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Pope Francis, far right, watches indigenous ceremony with 'Pachamama' in Vatican gardens, Oct. 4, 2019, Rome.Vatican News / screen grab

January 13, 2019 (CatholicCulture.org) — Father Raymond de Souza has an important piece in the Catholic Herald, with a title that tells it all: “We used to believe bishops told the truth. What happened?”

The cases that Father de Souza cites do not involve differences of opinion or questions of interpretation. They involve simple, demonstrable, flat-out lies. Lies told by Church leaders in the US and in Rome; lies noticed by reporters in the secular and religious press, in news-analysis pieces and in straight news stories.

It isn’t late-breaking news, unfortunately, that bishops sometimes tell lies. The damage done by the sex-abuse scandal was compounded by the realization that bishops had almost routinely lied about the status of accused priests — and, as if that weren’t enough, impugned the integrity of parents who were making perfectly legitimate complaints.

But there is still no clear evidence that our bishops know how much those lies have damaged their credibility—how much work they will have to do to recover public confidence. On the contrary there is a cynicism on display: a willingness to lie even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Father de Souza recalls the “Pachamama” controversy:

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, insisted that there were no “prostrations,” despite his own department providing video footage of same. His deputy at the press conference applauded his denial, giving the whole affair a rather Soviet feel.

Sometime soon — we’re told — the Vatican will release its report on the McCarrick scandal. Father de Souza wonders aloud: “But who will believe what is being told?”

That’s a fair question. But I have another one. Has anyone ever heard a bishop apologize for a lie?

Published with permission from the CatholicCulture.org.