First Non-Human Council

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David Tedeschi is the Senior Vatican Correspondent of the Bellarian News Network, and also dean of the Vatican Press Corps (he's the reporter with the most seniority on the beat.)

He’d been the junior reporter in the corps during the first Vatican exploration of Non-Human Sentience--the Council called by Sixtus VI. Junior reporters were the ones left with the irksome job of monitoring the day-to-day proceedings of such affairs, tedious as they could be, while the senior reporters concentrated on making stories of what occurred, tracking down the interesting bits, and showing up whenever it was rumored that anything interesting might happen. Still, it meant that as a junior reporter, he’d seen pretty much the whole thing.

"All two wearisome years of it… oh, it started off well enough,” he told his colleagues. “Sixtus had put old Marigatti in charge of it, and he was a strong hand on the reins, in the beginning. And the first six weeks or so were taken up by reports from scientists, on the specifics of non-human physiology and cognitive capabilities and so forth. Every scientist first had to give their reports in the most technical terms, which were then paraphrased and summarized by an assistant or some other specialist.”

“We could see the lines being drawn even then, of course, based on who asked what questions. Archbishop Miraflores was the strongest “anti,” at first. In fact, he was so obviously biased that several fence-sitters ended up in the “pro” camp, just to distance themselves from him. That was back when Yohanti and the Catholic Defenders movement was still big news, and there was a lot of leftover tension over the disavowal of the neo-Medievalist movement.”

“Renard seemed neutral, at first—but then, he was Abbot of St. Genevieve, and only beginning to make his reputation as a theologian. Many people thought that his missionary experiences in North Africa might have given him a liberal outlook, and his refutation of Yohanti generated considerable excitement among the progressives. But anyone who actually read the refutation with attention to detail and subtext might have been able to see the underlying conservatism there. He might have no time for the neo-Medievalists, but he’s as bedrock on the main issues as old John-Paul II was.”

“Anyway, things got off to a bad start for the ‘antis’ when Miraflores went into a rant about Satan and devils and corruption in response to a most polite address from one of the Menelmacari observers. He was off the reservation and firing in every direction at once. I think that really turned the tide for the ‘pros,’ since it made the ‘antis’ look so bigoted.”

“Things proceeded pretty smoothly while the Committees were meeting. I mostly went to the “Culture and History” Committee meetings, and the “Interspecies relations” Committee—they were definitely the most interesting. The C&H committee was the source of the “Separate Salvation” theory, ultimately. The full Council probably would have taken that up next, if they hadn’t broken up when they did.”

One of his fellow-reporters asked, “Separate Salvation? What’s that?”

“That’s the theory that God has parallel tracks of salvation for each sentient species. And to permit non-human sentients to follow the “human” track is theologically invalid, because it prevents them from finding salvation on “their” track.” That’s the summary version, of course, the real theory was dressed up in much fancier language with a few hundred extra ramifications, not to mention a couple of minority reports speculating on the nature of how the various “salvations” might or might not interact with Christianity.”

“I remember now. Oleg Mishkin’s book, right?” A younger reporter nodded. “And those Catholic Quarterly articles by Bishop Msebe.”

“That’s right. It’s a favorite intellectual/doctrinal chew toy for the ‘We’re not bigoted, we just don’t like them’ crowd. Anyway, I should have been paying more attention to the Theology Committee, where Cardinal Plavacezc was doing stealth work on the doctrinal underpinnings for ‘In Apostolatum Eldari.’ He’d managed to maneuver Peng Li and Horvath onto the committee, not to mention half a dozen other very influential Bishops, including a couple of MittelEuropeans who’d been colleagues of Sixtus back when he was Archbishop of Tajesc. They buried themselves in archives and doctrinal interpretations and exegesis, and quietly hammered out a theology that undercut the worst of the “antis” without actually saying much “pro.”

“Ahhh…. and of course, that was right up Sixtus’ alley,” The first colleague reflected. The old Pope had never been much of a one for controversy when it could be avoided or procrastinated.

“Right. During the second session of the full Council, the end product hit the rotary air circulation device. Miraflores practically had a stroke, and things got so out of hand that poor old Marigatti did have a heart attack, and Sixtus replaced him with Valdez. And Valdez,” he shrugged regretfully, “just didn’t have what it took to herd cats. Cats?” He let out a bark of laughter. “By that time it was more like lions and tigers.”

“Anyway, the ‘antis’ could see they were on the verge of a lost cause, I think. I never knew what happened during that October break, but I strongly suspect that McGuin and En-Pak sat on Miraflores good and hard, and got him to resign as Delegate. My guess is that they got Esteban to stick an oar in, too, from the other side.”

“Esteban… he’s retired now, right?” The second younger colleague seemed to search a mental database.

He nodded. “Right. But he had enormous influence, then. Still does, really,” he reflected. “Even retired, his word carries a helluva clout, when he can be finagled into saying anything at all. Who knows? He may end up canonized, eventually.” He was silent a moment, thinking about that, then recalled himself to the current topic.

“Anyway, after the break, Miraflores was gone. That’s when Renard and Terinski pulled the ‘antis’ together for a rearguard action. They pretty much settled in to make sure that after ‘Apostolatum Eldari,’ nothing else came close enough to a consensus to kick up to the Apartment. It was pretty much a stalemate.”

Another reporter prodded him. “And that’s when things started to fall apart?”

“Oh, yes. Horvath demanded that Valdez re-work the agenda so that they could hear a round of comments from the observers, over the strenuous objections of nearly half the Delegates. When the day actually arrived, thirty of the Delegates, mostly principal members of the ‘anti’ factions, simply didn’t show up for the session. Well, that pissed off Valdez, he took it as a slight to himself as Council President. He refused to permit anyone to speak, and ordered the Swiss Guard to go and collect the missing Delegates and bring them to the chamber.”

Tedeschi laughed. “Oh, God… you should have seen poor old Weiss’s face. He was the Commandant of the Guard, then. I was sitting in the observer’s gallery; there wasn’t room enough in the press gallery that day—word had got around that something spectacular was afoot and every reporter who could shoehorn themselves in was in attendance. I’d been chatting up one of the Menelmacari observers, though, and she let me crash their seating.”

“Anyway, I was close enough to see the Guards Command Post, and when the Sergeant on duty relayed the request to Weiss, I could see him on the screen—I thought he was going to pop! Poor fellow. He looked so flabbergasted… send his men out to strongarm half a dozen Cardinals and a couple of dozen Bishops back to the chamber? On Valdez’ say-so?”

“He did the only thing possible, of course, which was to say he’d refer it to the Apartment for advice. Well, that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, of course, and it got Sixtus down there to light into them. He booted the press and the observers out of the room, though, so we’ve only got rumor to go by as far as what he actually said.”

His smile was a bit twisted. “Not that old Sixtus could ever be really, um, emphatically negative about much. But he supposedly did the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger bit, and sent them back to work. And by that time they were all there, since everyone had had to show up for his address. But he’d apparently been working behind the scenes with Valdez, too, and when they resumed, no more was said about statements from the observers.”

“Well, that generated another couple of rounds of tail-chasing, and finally everyone lost patience, and they were all starting to accuse one another of being obstructionist. Valdez is supposed to have asked the Holy Father to relieve him of the Presidency of the Council, and that was pretty much when Sixtus called a halt, and sent everyone home. Supposedly, the Council was to resume ‘at a later date,’ but they never got around to it, and it’s pretty much been in limbo since. The only real product was “In Apostolatum Eldari,” but on the strength of that, Sixtus allowed the Benedictines in Menelmacar to start ordaining Eldar priests, and eventually he went ahead and consecrated a couple of Eldar Bishops, himself.”

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