CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Leaks from the Vatican a mystery and a challenge

VATICAN (SE): Embattled Vatican press officer, Father Federico Lombardi, admitted on February 14 that it takes a strong nerve to deal with what has become a series of leaked confidential information out of the Vatican.

He specifically denied that the rash of leaks pointed to conflict among members of the Roman Curia.

“There is something very sad in the fact that the documents are dishonestly passed from the inside to the outside in order to create confusion,” the Vatican media man reflected.

However, on the following day, the group dubbed by the Italian media as both the Mutinous Monsignors and Wolves, was back at work, with the Italian newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano, splashing yet another leak, this time a memo from Attilio Cardinal Nicora, addressed to the secretary of state, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, as well as the head of the Vatican Bank, saying that new rules governing Vatican transfers may not satisfy Italian regulators.

To date, leaked documents have referred to financial governance, management of the Vatican State and current judicial and legislative questions, as well as conspiracy theories popular with the secular media over the election of the next pope and possible assassination of the present one.

“Today, no one can be surprised at anything,” Father Lombardi said. “The American administration was affected by Wikileaks, now the Vatican too has its disclosures, its leaked documents, which tend to create confusion and bewilderment, and throw a bad light on the Vatican, the governance of the Church and, more broadly, on the Church itself.”

In September last year, the Vatican made the Wikileaks disclosures on two occasions. One accused it of pressuring the Philippine bishops to drop their opposition to the then-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, because she supported the Church position on the Reproductive Health Bill.

The second was authored by the former United States of America (US) ambassador to The Philippines, Kristie Kenney, welcoming the introduction of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which the Church has put huge resources and effort into opposing (Mabuhay, 18 September 2011).

In February this year, Wikileaks published a confidential cable sent in 2009 to the US State Department from the US embassy to the Vatican depicting Cardinal Bertone as a yes man, with no diplomatic experience or linguistic skills.

Cardinal Bertone was appointed secretary of state in 2006, with no diplomatic experience. As the manager of the internal affairs of the Vatican state, it has traditionally been a job filled by a person with diplomatic experience.

He has been the butt of much of the leaked information.

Father Lombardi said that both sides must bear a responsibility for the leaks that the Vatican ship has sprung. “Firstly, suppliers of documents of this kind, but also those who undertake to use them for purposes allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by the vortex of confusion, which is what ill-intentioned people want.”

However, the embattled public relations officer said that the proliferation of leaks must be regarded as a sign that something extremely important is at stake.

“The series of attacks on the Church on the issue of sexual abuse has been justly met with a serious and profound commitment to far-sighted renewal; not a myopic response, but purification and rehabilitation,” he continued.

“We have now taken control of the situation and are developing a powerful strategy of healing, renewal and prevention, for the good of society as a whole,” Father Lombardi stressed.

However, he lamented, “A lot of recently leaked documents tend to discredit those efforts. This, paradoxically, constitutes another reason to continue them with determination, not allowing ourselves to be cowed.”

Father Lombardi dismissed out of hand any suggestion that the cardinals of the world would gather for a conclave to elect a pope with either a pro- or anti-Italian bias. “Cardinals have sought, and still seek, to elect someone who deserves the respect of the people of God, someone who can serve humankind in our time with great moral and spiritual authority,” he stressed.

So why the leaks? Father Lombardi extended his criticism to those who choose to publish them with the sole purpose of causing confusion.

“Reading these events as an internal power struggle depends largely on the moral coarseness of those who provoke them and those who see them as such, people often capable of seeing nothing else,” he surmised.

He described those who undertake to use them for such purposes as being motivated by something other than pure love of truth.

In a sideswipe at the media, Father Lombardi said, “Intelligent interpretation of the leaked information requires the use of reason, something which not all the media outlets tend to do.”

He described some of the information as being “delirious and incomprehensible reports about plots on the pope’s life.”

He added, “Serious reporting should be capable of distinguishing the issues and understanding their differing importance… It is evident that the story about the plot against the pope… is nonsense, madness, and does not deserve to be taken seriously.”

Who the leaks come from largely remains a mystery, be they the Mutinous Monsignors or Wolves, they are certainly not, as a senior Vatican official was quoted by Reuters as saying, boy scouts.

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