OF A POPE
7 occasions intense interest throughout the 2,. • world. The election of the next Pope may °THE election of a Pope is an event that still
▪ attract greater interest than has been shown for many years past. t" Though Rome always abounds in rumours, the current ones concerning possible changes • • ▪ in papal election procedure deserve more than just passing attention. For the antennae of : the Holy See are extremely sensitive, and an I intelligent and responsible Catholic "grass : roots" reaction to this news could ultimately : have great effect.
Now, rather than later — such as on the eve of the next conclave — is the appropriate moment for a clarification of thought on the issue. And one word that should be • used, if at all, with great caution is the word "democratic."
• Proposals such as those now thought to be ; in the air could in no sense be aimed at making the Church, even in the distant future, a
▪ democratic" body in the political sense of ; the word.
Magna Carta in the same way, was not, as r4 G. K. Chesterton was at pains to point out, 2 a step towards democracy; it was merely a 2 a step away from despotism. Even that step would never have been taken had the "bene
volent" ideal of monarchy not been abandoned f, by King John.
The Church needs no Magna Carta as long as it remains a benevolent despotism. While t John XXIII so admirably personified this ideal, he was in no doubt that the Church was never meant to become a popular democracy. 7 Thus to be applauded are any steps, how: ever tentative, toward giving greater strength : to the benevolently autocratic structure of the : Church by providing it with as broad a base ; as possible. To wish to go further than this, or to campaign for something more radical, would produce, almost certainly and very ; understandably, an antagonistic reaction in ; official circles in the Vatican. Many of Pope = Paul's other inspired initiatives have been ; vitiated in this way.
At a moment when many members of the Church are trying to be more catholic, as well t. as more Catholic, than the Pope, festina lente E is a motto not to be despised. a