Another reflection comes into my mind as I find with Damien Thompson’s thinking. It is modern communication that is making all the difference. There is an old story that does the rounds according to which the real factor in the collapse of the Soviet empire was not Pope John Paul II or President Reagan, or all the prayers of the people for the conversion of Russia, but the invention of the fax machine. All of a sudden, the state no longer had a monopoly over publishing and communication of information.
The story may be a subject for discussion, as other empires and regimes have fallen without necessarily the transmission of information to the masses. Vatican secrecy has a number of enemies, particularly the Internet, mobile phones and surveillance technology. I would almost bet that someone with advanced technology will find a way to listen in onto what will be said in the Sistine Chapel during the conclave – in spite of all the precautions against bugs. The media would pay top dollar!
We all have access to information, and sometimes it overloads us and our critical capacities. Either the Church will be a crutch for the insecure, or it will have to be understood in a different and more spiritual way. The second way would be the most difficult. Perhaps something will come of all this.
I have been criticised for reading too much in the way of cataclysms and endgames into this current situation. Maybe it really will be business as usual for the next twenty years, but the numbers of faithful in the churches seem to continue to dwindle. Mass communication becomes that much more sophisticated and secrets harder to keep.
That seems to be as far as anyone can go with speculation, but nothing stays still for long. There would be movement in one direction or another with consequences. We’ll see.