On March 20, I wrote a post about my growing suspicion that the Anonimi della Croce blog — purportedly run by a pseudonymous Italian priest called “Fra Cristoforo” who claimed sources within the pope’s inner circle — was in fact a form of disinformation, used by those who would seek to discredit any who shared the many “secrets” disclosed there. One of the blog’s contributors, who wrote under the name of Finan, wrote a polite response to my critique, and also sent me an email hoping to reassure me of the authenticity of the blog’s proprietor.
I advised him at the time that if Fra Cristoforo was a real priest, they needed to do more to dispel doubt:
I do understand the need for anonymity in some cases. I protect the identities of several people in our articles, a priest included. But the difference is that I know their identities, and mine is not hidden. People have come to trust me because I put my name on the line, and they therefore extend that trust to those I am willing to speak for who must remain anonymous.
The information Fra Cristoforo is presenting, if true, is too important to be mired in questionable credibility. I strongly suggest that you find someone with a good reputation who knows Fra Cristoforo in person, someone who can vouch for him. Magister? Tosatti? A prelate of the Church? I don’t know. But the doubts need to be cleared away.
I never received a response.
Less than two weeks later, Rorate Caeli published their own warning:
Rorate has learned from several different sources in Italy that the recent page “Anonimi della Croce”, led by a “friar” named “Fra’ Cristoforo” is merely a disinformation website by an agent provocateur, whose sole purpose is to provoke real outbursts of outrage or scandal from pious Catholics out of its fake news and fake rumors.
On April 14, Fra Cristoforo published the alleged letter to Pope Benedict XVI that was, according to Cristoforo, one of the things that led to his abdication. This letter was teased nearly a month in advance on the Anonimi della Croce site — a tactic that many found distasteful and disingenuous in the extreme. The common refrain was, “If you have important information, why not share it now?” The letter itself was so anticlimactic that it led some to believe it might even have been authentic — who would fake something so underwhelming? It certainly wasn’t anything like a smoking gun. The letter read:
<< Monaco, 14 September 2012
In reference to our last conversation in which you asked me for discernment, I confirm to you that in all this time, I have prayed much about the intentions that you raised. And I do not deny that it was for me a source of anxiety, your having left upon me such a burden. But having chosen me as a spiritual guide, I could not hold myself back.
Your thought of resignation from your state certainly derives from a serious inner conflict, due to the reasons and to pressures that you have detailed for me. I know for certain that in other conditions, Your Holiness would not have ever thought in the slightest to advance a similar gesture. But certainly, this time for the Church of Christ is to be considered terrible. And Your Holiness is its Head. And only you know what the Church needs today.
Purification? So be it.
Finally, as your guide, I have nothing else to tell you except that Your Holiness should act according to your conscience.
“Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam” (Mt 16)
With filial admiration,
I kiss the Sacred Slipper.
Father XXXXXX >>
(Translated by Andrew Guernsey)
And then yesterday, the whole website, and Fra Cristoforo along with it, vanished.
Visitors to the site URL are treated only to a page noting that the authors had deleted the entire thing. Visits to The Wayback Machine (a service that archives web pages in the even they go down) turns up nothing of substance. Whether or not this is result of intentional privacy alterations to the site, I couldn’t tell you. It seems very odd, though, that a site that was getting over two hundred thousand visitors a month and delivering rumors not found anywhere else online wouldn’t have had a single saved snapshot.
I emailed Finan last night to ask what happened. 17 hours later, I still have no response.
Was it a fake that wasn’t working anymore?
Was it actually real, but the author discovered and disciplined?
Will we ever really know the answers? (I suspect not.)
Just when you thought things in the Church couldn’t get much stranger.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.