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 the latest political issue or why the attack on the Vatican yesterday. 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. 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. They 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.
"With truly lamentable fault," an inner strength swelled up within his being, "and with a firm purpose of amendment I 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 beamed 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.
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.
"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.' "
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.
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 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."
"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 Major 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."
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.
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, 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 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. 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."
Several Cardinals shifted uneasily in their sedilia, 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.
"Because of the necessity and gravity of the situation," Pope Clement solemnly pronounced, "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 Oecumenical Council is hereby suspended."
Several of the Cardinal Electors stirred beneath their 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 promises. The Paraclete was Clement's voice, and it was only growing more robust and profound.
"By Our truly lamentable fault," His Holiness continued without hesitating, "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.
"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!"
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.
"It is absolutely necessary," insisted Clement, "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 and 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."
"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The DAILY CATHOLIC who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The DAILY CATHOLIC, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, seventeen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental.