AP’s cheap shot coverage of the Pope’s Butler’s unbelievably unimportant Vatican Trial of the Century!!!

The Trial.  Nay rather… the Trial of the Century!  The earthquake provoking butler-who-done-it in the Vatican!

The trial of the Holy Father’s document-leaking former-valet (keep repeating: the Butler, in the Office, with a Copying Machine), is comparable to what the ancient Romans called a fluctus in simpulo, “a wave in a ladle”.  There is no there there.

But newsies are having a nutty … because they can.

A case in point is a really bad article by AP’s Nicole Winfield.

Winfield doesn’t usually go off the rails, but this time the trolley slipped in an embarrassing way.  Perhaps all the vapid gas being vented about this in the Italian press gave her a temporary case of the vapors.

Given that readers scan the beginning and the end of pieces like this, and given that writers know this, it was pretty clear what Winfield was trying to get a across.  You decide.

The middle section of her article involved some reporting.  The opening and the close were distracting, frivolous.

Have a look:

Pope’s ex-butler goes on trial for leaked papers
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press – 1 hour ago

VATICAN CITY (AP) — There was a time when a Vatican trial could end with a heretic being burned at the stake. [?!?  This is how she starts her report after today’s briefing?  Really?] Paolo Gabriele doesn’t risk nearly as dire a fate, but he and the Holy See face a very public airing [“very public” as opposed to a little bit public… ] over the gravest security breach in the Vatican’s recent history following the theft and leaking of the pope’s personal papers.  [Desperation, like a zombie, stalks the press corps, waiting to eat warm brains.]
Gabriele, the pope’s once-trusted butler, goes on trial Saturday, accused of stealing the pope’s documents and passing them off to a journalist — a sensational, Hollywood-like scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.  [For pity’s sake. They just don’t have enough to do.  The Holy See isn’t blameless. The Press Office doesn’t give them much to work with.  When they get a whiff of chum, they have a little thrash in the water.  Maybe if there were, I dunno, real engagement by the Holy See …  But I dream… I digress…]
Gabriele is charged with aggravated theft and faces up to four years in prison if convicted by the three-judge Vatican tribunal. He has already confessed and asked to be pardoned by the pope — something most Vatican watchers say is a given if he is convicted — making the trial almost a formality.


[…  in fairness Winfield does some reporting in the rest of the piece which might be of interest…]  

[… skipping to the end…]

There has been no such vote of confidence for the Vatican’s onetime Congregation for the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, [?!?] the commission created in 1542 that functioned as a tribunal to root out heresy, punish crimes against the faith and name Inquisitors for the church.  [Just in case you didn’t catch that whole “Inquisitor” thing, she made sure to repeat it.]

One of its more famous victims was Giordano Bruno, burned in Rome in 1600 after being tried for heresy.  [From this stupid trial to Giordano Bruno?  Really?]

The Inquisition?  That’s the lead?  That’s the closure?

I guess we should put this in perspective.  The writer also put some effort into the far more important story about the topless photos of Prince William’s wife Kate.

“But Father! But Father!”, you might be saying.  “That last thing was a cheap shot!”

Riiiight.  I think you grasp the essential point.

Cheap. Shot.

Even ridiculous stories deserve better.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Southern Catholic says:

    This “reporting” is coming from a source that already has a bias against the Church, that bias being that the Church is some evil, medieval institution like that from a bad Dan Brown book. sigh…

  2. rcg says:

    This story doesn’t even make any sense. It is completely unconnected with the trial. One hopes that the lack of editorial oversight that would have either sent that article back for re-write or spiked it indicates that they don’t think it is important, either. I

  3. anna 6 says:

    I was disappointed to learn that Nicole Winfield, and much worse, Reuters’ Philip Pullella were among the small number of reporters whose names were drawn to permit them to observe the trial. Naturally, the narrative is that the Vatican is a den of corruption and that the butler is a Julian Assange-like hero who tried to expose it. But while there are surely flawed and weak clerics working there, it seems that the butler was somewhat emotionally unbalanced and thought he was helping Pope Benedict to whom he was devoted. He allowed himself to be used by someone who made a fortune publishing private letters that didn’t even expose anything that was unknown, but created an environment of distrust.

  4. contrarian says:

    I started reading and thought, “I bet this writer at some point mentions Bruno.”

    MAN I’m good.

  5. MarnieBarcelona says:

    I’ve come to realize that when someone has no arguments against The Church/the Vatican/Catholicism/Catholics/orthodoxy… or is losing a well thought out discussion, they will inevitably utter the words: Crusades, Inquisition, pedophilia. If you insist in pointing out the error of their ways they will cover their ears and start singing. Nothing to be done with people such as these, except pray for them.

  6. TundraMN says:

    Bruno was not a victim in the least. He had to have known that spewing the poison of heresy that he did would cause him to be executed. That really is a cheap shot without much foundation. Bruno was a cad and justice was served. He went up in flames still in defiance. I digress. May God have mercy on all our souls, and may He lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of His mercy. Ps. I’m surprised she didn’t mention Galileo being put on house arrest!

  7. Acanthaster says:

    I used to read news from Yahoo quite a bit, and thankfully don’t much anymore, but one thing that really shocked me was how in almost EVERY article, especially about government related topics, some form of the sentence “who will not reveal their name because they aren’t authorized to speak to the press” or “this was spoken on condition of anonymity because the material is not public knowledge” was found. Isn’t this kind of the same thing? A man leaked something to the press that he wasn’t supposed to. Here it’s an everyday occurrence, yet over there it’s huge scandal…hm.

    Definitely in agreement with MarnieBarcelona, as well.

  8. fvhale says:

    Mr. Gabriele, a butler accused of theft and selling confidential, personal documents, is no Giordano Bruno. Nobody is charging Mr. Gabriele with heresy.

    Bruno, on the other hand, was condemned by at two Protestant churches as well as by the Roman Catholic Church. He entered the Dominican Order in 1565, and, although many of his brothers already thought him heretical, he was ordained as a priest in 1572. The Church was going to try him for heresy in 1576 (something about Jesus not being God), and he fled to Geneva and became a Calvinist. But even the Calivinists decided he was a heretic, and they arrested and excommunicated him. Then he went to France and tried to rejoin the Catholic Church (nope). After time as a wandering philosophy professor in France, England and Germany, his ideas got him excommunicated by the Lutherans in 1589. Wandering back into Italy he was arrestd by the Venetian Inquisition in 1592, and then to Rome for a seven year trial, and execution in 1600.

    And the journalist wants to leave the readers with the impression that the case of a butler accused of theft is oh so similar to that of Bruno? This could only work on the assumption that the readers suffer a total ignorance of history, and serios lack of critical thinking.

  9. jflare says:

    If she throws this much of a hissy-fit over the trial of the Pope’s former butler, we can only hope she’ll extend the same concern to priests who’re jailed for daring to preach the Gospel.


  10. Johnno says:

    In our science classes in college/high school, we are casually told as an aside that Guardiano Bruno was burnt at the stake by the Catholic Church for teaching heliocentrism… It’ be funny if it wasn’t so sad and so so incorrect and also mostly completely unrelated… proving the old saying that scientists may be good scientists, but they make pretty terrible historians and ought to stick to their field of academia which after all they are always so insistent about…

  11. cathgrl says:

    fvhale, Unfortunately, that is a safe assumption.

  12. Charles E Flynn says:

    Would Savonarola have been a better choice than Bruno?

  13. maskaggs says:

    For some reason, lots of folks who write about Church doings love to insert parenthetical asides after mentioning anything involving authority or, especially, the CDF. It isn’t uncommon to find “(formerly the Holy Office)” or “(known in previous centuries as the Inquisition),” even in work by highly intelligent scholars. It’s annoying at best.

  14. chonak says:

    So when someone is accused of theft in Boston, the Times will dress up the story with references to Cotton Mather, Salem, witch trials, and the like, and the result will be considered proper under accepted journalistic standards.

  15. Charles E Flynn: I don’t think any example of burning is appropriate for an article about this story.

  16. MPSchneiderLC says:

    NICOLE WINFIELD repetatively adds anti-Catholic stuff to her reporting. Unfortunately she is the Rome correspondant for AP. When I see her name, I generally ignore everything but the title. Maybe we could find someone who would report better and suggest it to them (we would still need someone who would report “from outside”)?

    Any ideas?

  17. terryprest says:

    Obviously this trial is more important than the other events which have happened this week in Rome and in Italy.

    See The Telegraph

    “An Italian anti-mafia judge has been sent to prison for four years for accepting luxury hotel stays, holidays, flights and the services of Eastern European call girls – all paid for by the mafia. …

    The regional government of Lazio, which encompasses Rome, has all but imploded over a scandal involving embezzlement, misuse of taxpayers’ money and a decadent toga party attended by men wearing pig’s masks and young women dressed as Roman goddesses.

    Similar accusations of financial malpractice and graft have been levelled at politicians in Lombardy in the north, and Sicily and Campania in the south.

    In Rome this week the head of the postal service in the Italian Senate was arrested on suspicion of trafficking cocaine supplied by a gang of Italian and Albanian drug dealers. “

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