Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vatican Documents Leaked; Drama, Reason, and All That

It's my considered opinion that the Vatican's staff is composed entirely of human beings. I've mentioned humanity's knack for getting into trouble before. Job 5:7 and all that. I've also mentioned the Catholic Church's unlikely survival, despite two millennia of the occasional blunder and outright malfeasance in office.

It's a wonder that we made it through that rough patch, about a thousand years back now, when you almost needed a scorecard to keep track of who was claiming to be Pope at the moment. And that's almost another topic.

Shocking Disclosures?

'Shocking' means quite a few things, including:
  • Surprise greatly
  • Strike with
    • Disgust or revulsion
    • Horror or terror
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Looks like there's another 'Wikileaks' situation brewing: this time with the Vatican as the star attraction. If I thought that the Vatican was staffed by perfect people, or that the Pope could do no wrong,1 I might be shocked. As it is, not so much.

That doesn't mean that I think the Vatican's up to no good: or that whatever's been leaked is a pack of lies. The way it's presented may be something else - and I'll get back to that.

As for the way news media seems to be covering the story? Which do you think would sell more papers: a detailed analysis of an accountant's report; or 'VATICAN MONEY MISMANAGED?!'

What Attacks Mean

I think this Vatican spokesman made a good point:
"...The spokesman reflected that 'according to an ancient expression of human and spiritual wisdom -- the emergence of more powerful attacks is a sign that something important is at stake.'

"He then went on to note the Church's advances in the sexual abuse crisis and its commitment to ensure economic transparency in Vatican institutions.

" 'If many people insist on attacking us, the issue is obviously important,' he observed. 'Whoever thinks he is discouraging the Pope and his collaborators in their commitment is mistaken.'..." (ZENIT)

Calm, Reason

Here's part of what the director of the Vatican press office said on Monday:
"...'We must, then, remain calm and keep our nerve, make use of reason, something which not all media outlets tend to do,' he suggested...."
Here's why he said it:
"Vatican Spokesman Calls for Calm, Clear Thinking" Responds to Series of Leaked Memos Causing Italian Media Uproar ZENIT, via EWTN (February 14-15, 2012)

"The director of the Vatican press office advises remaining calm, as a series of leaked Vatican documents has created something of a media storm in Italy.

"In a statement released by Vatican Radio on Monday, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said: 'Nowadays we must all have strong nerves, because no one can be surprised at anything. 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 to throw a bad light on the Vatican, the governance of the Church and, more broadly, on the Church herself.'..."

"Vatican spokesman says leaks are incentive for further reform"
CNA (Catholic News Agency (February 14, 2012)
"In the face of leaks of various Vatican documents, Holy See officials must not become caught up in controversy and confusion but should stay committed to reform and 'authentic transparency' in government, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Monday afternoon.

" 'Both sides bear responsibility: firstly the suppliers of documents of this kind, but also those who undertake to use them for purposes that certainly have nothing to do with pure love of truth,' he said in a Feb. 13 statement. 'We must, therefore, stand firm, not allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by the vortex of confusion, which is what ill-intentioned people want, and remaining capable of using our reason.'..."

Reality, Imagination, and the News

The leaked documents apparently involve:
  • The economic management of the governing body of Vatican City State
  • Current juridical and legislative questions
    • "about which it is quite normal that there should be contrasting opinions"
  • "Delirious and incomprehensible reports about plots against the Pope's life."
From the looks of it, there's enough material there for someone with imagination and a little time to weave a tale about:
  • Sinister conspiracies to
    • Manipulate world governments
      • ('Current juridical and legislative questions')
    • Profit from the misery of the oppressed
      • ('Economic management...')
  • Cynical exploitation
    • ("Delirious ... reports about plots against the Pope's life")
    • Maybe these reports are 'really' meant to
      • Distract attention away from those sinister conspiracies
      • Discredit heroic efforts to save humanity from
        • Plutocratic oppressors
        • The antichrist
        • Shape-shifting, space-alien lizard men
As long as an editor kept the focus away from lizard men from outer space and diabolical plots, I think that a very dramatic - and superficially plausible - story could be told, based on the leaked documents. It might not be strictly accurate: but that's another matter.

Seriously? I think that someone leaked internal documents that may reveal some details of what daily routine has been at the Vatican. Some of them may disclose bad - or imprudent - decisions. I also think that folks at the Vatican will deal with the real problems: and ride out the rest.

Two Millennia With the Same Boss

This doesn't affect my faith. I already know that the Vatican has a human staff, and that we can mess things up. I also know that the Catholic Church has been around for two millennia - and that we shouldn't have survived this long. Not if we relied on the wisdom and power of men:
"...learning what sort of leadership the Church has had over the last 19 centuries - going on 20 - is one of the reasons I decided that God really was supporting the Catholic Church."

"Somebody or something was holding the outfit up: and Occam's Razor1 suggested that I accept the explanation that the Church has been giving from day one...."
(December 7, 2010)
Related posts:
In the news:

1 Papal infallibility doesn't meant that a Pope can't make mistakes. I've been over this before. (January 11, 2012)

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