Thursday, February 28, 2013


From the website. This is an image of the Umbraculum, which means exactly what you think it means; the Italian is Ombrellino. It is a standard papal symbol, representing the temporal powers of the Holy See -- governance of Vatican City, fiscal administration of the Patrimony, and the like. Despite being purely papal, it appears on the coat of arms of the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church during a papal vacancy, because he wields the temporal powers of the papacy as steward and agent of the papal office. He only wields the temporal powers. Papal powers of routine and emergency ecclesiastical administration are administered by the College of Cardinals; and the entire episcopal college in communion with the Holy See retains, of course, its magisterial authority (to be in communion with a see, including the Holy See, does not require that the see be currently occupied by a bishop, because communion is, to put the matter somewhat simplistically, liturgical).

I once thought of writing a science fiction story called "Camerlengo," taking place in the far future, where, due to extraordinary and unexpected catastrophe and upheaval, the See was vacant and the College of Cardinals was literally unable to meet in proper Conclave for a very long period of time -- decades, perhaps. This would affect the Catholic Church in general much less than one might think, but obviously there would be problems to deal with. The story would have followed the Camerlengo in episodic fashion from the Incident (whatever it would be) through struggles to the final victory of forming the Conclave. In effect, it would be a story about a man dealing with the immense pressures and responsibilities that come with having to be a caretaker of another's estate for an indefinite period of time, along with the risks and temptations that could mean even for a very decent and intelligent man. It would be an interesting story to write, but to do it properly would take a fair amount of research and a properly thought-out Incident to set it all off, which is why this summary is about as far as the story ever got.


  1. Robert Lennon12:49 AM

    That's a nice idea, there! You could always take the route of having the Incident be un- or ill-defined, as so disrupting to society that it's almost impossible to remember how things were before it happened.

  2. branemrys6:25 PM

    That would certainly work. Such an Incident would be pretty severe; almost Canticle for Leibowitz severe. I actually think that would be a potential problem with; it solves the tactical problem in such a way that it would be extremely difficult to write the story in a way that would not just be Canticle for Leibowitz with Cardinals.

  3. Robert Lennon1:28 AM

    Would that be such a bad thing, though? :V
    I'm not so sure, it seems to me like from what you've written you have a good idea how to avoid the trap of being Pierre Menard, author of Canticle--mostly by having a different theme and tone. But I've got enough of my own SF stories that I'm procrastinating on that I can't say anything!


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