Dorian Speed had her eyes rightfully set on a much bigger vision. She created Electing the Pope, a website aimed at bringing many Catholic bloggers, including yours truly at Catholic Sistas, together to answer questions about the papacy. The site is easy to navigate, easy to read through, and has many resources linked for continued research. But don’t just take my word for it – I tracked down Dorian and asked her a few questions about the website and its purpose. She had the following to say:
What inspired you to start Electing the Pope?
When I first heard about Benedict XVI’s resignation, I wanted to see what kind of information was already available about how the conclave will work and other related questions. I was frustrated that there weren’t more Catholic sources available. At first, I was just going to write some random blog posts but that didn’t seem to make sense because I myself am far from a “Vatican Insider.” Then I was idly wondering if electingthepope.net had already been registered as a domain name. It was available, and I thought, “well, what would be good to have on a site like that?”
I knew from the beginning it would be a collaborative effort and I’ve been very, very impressed by people’s willingness to participate and to create some very thorough responses to common questions.
What was your initial vision for the website and do you think that is being achieved?
I wanted the site to answer a variety of questions with a unified voice – one that is not overtly evangelizing but is accurate and points people towards more detailed sources of information about Catholicism. It is definitely being achieved, thanks to the efforts of all of our contributors.
Who is the target audience for this initiative?
The target audience is, first, public school teachers who may want to talk to their students about the conclave or assign it as a project topic for a World Religions unit, as it is an event of global significance that would be rightly discussed in a classroom setting. That’s why it is important to me that we are focusing on pretty basic questions about the papacy and about Catholicism in general, and that we are not writing in a first-person voice about our faith but are still providing information that, I hope, will invite people to continue learning about the Church.
Similarly, for reporters who may have been handed this assignment with the directive to “come up with an interesting spin” on the process, having a simple go-to place for accurate research would presumably be helpful. So I suppose it’s a general audience of people who are intrigued by what’s happening right now in the Church, really.
Any additional thoughts or comments?
I can’t overstate how important it has been to have a slate of contributors who are working together to vet one another’s articles and to assist with research and SEO. I’m so honored that these people have stepped up to join this project and I’m amazed at how many questions we’ve already answered in just two weeks. I’d like to see the site possibly mature into a more general “understanding Catholicism” resource, with the same target audience, so I suppose we will see what happens!
Would you like to submit a question of your own? Dig through the responses page and if you don’t see your question answered, visit the Ask a Question page to submit your own – it’s just that easy!
So, have you adopted a cardinal yet? No, not a bird which incidentally isnamed after the cardinals of the Church and sometimes the source of confusion as was evidenced by this morning’s exchange with my super cute husband. This fascinating new site allows passers-by to enter their name, e-mail, and a quick code before clicking on “adopt” to see who you will be praying for during the Conclave. I tried it out this morning and I got Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi from Italy and born in 1942. He became a cardinal in late 2010 and his function is President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. I found out he is actually ON Twitter, and rumor has it he blasts out his own tweets! Quite appropriate that I would get a cardinal who is plugged into social media. 🙂
With the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, there has been a whirlwind of speculation about what is next for the Church in both the secular and Catholic media. Many in the secular world wonder if the Church will change Her stance on certain doctrines. (No.) In the Catholic world, there has been much whispering and worry over what this means for the Church. Is there a chance the next Pope could be the Antichrist, like many suggest? Do the prophecies of St. Malachy from the 12th century indicate that the next Pope will be the last one EVER? Or are we freaking out over nothing?
Next Pope = Antichrist?
The “Papal-Antichrist” theory is frequently thrown around, and many Protestant sects hold this belief. This theory espouses that the system of the Papacy itself is the Antichrist, and therefore, each Pope is a tool of the Antichrist. Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and the majority of Protestants during the time period of the Reformation held this view, as their way of justifying their break from the Catholic Church. Cardinal Newman has given great insight on this belief in his dissertation, “The Protestant Idea of Antichrist”:
“The Papal-Antichrist theory was gradually developed by three historical bodies: the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and the Fraticelli, between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries: are these the expositors from whom the Church of Christ is to receive the true interpretation of the prophecies?” – Cardinal John Henry Newman
The “Pope is the Antichrist” assertion is NOT a Catholic one, but rather, one created by those who are most vehemently anti-Catholic; it addresses the Papacy as a whole, not just the next Pope. Besides some modern visionaries (whose visions are NOT approved by the Church), no Catholic with any authority has declared that the Antichrist will sit on the throne of Peter, nor has the Church ever held the belief that the Antichrist will come in the form of a Pope.
So what do actual Catholic theologians say about the Antichrist? That he “shall not come as a righteous king nor as a legitimate king in subjection to God, but as an impious, unjust, and lawless one” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies); “For even Antichrist, when he shall begin to come, will not enter into the Church [even though] he threatens” (Cyprian of Carthage); “he will constitute and call himself God, and will order himself to be worshipped as the Son of God” (Lactantius).
Even the term “antichrist” itself carries the connotation of one who does not profess the divinity of Christ. “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 1:7
The Antichrist is someone who will lead people away from the Truth. And since we know that the Catholic Church teaches the fullness of Truth, it does not seem like someone who will be the visible head of the Church of Christ on Earth. Considering the Antichrist will preach heresy and blasphemy, that would seem to fly in the face of Matthew 16:18 (the gates of hell shall not prevail), as well as the doctrine of Papal Infallibility (the Pope will not teach error on matters of faith or morals when speaking as the spiritual head of the Church.) And seeing as though this idea was proposed and promulgated by those who hold the Catholic Church in contempt, why would we want to give their theory any weight?
Next Pope = Last Pope?
St. Malachy was an Irish Archbishop from the 12th century. The “Prophecy of the Popes” are a series of prophesies attributed to him that supposedly predict the Papacy from his time to the end of the world. According to the proponents of the prophecy, Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope referred to in the 111th prophecy. The 112th prophecy states: “In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit … Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end.”
If the St. Malachy prophecy is true, the next Pope will be the last, and the end of the world is quickly approaching. Which means we are living in the time of the great apostasy, the coming of the Antichrist, persecution, potential wars, pestilence, famine.
It is important to note that these prophecies were supposedly originally received in a vision St. Malachy had in 1139, during a visit to Rome. However, they were not discovered until the 1590s. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a close friend of St. Malachy, penned his biography and made absolutely no mention of them (although his gift of prophecy WAS mentioned.) Jimmy Akin has a truly excellent, in-depth analysis of the St. Malachy prophecy and why he believes it to be untrue. The veracity of these prophecies is dubious at best, and they are not Church-approved (unlike the prophecies and visions of Fatima, Lourdes, and the like.) While they are interesting to read through and to try to make connections, we should not allow them to hold much weight.
Does it matter? Why are we so concerned?
As humans, we have an often insatiable curiosity. We want to know the future, and our prediction for the future often determines our course of action. Will we buy black plastic to put over our windows for the three days of darkness? Will we increase our food storage to protect ourselves against the potential natural disasters that will come at the end of the world?
The world may very well end in 2 years, 3 years, 5 years. We may indeed go through intense persecution and suffer martyrdom. We may perish in a natural disaster sent by God as a precursor to The End. Or the world could end in 50 years, 100 years, or 2 millennia from now.
So what if it is in God’s plan for the world to end in 2015? Is it wrong to be concerned, to prepare? What if the next Pope is in fact the last Pope (regardless of the veracity of the St. Malachy prophecies)?
Here’s the thing. It is in our nature to be concerned about the end because we want to be prepared – hopefully, prepared to die well so that we can enter Heaven. But what if we don’t make it to the end of the world? What if you die in your sleep tonight? Are you prepared to meet God face to face, and to face His Just Judgment? The end of THE world may not be the end of YOUR world. Are you ready?
While it is a little thrilling to read prophesies and wonder about when the Earth is going to be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:12), it’s important to remember that we will all die. It doesn’t matter whether we die at the end of the world or we die in our sleep. What matters is that we are READY for death. Go to confession regularly. Attend Mass. Pray. Pray the Rosary. Wear the scapular. We should pray for the grace of a holy death every day, since the most important thing we will ever do is die, and our disposition when we die determines where we will spend eternity. If we are doing these things, we have nothing to fear. We will always be ready for death, whether it comes “like a thief in the night” or if it comes at the end of the world. And while it’s fine to speculate about the end and to peruse predictions, we should not allow it to consume our thoughts, to worry us, or to distract us from our vocations. Stop stressing over it! – no one gets out of here alive, anyway.
And let us pray for the Cardinals as the conclave commences, that they may allow their hearts to be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit and elect a holy and worthy successor to the See of Peter.
So, we’ve had 16 days to accustom ourselves to the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, our 266th pope in the line of succession beginning with the Rock, St. Peter. By now most of us have shaken off the fog of shock and have taken a more resolute pose. As the leader of the world’s 1.2 Billion Catholics, however, Benedict’s unusual step has left us as quite the Papa-ratzi. News reports by the dozens appear hourly to feed our need to know. What will we call him, where is he going, and what about that all important Twitter account with its 1,582,730 followers? For that matter, what about those indulgences that we obtain for praying for the intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope? In an effort to answer some of the questions that have caught my fancy, I will share some answers and their sources.
Q: Since this is an unprecedented occurrence in modern times, what in the world shall we call him when he leaves?
A: His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome will be his new title according to both Patheos and Zenit.
Q: What changes has he made to the rituals for new pope’s inauguration?
A: “One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public “act of obedience” in which each cardinal present at the pope’s inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.”
Q: So what will he be doing after 8:00 p.m. (Rome time), February 28, when he steps away from the Seat of Saint Peter?
A: According to his own words, “I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious.” After a brief stay at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer home, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.
Q: But isn’t he abandoning the Church at a very tumultuous time?
A: No, Benedict is not abandoning the Church. Perhaps in anticipation of this question he clarified, “…this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified. “Indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”
Q: What about the indulgences that are obtained by those who pray for the Intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope?
A: Surprisingly, the answer is yes! According to a post by Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “The faithful are able to obtain plenary indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” time, where there is no Pope.As a matter of fact, the Church holds matters of internal forum and of indulgences to be so important for the faithful that the office of the Major Penitentiary (who oversees these matters for the Apostolic Penitentiary) is one of the few that does not cease when the Pope dies or resigns”. Actually, this question was addressed after the death of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.
Q: Doesn’t this move us closer to the Prophecy of St. Malachy and his list, where he predicts that Benedict XVI’s successor will be the last pope? Are we to conclude that we are nearing the end?
A: There are strong indications that the List of St. Malachy is a fraud. According to Catholic Answers, “(t)he consensus among modern scholars is that it is a 16th-century forgery created for partisan political reasons”. We must remember that predictions of the end times were warned against in the Bible…“but of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father”.
Q: Will the conclave begin earlier, shortening the expected month long wait, and how many Cardinals will participate?
A: In his motu proprio Normas nonnullas (22 feb 2012), Pope Benedict has given authorization for the conclave to begin earlier. Sources at the National Catholic Register report that “the conclave to choose the next pope will likely begin between March 9 and 11”. We may have a new pope by Easter! This decision, however, now “falls squarely within the pontifical provisions for a conclave, and one may leave the choice of a start-date to the competent authority without further concern for the legality of the assembly” according to canonist Ed Peters.
Q: Will the virally popular Papal Twitter account, @pontifex, be shut down when the Holy Father steps down?
A: In a word, no. It will go dormant while we await the election of our new pope, however, as soon as he steps into his role as Vicar of Christ he will be free to take up what his predecessor started. It appears that Benedict chose the name “Pontifex” wisely, in anticipation of a seamless transition from pope to pope. The name means “bridge builder” or “pope” .
This is but a small sampling of the questions that have arisen since Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement. Catholic Sistas (CS) is also involved in a Q & A endeavor over at Electing the Pope. Here you will find many more questions and answers, with sources, some of which are being provided by Ink Slingers. You will also able to post questions of your own.
Don’t forget that CS also has their 40 Days of Prayer for the Seat of Saint Peter posted on our Facebook fan page. There we post a brief prayer every day – from February 22 (Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) through April 1. Won’t you join us in praying for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor? You might also be interested in reading our Open Letter to Our Beloved Papa, where the Ink Slingers share their thoughts, prayers, and admiration of this wonderful pope who has given us so much in his eight years as our Pontiff.
May we never forget the good done by this gentle German Shepherd of ours!