CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 February 2019

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Intrigue and innuendo encircle Vatican on eve of conclave

HONG KONG (SE): On February 21, the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, dropped a bombshell on the Vatican claiming that a 300-page report of an investigation into the VatiLeaks scandal handed to Pope Benedict XVI on December 17 by Julián Cardinal Herranz, Jozef Cardinal Tomko and Salvatore Cardinal De Giorgi, contains evidence of a homosexual sex ring within the Vatican involving high-ranking people and something akin to blackmail.

La Repubblica alleges that the cardinals’ report contains details of extortion and corruption at the highest levels of the governance of the Church, claiming that a homosexual lobby within the Vatican has sought to influence high-level decisions.

It also claims that cardinals are being held hostage by laymen with whom they have been linked, in what the article claims its source described as worldly relations.

The unnamed source is also claimed to have said the report speaks of two commandments, you shall not steal and you shall not commit adultery. The theft is related to the Vatican Bank and adultery to the gay lobby group.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press officer, said that the Holy See would neither confirm nor deny the validity of the feature article, which, by this stage, had spread around the world.

However, the Vatican did reply, with the Secretariat of State issuing a communiqué on February 23 saying, “If in the past, the so-called power—states—sought to influence the election of a pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion, which is often based on judgments that do not capture the typical spiritual aspect of this moment that the Church is living.”

Officially, there are only four people who have seen the report, the three cardinals and the pope himself.

So the question arises, who is the unnamed source described as being close to the man who drafted the report that supposedly spilled the beans on its content to the media?

Vatican watcher, Robert Moynihan, surmises that if someone really did talk, it was probably one of the witnesses. He observes that witnesses do talk to each other, compare notes and try to find out what questions they are likely to be asked from those who have already been put through the mill.

Dozens of people, from cardinals all the way through to lay people, were interviewed and Moynihan believes that it is quite conceivable that one of these may have let something slip to a reporter, either deliberately or inadvertently.

In addition, the three cardinals worked with a small staff, any of whom may have inadvertently dropped a hint.

However, Moynihan points out that this is at best secondhand information, but is the only source even close to the report itself that is cited in the entire article published on page 17 of the Italian daily, as the others are pure speculation.

The article’s first quotation comes from the pope on February 13, Ash Wednesday, speaking of divisions in the Church. 

The second is from Cardinal De Giorgi, saying that no one in power or authority in the Vatican should believe that they cannot be replaced, and the third is from the pope’s angelus message of February 17, where he says, “There is need to unmask the temptations of power that exploit God for their own interests.”

Moynihan says that these are followed by a series of allusions to old cases, which the author of the La Repubblica article, Concita De Gregorio, claims were explored by the cardinals in their investigation.

“In other words,” Moynihan concludes, “this article contains no sourced evidence whatsoever, except for the alleged statement of a man close to those who drafted the report saying that everything centres on the non-observance of the sixth and seventh commandments.”

He describes De Gregorio as an excellent journalist, eloquent writer, but one who may have only superficial knowledge of the workings of the Vatican.

The terse Vatican communiqué states, “It is deplorable that… there is widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable, or even completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”

Pressure groups have been calling on the former archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony, and Scot, Keith Cardinal O’Brien, both of whom have been recently accused of past indiscretions, to stay away from the conclave.

Cardinal O’Brien has resigned from his diocese and will not attend the conclave (see page 4).

Nevertheless, Moynihan says that the article should not be ignored, partly because it was published in the largest circulating newspaper in Italy and partly because it is based on another article by Ignazio Ingrao published on the previous day in the weekly magazine, Panorama.

In addition, he says that because it implies blackmail, it needs to be addressed.

The three cardinals commissioned by Pope Benedict to do the investigation are all over 80 and, consequently, unable to vote in a conclave. They worked with a small staff for nearly eight months interviewing dozens of officials.

They were given their charter in April last year, about one month before the VatiLeaks scandal hit the news.

La Repubblica says that each session began with the same set of questions. They were recorded and transcribed. The members of the curia were charted according to region of origin, religious congregation and then identified as part of, or not part of, “a network across all groups based on sexual orientation.”

However, Moynihan continues by saying that no evidence is offered to show that what is claimed in the article ever occurred.

Pope Benedict has directed the three cardinals who carried out the investigation to give a detailed briefing to the cardinals from around the world prior to being locked away for the conclave to elect a successor to the German pope.

The conclave is expected to begin around March 15.

Moynihan points out that a strange mistake at the end of the article also casts a shadow over its credibility, as it says that Pope Benedict will visit St. Mary Major on February 28 prior to leaving Rome.

He notes that this not only is not on his schedule, but would be impossible to arrange at this late stage.

Nevertheless, he concludes that just because an article contains mistakes, does not mean that it does not also contain some truth.

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