On Wednesday, it was noted that Pope Pius XI’s page on the Vatican website had vanished, along with all of his encyclicals, even though the work of popes both before and after him remained.
We noted that his Mortalium Animos is damning of modern-day ecumenism, and Quas Primas is, of course, another encyclical that has — inasmuch as it promotes the civic duty to recognize Christ the King — shoved down the memory hole in action, if not in fact. Others noted that Casti Connubii — still arguably the most authoritative papal document on marriage and family — is an even more inconvenient bit of magisterial truth. But despite many suspicions, at some point yesterday, his page — and his documents — returned. There was no notation of any kind, so we may never know what happened, or why. And perhaps it doesn’t ultimately matter, if it was really (as is likely) just a mistake.
Nevertheless, Bai MacFarlane of Mary’s Advocates observed something similar yesterday, and it’s a problem that hasn’t been resolved:
Five translations of Saint Pope John Paul II’s often-quoted instruction to tribunal judges was removed from the Vatican’s website some time last year. It is now only available in Italian.
Each year, the Pope gives an address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota and these are instructions to the world’s canon lawyers from THE legislator, the Pope. In 1987, Saint Pope John Paul II gave an address that cautioned against misusing the grounds for nullity of marriage – particularly “on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness” (Canon 1095).
I posted a YouTube video on the Mary’s Advocates channel, showing how the Vatican’s website used to have a page showing all of Saint Pope John Paul’s addresses to the Roman Rota (in up to six different languages). That webpage was removed some time last year, which I demonstrate in my video by using a public webpage archiving tool, “way back time machine.”
In Saint Pope John Paul II’s 1987 address to the tribunal, he cautioned against the “scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage being practically destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity of marriage in cases of the failure of marriage.” He taught, “By preventing the ecclesiastical tribunal from becoming an easy way out for the dissolution of marriages that have failed, […] it also brings about an increased commitment in the use of resources for pastoral care of people after marriage.” He cites Familiaris Consortio’s instruction for helping married couples in day-to-day married life, long before anyone is thinking about divorce.
In my research, I found that in the active tribunals that cover half the population of the United States in 2012, they granted annulment (on average) in 98.7 percent of the cases judged.
In the summer of 2015, Pope Francis made some newsworthy changes to the annulment process, making them less expensive and faster. However, the grounds for annulment themselves were technically not changed. Sometime after that, the English translation of Saint Pope John Paul’s 1987 speech the Roman Rota appears to be missing from the Vatican’s website, along with the list of all of his speeches in multiple languages.
The sad thing is that in an age where we have a Vatican that can’t be trusted — and a complicit Catholic media helping them to edit inconvenient statements out of papal speeches in real time — occurrences such as these automatically take on the suspicion of being anything but an accident.
I am reminded time and again by even my most suspicious friends who have dealt with the Vatican directly of the first rule in such cases: Never ascribe to malice what can be equally easily attributed to incompetence when it comes to the Vatican and the Internet.
Nevertheless, an entire missing page is a bit easier to believe is an accident than the surreptitious removal of easily accessible translations.
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.