keeping-up appearances ....
A week before Cardinal Timothy Dolan is set to leave New York for Rome, where his name is being floated as a contender in the conclave to elect the next pope, he was grilled for hours behind closed doors in a legal deposition concerning child sexual abuse by priests.
The lawyers deposing Cardinal Dolan represent hundreds of people who say they were sexually molested by priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where the cardinal served for seven years before his appointment to the seat in New York in 2009.
The lawyers want to know whether Cardinal Dolan acted to stop lawsuits being filed in time against accused priests and the archdiocese, and whether he shielded church assets to prevent them being used to compensate alleged abuse victims.
Cardinal Dolan is one of two US cardinals being deposed in sexual abuse lawsuits this week who plan to travel to Rome next week to elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
The other is Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, who is expected to be deposed on Saturday. He has been under fire since the court-ordered release last month of 12,000 pages of church files revealing his role in shielding accused priests from the law.
The election of a new pope might begin sooner than expected, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
Pope Benedict ''is taking into consideration'' changing the rules, said the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi. He did not know whether the change would affect the timing of the conclave, at which 117 cardinals will elect the next pope.
Church law states that cardinals should wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before starting a conclave so that the cardinals eligible to vote have enough time to travel to Rome. Because the pontiff announced on February 11 he would step down on Thursday, February 28, many cardinals have already begun travelling to Rome.
Cardinal Dolan has been much discussed as a possible candidate. The cardinal is a charismatic figure at ease in parishes as well as in morning talk show studios, and he left a strong impression in the Vatican last year with speeches promoting what the church calls the ''new evangelisation''.
But since moving to New York, he has been dogged by the legal cases in Milwaukee.
A spokeswoman for Cardinal Dolan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
back at headquarters ….
Pope Benedict XVI resigned after an internal investigation informed him about a web of blackmail, corruption and gay sex in the Vatican, Italian media reports say.
Three cardinals were asked by Benedict to verify allegations of financial impropriety, cronyism and corruption exposed in the so-called VatiLeaks affair.
On December 17, 2012, they handed the pontiff two red-leather bound volumes, almost 300 pages long, containing "an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish" inside the Holy See, La Repubblica said.
"It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long," said the centre-left newspaper. It said its article was the first of a series.
Panorama, a conservative weekly, did not speculate about the motives behind Benedict's resignation, but its story about the contents of the confidential report was broadly similar.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi refused to "run after fantasies and opinions" and warned reporters: "Don't expect comments or rebuttals of what is being said on this issue."
La Repubblica quoted a man described as "very close" to the authors as saying the information it contained was "all about the breach of the sixth and seven commandments" - which say "thou shalt not commit adultery" and "thou shalt not steal".
The cardinals were said to have uncovered an underground gay network, whose members organise sexual meetings in several venues in Rome and Vatican City, leaving them prone to blackmail.
The secret report also delves into suspect dealings at the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the Vatican's bank, where a new chairman was appointed last week after a nine-month vacancy, La Repubblica said, without going into details.
The newspaper said Benedict would personally hand the confidential files to his successor, with the hope he will be "strong, young and holy" enough to take the necessary action.
The authors of the secret report will not take part in the conclave because they are over 80 years old, past the age limit for the meeting. But Panorama said they were likely to inform other cardinals about what they have uncovered.
Their findings "will condition the conclave" as it will have to elect "a pope immune to blackmail, so that he can start the clean-up operation that (Benedict) entrusted to his successor".