapel.
Ghislieri knew instantly the signal of death, the rattle alerted him. Suppressing a tear, he announced solemnly to Cardinal Julies Mendoza. "Il Papa morte."
The Dean of the College acknowledged the inevitable. With a sigh Mendoza moved forward and lifted the Fisherman's Ring. He then placed the ring in the very cast-iron tray the Prince had been holding. The custom was to smash the Fisherman's Ring at the death of a Pope. This was to be done by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. Since now there was no official Camerlengo, Mendoza could appoint the one to smash the ring. Julies chose Cardinal Zachmunn.
First however, as was the Roman custom, the Dean of the College took the small ceremonial hammer that had been at the ready on a velvet pillow. Gently, but firmly he tapped on the Holy Father's forehead three times to assure life had left him.
This accomplished, he handed the gold hammer to Gregory, who reluctantly brought it down upon the jeweled gold signet with great regret. The perfection of the ring's embossed seal shattered in countless pieces, scattered all around the cast-iron tray. Minuscule specks of the gold ring's face flying into the air, forming a fine mist.
That would be the closest any one would come to seeing white smoke this day. But as the shredded fragments settled back to earth in a dust-like substance from the pounding, the demolished flecks scattered everywhere on the cast-iron tray seemed to resemble what had happened over the past 50 to 100 years. All that had been built up, had to be destroyed in order to rebuild. A new day would dawn.
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