Pope Francis’ recent mention of a Gay Lobby in the Vatican has now circled the globe.
While this item has been the focus of mainstream media coverage, there were several other newsworthy papal comments that have not had extensive play.
Also, a few commentators have wondered whether the Gay Lobby statement was reported accurately, or perhaps misperceived.
Many of you have probably not seen the transcript of the one-hour Papal audience on June 6 last giving the remarks of Francis, translated from the original Spanish and posted on the website of Rorate Caeli, described as a ‘traditional’ Catholic group. So I offer my take on some of the Pope’s other significant quotes, because we are not yet into the first 100 days of the Bergoglio papacy, and his unplugged comments provide valuable clues about Rome’s future directions. These noteworthy quotes, IMO:
A jab delivered to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,”They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder” [meter la pata, i.e. to put one’s foot in it];
Regarding the Vatican bureaucracy, “It is necessary to shake things up,” [dar vuelta a la tortilla, i.e. flip the pancake];
On other lobbies or pressure groups inside the Church, “There are some restorationist groups…One feels in 1940;”
Concerning reform of the Church, a shout-out to three of the cardinals in the Gang of Eight entrusted with the responsibility of recommending changes; “I am very disorganized;”
And as a finale for members of religious orders and for Catholics in the pews, “Place all your effort in the dialogue with the Bishops;” hmmm, does the mean the USCCB?
As noted below, the overall context of the Pope’s comments makes it abundantly clear that the comments were reported accurately, probably transcribed as delivered, and should be taken at face value.
1. There is a direct verbal shot aimed by the Pope at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the lineal descendant of the Inquisition Office; cfr. Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I for more detail).
As we know, CDF was led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from the early 1980s until his accession to the throne of San Pietro in 2005.
Keep in mind that there is a very active ‘issue’ ongoing between CDF and the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious. So it is noteworthy that Francis has the following advice for six Latino religious leaders, including three women, on how to handle blasts from CDF:
“…they [CDF] will make a blunder, this will pass! Perhaps even a letter…will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such things…But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward…”
WOW! Do not worry about CDF? Under Cardinal Ratzinger that might have triggered an investigation, especially if coming from a Jesuit.
If the General Secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, had mentioned publicly the possibility of a ‘blunder’ by the Politburo member in charge of ideology, Mikhail Suslov, the crenellated walls of the Kremlin would have toppled.
The enforcement of ideology is the glue of faith-based systems.
2. The flip the tortilla (shake things up) comment should be taken in conjunction with the Pope’s later mention of the Curia Romana:
“The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all Cardinals asked for…preceding the Conclave. I also asked for it…the cardinals of the Commission [Gang of Eight] will move it forward…There is [Cardinal] Rodriguez Madariaga [from Honduras]…who is in front of it [sic]…there is [Cardinal] Erraruz [Ossa from Chile]…The one from Munich [Cardinal Marx] is also very organized.
Sounds like some papal signals about the much-anticipated review of the Curia, notably:
(a) the Latino center of gravity within the Gang of Eight, after Rome’s long neglect of Latin America;
(b) a signal about the leadership of the gang, Cardinal Rodriguez “who is in front of it;” and,
(c) the suggestion of a core group consisting of three of the eight cardinal-gangbangers.
And when the Pope mentions that “almost all Cardinals” asked for reform of the Curia during the pre-Conclave meetings, by subtle omission he is criticizing his own ‘prime minister’, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who gave a spirited defense of the Curia during the pre-Conclave meetings – and probably administered a death blow to his own favored candidate, Cardinal Odilo Scherer.
3. The Pope’s mention of “restorationist groups” may be taken as a pointed reference to the schismatic Saint Pius X Society, i.e. the Lefebvrists.
Pope Emeritus Benedict invested a lot of time and emotional energy in trying to end this schism, perhaps too much. One of Benedict’s most noteworthy gaffes rocketed around the world in January of 2009, with the Vatican announcement of the lifting of the excommunications of four Lefebvrist bishops including Bishop Richard Williamson – an on-the-record Holocaust denier. The announcement was literally dropped into the Vatican Press Office on a quiet Saturday morning, January 24, 2009, probably in the hope that it would slip into the public domain unnoticed.
Another piece of very clever Vatican news management: the Vatican’s press statement about the Lefebvrist bishops coincided, to the day, with the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s announcement of the Second Vatican Council – results have been contested over the intervening decades by the Lefebvrists.
The Pope’s casual mention of Golden Era imagined by these restorationists brackets the period running from “1940” and until “60 years” [ago]. That defines a time span from 1940 through 1953, which falls entirely within the papacy of Pius XII, Pope Pacelli whose death occurred in 1958, the year when 21-year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio entered the Jesuit order. In other words, the papacy of Francis’ youth leading to his vocation as a Jesuit.
Pope John’s announcement of Vatican II was a reaction to the stagnation of the Pacelli regime.
If all of this seems too subtle, kindly remember that we are dealing with the first-ever Jesuit Pope, whose tribe values subtlety.
4. The papal comment about placing all of one’s efforts “in the dialogue with the Bishops” means – in context – with the national conference of bishops; for America’s Catholics this would mean the USCCB. Hmmmm.
Knocking on those doors reminds me of Dante’s mention of the inscription on the Gate of Hell: Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate [abandon all hope, etc.].
Back to the Gay Lobby quote, catalyst for the media’s intense coverage of the June 6 audience…one of my savviest Rome contacts has brushed aside the Lobby quote as “il segreto di Pulcinella” – Pulcinella’s secret, i.e. something known to anyone with at least a room-temperature IQ. Pulcinella is a stock Neapolitan character from La Commedia dell’Arte, traditional Italian street theater; his ‘secrets’ are known to all, except for Pulcinella who is clueless. Sort of like the media and NSA, with the New York Times playing Pulcinella.
The photo of the June 6 audience shows a circle of six visitors sitting around the Pope, all in close proximity, with no papal throne in sight.
The meeting was in Spanish, and the Rorate Caeli posting states,
A transcript of the pope’s words was made by those present…Whoever knows the Pope…can have no doubts about the accuracy
Some legal eagles might raise the ‘expectation of privacy’ argument, suggesting that the account was a breach of the audience’s ground rules.
They should heed an old adage of the KGB, [sidebar to the re-branded FSB, “miss you guys, wasn’t Vlad Putin stuck in middle management when he quit?”]:
Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead
Actually, a legendary Italian politician, seven times prime minister, who died recently at the age of 94, went beyond the KGB’s admonition with his own suggestion about keeping secrets:
If you don’t want something to become known, you shouldn’t confide it even to yourself