Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Strange Conclave of 1903

Upon the death of Pope Leo XIII, his natural successor seemed to be Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, a Sicilian who had been Pope Leo's Secretary of State. But the ensuing Conclave of 1903 far outdoes the "White Smoke, No Pope" Conclave of 1958 in conspiracies and sheer bizarreness.

The Veto

The essential historical fact is that at this time Catholic monarchs had the power to veto a candidate for the papacy. This seems very strange to us, but in 1903 it was the way things were. It was called the jus exclusivae. It had been used against Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti in the 1846 Conclave by Austria, but the Cardinal who carried the veto arrived too late to prevent the election of Pope Pius IX.

We know that in the 1903 Conclave, Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria exercised the jus exclusivae through Polish Cardinal Jan Maurycy PaweĊ‚ Puzyna de Kosielsko. The target of the veto: front-runner Cardinal Rampolla.

One reason might be Meyerling. Franz Joseph's son Crown Prince Rudolph was infatuated with the much-younger Baroness Mary Vetsera. The affair ended in a tragic murder-suicide at the Meyerling hunting lodge. Cardinal Rampolla refused permission to allow the Crown Prince to be buried in hallowed ground, a decision the deeply Catholic Emperor took hard. (The Emperor's Catholicism did not prevent him from engaging in a stable and loving affair with a mistress, but that's another story.)

Doomed Couple

Another reason might be Rampolla's facilitation under Leo XIII of rapprochement with France and Russia, which disadvantaged Austria.

It has even been suggested that Rampolla never stood a chance, and that the veto was engineered to save the distinguished old prelate face. However, it is hard to imagine Franz Joseph doing any favors for Rampolla, or exercising the jus exclusivae frivolously.

Satanism, Sex and Secret Societies

Finally, there is the story of Msgr. Jouin, which is quite the most interesting.

Msgr. Jouin was a French cleric right out of an occult potboiler. He hated Freemasonry, and spent much of his time organizing against it public, and investigating it in private. Pope Benedict XV praised him for risking his life, and, in a letter dated June 20, 1919, the Vatican recognized his efforts by saying: “His Holiness is thus pleased to congratulate you and to encourage you in your work, whose influence is so important in warning the faithful and helping them to struggle effectively against the forces aimed at destroying not only religion but the whole social order."

This begs for a screenplay.

Freemasonry does not consist solely of your brother-in-law's amateur theatrics down at the lodge, and men in fezzes riding little motorcycles. There are real lodges, actively, and, one fears, effectively, pursuing occult power through a variety of means, including, in the case of our story, sex.

The Ordo Templi Orientis is the infamous lodge in question. It is still in existence, and the Bear himself was once involved in a case that involved the kidnapping and sexual abuse of minors by its members. (The OTO is usually associated with English bisexual occultist Aleister Crowley, but he came a bit later.) 

The OTO's founding is shrouded in mystery (as you might expect for a secret society). It seems to have been started between 1895 and 1906 in Germany or Austria. It was unique among Freemasonry in that it allowed women to fully participate alongside men. Given its methods, "alongside" would be merely one possible preposition. 

The Evidence

The evidence for this theory is slim, but not none. For one thing the OTO itself in 1999 claimed that Msgr. Jouin had indeed denounced Rampolla to Emperor Franz Joseph, leading to the veto. Another bit of evidence is that Rampolla's name appears on the OTO's original manifesto dated either 1912, 1917 or 1919.  Nonetheless the OTO has sent mixed signals about Rampolla's involvement in earlier organizations.

And, although they would quibble at the term, the OTO are Satanists, after all. (Most occultists are explicitly Luciferian.) The Bear expects his readers to share his opinion of the credibility of people like this.

The Bear supposes we might hope that the devout Franz Joseph I would not have interfered in the conclave without having a good reason (like a candidate's involvement in a Masonic cult), but perhaps there were political or personal reasons he felt justified the veto. And, as we have already seen, his devotion was not above compromise.

Finally, the appearance of Rampolla's name on the manifesto is hardly conclusive. The authors may have wanted to buff their credibility upon rumors circulating around an unfortunate Cardinal, or maybe they just wanted to stick a finger in the Church's eye.

While there are few better stories than that of a lone investigator of the occult convincing Emperor Franz Joseph I to veto the election of a satanic sex-cultist to the papacy, there is little evidence for it. Certainly not a preponderance; in fact, barely a scintilla. Cardinal Rampolla's reputation should not be disturbed on account of it.

The Outcome

Things did happen to work out, however. With Cardinal Rampolla out of the way, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto,  Patriarch of Venice was elected. You may have heard of him as...

Pope St. Pius X, whose feast is August 21.

One of the first things he did was to abolish the jus exclusivae.

And now you know... the rest of the story.


  1. From some brief reading of mine, it appears that the jus exclusivae had a hand in the suppression of the Jesuits. Some monarchs did not like their work in the New World, it was suggested.

  2. SUCH a GREAT post Bear.....reallllllllly interesting; and anything that gave us the great Pope St. Pius X has God's signature on it. Funny how He always manages to write straight with the very, very crooked lines we hand Him.

    1. I'm glad Badger enjoyed it. It's such a great story. Guess we'll never know the truth about Cardinal Rampolla. Potentially a huge contrast between the two candidates, eh?

  3. What a great story!
    Because of the good ending, perhaps...

    1. One of the articles I had the most fun writing, if you can tell.

  4. Fr Hesse talks about this election in one of his videos on YouTube.


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