In an essay at Rorate Caeli, Professor Roberto de Mattei takes note of the Vatican’s fairly recent and alarming habit of self-contradiction and obfuscation. He notes:
Information, disinformation, truths, half-truths and lies all seem to be jumbled up in the communication strategy of the Holy See. The history of the Church is being written through interviews, improvised discourses, articles on semi-official blogs and media-rumours, leaving the field wide open to all interpretations possible and giving rise to the suspicion that the confusion is deliberate.
Two recent examples.
The first regards the expulsion of the President of the IOR (the Vatican Bank), Ettore Gotti Tedeschi in 2012. In Benedict XVI’s latest book “Last Conversations” with Peter Seewald, the “Pope Emeritus” takes responsibility himself for Gotti Tedeschi’s dismissal, due to what he says was the need to “renew the management” of the Vatican Bank. Yet Monsignor Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict’s secretary, at one time stated that Benedict XVI knew nothing of this dismissal and “was surprised, very surprised at the motion of no confidence in the professor.” Andrea Tornielli, on October 22nd 2013, refers to it in an article entitled: Benedict XVI was very surprised at the expulsion of Gotti Tedeschi. On September 9th 2016, the same Vatican reporter, without indicating any contradiction, presents the new version, with the title: Ratzinger: it was my idea to change the management of the IOR in 2012. What’s the truth then? Most certainly someone is lying and there confusion remains.
I find this first example of particular interest. Do you recall how Pope Benedict was alleged by the Vatican to have broken his silence to refute the testimony we published from Fr. (Dr.) Ingo Dollinger indicating that Ratzinger himself had admitted that there was more to the Third Secret of Fatima than had been revealed? In my response to that statement, I made no secret of my skepticism that the rebuttal even came from Pope Bendict. It bore neither his crest nor his signature, and was instead buried in a routine Vatican bulletin, as if it had no great significance. It had certain hallmarks of a possible forgery, and to this day I doubt its authenticity — a doubt that has been echoed by certain persons in the Vatican with whom I have had contact.
Here, now, we have another indication that this is not the first time the truth has been apparently manipulated to fit a communications strategy. De Mattei is correct – either Benedict knew or he didn’t, so which was it? Why is the truth so hard to come by?
De Mattei goes on to also cite the recent example of the papal letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, already covered here multiple times. He writes:
“There is no other interpretation”. Pope Francis’ position on the divorced and remarried – already expressed on his return flight from the Isle of Lesbos, at this point, seems definitively clear. Yet if this is his thought, why commit it to a footnote in Amoris laetitia and to a private letter not intended for publication, instead of stating it in a clear, explicit way? Perhaps in this way, the contradiction of the perennial Magisterium of the Church would be public and formal, whereas the intention is to arrive at changing the Church’s doctrine in an ambiguous and surreptitious way?
In my analysis of the Vatican communications strategy this past February, I noted the same thing — and I don’t believe it to be accidental:
Catholics trying to make sense of the present pontificate by trying to make it fit within the paradigm of orthodoxy are being openly and cruelly manipulated. Francis and his advisors have not staged an obvious coup at the Vatican. They’re waging a disinformation campaign, using the tactics of subversion, not overt and total change. They’re working almost entirely within the confines of the existing doctrinal framework, while carrying out a slavishly-adhered to communications strategy that seeks to undermine and cast doubt on that same Church teaching wherever possible through easily-dismissable non-authoritative statements and actions.
This is why people who say that the pope’s comments on a plane can simply be ignored are demonstrating extremely poor judgment. By placing excessive emphasis on the non-authoritative character of informal statements, they’re underestimating the damage that such things do to existing formal teaching.
In another piece in June, I highlighted the deceptive practice of intentional mistranslations of papal statements and surreptitious changing of the wording of papal statements after publication to remove controversial context. As I said at the time, “This is Orwellian, it is deceptive, and it is unbecoming of the Vicar of Christ – or his surrogates.”
Today, De Mattei drives home the same point in his own analysis:
Divisions however, have their source in the two-forked language of the Devil and are defeated most of all by the truth: the truth of the Faith and morality, but also the truth of language and behaviour, which means renouncing all lies, falsification and reserve, following the teaching of the Gospel “[…] let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of the evil one.” (Matthew, 5 v 37)
Something has definitively shifted in the way Catholic thought leaders are viewing this pontificate. The disparate reactions and explanations to various of Francis’ most troubling statements and actions are now beginning to settle into a sort of synthesis. Shock, credulity, and doubt, are increasingly giving way to a quiet and determined resolve. “It’s not us,” people seem to be saying. “It really is him…and it must be stopped.”
There is perhaps nothing new here for readers who have followed our coverage of the present papacy for some time. But it is nevertheless important to continue to document the consistency of these observations over time, tying together the loose ends that have been obscured through intentional misdirection and showing that the dots connect much further back than just the past few months.
Whether you’ve sensed it for a while or are just recently reaching these conclusions, it’s important for you to know that you’re not just imagining things. What a horrible thing not to be able to trust the Vatican to tell the faithful the truth. The shame of it will echo through history.
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.