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Vatican, seen at dusk.Michael Haynes

ROME (LifeSiteNews) — A prominent news-aggregate website closely monitored by the Vatican announced its closure, citing an unhealthy “singular mode of the exercise of power by Pope Francis” as part of the explanation. 

On December 17, Italian-language website Il Sismografo announced that it would cease its operations immediately, after having been reporting and collating reports on the Vatican daily since December 16, 2006. 

Il Sismografo stops here,” the announcement read. Editor Luis Badilla wrote the decision had been made some weeks ago, but he waited until the trial verdict for Cardinal Angelo Becciu was handed down on December 16.

Il Sismografo header image

“We wanted to wait until the time of the first reliable news about the judgment in the trial involving Card. Angelo Becciu,” he wrote, before appearing to indirectly attribute the decision to Pope Francis’ manner of exercising his power: 

This painful affair [Becciu case] that began well over two years ago, for us, for our readers, as well as for the whole Church, was and is a straight watershed because it denounces a singular mode of the exercise of power by Pope Francis.

On Saturday, Becciu was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail, handed an €8,000 fine and a permanent ban on public office in response to numerous counts of financial crimes against the Vatican.

READ: Cardinal Becciu given 5 and a half years in jail by Vatican court for financial crimes

The case has become one of international interest, in that it also shone a light on the manner in which Pope Francis was governing the Vatican and by extent the Church, with Becciu being a former close confidant of the Pope. However, Francis changed the Vatican procedures to allow the cardinal to be tried, despite during the course of the trial appearing to both support Becciu and distance himself from the cardinal. 

More clearly, Badilla cited ill health (he is 78) and a lack of funds as being behind the cessation of his work. But he hinted at discontent or even outside pressure also:

At the end of this adventure we can be proud of what we have done, above all because we have never succumbed to the pernicious habit – ecclesiastical and ecclesial – of justifying lies so as not to damage – it is said – the image of the Church. The mere history of pedophilia in the clergy proves otherwise.

Indeed, the site has grown increasingly uncomfortable for those who wish to avoid reading about the more controversial and troubling elements of Vatican news. Writing in his penultimate post, Badilla described the pontificate thus: 

Pope Francis in these almost eleven years of pontificate has made many mistakes, like all the Popes, but his specific way of being has bogged down him in very serious errors such as little transparency, authoritarian opacity and a casual relationship with truth.

While perhaps less known to English speakers, Il Sismografo is a site of somewhat unparalleled import in Italy, gathering a wealth of news articles about the Vatican from a wide variety of sources. So widely is it respected that it became known as an unofficial Vatican news outlet and is regularly checked by the Secretariat of State.

Reporting on the news, Italian journalist Franca Giansoldati (who last year co-authored a book-length interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller) noted how Il Sismografo was “a reference point of the diplomatic, curial and journalistic world, consulted even internationally.”

Commenting on the closure of Il Sismografo (the site will remain online, but no new content will be published), the editor of Italian Catholic blog Messa in Latino highlighted that Badillla’s critiques “of the current pontificate, always constructive, we do not think pleased those in Santa Martha’s” – namely, the residence of Pope Francis.

LifeSite asked Messa in Latino editor Luigi Casalini about the possibility that Badilla’s writings had angered Vatican officials.

“Certainly, the criticism – always constructive – of Il Sismografo has annoyed the Pope and his ‘magic circle’ of collaborators,” Casalini stated. 

READ: Fr. James Martin announces he will bless his ‘friends in same-sex unions’ after Pope’s new text

“The pretense of ‘who am I to judge’ and the Church of ‘todos, todos, todos,’ applies only to his friends, not wanting to understand that the truth is ‘symphonic’ and the Church must be doctrinally compact, that is, faithful to 2,000 years of Tradition, but open to different charisms,” he added. 

“Francis is dismantling doctrine and removing his supposed enemies,” Casalini stated.

Expanding also on Badilla’s commentary about Pope Francis’ use of power, Casalini argued that the Pontiff was acting like a “‘King Pope,’ without having either the charisms or the character, with a will to ‘absolute power’ over everything and everyone, with a ‘magic circle’ with which he decides everything, with his persecution to supposed enemies and to traditional liturgy and charisma, he is showing that he is only the leader of a small ideologically oriented faction that is breaking everything down.”

This was aided by Francis “not understanding that the Church has different charisms and that they must be respected, that the Holy Church of God is turning into a progressive NGO,” Casalini argued, actions that, he said, were “reducing the Church to one of many Protestant denominations with no more faithful or pastors.”

Badilla’s daily chronicling of the Vatican’s many twists and turns will be missed by many, but perhaps by some less so than others.