Serious efforts were underway this evening to plot the course of rebellion, preparing the way for the enthronement of the prince of the world. Evil incarnate. The Devil had already claimed his field marshals. Now he was ferreting the ranks of the lukewarm, the compromised, and the amoral.
In two halls of the Holy See two groups of Cardinals were meeting. Neither fully realized the results of these meetings, not, that is, until the General Congregation would commence at 8 p.m. in the Sala Regia.
In the reception room of the Secretary of State Cardinals Macelli and Vendhem were narcissistically confident they had four Cardinals - men already compromised - solidly in the Master's camp. Meanwhile in the Sala Regia the Dean of the College of Cardinals and Cardinal Zachmunn continued to scope out the ideologies of thirteen others in their efforts to recruit strength and grace. They needed the numbers to fend off the impending, unknown strategy of the Camerlengo.
Gregory Zachmunn had rescued Cardinal Plinio from the clutches of three who the American Prelate knew could not be counted on.
Shortly the two Cardinals joined the 79-year old Cardinal Julies Mendoza, the Dean of the College of Cardinals. He stood with Cardinal Kazimierz Strovinsky, the medium-built Archbishops of Warsaw whose 5' 10' size gave the impression he was taller thanks to a thick crop of bushy gray hair. No Rogaine for this Polish Prelate.
Strovinsky's role model, despite the long pontificate of a Polish Pope, was the deceased Cardinal Primate of Poland Stefan Wyszynski. It was he who had counseled a young Bishops Karol Wojtyla to move slowly, not to trust the Communists, and not to move too rapidly in changing traditions. Kazimierz' roots were solid and he could be counted on to nix Macelli's move to add the 'dubious forty.'
It was time for Gregory and Julies to compare notes, plan their strategy. The American Prelate politely begged leave of Cardinal Strovinsky and Cardinal Plinio so he could discuss a few things with Cardinal Mendoza. They politely responded and soon the two had repositioned themselves beneath the magnificent frescoes from the talented brushes of Italian artists Giorgio Vasari and Taddeo Zuccaro.
Dateline: Vatican City - Sala Regia Hall near the Sistine Chapel, November 5: 6:20 p.m.
"Are we set at 21?" Cardinal Mendoza asked, taking Gregory into his confidence.
"For now, Julies, for now," responded Gregory. "Six will not be able to make it. Cardinals Unsara, Daviani, and the Czech Cardinal Imo Yndobovsla are too ill to travel. Those are three we could have counted on."
"And the other three?" queried Mendoza.
"I fear," requiemed Cardinal Zachmunn, "the Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Emilio Marcellus di Crema will not make it through the night."
"The liver cancer has spread?"
"Yes, very swiftly.
"So sad," lamented Cardinal Mendoza.
"Equally sad is the fact that the other two have been detained."
"I would venture to say one is Cardinal Yao Seng Ling," reasoned Julies.
"Yes. We were counting on his vote to help, Julies."
"Si. We will pray to the holy Virgin that he can count on Heaven's help. And the other?"
"Cardinal Juan Pablo Azevedo," notified Gregory. "Last we heard he is still being held captive by guerillas in the mountains of Colombia."
"Not good. Not good."
"Tell me, Julies, who can we count on? If Macelli gets his wish and the forty are allowed in, I fear the papacy as Christ intended will be lost."
"I understand your fears," nodded Mendoza. "I believe Cardinal Lewiston, Cardinal Wetherby, Cardinal Strovinsky, Cardinal Plinio, Cardinal Bondi, along with you and I are solid."
"That makes seven. What about Cardinals Medelia and Estrado, Julies?"
"I have not talked to them. I will make a point. Si?"
"Definitely," encouraged Zachmunn. "I have also notified some of the trusted 'apostles.' They will keep it confidential."
"Do you not believe it should be announced tonight?"
"No, Julies, we do not want to show our hand just yet. Our first priority is negating the forty. We will save the other surprise for the Sacred Conclave."
"Even so, my dear American brother, I am concerned about the Eastern Europeans Kravic and Radkalionis, the Chilean Carteaga, the African Kabwela, the French one Cardinal Maurin, the Americanized Lopez."
"Count out the Lithuanian and Carteaga. Lopez I think has sunk too far," determined Gregory. "As for Kravic and Kabwela, I believe we can count on them. Maurin is whom I need to key on. If you can do the same with Medelia and Estrado, Julies, I believe we can stave off the first wave they will throw at us."
"Si. Providence blesses us. They are together over there."
As Cardinal Mendoza joined Cardinal Pedro Maria Medelia, the Archbishops of Quito and the Archbishops of Los Angeles Cardinal Gustavo de Jesus Estrado, Gregory watched. He was relatively sure Medelia would listen to reason.
The tall Ecuadorian Prelate had adopted strong conservative measures in his see and was a strong advocate of Our Lady of Good Success. He sincerely believed the prophesies imparted to the holy mystic Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres by the Mother of God in his diocese back in the last decade of the sixteenth century and the first three decades of the 1600's. This Spanish nun, a victim soul, had received warnings of these very times the Church found herself in today. Medelia took them seriously.
Now Cardinal Estrado was a different story. Gregory realized he would be a tougher nut to crack. He had been born in Guadalajara and, after ordination was gradually transferred to Los Angeles where he moved up through the ranks. He had been selected by default as the new Archbishops of Los Angeles after Clement had stripped the old Cardinal of all faculties in the City of Angels, the largest diocese in the United States. The scandal had gone even deeper than Boston if any one could have imagined that. Because of the majority of Hispanics in LA, Clement XV had agreed the time was right to appoint a Hispanic as head of that sprawling see. How much had Estrado been influenced by those of the past regime in Southern California, only God knew. If any one could penetrate the psyche of this young Prelate, Julies Mendoza was the man.
Cardinal Zachmunn took solace in that as he watched from a distance. The three red hats spoke rapidly in Spanish in an animated fashion. He couldn't help but notice the significance of this trio standing directly beneath the fresco of the great battle of Lepanto in 1571. Cardinal Zachmunn could almost hear Don Juan of Austria encouraging his undermanned Christian navy on against the superior Turkish armada. The Saracen goal was to destroy the Church. Could God provide another miraculous victory against similar, far worse forces in this third millennium?
The only answer to that would be the same means by which St. Pius V galvanized the troops and the faithful on: through praying the holy Rosary and a convincing belief in Christ's promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail.
Dateline: Vatican City - Secretary of State reception room, Nov 5, 6:25 p.m.
Six other Prelates were absent from the early gathering in the Sala Regia this night. Instead they were preparing for what lay ahead in the outer reception room adjacent to the office of the Secretary of State. The hierarchs in this room were, in effect, the most visible example of how far the Church had lowered the bar. These men may have put on the airs of holiness in public, but beneath the veneer they were worse, far worse than the Scribes and Pharisees who were so chastised by Christ Himself. In private they could be the most perverted, the most base animals. The triggers varied. Those who had sold their souls, who had no moral values, didn't need much to be ignited, whatever their perverseness.
It was the Legion's way of incriminating, of blackmailing those who might not have been coerced so easily. Vendhem had sin-sheets on many, hideous scandals on the men in that room which would embarrass the most seasoned, ruddy sailor. Really all six men in the room had already been compromised, already hiding grievous sins. Many were so bold that they no longer hid them.
Who were these men who so violated their sacred vow, who dared dance with the Devil, nay, even lead? How did they rise to such prominence? The answers were shocking to anyone who still cherished morals and values.
The Frenchman Cardinal Leon Tourrieu Visserant, had knowingly ordained nineteen priests who were blatantly homosexual. He had encouraged sodomy as an alternative lifestyle among seminarians. The seminary, which he oversaw, was mockingly referred to as the "Lavender Louvre" or the "Holy Lido." That was because most who attended were obvious in their comportment and effeminate ways; so much so that they stood out as rare oddities, even among their own peers.
Visserant had been responsible for spreading the cancer of corruption himself by consecrating five Bishops who were gay. Known deridingly as the "Prissy of Toulouse," most did not know he had slept with more than 300 altar boys, defiling them as a serial rapist defiles anything in a dress. And the press thought scandal consisted of a few misguided priests and Bishops in America? If they only knew how deep and how high the rot went.
Cardinal Raul Carteaga had continuously scammed the funds of four dioceses to pay hush money for the men he had appointed Bishops, including two of his auxiliaries. One had been having an illicit affair with the mayor's wife. When the mayor discovered it he co-opted with the Cardinal to cover it up by extorting the Archdiocese. Naturally Carteaga paid up.
He was also known to lavish expensive gifts on choice young seminarians and their professors. The old man named simply Raul was merely a spectator. He paid handsomely to watch others. The higher up in the hierarchy, the more he would pay. This, the rumor had been spread, began when he was a young seminarian in Rome in 1977 and a hierarch of the highest order, disguised but desperate, paid an unexpected night visit.
The crafty one was Cardinal Frederico Eijo Lopez, a protege of Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez. Lopez had been afforded the finest education, the greatest opportunities to be a shepherd to the flocks of Puerto Rico. But rather than spreading grace, he fostered fear. He played one against the other, from extorting members of the curia to the Spanish media. Simony took on a whole new meaning in San Juan. He bought and sold like a stockbroker on Wall Street except the Prelate Frederico's commodities were to buy and sell souls.
The last in that room this night was the Lithuanian assassin Cardinal Teofilius Radkalionis, consecrated on October 8, 1985 by Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky. The latter, a Ukranian, had been elevated to the Bishopric for the Archeparchy of Philadelphia by none other than Pope John Paul II on November 12, 1979. To many Myroslav and Teofilius were Russians; to those who understood the culture, Lithuania and The Ukraine were akin to Germany and France. Alliances were unlikely.
Teofilius Radkalionis, truth be known had not really been ordained a priest. He had a record of more than a dozen kills as a ruthless KGB agent who had taken great delight in torturing his victims and then taking advantage of their wives if it pleased him. This was not rumor but on the secret documents revealed after the KGB was disbanded in the early nineties.
While there was plenty of documentation to his espionage exploits, there was none for his ordination. He had just mysteriously showed up as a priest in the northern seaport of Palanga and then somehow managed a transfer to Vilnius in April 1980. No Church records could ever be found to verify this assignment.
Rumors were rife that Radkalionis had helped plan the assassination attempt on John Paul II's life on May 13, 1981. Radkalionis had made several round trips to Rome from Vilnius through Vienna during the nine months leading up to May 13th. One who documented passports in Italy had verified Radkalionis had traveled to Rome the evening of May 12th. The following evening he boarded a return flight, not back to Vilnius, but directly to Moscow: the Kremlin.
Another point to consider was that Massimo Ascalessi, who under oath had provided this information to the Italian Government, had been found with his throat slashed, hanging from the balcony of the Spanish Steps. Many suspected the Masonic Propaganda Due or P-2, or it could have been the KGB themselves to cover tracks for Ascalessi who had been set to be a witness for the defense in the trial against the Turk Mehmet Ali Agca. Yet, despite all this incriminating evidence the Pope saw fit to clear Lubachivsky for apostolic consecration. The bargain continued when Archbishops Radkalionis was awarded a red hat in 2004.
With men like this one shuddered to think that any of these black hearts could be the next Pope. A sacrilege by its very nature that would besmirch the holiest office on earth. But this was the agenda of the devil and he was well on his way with this motley crew gathered with Cardinals Antonio Macelli and Josef Vendhem this night. Those two had long ago abandoned dialogue in favor of coercion and inequity.
"In an hour or so it begins, Antonio. Are you prepared?"
"But of course, Josef. I feel confident that we will have our forty tonight."
"I would like to share your enthusiasm, Antonio, but we must never underestimate the determination of those few we are up against. They are clever."
"But we will outfox them, my dear Josef. You forget the Master has deemed it so."
"And you forget, that when one is cornered they will fight back even more ferociously. They will not go quietly, Antonio."
"Nevertheless we have enough votes to overcome whatever they might throw at us, dear Vicar General."
"Can you be so sure, mein camerlengo?"
"Si. Six in this room. Add to that Hong-Ju, Krementz, Dietrich, Maurin, Kravic, Luzlo, and Estrado and we have thirteen to their eight. Simple majority, Josef."
"I do not share your optimism, Antonio. I have my doubts on Kravic and Estrado. Maurin could go either way."
Vendhem's fears would be realized shortly. The counter-revolution was on and the devil's disciples, while suspecting it, did not expect it. The shedding of information was serving to neutralize those whose vote would determine the battlefield. There could be no middle ground in this battle. The stakes were too high.
To such depravity had these men plummeted that were their deeds known to the other Cardinals gathering in the Sala Regia, to a man they would have wretched and vomited; including the most modernist of progressivists like Krementz and Kalschthoeler.
Even they would have seen to it that these chronic and hardened sinners, already under the Basilisk's spell, were censured and banished. Like a deadly contagious disease they would have quarantined them for indeed there is nothing more deadly, more vile than mortal sin.
Next: PART IV: The Shrouding ELEVENTH CHAPTER Episode Six
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