Gag order on the cardinals

Gag order on the cardinals

  Cardinals DiNardo and O'Malley brief reporters

I guess it was too good to continue.

U.S. cardinals abruptly canceled their planned briefing today, and no further briefings were scheduled.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who had coordinated the U.S. press encounters, said in an email: “Concern was expressed in the General Congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reportedin Italian newspapers. As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews.”

In other words, because some anonymous cardinals fed Italian reporters a few details about their discussions, a gag order now applies to all the cardinals.

The U.S. briefings, which typically featured two American cardinals fielding questions in 30-minute sessions, had become a welcome daily ritual for journalists in Rome who are trying to cover the pre-conclave meetings that began this week.

It should be noted that the U.S. cardinals, like all the rest, have taken an oath to maintain secrecy regarding conclave matters. But they have given reporters at least an outline of the discussions, if not precise content, and have been willing to answer general questions on issues not directly related to the conclave.

It’s more than a little ironic that the Americans, who have been candid about the limits on what they could say even as they met the press, are now forced to retreat behind a wall of silence.

The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, who holds his own briefings each day (and like U.S. cardinals, provides general and practical information without getting into the substance of the cardinals’ meetings), was asked if the Vatican had intervened to put an end to the American press encounters.

He said it was not up to him to tell cardinals what they can and cannot say to the press. But he added that the conclave was not a congress or a synod, in which abundant information is given. On the contrary, he said, this process has “a tradition of confidentiality in order to protect the freedom of members of the college.”

Therefore, he said he was not surprised that the rest of the cardinals may have reacted to the U.S. availability to the press – especially as the cardinals deepened their discussions this week. He noted that no other national group had decided to give the kind of briefings as the Americans were doing.

Father Lombardi said that to date, 51 cardinals had spoken in the general congregations, touching on the following main topics: the church and the world, “new evangelization,” the Holy See and Roman Curia departments and relations with bishops.

What’s also beginning to emerge, he said, was a profile of the qualities and tasks for the next pope.

Those wanting more information, I guess, should read the Italian papers and try to sift the speculation from the good stuff. Today’s Italian take: the cardinals are fighting about the start date of the conclave – which still has to be decided; the Roman Curia is under attack from many cardinals, who are asking for deep reforms; several cardinals are upset at the paltry information they’re being given by three cardinals who authored a confidential report on Vatican leaks and corruption.

8 comments (Add your own)

1. Pauline Connor wrote:
Just as water finds a way, so wil truth and justice be manifest. I believe the Holy Spirit is guiding us as always. All will be well. Prayer is support. Offer up all actions and trials for the strength of those who speak the truth with courage.

Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 9:04 AM

2. Raymond Dufort wrote:
Unfortunately, the "Italianate" Vatican Roman Curia resembles Italian politics too much to have any credibility, I believe. Dropping of hints, leaks etc. to the Italian press is liking tracing the anatomy of rumors. The universal church needs to establish a clear demarcation between itself and the Italian church and nation; otherwise, what is the practical effect of the 1929 Concordat? Unfortunately, the American view and European view of such things as the law, democracy, and freedom are very different. The reality is the Catholic Church cannot afford to continue being Euro-centric.

Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 9:09 AM

3. susanna wrote:
Bravo! Why inform a media who seeks every opportunity to twist truth and malign the Church.

Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

4. Tom wrote:
Which in all probability, no American Cardinal will be elected Pope. They are
always trying to push the envelope to the left of the table saying one
thing to the laity and demonstrating another for the liberal press, save for a
small minority such as Card. Burke. All you have to do is take an overall
view of the shape the American Church is in where over 50% of Catholics
voted for the most pro-abortion,anti Catholic President this country has
ever seen, determined to destroy Catholic institutions. Now that`s religious leadership that comes with it`s own questionable photo-ops and press coverage.

Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 12:08 PM

5. Jack Schroeder wrote:
It didn't take long for the authoritarian impulse to assert itself in this succession drama.With people of the world looking at the inner workings of the Catholic church in a way that never was previously possible, the complete suppression of all comments by the cardinals will add fuel to the conjecture and surmise.

Mr. Thavis, I personally wouldn't mind if you read the Italian papers and tried to sift the speculation from the good stuff on our behalf and for our benefit. Who would be better qualified for such a task?

Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 10:26 PM

6. John Fisher wrote:
No! It is not appropriate to have ANY news briefings. ANYTHING that raises public profiles or makes the conclave look like an election campaign where cardinals are candidates with policies MUST be stopped.
Vat II was warped by this sort of thing.
NO pressure must be made or exerted on cardinals. No vanity or attention seeking at all.
The Catholic faithful do not belong to an electorate!

Thu, March 7, 2013 @ 3:46 AM

7. TomS wrote:
I thank the American cardinals for their willingness and ability to keep people informed. The only way to rebuild the Church's credibility is to be up front while still following the guidelines and procedures of the conclave. The Americans have clearly shown that as far as they are concerned it's not going to be "business as usual."

Thu, March 7, 2013 @ 8:33 AM

8. Jim McCrea wrote:
If Lombardi and the much-ballyhooed Greg Burke, OD, were doing their jobs correctly, this side reporting wouldn't be necessary.

Information will get out whether the guardians of secrecy like it or not. The question is, shall it leak or be reported in a clear manner?

Thu, March 7, 2013 @ 3:21 PM

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