Walt's agent in the Vatican reports that the new pope's first words to the cardinals assembled for a late dinner last night were, "Let me be Frank with you..." [OK, you got that out of your system. Now get on with it. Ed.]
OK, seriously... Walt didn't have any bets on the outcome of this week's conclave, which was just as well as Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio was a 25-to-1 long shot so my wise barber would have been the richer, not I. Frankly [Don't make me come up there! Ed.], although Cardinal Bergoglio is said to have been the runner-up to Pope Ratzinger last time, I had never heard of him. All I know is what I read in the press.
Our new Pope Francis (not Francis I until there's another) is Argentinian, born in Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of Argentinians have ties to Italy, and being raised in an immigrant family is said to be good for the character.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio stood against a powerful secular government on the issues of same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion. Argentina's laws on those matters have been liberalized, but not for lack of opposition by the prelate. In fact, Argentina's president once referred to him as "the opposition".
Francis is the first pope from the New World, and the first pope from the southern hemisphere. Considering that more than half of the world's 1,200,000,000 Catholics live in "the South", and that the Old World is in seemingly irreversible decline, it's good to see a recognition of the shift in the centre of power. And thank God the choice wasn't the "charismatic" (read "blowhard") American Cardinal Dolan.
Thank God too that the cardinal electors has the wisdom to steer clear of the trap set for them by the despicable and despised Cardinal Bertone. Knowing that he himself would not have a prayer of getting the position he coveted for all these years, Bertone put up his owned man, Brazil's Cardinal Scherer -- a prelate unloved even in his own country -- against the supposed front-runner, the Italian Cardinal Scola, who was backed by the large anti-Bertone faction within the Curia. Neither would have been a suitable choice.
The history of the papacy since the death of Pius XII has been a sad one. John XXIII, for reasons highly suspect but ultimately unknown, called the council which undertook the suicidal "reform" of the Roman Catholic Church. His successor, Paul VI, let "the smoke of Satan" into the Church. Those were Pope Pauls' own words!
Yes, the smoke of Satan entered the Church by way of Vatican II. It was rumored that John Paul I intended to undo some of the worst abuses of the Council -- notably the suppression of the Mass of All Time in favour of the vernacular "New Mass" -- but he died mysteriously just a month into his reign. How Italian is that!
Since then, under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church (especially the Vatican) is still filled with the "unholy smoke". The smoky stench of sin and corruption is everywhere, especially in the Curia. It is to be hoped that Pope Francis, who had no connection with Rome and the evil men who lurk there, will open the windows. Let this "new broom" sweep clean! Let us pray...
Recommended reading on the disastrous consequences of Vatican II: Has the Catholic Church Gone Mad?, by John Eppstein (Arlington House, 1971).