I have just watched the PBS Frontline hit piece “Secrets of the Vatican”.
The objectives of the show are to pin all responsibility for every case of clerical sexual abuse not just on local authorities but on “the Vatican”, to detach sexual abuse from homosexuality, to undermine a celibate clergy, and to convince you that there are more homosexual priests than there really are. Finally, Pope Francis is the most wonderfullest Pope ehvurrr.
NB: Do not watch this show with any children around. Just don’t. Some of the stuff about the abuse scandal is pretty horrible and explicit.
Some notes I made as I watched this hit piece follow:
It is beautifully filmed, and the production values are very high. That will make this seductive, especially for the low-information viewer. Second, they tapped heavily a writer from The Tablet, and from the National Schismatic Reporter, Fr. Thomas Doyle in a suit, the Church-hating lawyer and now incredibly wealthy Jeff Anderson, aetheistic Communist Eugenio Scalfari, etc. What could go wrong?
As you watch it, if you watch it, listen carefully, consciously, to how they use music. You are being manipulated at nearly every moment.
Next, sadly some of the issues brought out are true: it delves into the Legionaries scandal and Maciel. There are still a lot of unresolved questions involving what John Paul II knew and when he knew it, who was giving information to him or keeping it from him. I have no interest in defending anything having to do with the Legion. I still believe it should be disbanded. If we could still feasibly practice damnatio memoriae, I would apply it to Maciel. The documentary spends a lot of time on this topic, because – I think – it is so ugly that they can hurt the Church with it more.
They treated Card. Ratzinger’s role with some sympathy, noting that, as Prefect, he was in a tough spot. John Paul II had given the Legion – and Maciel – a lot of support.
Robert Mickens of The Pill claimed that Joseph Ratzinger had “absolutely zero” pastoral experience, which is false, and that he should “never ever have been a bishop”. No baggage there. Doyle says that Ratzinger was “a creature of the institutional church”, which is in keeping with those like the Fishwrappers who pit “institutional” against the “prophetic church”, which they themselves embody (rather like gnostics). They show one clip of Doyle addressing “Voice of the Faithful”, which is an extremist dissident faction on the left. That’s the crowd the producers of the Frontline show seem to be enmeshed with.
Then there are gross statements like “when THE CHURCH chose to suppress stories of clergy sexual abuse it was to silence people like…”. NO. THE CHURCH did not choose to suppress this. Individuals in the Church did, and they should be held accountable.
Remember: an objective of the show is to pin all responsibility for every case of clerical sexual abuse not just on local authorities but on “the Vatican”.
They spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, which is pretty fertile ground for dissent in the Church. Alas, it also had many cases of abuse. The documentary goes into the transfer of $57 million dollars during the time of Archbp. Dolan to a cemetery fund. The claim is that that transfer was made to avoid paying victims. This comes right after showing victims talking about their pain. However, they cut to a brief shot of the Vatican’s Secret Archives… get it? [cue ominous music - not kidding] SEEEEECRET! And then they show a copy of a letter from Cardinal Hummes, once Prefect of Clergy, to Archbishop Dolan, and zero in on the words nihil obstat for the transfer of the money. They make a big deal out of nihil obstat meaning “nothing stands your way”, as if to say that Hummes (=”The Vatican”) thinks nothing of the victims. Get it? They then cut to Jeff Anderson interpreting nihil obstat for us. Nihil obstat is, of course, a technical term, which doesn’t seem to have occurred to the makers of the docudrama.
They look at what Pope Benedict did about filtering out homosexuals from seminary formation and they Church’s teaching on homosexuality as an objective disorder. One expert claims that the number of priests who abuse by far outnumber Protestants. I have no idea if that it true or not. That doesn’t sound right. The expert connects this to repressed sexuality. He rightly attaches this to the 60s-80s, but for reasons that I agree with.
They interview a priest, living in Rome, who became disillusioned about the Church (shock!) because of the terrible priests he encountered in Rome (more shock!). So he quit to get married. They showed him as so happy with his wife, they are in luv, but they are soooo misunderstood. But wait! There’s more! At the end of that section we learn, amost as an aside, that they broke up and he has left Rome! Perhaps the problem was not THE CHURCH in ROME, but rather him and his ability to commit? Just wondering.
After that they interview an anonymous priest (they claim) about the “gay” priest scene in Rome. They use video from an Italian journalist who claimed that he investigated this slimy underbelly. Some pretty wild claims are made at this point. From what I saw, the disgusting videos could have been entirely falsified or unrelated to anything clerical. I am not denying that this sort of thing goes on, but I have a strong level of suspicion about that whole section of the documentary. Again, they play on emotions (follow the music) as they interview priests who are in pain about being so conflict, so misunderstood. Boo hoo.
Back to the Roman Curia. They associate the “Vatican Bank” (IOR) with the mafia. Look. There are problems with the “Vatican Bank” and I can’t say they were far off the mark. This part made me sick to my stomach, especially at interior shots of the bank where I have been forced to waste hours of my life standing in lines. How I hate that room. But enough about me. They go after Card. Bertone, which is when I was tempted to make popcorn. Again, follow the music.
They made an interesting comment that Benedict found out by watching TV that the head of the bank, Gotti Tedeschi, had been dismissed via Bertone from his post. That says a lot.
Then they get into Vatileaks, and we are now about 55 minutes into this endless thing. Remember? The butler did it. Or did he? They present the Pope’s butler as a scapegoat: it wasn’t really the butler who did it and his trial was a “show trial”.
I found the section about what was done to the intrepid Archbishop Viganò to be dead on. They really got on Bertone’s case.
When they talk about the internal investigations in the Vatican about the vatileaks and corruption, they had a laughable dramatization of an interrogation, which reinforced my suspicion about the videos of “gay” priests earlier.
When they get to the election of Francis (again, follow the music) they present him as the only Pope who has ever thought about the poor, the marginalized, ehvurrrr. He is the outsider who will roll back the corruption. One commentator, Barbie Nadeau of CNN, said “he is already the best Pope anyone can remember”. He’s taking on the Curia! At this point we hear from Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga. Enough said.
Here is a quote from the voiceover in the documentary, thus, from the makers of this show: “Francis has said that the Catholic Church will fall like a house of cards if fails to balance rules on abortion and homosexuality with the greater need to be merciful.” This conflates the Pope’s comments about small-minded “rules” with the Church’s clear doctrine. They also quote “Who am I to judge?”, but without context, instead saying that he said that in relation to homosexuality. That is a gross distortion.
Shift now to Francis on capitalism.
Okay, I am tired of this.
Bottom line: There was/is corruption in the Vatican! There were/are careerists and bad people! Some men are homosexuals! What a shock!
Keep in mind that Lent and then Easter are on the horizon and that is when the MSM likes to start bashing the Church. Also, the canonization of John Paul II is in April. What better time to run “documentary” like this.
Another view of the Frontline piece HERE.