So if you haven’t heard by now, the entire world is up in arms regarding a letter sent from Pope Emeritus Benedict to Mgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretary for Communications. BXVI wrote the letter in thanks for having received an advance copy of the recently released series of books on the Theology of Pope Francis.
On 12 January, Mgr. Viganò wrote to BXVI, asking him to write something on eleven volumes, in which many theologians speak of the theology of Pope Francis. BXVI replied, stating that these books “contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation…” He then seems to gush as he tells us that Francis is a “man of profound philosophical and theological formation… and therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”
Here is Mgr. Viganò telling us (in Italian) all about it:
Sounds like quite an endorsement hey? – for Francis and for the set of books. I mean, who could possibly give a greater endorsement than BXVI? He is one of the greatest theologians we have ever had.
Many people have been extremely upset by this incident. Despairing bloggers have turned on BXVI calling him a liberal in disguise. I have had priests coming to me in tears about the fact that they feel betrayed by his comments. I have to say I was also shocked when I read it, but something didn’t seem right, and as I opened up social media I was reassured by the massive amount of people – even critics of BXVI and non-Catholics who were saying that this must be false.
Now, I am not particularly educated myself, but you do not have to be a theologian to work out that BXVI and Francis are like chalk and cheese when it comes to, well, everything. It seemed very strange that BXVI – a man of almost infinite theological knowledge and insight, would suggest that there is very little difference between the two Popes. There clearly is. Infact this comment was so out of character that half of Twitter was debating whether BXVI was suffering from senile dementia!
The other thing that struck me as being a bit fishy was the way he seemed to openly chastise those who criticise Francis. This is certainly not the BXVI I met almost 12 months ago. He was the most gentle and meek man you could ever meet: full of joy, always smiling, deeply serene. He simply does not use harsh and hurtful words to criticise the faithful. He never has. He is truly gentle – even when correcting people. We can see this from his 2013 letter to the atheist mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi.
So what on Earth is going on?
Well it seems that Mgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretary for Communications, has not been 100% honest with us. You see, he withheld the last paragraph of the letter from the press, which does rather put the entire letter into a different context. Read the entire letter (below) keeping in mind the omitted paragraph (in bold), and you can see that there is much more going on between the lines than we have been led to believe:
From: Benedictus XVI, Pope Emeritus
To: Rev. Lord Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication.
Vatican CITY, 7 February 2018
Most Reverend Monsignor,
I thank you for your kind letter of 12 January and for the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.
I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice that Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of special theological or philosophical formation, while I would be only a theorist of theology that would have understood little of the concrete life of a Christian today.
The small volumes show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation and therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences in style and temperament.
However, I do not feel like writing a short and dense theological page on them because in all my life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also really read. Unfortunately, even for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven volumes in the near future, all the more so because I am already waiting for other commitments.
I am sure he will have understanding and I greet him cordially.
In short – he hasn’t read them! And he does not intend to! He blames his “other commitments” but I truly wonder how packed a schedule a 90 year old man can have!
In reality Mgr. Viganò has spun it. He chose deliberately not to include the final paragraph which puts the letter in a completely different light. In actual fact, the third paragraph completely empties the first two paragraphs and the attempt to credit the endorsement.
There is no doubt here that Mgr. Viganò has manipulated the situation, because he could not manipulate BXVI himself. Ironically, he has also seemed to completely miss the gentle and subtle way BXVI has chosen to defend himself from the bullying. BXVI masterfully deflected the attack with politeness and calmness – showing that he is still mentally absolutely astute. Mgr. Viganò failed to read between the lines, he failed to notice the mastful and subtle irony and now he has made himself look stupid. Because of him, the entirety of Pope Francis’ profound philosophical and theological knowledge will now be referred to for the rest of time as the “small volumes” LOL!
It is interesting to me that they would chose to use BXVI to prop up Francis in this way. If Francis is such a wonderful theologian, then why would he need the endorsement of another Pope? Surely he can stand on his own two feet without needing to lean on BXVI? Or is his popularity really that low now?
I chuckled a little when I imagined for a second that the tables were turned: Could we really imagine BXVI going to Francis for an endorsement of his next book?! I don’t think so!
I think this whole sorry debacle has brought to light the collapse of the communications reform that Francis wanted. Its centralisation is in fact, a reflection of the centralisation of “Bergoglio” in this pontificate. It is all simply an empty failing propaganda machine.
But the piece de resistance comes in the form of a quote by Mgr. Viganò himself in which he describes how the worst kind of fake news stories are not made up out of thin air, but are actually true stories that have been spun:
“Fake news is one of the elements that poisons relationships. These are true-to-life news stories, but the information is in fact unfounded, partial, and not even false. In fake news, the problem is not the non-truthfulness, which is very evident, but the verisimilitude (the appearance of being true or real.)”
– Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Secretary for Communication (an interview with the Vatican News portal, commenting on the Pope’s message for the 52nd World Communications Day, which will be celebrated next May 13, but a text was released today, as per tradition, for the feast of St. Francis de Sales patron of journalists.)
To end, I would like to answer a question that despairing faithful Catholics ask me all the time: Why doesn’t BXVI come out and say something harsh and critical against Francis?
The answer is simple: That is not his style.
UPDATE!! The Vatican has ADMITTED that they doctored the photo of the letter!! HERE: https://apnews.com/01983501d40d47a4aa7a32b6afb70661