The crescendo of the pre-Conclave general congregation of the College of Cardinals had reached its crescendo at 8:52 p.m. Roman time. For the next 45 minutes all matters of business in preparation for the funeral and conclave would be anti-climatic. Some looked forward; others simmered...most notably Cardinals Antonio Macelli and Josef Vendhem. The Master would be livid. So would the forty Bishops waiting for news in St. Martha's Place. They would be notified shortly after ten p.m. that they would not be joining the certified College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow afternoon. The longer these pretenders waited, the more they realized the inevitable.
The battle for control of the papacy had rendered a short-lived triumph for the forces of good. However, as sweet as it was for Cardinals Gregory Zachmunn, Julies Mendoza, Thomas Wetherby, and fourteen other Prelates among the 33 present for the balloting, there was no time to celebrate. The enemy would regroup, retaliating with whatever weapons of destruction suited the Devil's fancy. Gregory knew intuitively that they may have won the battle, but not the war. And this was definitely a war - a war to the end.
War was raging in the mind and heart of another solitary soul 9,000 miles away on the concrete plains of the Lone Star State. Her bunker was the front pew of Christ the King Church on Preston Road just north of downtown Dallas. As she knelt in prayer this day, far removed from the activity in Rome, she was unaware of what was going on, of what had happened to her Patrick. This couldn't be real. She hoped and prayed she would wake up soon and realize this had all been a nightmare, a bad, bad dream.
Dateline: Dallas, Texas - Christ the King Church, November 5, 2:30 p.m.
Though she could not identify the source of the calling, Corrine Morelli had been drawn by the silent siren of the Holy Ghost to this stately, magnificent old marble church. It was one of the few that had not been torn down and rebuilt in the cookie-cutter mold of the new churches that were so sterile. This orthodox edifice, built in the style of the great churches of Europe, was a contradiction to the modern world. Its location ironically illustrated this for the back of the church faced out towards the North Dallas Tollway, snubbing by its architectural placing, the septic tank of modern civilization with all its noise and hubbub, all its careless cares. However, the acoustics were such within the womb of this beautiful church that one could lose oneself in prayer and contemplation, just as God intended churches to be. It was truly a sanctuary.
She had knelt there in the first pew on the right for nearly an hour in silence, trying to make sense of it all. She did not know whether to continue to pray or rail at God for allowing this all to happen. All she had was her faith, weak and unpracticed as it was. Yet, like a bicycle, the instincts of the Catholic culture - a Catholic's sense of survival - kicked in once she'd received Ben's call. When all else fails, drop to your knees.
That is what she was doing, mulling over and over Ben's words and his concern for Vic. Why couldn't someone give her something concrete about Pat? There had to be a shred of hope somewhere.
She focused on the tabernacle directly ahead of her on the side altar, separated only by the long marble communion rail. It was so beautiful, so serene here. Corrie remembered how she used to come here over a decade ago. This special area in the northwest corner of the church had been a daily oasis for those who hungered for the Latin Mass. She had worthily lined up with other daily communicants at that very altar railing in front of her to receive the Bread of Life on their tongues during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She didn't realize, as her mind wandered, how much she had taken for granted.
Corrie had never understood why the Bishops would rescind permission for the daily Mass in Latin, especially at the height of the Rudy Kos infamy that had left such a scar on Dallas. Few realized back then that it was merely the tip of the iceberg. The record 94 million dollar judgment awarded to victims against the Diocese had been only the precursor to so many other sordid scandals within the Church that were laid bare to the world as civilization passed into the third millennium.
She couldn't help thinking that had the Bishops allowed the Latin Mass to continue here at Christ the King that things might have been different. Indeed, had all the Bishops followed John Paul II's motu proprio "Ecclesia Dei" back in 1988, Corrie believed prayer would have fended off the corruption. The Pope's recommendation, in the wake of the very questionable action against Archbishops Marcel Lefebvre, was to make the ancient Gregorian Mass readily available to as many as desired it without prejudice by the ordinary of each see. She knew in her heart at least that the situation would never have reached the proportions it had.
She felt the weight of the cross this day, not at God, but towards herself for not having seen it sooner. She was angry with Vic for having allowed Pat to go to Iraq. And, she was particularly bitter towards those who were God's representatives, those entrusted to guide His flocks. The Bishops were the object of her wrath as she tried to muster up forgiveness. This day that was nigh unto impossible, especially with her beloved Pat taken from her.
After the Dallas chancery had shut down the daily Masses in Latin not only during the week, but on Sundays as well, she had become embittered against this suppression. Never get an Italian woman angry. She vowed not to go along with the new-fangled services that were ripe with innovation, novelty and irreverence as experimentation became the norm. Considering the alternatives, she had decided it was better not to go. She had continued to pray since that was part of her cultural, instinctive fiber, but the sacraments had been taken from her and if they wanted to play that game...well she wouldn't go along. The hell with them.
It hurt to the core being denied something she had been in the habit of always doing. As the years passed and the scandals mounted she had even felt embarrassment at being Catholic. Her dear departed mother would have been scandalized had she seen her daughter deny her Catholic identity.
But Corrie wasn't alone. As the decades had stretched on more Catholics had begun to compromise, eventually caving to the pressure of political correctness. It hadn't been cool to be Catholic anymore, as if popularity determined faith. Many had sought out Protestant sects to join, finding themselves well at home because of the similarities between the 'mass' Pope Paul VI had promulgated and a regular Protestant service. Beneath the veneer and the wording of some prayers, it was all the same thing - a commemoration of the Last Supper. If only they had known their Catholic faith they might have resisted at the very time the Vatican II Church had decided change was good. But few had.
This had just given license to the Devil to orchestrate the demise as sin and deception continued. Scandals weren't as scandalous, so jaded had the world become. In Europe they laughed at such accusations for it had become commonplace in the Old World thanks to legislation in the Netherlands that soon had spread throughout the continent. Safeguards had been shackled in order that those who serve mammon could unshackle their own inhibitions in a blatant lack of virtues. This had only given rise and tolerance to many vices practiced by several who were but a heart beat away from the papacy this night.
Corrie was not aware of that, only mistrusting of the politics and intrigue that had plagued this diocese ever since. The wreckovation of all that was sacred had been given free rein by both the old regime and the new one in Dallas.
Naively she had stubbornly clung to the idea that had Rome only known what was going on in Dallas the Pope would long ago have stopped it. At the same time she hadn't thought twice about calling President William Jefferson Clinton on the carpet for his lies about his sexcapades and knowledge of China-gate because he was the head man. Later she hadn't doubted that the corruption within business giants like Worldcom and Enron and many other moguls started at the top. In her history classes, her favorite figure had been Harry S. Truman simply because he never took guff and coined the famous phrase "the buck stops here." Yet, she, as well as the great majority of Catholics in general, could not connect the dots when it had come to the widespread laxity, corruption and the Pope...until it had been too late. Little had she realized that this naiveté had indirectly chauffeured in the insanity that had prevailed and had prompted the terrorism on the Field of Abraham.
Due to a few valiant parishioners, they had managed to stave off the demolition of this gothic cathedral. Those who had endeavored to keep the faith replete, had fought to keep the traditional statues, candles, stations, and all other sacramentals that shouted Catholic tradition, so that this church still truly looked and felt like a Catholic church.
While that might have been a consolation in the past, this afternoon Corrie didn't know what to feel. Her heart was torn, her mind racing, plummeting into an abyss of horror at the dangers Pat faced if he was still alive. Yes, she truly loved him and therefore not knowing hurt all the more. She was here to ask for a miracle. Little did she know how necessary that was for the entire world, not to mention the small squadron of valiant ones in Rome who defended virtue and good against overwhelming odds. The Basilisk was growing stronger, nourished by the fall of so many men whose souls had been consumed with vice.
As she knelt, frozen to the kneeler, Corrie didn't know whether it was God or the Devil prompting her on. Regardless, she knew in her heart where she had to go, what she had to do.
Dateline: Vatican City- Sala Regia Hall, November 5, 9:50 p.m.
The General Congregation was coming to a conclusion. Division permeated the room. Resentment reined. A majority could not be reached as the meeting droned on.
"My distinguished brothers," Mendoza announced. "I am afraid time does not permit us to continue this most important issue. Because everything has been expedited by the Cardinal Camerlengo, we will have to table the matter of the document on the Jews until later."
Macelli was not a happy camper. He stared straight ahead, focusing on the mural of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa kneeling at the feet of Pope Alexander III. What a miserable acquiescence of surrendering power, the camerlengo groused interiorily. Come hell or high water he would never succumb to such weakness. Non serviam meant forever as far as Macelli was concerned. He would regroup. He would find the resisters' Achilles heel and strike. And if he couldn't find it, he had other means to strike...quickly and deadly.
So wrapped in his thoughts was the Italian Prelate that he did not consciously hear Mendoza's announcement that since the matter of the document was in pending suspension, no further dissemination could be made. He did not realize the Dean's finality that a brief statement would be released to the press notifying them of the status of the document. It would throw more doubt on the document. But it wasn't the document that crowded his mind at this moment, but the hatred within that he had been foiled in the first volley.
"Without any further business," Cardinal Julies Mendoza announced, "may I call for adjournment?"
"Your Grace," said Cardinal Quentin, "I move we adjourn."
"His Eminence William Richard Quentin has moved to adjourn. Is there a second to the motion?"
"Your Grace," noted the Polish Prelate, "I second the motion."
"His Eminence Kazimierz Strovinsky has seconded the motion to adjourn. All those in favor, signify by saying 'Aye'."
The majority bellowed loudly "Aye."
Without even calling for a nay vote, Mendoza concluded, "The 'ayes' have spoken. So be it. Before adjoining let us close in prayer. Domine, Qui dixisti: Jugum Meum suave est, et onus Meum leve: fac, ut istud portare sic valeam, quod consequar Tuam gratiam."
"Amen," the rest responded.
Bringing down the gavel, the Dean of the College made one last announcement, "We will gather in the Basilica at 10:55 for the Rosarium and Matins. We should be finished by 11:30. We will meet back here tomorrow morning at 9:30. We will march in procession to the Basilica at 9:45. Please, brothers, do not be late. Gracias."
Immediately the noise level intensified as the Cardinals began talking, remarking about various things, high-fiving and hugging one another - those who had approved of the way things went this evening. Those who did not quickly exited, their bodies first, their lingering hatred slowly ebbing after them, as so many dark shadows.
Two were Macelli and Vendhem as the latter caught up with the rotund prelate at the foot of the Scala Regia, the great staircase that led from the Sala Regia to the first floor.
"Antonio, now what do you propose?" Vendhem's tone was abrasive and abrupt.
"Not here, Josef," Macelli shushed him, noting the other Cardinals descending the stairs as they were dispersing. "Meet me in my office at 11:00."
"We will not be attending the Rosarium then?" Vendhem replied curtly.
"Of course not. We have more important matters to tend to, Lord Vendhem. Much more important matters."
Vendhem clicked his heels and turned an about-face heading away in true proud Nazi fashion as a covey of other Cardinals soon swarmed around Macelli.
"Did you anticipate this, Antonio?" demanded Cardinal Erich Rupert Krementz.
The salvo continued from Cardinal Visserant, "Oui. You had assured us we had nothing to worry about."
"We trusted you, comrade camerlengo," strutted Cardinal Teofilius Radkalionis.
Macelli was trying to backpedal as Cardinals Hong-Ju and Raul Carteaga approached. It wouldn't get easier for the deceitful one as Cardinals Dietrich Kalschthoeler and Frederico Eijo Lopez joined the pack of hungry wolves.
The Italian Prelate was reeling, stalling for time. Damn, he thought, how could the Master have allowed this? Lopez. That's it. He pointed at the Puerto Rican red hat, hoping to deflect the blame on Lopez.
"You blew it, Cardinal Lopez. Your timing was off. You were to wait for my cue," he accused.
"But, your Eminence, I--" stammered Lopez, totally taken off guard, unprepared for Macelli's survival strategy.
"No excuses, Lopez. I had a planned strategy and you veered from that, you sniveling fool."
Macelli was on the offensive, a desperate attack to fend off the ravenous red hats surrounding him.
Had Lopez stood up to the camerlengo, perhaps Macelli's influence would have evaporated then and there. But the San Juan Prelate still had a lot to learn. Surrounded by his peers, he apologized and the needle of blame so smoothly shifted from the camerlengo to this foolish Puerto Rican Prelate.
"How could you," lambasted Radkalionis, followed by rails from Carteaga and Visserant.
"I do believe we have much work to accomplish before the Conclave," asserted Macelli seeking to regain control.
"Ja. Ve need to convince four more to gain the vote in conclave," affirmed Krementz.
He had been schooled by Pope-makers. He had learned his craft well for he was becoming one now.
"Which ones do you see as penetrable, Erich?" Cardinal Lopez was seeking inclusion, trying to make amends. All he wanted was acceptance.
Rejection to those who reject God's laws and holy will was unbearable. No wonder hell had to be so miserable.
"The most plausible would be Maurin and Estrado," replied Krementz. "Do you have dossiers on them, mein Herr Camerlengo?"
"I believe Vendhem is working on them at this very moment," assured Macelli confidently. "We still need two more."
"I do believe my Spanish brothers Estrado and Medelia can be compromised," suggested Cardinal Carteaga.
"Good, you work on them," commanded Krementz. "Cardinal Visserant, your assignment is Maurin. Cardinal Lopez, your target is Estrado. We have little time. I need not remind you, mein freres, of the urgency of the matter."
Macelli could feel his authority slipping away. It was only temporary he told himself. It was good that for now he could count on Krementz. After all, many incompetents had fouled up the Master's plan. Krementz had no idea of the Legion. His agenda was modernism, which in truth was an insidious agenda concocted by Satan himself and which had been condemned by past Pontiffs. Yet, Krementz believed with all his being that he was right, that the Motherland deserved a Pope and Vendhem was that man. Far be it from Macelli to tell this German Prelate the truth. He could be used and used well for the Master's purpose. The Deutschland would triumph with the white smoke of the Vicar General, and perish with the black fire of the Basilisk, for those not of the Legion were expendable, nay, they had to be annihilated.
Next: PART IV: The Shrouding TWELFTH CHAPTER Episode Three
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