Tuesday, April 19, 2005

fyi Vatican Goes High Tech, Jams Signals in Sistine Chapel


Pointer to article:

Kobielus kommentary:
The penalty for communication is excommunication.

This supersecrecy is just a bit silly, don’t you think? I’m a Roman Catholic, and I don’t quite care what the cardinals say to each other, or what principles and prejudices inform their election of the next pontiff. The church changes at a glacial pace, even under extraordinary circumstances, and the next person in St. Peter’s chair will be, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from the late pope, in terms of their desire or ability to reform this huge, ancient religious institution. Actually, that deep conservatism is what many people value most about Catholicism.

Clearly, the Catholic church is trying to maintain the illusion of unanimity that will bolster its claims for the “infallibility” of the next person to wear the supreme mitre. But that person will undoubtedly be one of the 100+ fallible human beings in that chapel today. We all know that the cardinals are distinct personalities, with different backgrounds and priorities, and different opinions on all things religious and secular. Somehow, for all their differences, the person so elevated becomes magically infallible in the act of elevation. I don’t buy it.

So these institutional and technical cloaking mechanisms are understandable, in terms of the church’s culture and ideology. I like the fact that “conclave” comes from the Latin “with key.” Which puts me in mind of secret keys, symmetric keys, encryption keys, and so forth. Someone will emerge from the Sistine Chapel with the key to that particular kingdom, and all of them will be sworn to secrecy, which won’t prevent people from attempting to eavesdrop on their discussions (via cellphone, e-mail, etc) when they go back to their dioceses. There’s no way that 100+ men who meet with each other frequently can jointly and forever protect secrets from leaking out (on the bold assumption that people will care much about this after the next pope’s name is revealed and the church goes back to the same ol’ same ol’).

I wonder if failure to use strong encryption would be grounds for excommunication.