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Letter #19: Stop

February 22, 2013, Friday -- Stop

"...As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated..."

--T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets, East Coker

The Witnesses

Last night, my phone rang twice, just before 3 in the morning. In the morning, I found three emails from the same person, a priest I know. He called again this morning.

He wanted to know about my letter of yesterday, which discussed an Italian press report that the Pope has received information that his Curia is riven with factions, and that this was part of the reason he decided to step down from the papacy.

"What are you doing?" the priest asked me, excitedly. "Do you really have evidence of what you are writing? And why did you put those photos in, the photos of Simeon, and Balestrero, and Bruelhart? Are you suggesting they were involved somehow in this? Are you accusing them? That's what it looks like. I've been getting calls and emails from all over the world. Most people were dismissing this as typical mud-slinging without any foundation, another attack on the Church, false. But now that you have written it, because you are respected, people are wondering what the truth is. What is the truth?"

"I was primarily just reporting what is appearing in the Italian press," I said. "I put the photos in because they were the photos in the article in La Repubblica."

"But is there any evidence the La Repubblica article is anything other than an invention? How could they have seen the cardinals' Report? It makes no sense. The Pope has the only copy, right?"

"You have a point," I said. "It isn't clear from the article who is the real source for these reports."

"Well, how could anything from the cardinals' Report have leaked out?" he asked. "The three cardinals handed it directly to the Pope. Where was the leak? Only four people knew the contents of that Report: the three cardinals, and the Pope. Are you saying one of the three cardinals leaked it?"

"No. But that's not the only possibility," I said.

"What do you mean?" he asked, excitedly. "There were the three cardinals, and the Pope. Four people. No one else knew the contents."

"Not necessarily," I said.

"What do you mean, not necessarily? Tell me where I'm wrong."

I hesitated.

"Look," I said. "Don't you see any other way that information about what was in that Report could have gotten out, without the cardinals revealing it, and without the Pope revealing it?"

"No," he said. "The three cardinals wrote the report, and they gave it to the Pope. How could anyone else know what was in it?"

"Well, be imaginative," I said. "What could be another possibility?"

"I can't think of any," he said. "Just that the whole thing is made up, a sheer invention, that there is no truth in it. It wouldn't be the first time..."

"Ok," I said. "Let's imagine you are doing an investigation and you are preparing a report. How do you do that?"

"Well," he said, "you take testimony. You interview people."

"And so..." I said.

"So what?"

"So who knows what is in the Report?"

"The three cardinals," he said. "They took the testimony, and it was all sub segreto..."

"Look," I said. "Do you know the story by Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Purloined Letter'? The letter was right there on the mantlepiece, out in the open, and no one saw it because they were sure it was hidden..."

"What are you saying?"

"Well, ok," I said. "You are correct, the three cardinals and the Pope are the only ones who know the complete, final version of the Report, and it is unlikely that any of them revealed anything to anyone -- unless the Vatican actually wanted this all to become public. But that seems unlikely. But you have forgotten about... the witnesses."


"The witnesses," I said. "They took testimony from dozens of monsignors, and some lay people. What do you think happened after those witnesses gave testimony? What do you think happened before they gave testimony?"

"What?" he asked.

"They talked to each other."


"They talked to each other. They tried to see what questions they were going to be asked, and tried to coordinate what answers they might give, and after the testimony, they talked again, about what questions they had been asked, and what answers they had given."

"How do you know that?" he asked.

"It's a logical deduction," I said, patiently. "An investigation means, ipso facto, that there were witnesses questioned. True, you can't take it much further than that, on deduction alone. But, suppose you are an Italian journalist, and your job is to try to get something, anything, about the contents of that Report. And say you know some of the officials who work in the Vatican, and you talk to them. And suppose one or another of them lets slip that, yes, they were questioned in the investigation. At that point, it wouldn't be a far stretch to get some confirmation about what questions were asked and what answers were given... Because, of course, people would know what answers they themselves gave."

"So, you are saying these reports are not based on a leak of the Report, but on interviews with monsignors who testified?"

"I suspect so, " I said. "And not just monsignors."

"Well, that seems pretty sketchy to me," the priest said.

"I agree," I said. "It is sketchy. There is not a single report yet that really is more than a sketch. They are drawing a sketch. That's right. They don't have all the details, just the broad outlines."

"So there is no detailed evidence about those three people whose pictures you included?"

"No," I said. "I included them only because they were the photos in the La Repubblica article, only for that reason."

"Well, I hope you print a rectification," he said. "Otherwise, what you are writing seems irresponsible..."

A few minutes later, he sent me an email. "Thanks for the clarifications," he wrote. "It sounds to me like La Repubblica is throwing out very serious innuendo. I was just calling to give you a heads up that, unintentionally, a very wrong impression was coming across. Glad you can correct it. I think La Repubblica is throwing out a lot of innuendo (he repeated). Forgive me for advising out of place, but we need no more of these scandalous stories from the secular press, without corroboration and full of nasty implications. We have had plenty of this. Let's meet some time."

I went down near the Vatican. It was a cool day, almost cold. I felt exhausted, and slightly feverish.

Walking by a restaurant, the restaurant door opened and a monsignor came out. He came up to me. He was wearing clerical back and wore a Roman collar. Evidently, he had recognized me.

His face seemed familiar to me. It seemed to me I had seen him in the Vatican but I wasn't sure, so I don't know whether he works in the Vatican.

"Please," he said to me, "allow us some privacy."

He spoke in English, but with a slight accent.

At first I thought he wanted me to go with him to someplace private and talk, perhaps to tell me something.

Sursa: www.InsideTheVatican.com

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