ROME, February 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – It is three days to the end of the pontificate of Benedict XVI and it is nearly impossible to keep on top of the rumours and speculation whirling around the Internet over his resignation and the upcoming conclave. The whole world wants to know what is really going on. Unfortunately, the real scope and parameters of what is currently unfolding will likely never be completely known. The best we can do is careful examination of what we do know, a judicious piecing together of the available facts.
First we had Friday’s blockbuster story by La Repubblica on the 300-page report by three senior cardinals allegedly detailing the activities of a homosexual cabal, blackmail and manipulation of Vatican officials and possible financial misdeeds. Many have said that they believe the whole story is a hoax. Others have justifiably questioned how any journalist could have known anything about the report’s contents, given that there is supposed to be only one copy and that is in the pope’s private safe.
In our coverage on Friday, I was careful to use words and phrases like “allegedly” and “La Repubblica says”. It would have been impossible to decline to report at least that the story had been circulated because it was receiving such prominence, but we wanted to be cautious. Veteran Vaticanista Robert Moynihan, founder of Inside the Vatican magazine, is among those in Rome who have been asking these questions. This weekend, he speculated that, while it seems beyond possibility that any journalist could have actually seen the document, it is certainly plausible that information about it could have been leaked.
It has been said that it could not possibly have been leaked because the only people who have seen it are the three cardinals and the pope. But, Moynihan points out, there are also the people interviewed. These are people who live and work closely together, and it is certainly possible that they would have spoken to each other, or possibly to their families, about the questions they were asked and the answers they gave.
I sent the following email to Moynihan Saturday:
You're forgetting another possible source of information.
A 300 page book, about 90,000 words, does not come into existence without at least one person doing the clerical work. It does not seem likely that three aged cardinals would be very fast typists or familiar enough with office equipment, let alone computers to do this themselves. La Repubblica does not say, but we can probably assume that it was not a hand-written manuscript.
Someone had to draft the questions, print the papers, collate the answers and produce the final report. This is work for at least two or three secretarial people aside from the cardinals. Then there are the cardinals' aids and office staff and their personal staff. All these people could have gained some access to the papers before they were collated. And certainly the secretarial people who put the final report together would have known quite a lot about its contents, if not, as you say, the whole thing.
“True dat,” he replied.
Today, Moynihan wrote of a conversation he had with Ignazio Ingrao, the journalist who broke the original story in the Italian magazine Panorama. Ingrao admitted that he had not seen the document nor talked with the cardinals.
“My work was a careful work of reconstruction,” Ingrao said. “I had been interested in the dossier for a long time, of course, and when the Pope resigned on February 11, my interest only increased. I very systematically sought out people in the Curia I thought might have been interviewed, and I spoke to them, one by one.” These 15 people gave him an outline of understanding what the questioning had been about.
About the “gay lobby” that his article said exists in the curia, Ingrao was definite. The theme “emerged because a few of the people who were questioned by the cardinals told me that the questions that they were asked were about this aspect…It was clear.
“The cardinals were specifically interested in this point. I heard this from several sources. I did not consider anything valid if I heard it from one source only. I required at least two or three sources telling me the same thing. If I heard it from two or more sources, if my sources confirmed one another, I knew I was hearing something with a basis in fact.”
The first Vatican response was to “neither confirm nor deny” anything about the cardinals’ work, and issued a media release rebuking media outlets for making things up. But today they changed their tune. The Secretariat of State issued a statement saying, “It is regrettable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
“If in the past it was the so-called superpowers, namely States, who sought to condition the election of the Pope in their favour, today there is an attempt to apply the weight of public opinion, often on the basis of assessments that fail to capture the spiritual aspect of this moment in the life of the Church.”
The question about whether such a report exists at all, however, was settled this morning when the Vatican issued a statement that, while not saying much in itself, at least confirmed that La Repubblica got the basic facts right. There is such a report, created by the cardinals named and Benedict has decided to keep its contents secret and give it only into the hands of the next pope. The brief statement also adds a new name to consider in the puzzle of how the information could have been leaked to the press, that of Commission Secretary, Fransican Fr. Luigi Martignani.
Then followed a story by La Stampa’s usually well-informed Vatican Insider magazine that the document’s contents would be revealed to the cardinals in the conclave. Today this was contradicted by Fr. Lombardi at a press conference who said that the report would be exclusively released into the hands of the new pope. At the same time, further hints were offered that the Italian media reports were on the right track. A statement was read from Pope Benedict thanking the three cardinals for their work, saying that the report reveals “the limits and imperfections given the human component of all institutions”.
A little-understood aspect of Vatican politics, that is widely known in journalistic circles in Rome, is that Fr. Lombardi, the head of the Vatican’s official press machine, is hampered by difficulties with “access”.
It is one of the peculiarities of this pontificate that, unlike his predecessor Joaquin Navarro-Valls who spoke privately to Pope John Paul II regularly, Fr. Lombardi does not enjoy that kind of privileged access to Benedict. A fact that were it more widely known would have gone a long way to explaining some of the Jesuit mathematician’s more embarrassing public gaffes over the last eight years. It also helps us understand why the public statements of the Vatican press office and those of the various dicasteries are sometimes so different.
One of the strongest hints that the homosexual subculture in the Church is causing concern in high places is a statement from the cardinal archbishop of Sydney who called on the Vatican press office to respond to the report in “some constructive way.”
Cardinal George Pell, who spoke just before flying out to Rome on Friday, said, “I know nothing of the content of the report but whatever it contains it is clear that significant reforms are needed within the Vatican bureaucracy.” The Australian said he praised Benedict for his “courage for commissioning such a report”.
At the same time, questions and confusion over when, exactly, the conclave will start are being sorted out by the well-prepared Benedict. He issued a special motu proprio today saying that in case of a papal abdication, the required waiting time can be waived and the conclave date can be moved up.
Under the current rules we would have had to wait until March 15; now the cardinals can decide to get on with things a little more promptly, since there will be no need, deo volente, for a papal lying-in-state or funeral. Modern transportation has made it easier for far-flung cardinals to make it and a good number of them are already in town.
The voting cardinals will start the “congregations,” the preparation meetings after March 1, the beginning of the “sede vacante” or empty seat period, and Fr. Lombardi said that the decision on when the voting will start may still take some days after that.
The same document extends and strengthens the required oath of secrecy to appoint technicians to assist the cardinals “in assuring that no audio-visual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of the election are carried out.”
Significantly, Benedict has imposed an automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) on anyone violating the secrecy of the conclave.
A last interesting development from the weekend is the news that Benedict has also ordered the old oath of loyalty restored, to be sworn individually to the new pontiff by all members of the College of Cardinals. Monsignor Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, known as a strong supporter of Benedict’s liturgical reform, told L’Osservatore Romano that each cardinal present at the pope’s first Mass will come forward and offer his public “act of obedience”.
This is a change from the rules in place in 2005, when instead of the ancient ritual of oath-giving, 12 people were chosen to represent “all Catholics” three cardinals, a bishop, a diocesan priest, a transitional deacon, male and female religious and laity. Monsignor Marini said Pope Benedict personally approved the changes February 18th
Slowly the apparent chaos is coalescing into a pattern and it is confirming what most of the people I have talked to believe, that Pope Benedict is acting in a concerted and organised manner, almost as though he planned it all. He knows what he is doing.
The idea is also becoming more firmly dismissed that Benedict was reacting to the cardinals’ secret document; that he saw its contents and was so shocked and horrified that he sat down and in a kind of despair, penned a resignation letter. Such a suggestion shows that those making it know nothing of this man whose self-appointed primary task during his pontificate has been to clean up the “filth” that he identified even before it started. And before that, he sat up in his office in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years and received information from around the world, as well as from his own back yard, on what was going on.
Far more likely is that Benedict commissioned the report as part of his larger work, that he was fully aware before he read it of the general parameters of the corruption, its nature and scale.
Indeed, two weeks after the announcement that so shocked and disturbed the Catholic world, two weeks of doing nothing but pore over news reports, blog posts, emails and messages, of talking with people in Rome and via Skype around the world, it seems that the existence of this report, as well as the other changes and items on Benedict’s to-do list, is one of the most cheering pieces of news we’ve had recently.
It indicates that the corruption is not the whole story, that Pope Benedict is battling to the very eleventh hour, and still has the situation firmly in hand, and that the work of his pontificate will not end on February 28th.