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But How Many Beautiful Denials in July!

Image: The late Joaquín Navarro-Valls, Director of the Holy See Press Office from 1984 to 2006.

Editor’s Note: In the following text, first published this morning at, veteran Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti reflects upon his own experience with the nature and credibility of Vatican denials at a time when they have become so prolific.

Food for thought as accusations of “fake news” are so casually tossed around. Our thanks to Marco Tosatti for graciously allowing us to share this, and for assisting with the translation.

How many beautiful denials this July brings us! We had the yellow hearing (the audience, surrounded by mystery) in which Cardinal Müller was dismissed; a reconstruction probably defective in some details, but solid in substance, made by OnePeterFive, based on several German sources who met the Great Sacked [Müller] himself straight after the dismissal, during a trip to his homeland, which first found a blunt denial from the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke. And then another denial, maybe a little more twisted, from Cardinal Müller himself. And in Germany, just to be sure they do not come out with news of the two days of the Cardinal at home, lawyers were put in play, with warnings and threats and penalties. How much effort and work for just some details! A nice cover on the story, reinforced by a hundred thousand euro of bolts. [One German Catholic has been threatened with a 100,000 Euro fine if he discloses, as he said he would, more information and sources about Cardinal Müller’s alleged conversations about his final meeting with the pope during his time in Mainz – Ed.]

Then there was the message of Benedict XVI for the funeral of card. Meisner. For those who do not remember, we quote: “What particularly impressed me from my last conversations with the now passed Cardinal was the relaxed cheerfulness, the inner joy and the confidence at which he had arrived. We know that this passionate shepherd and pastor found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time  in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination. However, what moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even if [sometimes] the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

I think almost everyone has read in these words a reference to the present. Myself included. On the contrary, we were all wrong. Benedict words were, as sources closely linked to the Third Loggia, and the penthouse in Santa Marta explain to us, a formal, normal reminder. A bit like — don’t laugh too much — Homeric places. Athena is always the “bright blue-eyed” for the blind Bard, and the Church is always at the mercy of the waves for the Pope Emeritus. How dare you imagine that he wanted to make a reference to the reigning Pontiff and to the actual situation of the Church. Benedict writes for history, not for the daily newspapers.

Of course this was followed by a denial. The heroic, faithful Msgr. Georg Gãnswein, said to the daily Il Giornale: “the pope emeritus was deliberately manipulated; with that sentence he was not referring to anything specific, but spoke of the situation of the Church today as in the past as a boat that does not sail in calm waters. Francis also says this. I understand that this may give rise to allusions or false impressions, but behind those words there is no attack.”

Far be it from me not to believe those denials. The above-mentioned persons are all men of honor, as (Marc) Antony spoke of the conspirators, in his speech over Caesar’s corpse. But I want to tell you why I retain some doubt, even offering all my trust and faith to the denials.

I remember how in September 1988, John Paul II was making a tour in Zimbabwe, Botwsana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique. The latter was torn by civil war between Frelimo — the government — and the rebels of Renamo. We were based in Harare; the pope went too Bulawayo on a one day visit, and the majority of journalists, led by Vick Van Brantegen, followed him. There were many hours of travel by bus, in Shaka Zulu plains.

Some colleagues stayed in Harare. And the spokesman, [Joaquìn] Navarro-Valls, conversing with two excellent and experienced colleagues — Alceste Santini, from Unità and Federico Mandillo from ANSA — leaked big news. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who at the time served as unofficial ambassador of the Pope, was visiting the rebel leaders of Renamo. On the eve of John Paul II being in Maputo, such a visit constituted a diplomatic snub — and recognition for the rebels — of an incredibly strong nature. The colleagues wrote the news. There was an instant denial from the Holy See. I still remember that Federico Mandillo was playing his recorder, on which he had recorded the spokeman’s [Navaro-Valls] words the day before, saying: “But do you not hear? Listen, Gioacchino! It is your voice.” And poor Joaquìn denied and denied. He never said it, and Etchegaray had never gone to meet with Renamo.

Since then, I welcome with deep respect the denials. But I also wonder if the persons concerned could ever do anything but deny…

24 thoughts on “But How Many Beautiful Denials in July!”

  1. This kinda stuff might have worked way back in the 70s or early 80s before we all got hooked up on the internet. Now? Not so much. We are plugged into every word that comes out of the mouth of Francis or his cohort. Boys, there is no place to hide. Either tell the truth or shut the hell up!

    • Yes, but we believe what we want to believe. Eve wanted to believe satan and most of the few remaining Mass going Catholics want to believe the leaders of the Church could do no wrong. It is much easier to lay back in your easy chair and let the worlds sin wash over you like the waters of baptism.

  2. Ah yes, “…we need not listen too much to the Africans…”
    Despite Cardinal Schultz … I mean Cardinal Kasper’s denial, he did say it, and we have it on film.
    But I know nothing…

  3. And just today I see that Archbishop Paglia has, according to news reports, “… brushed aside criticism that the Pontifical Academy has downgraded its commitment to the pro-life struggle, explaining that the institution will now pursue a more diverse agenda.” Of course, even though this is the same archbishop who commissioned and had executed a sodomic mural for his church, I know he is an honorable man, that indeed all the Vatican men are honorable men, so of course I believe his denial without hesitation! And when he continues by saying that groups who oppose abortion but say nothing about the environment or the death penalty are “stuck in a fortress raising the flags of a few principles,” why, I know for certain that he is a sure friend of the unborn. It’s just so obvious that this honorable man is merely “broadening our vision” over there at the Pontifical Academy. I mean, it’s all as clear as the nose on your face, don’t you agree? This is assuredly the way honorable men speak today, right?

  4. The reference to Homer might be confusing.

    “Homeric topoi” (Greek, singular “topos”) would be a better translation; we do not use “places” in English, though that is what the word literally means.

    For those not literary: ‘topos” is the technical term describing a formula to which a writer or culture regularly returns when dealing with an entity or topic. In Homer, these formulae were often used so as to meet the metrical requirements of the verse form.

    Homer often calls the sea “wine dark”, for example. Can also be broader, such as describing a beautiful place as a garden or “earthly paradise”.

    The idea is that whenever Benedict uses the comparison of the church to a ship taking on water he is simply renting to an entrenched literary habit and the phrase has no particular force. Which strains credulity.

  5. Why is it acceptable for Vatican officials to deny things that are objectively true? Isn’t that lying? Yes, we expect secular government officials to behave as children of this world and deny accountability for crimes committed by their respective Governments, because that is the way of this world: Lying. However, is that the way of God? Doesn’t the 8th commandment have something negative to say about bearing false witness?

    How can it be an acceptable practice for the Church, which represents the Reign of Jesus Chris the King, to make public denials of things that Her representatives know are true? Is this not one of the main contributing factors to the Clerical Homosexual abuse Crisis in the Church ( and that is what it is, Sodomites unleashing their demonic unnatural lusts upon the innocent!)?

    The Church cannot behave like a secular Government and represent Jesus Christ the Sovern King at the same time. There is no excuse, if evil has been done then it needs to be brought to the Light, trying to shade it in darkness only makes the Evil stronger and those who perpetuate the Darkness more culpable for their sins. This damages the integrity of the Church and nullifies Her Evangelical Witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    All of those who are involved in obfuscation of the truth in order to serve their temporal masters shall have to answer to Almighty God and bear the burden of their sins, especially when they are guilty of marring the Holy Witness of the Church to the One Truth Who is the Only Savior of Mankind. Amen.

    May they repent and profess the Truth or may they soon meet their eternal demise. Amen.

    • Amen. There are far too many lies coming from the Church. Especially in the form of those statements that lie by omission by downplaying doctrine, so as not to ruffle the feathers of the world.

      I read in a Padre Pio magazine long ago, and I can’t find this online, but it involved a prominent but local-level politician in Italy seeking the saint’s spiritual counsel and asking something to the effect of: “Surely, as a politician, I cannot be expected never to lie?”. St. Pius replied that he, even as a politician, should never lie. That struck me powerfully at the time, and remains one of my favorite thoughts.

      And from the Baltimore Catechism:

      Q. 1309. Will a good reason for telling a lie excuse it?

      A. No reason, however good, will excuse the telling of a lie, because a lie is always bad in itself. It is never allowed, even for a good intention to do a thing that is bad in itself.

    • I don’t know about them, Father, but I know that 70+ years of Catholic living have made me reluctant to tell even a “white lie.” We simply cannot go about the world rearranging as we would have it, and that is precisely what those who lie are attempting.

  6. I agree, but we believe what we want to believe. Eve wanted to believe satan and most of the few remaining Mass going Catholics want to believe the leaders of the Church could do no wrong. It is much easier to lay back in your easy chair and let the worlds sin wash over us like the waters of baptism.

    Yes, an estimated 90% of Catholics today would have been thought of as godless heathens 100 years ago and 98% seen as in Mortal sin. As the early christians were small but went on convert the world, we must convert our fellow Catholics back to the true faith.


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