David Crabtree on Assignment

A sign of the times: Full view of cardinals as conclave begins

Posted March 12, 2013

What an extraordinary sight. The 115 Cardinals who will elect the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, slowly processing into the Sistine Chapel.

Extraordinary not only because of the weighty matter of their work, but because the Church opened another window for us to look through. Not just peek behind the curtain, but a full view. From several angles, we saw them, heard them chant and saw the grim look on their faces. What's before these men is historic to the church and the world.

For the first time, we watched and listened to each of the Cardinals take an oath of secrecy in Latin. If the oath is broken, ex-communication is the penalty. Then the closing of the doors to the Sistine Chapel. My colleagues in the CBS News Bureau are jaded, cynical and somewhat caustic over these matters. That's ok. I once was as well. It was high drama, as Church matters often are.

A closer look, however, reveals the spiritual drama of our own lives. In my 30-plus years of reporting, never have I been moved so deeply. Highs and lows of my career, the funerals of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. Service men and women returning from war. The birth of the first New Year's baby. Historic elections. The list goes on and on.

Yet, nothing stirred me so deeply as watching this history unfold.

These Cardinals, who dedicated their lives to God decades before today, understand the need for openness and transparency. These scandals hanging over the heads of this Church like the Sword of Damocles can only be removed by making sure the window into the soul of Catholicism is so clean and clear, we see the window pane has been removed. What we need to see is a wide open view.

A priest told me today the next pope "must live in his time ... not the times of the past. He must be media savvy and talk to the world in real time. Don't vet every word and speak freely from his heart."

From what we experienced today, maybe a heart is beginning to be cracked open. Maybe it's already opened and waiting to speak and flow to the world.

Again, time will tell.

1 Comment

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  • Wiser_now Mar 12, 4:10 p.m.

    David - You are so openly respectful and appreciative of the Catholic Church. Maybe your reporting can encourage others to be the same. Thank you.

About this Blog:

WRAL anchor David Crabtree reports from around the world.