What Can We Expect From the Next Pope? (Guest: Charles Coulombe)

Pope Francis is still going strong, but he’s not a young man and eventually his time here on earth will pass. What will the next pope face in the wake of this controversial pontificate?

Crisis Point
Crisis Point
What Can We Expect From the Next Pope? (Guest: Charles Coulombe)
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Guest

Charles Coulombe is a contributing editor of Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy.

Transcript

Eric Sammons:

Well, Pope Francis is still going strong, but he’s not a young man and eventually his time here on earth will be at an end. When that happens, what will the next pope face in wake of this controversial pontiff? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons, your host, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. Just want to encourage people to smash that like button to subscribe to the channel, follow us on social media, subscribe to your email newsletter, do all the stuff that you’re supposed to do, that I tell you to do every single time. And by now, if you haven’t done it, why are you still listening? So please do it now.

Okay, so we got Charles Coulombe today, which is great. I’m very excited about this. He is a contributing editor of Crisis Magazine. That’s his most important title of them all. He’s the author of a whole bunch of books. My favorite of course, and your favorite as well, is Blessed Charles of Austria, a Holy Emperor and His Legacy. I should have grabbed it so I could hold it up. I seriously can see it on my shelf, half the shelf is like Habsburg related books and it’s all because of your book that I have all the other books, because that got me fascinated into it grew my devotion of Blessed Karl. And so now I have a half a bookshelf, which I know is nothing compared to yours, I’m sure on the Habsburgs and upon a Blessed Karl. So welcome to the program though, Charles.

Charles Coulombe:

Thank you. Great to be here.

Eric Sammons:

And before I even get started, we’re going to be talking about the next pope, but I’m going to ask you beforehand, before we are on air, but I want to ask you now so everybody can know, you’re currently working on a book about the wife of Blessed Karl, about Servant of God Zita, and I actually read a biography by her that was out of print been long, long ago, but could you tell us about that project and where you are and when we can expect that to happen?

Charles Coulombe:

Well, sure. I just began the penultimate chapter of the book, so I’m hoping to bring it in within a week or at the tops two. Unfortunately, well, not unfortunately, because I’m glad I’m going, but I’ve got to go to Denmark and England tomorrow and then come back, so I’ll be gone. If I weren’t leaving, I am pretty sure I’d be done with the thing in a week as far as the last two chapters go. But basically I look at her life. Well, as I did with the Karl book, I give the prequel background information without which you simply can’t understand the lady. And that’s very, very important because she lived her life as a result of all sorts of occurrences in the past, her past, her family’s past, with which most of us are simply not familiar. And if you don’t understand the dynamics at work with her in terms of her background, you can’t understand the woman as she lived her life.

Without wanting to give too much away. Suffice to say that she found herself living the stories that she’d been brought up on. I mean, the best way I can epitomize this for you is if, imagine, you’d heard your grandfather’s stories about the trenches in World War I, in the mud, and the this and the that, and then one day you found yourself a soldier in trench warfare. With everything that grandpa or great grandpa or whomever talked to you, told you about. It would have a definite effect on you. I also deal, of course in the last chapter, I’ll be dealing with the great question, which is why she and her husband are so popular in the United States, which is the country more than any other single factor, destroyed them.

I mean, Lord knows there are a lot of villains in their story. Karl Renner, of course, the worthless traitor who sold his country three if not four times. To different buyers, of course. It’s always best to keep a little bit of flexibility going there. Admiral Horthy, the famous admiral on horseback who broke his oath to the king as he was in Hungary. Count Czernin, the foreign minister during the war who betrayed him. Oh, I could go on and on and on. Cardinal Piffl of Vienna and Cardinal Csernoch of Budapest. Oh, yes. Whole lot of blame to go around in the Karl, Zita story, you bet. But at the bottom of it all was our very own Woodrow Wilson, without whom none of the others could have done a thing.

Eric Sammons:

You’ll be very happy to hear this story. I was giving a talk last year on the Feast of Blessed Karl about his life, and when I mentioned Woodrow Wilson, literally when I say the name, there were boos from the audience. I was like, okay, this is an educated audience. These people know what they’re doing. And I took a pause. I was like, yes, you’re right. He is the villain of this story. And so I was very happy that literally his name mentioned in the context of their life got boos from the audience.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, yeah, me too. And see, that’s also very useful because there’s been a revolution in writing about the Habsburgs. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It’s not just Catholics writing about Karl and Zita. There’s been a whole revolution in writing about the Habsburgs historically in English, both in the States and in Britain. As we’ve passed the century mark from the post-war propaganda, we’re able to look at the whole thing honestly. Now, this is still too tender a subject to have slipped into German yet, and so the establishment here is to venerate Karl Renner. Who, I mean that’s very much like theologians still venerating Karl Renner, but that’s a whole other story.

But nevertheless, the fact is that the Habsburg entity was an organization that say whatever else, forget your religion, forget this, forget that, it worked better than anything before or since. And the destruction of it ended in misery and death for thousands if not millions of people. And it continues in the present day. The echoes of it are going on in Ukraine as we speak. So I mean, this has been the gift that’s kept on giving. I will say though, that I have stood beside the tombs of Blessed Karl in Madeira, of Servant of God Zita here in Vienna and of Woodrow Wilson at the National Cathedral in Washington. I only prayed by two of them. I’m not telling you which one.

Eric Sammons:

Yes. We’ll have to guess which two of the three you prayed by.

Charles Coulombe:

Exactly. I can neither confirm nor deny.

Eric Sammons:

Well, let’s move on to our subject. So anyway, so people should be excited about this book coming, I know I am. Do you think it’ll be out in 2024 or do you think it-

Charles Coulombe:

Yes.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, good.

Charles Coulombe:

I don’t know for sure. I certainly hope so. I was delayed. Last year at this time I had some very, very bad health problems and they’re gone now. I mean, it was completely fixed, but I almost snuffed it to put it nicely. So I’m here despite everyone’s best efforts.

Eric Sammons:

Somebody must want you to write this book then.

Charles Coulombe:

Yeah, that’s what I figured. But it did delay it considerably by considerable time.

Eric Sammons:

Is it going to be TAN publishing it again?

Charles Coulombe:

Yes.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, very good.

Charles Coulombe:

This is a TAN book. Unfortunately, I mean, the man, Jason Gates, who’s my editor, is a fine fellow, but I have to admit I very much missed the late lamented John Morehouse, who was my editor and guided both the grail book, the Holy Grail book, and Kaiser Karl through the process. I had worked with John before in other venues, and yeah, his death was a real kick in the head.

Eric Sammons:

It’s interesting. I did not know him, but it’s interesting how his name has popped up many times in conversations over the past year or so, just like he did this. It just like, yeah, sounds amazing. So that was a definite loss.

Charles Coulombe:

Yeah, he was an amazing guy. He was only 51. Left behind a wife and some kids and just an all-around great fellow. But anyway, as my late father used to say, God takes the good ones, leaves us.

Eric Sammons:

That’s right. Well, it does seem to be the way. Speaking of which, not taking somebody, let’s talk about Pope Francis. How do you like that segue.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, that’s what I call a segue all right.

Eric Sammons:

Quite right. So the Pope is not a young man. We’re not here praying for his early demise or anything like that. We’re just simply stating, we know the body can only last so long. He’s 86, 87, I can’t remember exactly, but he’s up there in years and he’s definitely had health problems. I mean, most of the time he’s in a wheelchair when he is out in public and various health problems. So it’s going to be before too long in the next year, next two years, five years, whatever, that he’s going to go to his reward such that it is. And so the question then becomes the next pope. Now, I would like, before we get into kind of looking forward, I have you listed there as a historian on the screen, which that means you are. If I say that on the screen, it must be true.

Charles Coulombe:

Sure. Okay. I’ll try to live up to it.

Eric Sammons:

Let’s talk a little bit though about the process of electing a new pope and particularly, I mean, can you talk a little bit about the messy nature and the political nature? I think Catholics want have this idea of the Holy Spirit basically is there and everybody’s praying and fasting, and the Holy Spirit tells him, elected this man, and then he’s elected. But I think history tells us something different. Can you just give us a little bit of an insight on how papal elections have been throughout history and kind of the process that happens?

Charles Coulombe:

Well, it’s been a very complex process, and it didn’t jump from the head of Zeus like Athena did. The selection of popes. The first pope, St. Peter chose his successor, St. Linus. That was the only time that happened. For a long time the popes were chosen, remember as bishops of Rome, they were primarily subject to the people and the clergy of Rome. And so they were elected by the people in clergy of Rome. From time to time, either the Byzantine or the Holy Roman emperor would select one, a pope I mean, or confirm them.

As time went on and the day-to-day universality of the office grew, the custom arose of even allowing other bishops to be elected, Bishop of Rome. This was kind of a new deal. They didn’t do it until the late 700s, and the first one to be so elected was a man called Formosus. And later on, because his political sponsors were opponents of the lady that engineered the election of his successor, Stephen VI. Stephen VI, had his body dug up at the famous Cadaver Synod in which he declared that A, because Formosus had been pope of another city, he had never been validly Bishop of Rome. And as I like to say, if that were true, the sedevacantists missed the bus a long time ago, long, long time ago. But the second is even more interesting because she claimed that because he had never validly been pope, all of his sacramental administrations were invalid.

Now, the problem with that is that that judgment itself is heretical and was heretical by the standards of the day. But you know how it is. If you’re in charge, you make the rules and who’s going to say you’re wrong? Well, this got a lot of confusion going of course, because he’d ordained and consecrated a lot of priests and bishops, so they were all tossed out. But then Stephen died, the rival group came in again and the next pope said, no, no, just kidding, just kidding. He was really pope and so on. But then when you’re speaking of people selections, this is probably the worst way to do it. Much worse than having the emperor do it, much worse than having the people and clergy of Rome do it. And that is having the most powerful women in Rome choose their husbands or what are husbands, lovers or sons by those lovers to be pope. Personally, I don’t think that’s a good way. Very feminist. I mean, it’s woman power, all right? No doubt about it.

The Iron Age of the papacy, the pornocracy it was called, was definitely the triumph of woman power. And no way around that. But it introduced almost a hundred years of horror and chaos into the papacy, which oddly enough was not noticed or didn’t bother the east, the patriarchy of Constantinople. There wasn’t a problem then. Finally, the Holy Roman emperor out of the great had, had enough of it. He came south to get crowned pope to Rome, who sees what’s going on, and he forcibly reforms the papacy, which was kind of easy to do if you’ve got an army behind you.

I’ve often believed that we wouldn’t have had the Council of Trent if it hadn’t have been for the sack of Rome in 1527. Kind of wakes you up. People are taking your stuff and smacking you around. I don’t know. It focuses, it helps. Anyway, from that time on after the Iron Age, the papacy was ended. Slowly but surely the electorate became concentrated in the cardinals. Now, bear in mind who these cardinals were originally, there were the cardinal bishops who were the bishops of the local seas, the suburbicarian of the seas, as they call them. I love that name.

The cardinal priests who were basically the pastors of the biggest parishes in Rome and the cardinal deacons who were the heads of the diaconal districts into which Rome was divided. In time, most of them became bishops, which all three. And you had the emergence in order to staff offices that needed bishops in the charge. You had the emergence of the titular diocese and so on, which we’re familiar with. But at any rate, that was how the cardinals, as the voting block emerged, because they were in fact clergy of the city of Rome or the Diocese of Rome, which incidentally is still true. That’s why when you’ve got say, a very bad cardinal in a given diocese and his successor wants to punish him, he can’t.

His predecessor is a priest of the Diocese of Rome answerable only to the pope. And that, believe it or not, has come up in the past few years under this pontificate. I don’t want to name names like Cardinal Mahoney, but suffice to say that this is how such people have gotten away from being disciplined by their successors. Anyway, eventually the conclave grew up and this was done to keep the cardinal electors from being influenced unduly by outside influences. One of the important outside influences, however that was permitted for a long time until 1903, was the liberum veto, the right of exclusion of a cardinal given to various Catholic heads of state, the Holy Roman emperor, or the King of France, the King of Spain. Now, this didn’t mean they could veto the pope once he was elected. What it meant was that if there was a particular candidate that the emperor or one of those two kings did not want to see his pope, if it looked like he was going to be elected, then they could drop the veto and say, no, anybody else, not him.

And it could only be done for one individual, the right of exclusion, only one person. So its most recent exercise was in 1903 at the conclave that gave us St. Pius the 10th. It looked like the election was going to go to Cardinal Rampolla, the really awful Secretary of State of Leo XIII. Well, Franz Joseph of Austria had the Archbishop of Krakow exercise the veto against him. So that’s why we got St. Pius X. You can thank Emperor Franz Joseph for that. Anyhow, as the years went by, the rules of the conclave became everyone more vigorous. There was one period when, I think it was a year or two or three, that the conclave went on and on and on in the papal palace in Viterbo, because in those days it was the custom that you would’ve the conclave wherever the pope died. And so the pope was on vacation at the palace in Viterbo. He dies, and there they are in Viterbo. They’re away from Rome, they’re having a good time, they’re enjoying themselves. It’s great. Why hurry?

Eric Sammons:

We’ll get to the vote eventually.

Charles Coulombe:

Yeah, sooner or later, not a problem. Well, after several years went by the mayor of Viterbo and the townspeople got a little tired of it. So they took the roof off the palace and exposed the cardinals to the sun and the rain. Believe it or not, within a few days they had a candidate. It was very strange. You had some elections go terribly awry. After the Babylonian captivity of the church, when the papacy moved back at last to Rome, they had a conclave, but the French cardinals declared that they had been pressured by the mob outside. So they went back to France and elected another pope. So now you had two. And as the schism went on, eventually a number of cardinals got tired of it. So they went to the town of Pisa, elected a third. So now you have three popes.

And the only way it was solved once again was when the Emperor Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor said, “Christendom has was suffered three popes long enough. I think we’re putting an end to it now.” And he gathered the cardinals at Constance and he had them elect a new pope who was Martin V. He didn’t choose him. But sometimes these people need a little bit of outward help. A little assistance. The vocation of the laity in accord with Vatican II, as you might say. But at any rate, the conclave system that we know has been going for several hundred years, and by and large, it works as well as anything else.

Eric Sammons:

I think one thing that Catholics underestimate is the role of acceptance in the election of a pope or the deposing of a pope. And by that I mean especially Western, like American types, we have a very strict legalistic view of how things are. Okay, you follow these rules and then you get the result. If you don’t follow these rules, then it’s an invalid result. But if you look at how and the rules are that no one can judge the pope. An emperor is not above a pope.

The rules are that the election has to go X, Y, and Z or else it’s invalid. But what if you look at history, and this is why I mean about kind of the messiness of it, you’ll see where essentially the acceptance of a pope by the church, basically everybody, not to be every individual, but generally by the leaders and by the laity, that is an acknowledgement, this is the pope. So when Otto has no real authority in canon law to depose a pope, but when he basically tells a pope, you’re gone, we need somebody else. And the whole church says, yeah, we agree with that. Then all of a sudden we have a new pope.

Charles Coulombe:

And you have the sense of sensus fidelium. I mean it’s like Silverius and Vigilius. Vigilius engineered Silverius’s overthrow. But he ended up getting accepted as rightful pope anyway. And of course, to be honest, he did clean up his act considerably. But these things are messy. And because we would like to think they aren’t, we set them aside and put them back in history and put them to bed and pretend they never happened. But the downside, of course, is that we have no Otto, we have no Sigismund, we have no Charles V. We have sleepy Joe Biden. I mean he’s there.

Eric Sammons:

I think it applies though in the discussions about the last conclave, that you’ll see some people argue from canon law, they didn’t follow this and that therefore it’s an invalid conclave. And so Francis isn’t really the pope, but the fact is that Francis has been accepted as pope by the church. I know not necessarily by certain elements of Twitter or whatever, but by all the cardinals and the bishops and the laity. They all basically acknowledge Francis as pope. And that fact alone essentially makes it that he’s a valid pope because they all accept it.

Charles Coulombe:

Don’t forget that after Benedict died, a certain number of Benevacantists, as they call them, had a conclave in Rome and due elected Pope Francis.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I thought that was highly ironic. I mean, everybody’s expecting them to vote themselves and they voting for Francis. I’m like, okay, well, they got there eventually.

Charles Coulombe:

I mean, it was an old, old, old joke. That sedevacantism is wishful thinking. I think it’s a certain amount of truth to it. Of course, I have to say I knew one of the biggest sedevacantism in the States, the late and much lamented Hutton Gibson, who was a sedevacantist with a very, very keen sense of humor. And so after the current Holy Father was elected, I said to him, “You know something Red, you sedevacantists, you are pretty tricksy.” “What are you talking about?” “What an amazing tactic. No one saw it coming.” “What are you talking about?” “Getting one of your own elected pope. That was just amazing. My hat’s off to you.” So he lost it. He laughed pretty hard at that point.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. So let’s talk then about, we’ve talked about the past conclave stuff. I want to talk about the next conclave whenever it may be. What situation is Francis leaving for the next pope? What challenges is he going to face? Let’s talk about that generally, what do you think the next pope, is probably the biggest challenges that he has to face once he becomes elected?

Charles Coulombe:

Well, that depends on what it is he wants to do. I mean, Francis has spoken of himself very, very happily as possibly going down in history as the man who split the church. And if that’s your idea of a good time, well then I’m sure the next pope will attempt to continue in his footsteps. But let’s pretend we get a pope who would like to save souls. I know it’s an ironic concept. We don’t talk about it. We don’t really believe in it much as Catholics anymore. As Pope Benedict said, “The vast majority of Catholics are universalists.” And when that’s the case that really none of it matters at all. It doesn’t even matter if you put money in the collection plate. The church goes bankrupt and has to sell everything. It doesn’t really matter does it? Because after all, you don’t need the church to save souls.

But let’s pretend for a second we get a pope who doesn’t think that, he’s going to have a lot on his plate. Because first and foremost, in a very real sense, I’m sorry to say the Holy Father has destroyed a lot of the moral credibility of the office. Now I know that we should all be wise enough to separate the man from the office and actually objectively speaking, absolutely, you bet. We really need to be. And that’s true of Catholics at any time, any period, whether the pope is St. Pius V or Julius III who was a very modern pope, and I mean he’d loved a Grinder account, he would fit in beautifully. But that’s all on one side. The reality of the situation is that for an awful lot of people, the credibility of the Catholic Church is all bound up with the personality of the sitting pope. It shouldn’t be that way. Life should be wonderful, everything should be perfect, but it’s not.

So he’s going to have to be, I think, carry himself very well, be a very courteous individual, do what Benedict started doing, which was retaking a lot of the papal paraphernalia. Because you see what the world needs right now is not Pope Francis or Pope John Paul II or Pope Charles or Pope Eric or Pope Bobby Joe or Pope Billy McGee with or without Janice Joplin. What the world needs is The Pope, the man and the tiara, the father of kings and princes, the Vicar of Christ, the patriarch of the west, sovereign pontiff of the universal church. In other words, we need a pope who can subjugate his own personality to the office. We need a pope who’s not about him. We need a pope who’s about the office. It’s about the church, who’s about being the vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter. That’s the first thing.

We need a pope who sees himself as the great bridge builder, the pontifex maximus. As the man into whose hands, the primary responsibility for the salvation of souls across the planet has been given. If we don’t have that, then we’ll have more of the same. So that’s the first thing.

Eric Sammons:

Now, it seems to me that, and most observers, that the Vatican is so highly corrupt right now, that most of the high level appointments are just friends of Francis who are just wreaking havoc. Scandal after scandal coming out of the Vatican. And so I know, I think when a new pope comes, everybody, all the heads have to submit the resignation. The only way forward to be really successful would be for the pope, basically accept all of them and just say, we’re going to start new and just have a brand new Vatican with all new people in it. Or is there any way to redeem what we have now?

Charles Coulombe:

Well see, that’s the funny thing because what we have now is not what we had 10 years ago. You’ve got to remember that in a weird way, the Holy Father has almost opened the door for fixing the process much more quickly than it could have been done before. Traditionally, popes have inherited the machinery they’ve inherited, and they have very carefully and very judiciously pruned it, added to it, changed it to push it in the direction they wanted to go. But until this pontificate, we never saw wholesale firings and replacements, and now we have. So basically what you ended up with, you know what the spoil system is?

Eric Sammons:

Right.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, we never had that in the curia before, we do now. So yeah, it’s going to need to be cleaned, but only in the way that it was dirtied. I thought at the time when he first started doing these wholesale firings, I said, “He’s really not doing his minions any favors because he’s establishing a precedent who will come up and bite, not him but them.”

Eric Sammons:

Because it is interesting because one of the criticisms of John Paul II and Benedict somewhat as well was appointments were not all ideologically in line with pontiffs. I mean, Christendom is more conservatives. Why did you make Mahoney a cardinal? Why did you elevate these? Why was McCarrick so high up and things like that? I mean, this pope has made no secret of if you’re not his friend, and by a friend, meaning you just do whatever. You just go along with anything he says or does. Then you don’t get a high office. I mean, Cardinal Burke is no longer there. I mean, we saw what happened with Cardinal Pell. I don’t know if there’s any true loyal opposition, for lack of a better term in the curia anymore. I mean, they seem to all have been pruned away.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, no, I mean-

Eric Sammons:

Muller, another example.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, Sixtus V, but he did so in a good way. His election was quite interesting because it was during the Renaissance, just the post Renaissance period, and there was a lot of pressure on the cardinals to elect a reform cardinal, but they didn’t want to. And the man who became Sixtus V, came to the conclave on two sticks. His eyes were all roomy. He looked like he was at death door, but he had a reputation as a reform cardinal. So they figured, right, well elect him. He’s a reformed cardinal no one can complain, and he is obviously a death doorstep. Well, they elected him. He threw down his sticks. He wiped the goo out of his eyes. He said, “Now brethren, we have the papacy and we shall set to work.” And he did. They didn’t appreciate it. I can assure you. He gave the holders of multiple Cs, 24 hours to get out of Rome or go to prison, things like that, which… So no, I suspect that when next we get a pope whose of apostolic character, in the words of Vladimir Solovyov, he will clean with a new broom.

Eric Sammons:

What do you think is most likely as far as the next pope, who it will be, and not a person necessarily, but I just mean a personality in the sense of will it be a Francis 2, somebody who continues the project of Francis in much the same way? Will it be somebody who might be sympathetic to Francis but is more willing to be conciliatory with rival factions, will it be a JP III that will be more like that, or a Pius XIII that’s going to go and really clean house. I mean, what do you think is most likely to happen in the next conclave, knowing that none of us really know what will happen until after it happens.

Charles Coulombe:

And bearing in mind that I have never yet correctly predicted the outcome of a conclave in all the years I’ve been alive. So also bear that in mind.

Eric Sammons:

So we’ll just know whatever you say, we’ll go the opposite. No.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, if I was stupid enough to name a person, I’ve given up doing that. So I don’t do that.

Eric Sammons:

And I don’t even mean, obviously there’s names that get thrown out there, and I think those often are silly. Not one person throughout Jorge Bergoglio, really in 2013, I remember Benedict when Ratzinger, there’s no way they’d pick Ratzinger, and all of a sudden he gets one speech and-

Charles Coulombe:

He’s too old.

Eric Sammons:

Right. He gives one speech and they’re like, okay, he’s our man. I mean, I think, and of course JP II, Wojtyla. Obviously nobody gets that. But I mean more just like what do you think the cardinals will be looking for in the next pope?

Charles Coulombe:

Well, there are a couple of things. Firstly, I don’t think, you may have someone of like-minded to Francis, but because he’s not the same age and is not trapped in 1968, whoever he is, he’s not going to have the same fire in the belly to drag us back into polyester.

Eric Sammons:

That’s a great point. That’s a great point. I don’t think people realize how much just his age and when he was forming his views impacts how somebody goes about things.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, it’s huge. See, the thing is, when I was young little, in fact, in the immediate wake of Vatican II, every parish seemingly had a priest like the current Holy Father, the Vatican II priest. He wasn’t always the pastor, but he didn’t need to be because he did what he wanted to do. And if you didn’t like it, he’d get all upset and he’d shriek. And I was blessed to have a father who knew how to put that kind of person in his place. It was always fun to watch, but you’d be amazed how many people let themselves be stepped on in those days. And that’s why in seeing the sorts of things that have occurred during this pontificate, it’s not really been that much of a surprise for me. I lived through this. It’s like having one of the priests of my childhood as pope. I’ve seen this movie, but when he goes to pope Heaven, you won’t find anyone with that kind of fury in him.

He may have the same ideas. You may get, God forbid, a Cardinal Cupich sort of slipping through the rocks. But the other thing is that although he is appointed a number of cardinals who the sorts of creatures he likes having around him, I think calling them pervs and criminals is a very unkind thing to say. And I don’t think people should say that. But seriously, they’re a minority of his appointments. Most of them are people from obscure seas, I think appointed primarily to annoy people and bishops of larger seas that traditionally would get the red hat. You don’t get it, but the bishop of Flatwood Mesa gets it. Well, that’s great if you want to insult that major metropolitan, that’s fine. You’ve done your job. The problem is you probably don’t really know the bishop of Flatwood Mesa, and he doesn’t know you and he doesn’t know the other cardinals. And you’re going to have a hoard of these rubes from out of town, as they used to say in the big city, descending on Rome for the next conclave.

Eric Sammons:

It seems like his most ideological appointments to the cardinal are in America, which is because he hates America the most. It’s like almost every cardinal he’s picked in America is an ideological ally, which makes, I think Americans think that’s what he’s doing with every cardinal appointment. But I think it’s mostly restricted here, because you see, when he picks McElroy, for example, in San Diego, which is a nothing diocese compare. I mean it’s subordinate to Los Angeles, and he won’t pick Gomez. He didn’t pick Chaput. So I do think in America we get a little bit of a-

Charles Coulombe:

Special treatment.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, special treatment that makes it skewed that we think all of the cardinals, I think there’s 120 right now that are electable age or something like that. They’re all like that. But I think what you’re saying is true that, that’s not true worldwide. It seems to be more true just in America.

Charles Coulombe:

No, worldwide. He tends to choose people from obscure seas, just apparently for their obscurity. And the danger for his side in that is that a lot of them may be Catholic. You don’t know to some degree or other. And the other thing too to remember is that the Saint Gallen Mafia isn’t with us any longer. They’ve gone to cardinal heaven, as St. John Chrysostom describes it so beautifully, and I would not be surprised if at the next conclave, the Burke, Miller, Sarah click are the best organized and certainly the most diverse. And if they can convince enough obscurities that the faith needs to be safeguarded and not destroyed, then we may get quite a surprise out of the conclave.

But even if we don’t, whatever we get, even if it’s inclined along Francis’ path is not going to have, I mean, let’s take a real nightmare, Cardinal Cupich. All right, what do we know about Cardinal Cupich? We know that when he is faced with a real challenge, he backs down. How do I say this? Well, thanks to trashcan custodians, sorry, Traditionis custodes, my mistake, he forbid the Institute of Christ the King, to offer public mass in their own headquarters. So we know he’s a petty little person, which is fine. Nothing wrong with being a petty little person in charge of a large arch diocese. Why should there be anything wrong with that? If religious liberty can’t begin with the bishops, why bother having it?

But notice that when he was going to shut that church down because of the damage, he took them on because he had the pope behind him. But when he was face-to-face with their lay and wealthy sponsors, he backed down. So similarly, I am willing to wager that if he were elected pope, which God forbid if enough bishops with enough money behind them told him, you know what? Your holiness, you really want to do this, you get to do it on your own dime and we’ll see how you do it then. And I suspect he’ll back down.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. I feel like there is, I might just be making this up, but among the Episcopal, there is a certain fatigue, Francis fatigue, that even those who are supportive of his goals, or at least some of them aren’t really a fan of his methods, it makes their life miserable. I mean, just Traditionis custodes is a perfect example. Most of the bishops weren’t huge fans of traditionalists. It’s not like they were like, Hey, let’s all have Latin masses. But at the same time, they were happy to just leave them alone and be left alone by them. Just have a little mass over there and you stay quiet and you donate to the diocese sometimes, everybody’s happy. Now all of a sudden I have to go in and tell them, oh, I’m going to now tick all you people off greatly and make my life harder when I have these other pressing issues I care about. And I just feel like that that might be a major factor in who they elect the next one.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, yeah, I mean, don’t forget, depending on the diocese, it varies. But in a number of diocese, traditionalists are a major source of income in a post COVID era when the church is being well rewarded financially for all it did for everyone, all of that pastoral care is being paid back.

Eric Sammons:

Yep. It’s getting paid back what it earned.

Charles Coulombe:

Yep. One of the things that I really was struck by it during COVID with a number of parishes I knew back home, and they would say, make a perfect act contrition. Make a spiritual communion. Donate here.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. It was just unbelievably tone-deaf going to these websites of diocese and parishes during COVID like, yeah, we’re all shut down. We’re not going to do anything for you, but here’s where you can still donate to us. Like the tone deafness of it that they thought that Catholics would just be like, oh, okay, sure. Of course, I’ll keep giving to you. Even though you’ve completely, I mean just from, I know we’re not paying for the sacraments, but the fact is there is a certain understanding of we will pay to keep the church open so that we can continue to go to church.

Charles Coulombe:

Well-

Eric Sammons:

We can’t continue to go to church, why should we pay to keep it open?

Charles Coulombe:

If the milk man stops bringing milk, do you still send money to the dairy?

Eric Sammons:

Right?

Charles Coulombe:

I don’t think so. There’s the old thing about why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Well, why pay for the milk when you’re not getting anything?

Eric Sammons:

And I think you’re right though that, I mean, I think a lot of people have been saying this for a number of years that you see just the demographics that the more traditionally minded, even just conservative minded are the Catholics that are staying and everybody else is leaving. And so eventually you start to, the demographics aren’t going our favor. Now, I think for most of us, it’s gone way slower than we thought. Francis was not exactly what was expected by a lot of people, but I think COVID did really accelerate that trend where you just see it in a diocese where, look at the parish numbers. The ones that are increasing in number and continuing to give are the traditional Latin mass parishes or the kind of the unicorn nova sort of parishes and which ones are not. And that’s everybody else. And so like you said, the bishop knows this. The bishop sees the numbers, and it’s like, why am I trying to tick off the very people who are keeping the doors open in the rest of the diocese?

Charles Coulombe:

Yeah. I mean, it was really, if I may use the phrase, stupid move. And it’s funny, Cardinal Sarah made a comment about it, which he doesn’t generally do, but he did. And he said that it will certainly achieve the opposite of what it’s attempting to. And of course, the question was asked in your sister publication 1 Peter 5, it was said that TC hadn’t gone anywhere. Several bishops who called in for questioning afterwards. Whether or not there was a causal connection. I couldn’t say. But we do know-

Eric Sammons:

Even though, when we look at the statistics, the analytics, there are readers in the Vatican.

Charles Coulombe:

But here’s the thing, even if that were true, even if that were true, my parents were in Angel Street, the play that gave us the name, the phrase gaslighting.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, right, right.

Charles Coulombe:

Okay. I know what gaslighting is. I grew up with my parents joking about it constantly. And I’m telling you, blaming trads for not being grateful for being constantly kicked in the teeth is not helpful. And for that matter, I mean, I agree frankly that trads could be a lot more helpful in real ways. I mean, I remember when Benedict was inaugurated. I hate that phrase, but that’s what he used. When he was inaugurated. I remember I was covering it for ABC News. I remember his comment, “Pray for me, that I do not flee for fear of the wolves.” And I thought, what’s he talking about? Where’s he going to go? And then when he abdicated my first thought, first thought was, well, I guess we didn’t pray enough. And he was constantly being sniped at, he’s not doing enough. Well see in there, I can see where people would get annoyed with the trad attitude.

Eric Sammons:

Right.

Charles Coulombe:

But the fact remains, trads did not create this situation. Trads did not surround the Holy Father with pervs and criminals. Trads did not sell out the underground church in China. See, wasn’t trads who did that? Can’t blame them for that one. Got to come up with some other patsy. It’s-

Eric Sammons:

That is what’s amazing though, is that traditional Catholics are blamed that they’re the barrier to the new future great church. Yet we have these issues all around us that, I mean, trads are a minuscule part of the church.

Charles Coulombe:

Let me clue you in on something. I spent most of my youth without any Tridentine Mass. From 1966, it was still ‘the old mass’, but by 1966, it looked like the new mass. From 1966 until 1985, I did not see a traditional mass other than Cardinal McIntyre offering it at the side altered at St. Basil’s on Wilshire Boulevard. What kept me in the faith with three things, okay, four. My parents, Cardinal McIntyre, whom I got to know very well, he was my confessor. The then Rome word bound Anglo Catholics of St. Mary of the Angels who ended up, some of them becoming, what ended up being the prequel to the ordinariates and then the Russian Catholics in El Segundo. I mean, my Catholic school was horrible. My Catholic parish was horrible. Was awful. Just trads had nothing to do with anything.

Most of my classmates in high school, leaving the faith had nothing to do with trads, nothing. It had a lot to do with our textbook, Christ Among Us, which 10 years later, John Paul II ripped the imprimatur from. Oh yes, that. But I don’t think there were any trads present for choosing that as the major catechetical work of the part of the archdiocese. I don’t know. I just don’t think so.

Eric Sammons:

And I think the average bishop who thinks that too, they realize it’s not, they know trads aren’t the enemy. They might have be like, yeah, they have a little bit of an attitude problem at times, stuff like that. But it’s such a small number of people, and typically they do relatively just donate and keep quiet and keep to themselves-

Charles Coulombe:

And they donate out of proportion of their numbers.

Eric Sammons:

Right, right. Okay, so the question is, let’s get back then to the next conclave. I’m going to ask you a question that, I was going to ask you a question. What would you do if you were pope, elected pope, the first thing you would do?

Charles Coulombe:

I’d resign.

Eric Sammons:

That is the right answer. That is the correct answer. Okay. Who do you want to be the next pope? If you could pick out of the eligible people, who do you think would make a great next pope?

Charles Coulombe:

Well, of course they don’t want to jinx them, but I’d say Cardinal Sarah.

Eric Sammons:

I would get down on my knees and thanksgiving and praise if that happened.

Charles Coulombe:

You off me too. Well, I mean I did when Ratzinger got it, I was-

Eric Sammons:

With Ratzinger I jumped up and down screaming in enjoy. I’ve gotten to the point now where I get down on my knees.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, I almost went off the road. I heard it on the radio, when ABC called me and said, “You got to get down to the studio right away. They’ve got white smoke.” I’m like, and then I’ve got the radio on. And then they gave the name just before I got to the studio and said, Cardinal Ratzinger, I started singing the Non nobis Domine from Henry V.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, right.

Charles Coulombe:

It was, what a wonderful day. But at any rate, no. What I would suggest the next pope do if he is Sarah or Burke or Cupich or Tobin, any of these guys, if they’re serious about being pope and saving souls, the first thing they have to understand is that in church and state and everywhere, what the world needs and lacks is leadership. That’s the first thing. We need a steady voice, not one that’s explaining his own views, but that is grounded firmly in the truths that he is inherited and speaks not with his voice, but with the voice of his predecessors and specifically the voice of whom he is Vicar.

And I think that using the tiara, having a coronation would be the first step in asserting the papacy. And they’ll be complaining, there will be, but not for long, because that’s something Benedict discovered as he started bringing stuff back. The red shoes, everybody made fun of them. Oh, they’re from Prada, ha ha ha. But it was reminded, people were reminded that the pope shoes are red because of the blood of the martyrs. He brought back the fur and all this sort of thing. Again, because it was about the office, it was about Benedict the XVI, not Joseph Ratzinger.

Eric Sammons:

I personally would love for the next pope to mostly be silent. What I mean by that is we don’t need to know his opinions about anything because none of those really matter. And honestly, they don’t really amount to anything more than my opinion or your opinion or anybody’s opinions. If he just would just simply restate Catholic teaching and just stick with that.

Charles Coulombe:

If he quoted, see one of the keys to realizing the difficulties today, if you pick up any papal document from 1750 to the present, look at the footnotes. Not just this pontificate, but very much in this pontificate, time and again, you’ll have quotations from himself.

Eric Sammons:

Yes.

Charles Coulombe:

We don’t need that.

Eric Sammons:

Right.

Charles Coulombe:

We need the Fathers adopters quoted. We need the councils quoted. I mean, one of the things that Benedict did that I really, really liked were his Wednesday audiences where he’d go on these long teach thoughts. First he did the Books of the Bible, then he went Father of the Church by Father of the Church, then he went through the doctors and then he resigned. But that kind of teaching, maybe not specifically that way, maybe an exploration of the four creeds. Most people know there are two, they don’t know the last two, a bully pulpit to explicate the faith.

And without trying to explain it away or, well, we don’t have to, shh. “… unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” “Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, you shan’t enter the kingdom of Heaven.” It doesn’t need explanation. It needs repetition. We’ve had two millennia of explanation, and you can find it anywhere you want from St. Thomas to St. Bonaventure to St. Augusta. I mean, we’ve got all kinds of explanation. What we don’t have today is the dogma of faith itself preached at the highest levels of the church.

Eric Sammons:

And that’s what I mean. We’re in a crisis right now, partially because most Catholics don’t know the dogma of faith. We actually have a need for it. It’s not like we’re a bunch of well catechized people who now we can talk about our opinions about climate change or whatever. It’s like, let’s stick to just the basics that okay, people really know what the Trinity is. I mean, people don’t know what, like you said, baptism, what it means, or the Eucharist. As we know, 70% in America at least don’t even believe in the real presence. And so just go back to basics.

Charles Coulombe:

One of the most pathetic moments in American Catholic history anyway, was reached when Barack Obama became the primary teacher of the church’s teaching on contraception. He was against it, but he knew enough about it to talk about it. He’d read Humanae Vitae. Boy, that puts him way up above most clerics.

Eric Sammons:

I got a story about who I wanted to be the next pope. I was doing interviews, a round of interviews from my last book, Deadly Indifference, and this nun, I can’t remember her name. She worked at, I think in a New York school system, just a regular nun, nothing, she wasn’t like some traditional nun or anything like that, or a liberal nun, just a regular nun. And she’s interviewing me and she was saying how she liked the foreword. That’s always an interesting thing to say to an author because it’s like you like the foreword probably better than the actual book written by somebody else. But the foreword was written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. And she goes, “I really like him. I’m going to pray for him to become the next pope.” And I just cracked up. She had no idea who he was. She had never heard him before she saw the foreword in my book.

And so I was like, okay, we got some nun in New York who’s praying for Bishop Schneider to be the next pope. I’m going to just go double down on that and say, yeah, that’s what I’m going to pray for as well. I realize picking a non-cardinal has not happened in I don’t know how long and the likelihood of him being the one is, I mean the chances humanly are zero. But I’m going to go ahead and pray for it because I tell you what, he would bring back, I’m sure a lot of the things that you’re talking about, but also he would stick to, in fact, I’m going to say here, it’s not a huge public announcement yet, but it will be soon after this goes live, is that Sophia Institute is publishing a catechism written by Bishop Schneider.

Charles Coulombe:

Oh, excellent.

Eric Sammons:

And it is , I have it. I can see it right now. It’s in the office. I have a copy of it. It is excellent. But it’s exactly what we’re talking about sticking to, okay, here’s what the church believes, but it also addresses new controversies like the transgenderism, stuff like that, because we do have to address this. But it does it by just simply restating what the church has always believed, not on theories or anything like that. So it’s wonderful. So that’s my vote. When they ask me, as you know, they will. When the conclave calls me up and says, Eric, hey, who do you think we should vote for? That’s who I’m going to put my pitch in for Bishop Athanasius Schneider. You heard it here first.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, from your lips to God’s ears.

Eric Sammons:

And that’s the only way it’s happening.

Charles Coulombe:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

The direct intervention. You know how people falsely think that the Holy Spirit picks the next pope. And we’re like, no, that’s not how it works. Well, if Bishop Athanasius Schneider became the next pope, then I would say the Holy Spirit picked him because that’s the only way that’s happening.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, the thing you got to bear in mind is that when you say the Holy Spirit picks them, it’s not as though they put the names out on the plate and he grabs one of them, and there it is. But there is a sense, however in which we get the pope we either need or deserve. And one thing you got to remember, when you’re looking at our current Holy Father and his predecessors and his successors for that matter, when they come along, do we deserve better? And again, I don’t want to be gaslighting, but part of the problem of writing-

Eric Sammons:

The pope came out of this church, I mean, he was formed and developed by the church we’re in. So you were just saying he’s 1968 still. Well, 1968 happened, and so we have to live with the consequences of it.

Charles Coulombe:

And one of the things about writing about Charles and Zita with the background of Central Europe is it is today and has it’s been for over a century. When I look at current political leadership, even with Sleepy Joe, I think, gosh, they’re horrible, they’re disgusting, all this. Well, yeah. But once upon a time we had a couple of saints upon a throne, and how do we treat them? How did their loyal subjects and their governments deal with them? One of the telling realities of history is back in 1905, 9 years before the war began, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Czar Nicholas II, who were cousins, they were first cousins, they went for a cruise together on the Baltic. And when they finished, they were in Helsinki in Finland, which was Russian then, Russian territory. And they signed a peace treaty. A treaty of peace and alliance between Germany and Russia, which was to take effect as soon as the Russo Japanese War, which was waging then ended. That Russia would endeavor to get France to join.

And then they went back to their capitals and both of their governments immediately denounced it, both the Russian and the German Prime Minister telling their sovereign, if you don’t withdraw this, I’m resigning. And so they did. So that’s what we had. Ruled by the brightest and the best the political classes could possibly produce.

Eric Sammons:

That’s how we end up where we are.

Charles Coulombe:

Of course, the sad thing really more than anything else, of course, is that we’re likely to give even more of the same to our successors.

Eric Sammons:

Yes, that’s true.

Charles Coulombe:

However, I do have good news for you. Actually. I have two pieces of good news, not related to the topic, but you might find them amusing.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, good. Let’s hear some good news to finish it off here.

Charles Coulombe:

All right. All right. The first is an old joke mine during COVID was that when they had us put on our masks, they took theirs off.

Eric Sammons:

Yes.

Charles Coulombe:

So that’s just a little thing to throw out there.

Eric Sammons:

That’s true.

Charles Coulombe:

But I have learned a whole new word this past week. I never knew it before. And you’ll appreciate this being involved with publishing, I think. If you live in LA or if you’re from LA, you go to a movie, you’ll sit through all the credits and watch them and watch them because you very often know people. And I remember going to a movie in the Midwest a few years ago and I did the same thing. And when the whole thing was over, I looked, there’s this one couple left of the theater. So I went over to them and I said, “Say, you guys from LA?” And they looked at me. “Yeah, how did you know?” How indeed. Well, similarly what you were saying, how authors will always read the foreword. We also read the acknowledgements.

Eric Sammons:

Right.

Charles Coulombe:

Well, I just read a novel and the author thanked the sensitivity readers and his publisher. Now, I didn’t know what a sensitivity reader was, but fortunately, Wikipedia source of all truth, it showed it is a thing. That sensitivity readers, other people who make sure that if there’s a character or more, who are characters of color, that nothing offensive or triggering or bad is in there. We used to call those sensors, when I was a kid. Just like we call the people that are now equity officers, in my day, we call them political commissars. So the thing to bear in mind is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Eric Sammons:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, let’s end it there. What we want to do is obviously pray for, actually, I’ve gotten a habit, my pastor mentioned that we need to pray for our bishop, but also for the next bishop. And I think that’s a good habit for obviously pray for your bishop, the next bishop, but also pray for the pope and the next pope. The next pope is alive, he is active right now. He is doing something. And so we should be praying for him right now that it will be somebody, like you said, who actually cares about saving souls.

Charles Coulombe:

And we have to pray, remember one thing, any pope like that is immediately going to be opposed by the great ones of this world.

Eric Sammons:

Yes.

Charles Coulombe:

So we also have to pray for the courage of the Catholic people around the globe to back him up. Who’ll get into a fight with China straight away, likely to get into a fight with United States, Russia. I mean, you realize there’s not a major government on the globe today that means well by the Catholic Church, not one. Not a single one. So for a pope, this is when we look at the Holy Father. We say, oh, he’s such a, he surrenders and all. Stop and think a pope who didn’t do that would be like Pius IX, basically fighting with virtually every major government of his time. It takes guts of steel to be able to do that and how many of us have them? That’s why I told you I’d resigned first thing. Ma Coulombe didn’t raise no moron. So that’s one thing to remember that we should also pray for ourselves we have the guts to back him up.

Eric Sammons:

Yes, that’s a great point. Yep. Because he will, if we get a pope will actually wants to do his job well that will mean he is attacked and hated and so we have to be willing to, and we will be attacked and hated then therefore for supporting him.

Charles Coulombe:

Supporting him, as will our bishops, as will our priests, as will our sisters, and the way they’ll attack us, at this moment we can’t predict it, but it’ll be something unusual, something unexpected.

Eric Sammons:

Yes, absolutely.

Charles Coulombe:

They’ll get us in ways, unless you subscribe to this, you don’t get a huge cut off your income tax, some weird deal that you’ve never heard of before. That’s what they’ll do to us. But what the hey, what matters is saving our souls. None of us get out of here alive. In the words of that great theologian, Jim Morrison.

Eric Sammons:

Yes. Very good. Okay, Charles, I appreciate this. This has been a great discussion and let’s just keep praying.

Charles Coulombe:

It’s all we can do.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, until next time, everybody. God love you.

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