Even before the cardinals retired into the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to begin the (supposedly secret) meeting known as the conclave to elect a new pope, it was clear that Ratzinger was a favourite candidate. There is nothing truly secretive about the process, and the Holy Spirit is certainly not guiding the cardinals as they like the world to imagine: even before John Paul II died, and increasing the moment he breathed his last, immense political games were afoot. The choice of a new Roman pope affects the destinies of entire countries, the balance of power between the superpowers, and thus the very course of the world. At the time of the election of John Paul II in 1978, two opposing blocs were at work behind the scenes, one pro-Soviet and the other pro-American. John Paul II was favoured by America, but two popes before him (John XXIII and Paul VI) had been favoured by the Soviet Union. John Paul himself was certainly pro-Communist, but not pro-Soviet; and American intelligence agencies felt they could make use of him to bring in his own brand of Communism in the European eastern-bloc countries and in the Third World. In this they calculated correctly. Thus his election was all about politics in a Europe facing rampant Soviet-controlled Marxism. A pope from Soviet-controlled Poland, a Communist but not a pro-Soviet Communist, was what the Western nations desired to help them in their war against the Soviet Union.
So there are great intrigues, all kinds of political power plays, wheeling and dealing on a vast scale, behind the scenes at the election of a pope. And we can be sure that it was no different this time. For various world powers, and lesser countries too, there was much at stake in the outcome of this election. When those cardinals retired to the Sistine Chapel, they went in with the anxious eyes of world leaders upon them. Moreover, they went in with agendas, with threats hanging over the heads of some and bribes bringing smiles to the faces of others, with plots and schemes well formed in their heads; and despite sweeping the Sistine Chapel for electronic bugs, we can be sure that it was not perfectly bug-free. Furthermore, for the first time in history, the cardinals were not totally isolated during their deliberations: although they were officially banned from contact with the outside world, they were able to move freely about the Vatican(The Witness, April 6, 2005). Thus it would have been a very easy matter for intelligence agents and others to maintain contact with them. Perhaps this time round, the cardinals just realised there was no point in trying to keep them completely isolated, since various government agencies have always been able to make contact with them anyhow!
Yes, a papal election is a very political thing, a time of high drama behind closed doors. This is the election of the biblical Antichrist, and Antichrist is under the influence and direction of the spirit of Antichrist (1 Jn.4:3), not the Spirit of Christ.
The big question is: why was Joseph Ratzinger chosen to become pope?
There are at least three reasons, and more will become apparent in time. The first is that he is a doctrinal conservative. For over twenty years he was the Inquisitor-General, the Vatican’s watchdog on doctrine, making very certain that any Roman Catholics who dared to deviate from Rome’s position on matters of doctrine and practice were disciplined and brought into line… or forced out. To a very large extent, he formulated the doctrinal policy of John Paul II from behind the scenes. His nickname of “God’s Rottweiler” certainly does not conjure up images of a pleasant, friendly man, easy-going and jovial! He was elected because he will continue with the policies of his predecessor, policies which he himself did so much to create and propagate. A Ratzinger Papacy, it is hoped by the Vatican powers-that-be, will be “business as usual” as he follows in the steps of John Paul. If anything, his reign could prove to be even more conservative than his predecessor’s.
The second reason for his choice is that the Vatican wants a man from Europe, who will face the challenges of this day and age. Just as Karol Wojtyla was elected as John Paul II at a time when a man was needed, by Rome, to face the challenge of the might of growing Soviet expansionism, so now a man is needed by Rome to face the challenges posed by an increasingly secular Europe, the might of the European Union and Rome’s desire to make certain that the EU is a Papist super-state, etc.
And the third reason for his election is his age. At 78, it is obvious that his reign as pope will not be a very long one. The Vatican did not want another long pontificate like that of John Paul II, the third longest in history, who was a comparatively young man when he was elected. The world is undergoing very rapid changes, and to a very great degree the Vatican has always checked to see which way the winds of change are blowing, and reacted accordingly. The last thing the Vatican needs is to be stuck with a pope who will live many long years, unbendingly following the same policies with which he began his reign even though the world might have moved on since then. And although the Vatican has never been averse to using the tactic of an “accelerated demise” when a pope has outlived his usefulness (the last example being the short-lived John Paul I, back in 1978), in this media-driven modern world it is so difficult to keep that hushed up, and as the facts begin to emerge they prove so embarrassing to the Vatican. Far better to elect a very old man as pope, who will “go the way of all the earth” on his own, thus saving them the trouble of having to nudge him along.
Ratzinger had the support of the secretive Roman Catholic order known as Opus Dei. A Jesuit cardinal, Carlo Maria Martini, was considered by some to have a good chance of becoming pope, but of course he was not elected. And it is things like this that make some assume the Jesuits are not as powerful as they once were in the Vatican, and that they have been replaced by Opus Dei. But this is a grave error. The Jesuits do whatever suits their purposes. And if it is not in accordance with their purposes to have one of their own elected as pope, then he would not be elected. The Jesuits are just as powerful today as they ever were, if not more so. But it suits their purposes at this time to work from behind the scenes, and Opus Dei is a movement within the Roman Catholic institution that is controlled by the Jesuits. Besides, Martini was considered to be a “progressive”, and this time they wanted a conservative to be pope.