It was an “armored” press conference held by the pope [on Tuesday, September 25] on the flight that took him back to Rome after his trip to the Baltic Republics. The pope – who according to several correspondents on the plane appeared nervous and in difficulty – did not wish to respond to any questions that were not on the topic of the journey he had just finished – meaning there were no questions allowed on the McCarrick case, on the testimony of Archbishop Viganò, or on the case of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor.
In fact, none of the English-speaking journalists was allowed to ask questions – the ones who would have been most determined to ask for explanations on these burning issues. When one correspondent came forward to repeat the question asked by Anna Matranga of CBS on the flight returning from Dublin – namely, when was Pope Francis first informed of the crimes of McCarrick – she was asked whether her question concerned the trip to the Baltics. The correspondent said no, it is a follow-up to the questions asked a month ago. She was told in reply, “You need to wait; first we will talk about the trip.” Afterward, of course, they never gave her another chance to speak. Many correspondents in the English-speaking group were stunned and irritated by this lack of availability and by this form of preventative censorship, even more extraordinary coming from someone who is always calling for dialogue and frankness.
Thus, a full month after the appearance of the testimony of Archbishop Viganò, there is still no response – or any denial – of the affirmations of the ex-nuncio. Above all, there is no response on the part of the principal protagonist of the whole affair, of him who has been personally called into question regarding his relationship with McCarrick and accused of having rehabilitated the homosexual predator cardinal and elevated him to be his principal counselor for the church in the United States. After skating over the argument a month ago, the pope, “in difficulty,” continues to avoid it.
With some difficulties at first, correspondent Antonio Pelayo succeeded in asking a question about China.
“This,” explained the pope, “is a process that has taken many years – a dialogue between the Vatican commission and the Chinese commission to systematize the naming of bishops. The Vatican team worked very hard. Whenever there is a negotiation or a peace agreement, both sides lose something. This is the law. Both sides…and so it goes, this was a case of two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back, months went by without us even speaking to each other. … And the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case by case, and in the case of the bishops in the end the dossier of each one arrived on my desk and I was the one responsible for signing the accord on the [nomination of] bishops. Then the accord came back, the drafts were on my desk, it was discussed, I gave my ideas, others discussed it and went forward. … I think of the Resistance, of the Catholics who have suffered: they will still suffer; always with an accord there is suffering, theirs is a great faith, and they write, they make the message arrive that what the Holy See, what Peter says, is that which Jesus says.
“If the martyrial faith of this people goes forward today, they are among the great ones! I signed the accord. At least, the plenipotentiary letters [giving permission] to sign the accord are what I signed. I am the one responsible. The other collaborators whom I nominated had worked altogether for more than ten years. This was not an improvisation, but a “cammino.” A true cammino. A simple anecdote and an historical fact.”
At the end the Pope emphasized that “it is a dialogue on the possible candidates [for bishop], but Rome names them, the pope names them, and we pray for the sufferings of those who do not understand or who have many years of the clandestine Church behind them.”
There was one mention of the abuses, in relation to what was said to the young people in Tallinn. Pedophilia, observed Pope Bergoglio, “is everywhere, but it is more scandalous in the Church because it ought to bring children to God and not destroy them.” On the report from Pennsylvania, he said, “We see that for the first seventy years there were many priests who fell into this corruption, but then in more recent times it diminished, because the Church realized that it had to fight in another way.”
Editor’s note: This article is translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino. The original ran in Italian at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
Marco Tosatti is a renowned Italian journalist and Vatican expert. He has been covering the Holy See since 1981. His written work appears in La Stampa and La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. He is the author of several books, including The Prophecy of Fatima and Investigation of the Holy Shroud. He blogs at Marcotosatti.com.