Pope Francis’ Dept. of Communications as Dishonest as He Wants it To Be

"These are difficult times for the new team of pope's press agents,” Vatican expert, Sandro Magister wrote on Jan. 9. “The first public statement issued by Alessandro Gisotti, the new director of the Press Office of the Holy See after his taking office, concerns the case of an Argentine bishop smashing to smithereens the Franciscan strategy to address the issue of sexual abuse by clerics," noted Magister.

Gustavo Zanchetta was a priest well known by Jorge Mario Bergoglio when he was elected pope in March 2013. Less than four months later, Pope Francis elevated Zanchetta to bishop and appointed him head of the diocese of Orán, in the northern part of Argentina.

Before being made bishop of Orán, Zanchetta had been in charge of economic affairs for the Quilmes diocese where he had generated “numerous complaints about economic mismanagement.”

Zanchetta “surprisingly” resigned his position as head of the Orán diocese on July 29, 2017, due to a self-proclaimed “health problem."

In December 2017, Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta as “assessor,” which in Vatican parlance means the No. 3 position, in the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See. APSA manages the Vatican’s assets - commercial real estate, stocks, gold, currencies.

APSA also acts as the city-state’s central bank and “has accounts and deposits of its own in central banks all over the world: the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank for International Settlements, ‘and others.’”

On Dec. 28, 2018, the Argentine newspaper El Tribuno stated that Zanchetta was removed from the diocese of Orán by Pope Francis for sexually abusing “between 9 and 10” seminarians as reported by three priests of the same diocese to the papal ambassador to Argentina, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig. Later, the three priests and Tscherrig were transferred.

Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press office, “abruptly” resigned on Dec. 31 and Alessandro Gisotti was named as interim director. It was the El Tribuno article and subsequent reporting by other outlets which prompted Gisotti’s first public statement on Jan. 4.

Although “public,” Gisotti’s statement was not posted on any official Vatican website or publication. Instead, it appeared in Il Sismografo, (The Seismograph). Magister describes it as “a strange website which is not officially part of the Vatican media but navigates it with great ease …. Francis and his entourage are the focal point .... A large number of articles concerning the Church [are alternated] with polemical commentaries against the real or presumed opponents of the pope.”

Il Sismografo quoted Gisotti  as follows: "Bishop Zanchetta was not removed from the diocese of Oran. He was the one who resigned … At the time of his resignation ... there had been no accusation of sexual abuse against him ….

"After his resignation he spent a period of time in Spain. [Then] in consideration of his administrative management capacity, he was appointed councilor of APSA … No charges of sexual abuse had emerged at the time of his appointment to councilor. The accusations of sexual abuse date back to this fall ….

Gisotti continues: "[T]he bishop of Oran has already collected some testimonies that have yet to come to the Congregation for Bishops. If the elements to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for the bishops. [Ed. Note: There is no such thing as the “special commission for the bishops" that would hear Zanchetta’s “case.”]

"During the investigation, Msgr. Zanchetta, will abstain from work."

On Jan. 20, the Associated Press reported that Zanchetta’s former vicar, Rev. Juan Jose Manzano, along with other diocesan officials, had sent digital naked selfies “in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous” of Zanchetta along with reports of  his “sexually inappropriate behavior” to the Vatican in 2015.

Manzano also claimed that “in May or June 2017,” he, another priest, and the rector of the seminary where the sexual abuse was said to have occurred, presented their concerns to the No. 2 official in the Buenos Aires Vatican embassy “who moved it forward fabulously.”

On Jan. 22, again avoiding official Vatican websites and publications, Gisotti said in a note: “In reference to the articles published recently by several news sources … I resolutely repeat what was stated this past 4 January” – that is, Pope Francis denied being informed about Zanchetta’s sexual abuse before “this fall.”

Reports (here, here and here) by Vatican experts followed refuting Pope Francis’ denial because Zanchetta’s “period of time in Spain” before his Vatican appointment was spent with Jesuit Fr. German Arana. “The pope has sent at least three bishops with psychiatric problems [related to sex abuse] to Fr. Arana, who is based in Madrid, for counseling. [Therefore, it was] obvious that the pope, and/or the Vatican, knew about Bishop Zanchetta's alleged abuse in 2017, contrary to what Gisotti said” observed Vatican expert Edward Pentin.

Christopher R. Altieri with the Catholic World Report also noted other occasions where Pope Francis has lied about his own actions - or lack thereof - concerning sexual predators.

Per Gisotti, Zanchetta "will abstain from work" at APSA. “But he did not resign, nor was he subjected to pressures to resign,” observed Vatican expert Andrea Gagliaducci, unlike Fr. Hermann Geissler who resigned from his Vatican position on Jan. 30. The priest had been “accused in 2014 of making sexual advances on a former nun during confession. [Geissler's resignation] was apparently an effort at damage control in the run-up to the sex abuse summit Pope Francis will hold from Feb. 21-24 in Rome with presidents of the world's episcopal conferences,” noted Vatican expert Robert Mickens.

One difference between Zanchetta and Geissler is that Geissler was not appointed by this pope.

Similarly, Australian Cardinal George Pell, appointed by Pope Francis as prefect of his Secretariat for the Economy and found guilty last December for the sexual abuse of two boys, took a leave of absence when he returned to Australia in July 2017 to participate in his own defense on the above charges. Pell has neither resigned nor was he asked to resign unlike Theodore McCarrick who was forced to step down from the College of Cardinals after he was accused of child abuse in July 2018. McCarrick “is almost certain to be defrocked” because Pope Francis “wants it completed before Feb. 21-24.”

Like Geissler, McCarrick was not this pope’s appointee.

Pope Francis appointed Pell as prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in February 2014 even though he was known as a “sociopath”  in his native Australia for his cruelty  towards clerical sex abuse victims long before being named as the third most powerful man in the Vatican. Up to then, Pell’s only financial experience had been depriving clerical sex abuse victims of adequate compensation.

Pope Francis established the Secretariat of the Economy in early 2014 to consolidate under one authority not only APSA, but also all the other Vatican departments that have their own assets and cash-on-hand like the Vatican’s offshore banking division in the Cayman Islands whose banking secrecy is among the strictest in the world.

Under Pope Francis, Vatican finance has become more secretive than ever.

The New Communications Department

Pope Francis has made only two major innovations to the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia by creating the Secretariat for the Economy and the Secretariat for Communications. Vatican departments are ranked in importance by their title: secretariat, congregation, commission, office, etc.  Up until the current pontificate, the only “secretariat” was that of State.

Pope Francis established the Secretariat of Communications in June 2015 for the purpose of placing the “nearly  dozen separate communications outlets and offices” – press office, newspaper, radio, TV, etc – under one authority as he did with the Secretariat of the Economy.

“The new communication secretariat’s first task was to implement the recommendations" by the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co.

In another similarity, the first outside consultant hired by Pope Francis to guide his "economy" was a "guru from McKinsey & Co.”  Cardinal Pell noted that in terms of financial change, “we have a number of young people from McKinsey who are making a wonderful contribution."

McKinsey's "prominent role is as a key advisor to authoritarian governments in places like China, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Turkey. And this scrutiny is particularly focused on corporate services that enable and support efforts by authoritarian leaders to undermine democracy and violate human rights,” according to a December article in Forbes.

In January, a former McKinsey employee wrote: “I found myself party to the most damaging forces affecting the world: the resurgence of authoritarianism and the continued creep of markets into all parts of life. The firm’s willingness to work with despotic governments and corrupt business empires is the logical conclusion of seeking profit at all costs. Its advocacy of the primacy of the market has made governments more like businesses and businesses more like vampires."

The Secretariat of Communications “was given the primary task of making sure what the pope says and does is made known to the world as quickly as possible.” It's main focus would be “all-Francis, all-the-time media coverage of the pope.”

Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò as head of the new secretariat. Viganò agreed his first mission is “communicating the pope, his magisterium, his gestures.” Per Viganò, “the real need is to provide a coherent understanding of the direction of the pontificate, so that Pope Francis’s decisions will be better understood.”

In an April 2016 interview, Viganò said that the Secretariat aims not only at “proactive communication” but also of establishing a 'crisis communication department' in the Vatican Press Office.” Earlier, Viganò had given the specific example of “crisis communication” as the news that the Victoria [state] Police “were investigating multiple complaints that Pell himself had abused minors .... Vatican communications – he added – must be able to foresee these ‘external pressures’ and even to counteract them.”

Later that month, speaking at Opus Dei’s Pontifical University, Viganò said the consolidation ought to produce a new communications system that incorporates “the digital world, social media”, and the “multimedia, multicultural, and multilingual realities.”

Viganò wanted to “redefine” Vatican communications by creating “systematic uniformity” “There will be no more segments of autonomy” and a “control booth” of officials would ensure this. It will be “a single large system of communication” organized by statute issued by the pope, for “the orientation and coordination of all the editorial lines" under the direction of Viganò.

Dario Viganò's Dishonesty Revealed 

In mid-January 2018, Viganò asked Pope Benedict XVI “to write a page or two for the launch of eleven booklets issued by a Vatican publishing house, also under the direction of Viganò, to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.

The Theology of Pope Francis as contained in the eleven booklets were “written by as many theologians, each of them dedicated to exalting one aspect of Pope Francis’ ‘thought,” noted Magister. Viganò was asking Benedict, in effect, “to give a seal of approval to Francis’ theology and orthodoxy,” explained Fr. Raymond J. de Souza.

“One month later, Viganò got the letter of reply. Which, however, was a flat no. Benedict not only refused to write anything whatsoever, but he said he had not read those booklets and did not want to read them in the future, in part because the authors included some, like the German Peter Hünermann, who had directly opposed the recent popes, from Paul VI to him, in the field of moral doctrine,” Magister wrote.

“Instead of leaving the letter - marked ‘confidential’ - aside, Viganò sought to turn Benedict’s silken prose into a sow’s ear of crude boosterism,” observed de Souza.

Viganò read the letter at the book launch on March 12 the day before Pope Francis'  anniversary stressing some words of praise by Benedict. But “he released a photo of the letter that blurred out the lines about Benedict having no time or interest in reading the little books about Francis’ theological vision.”

“That created a media uproar, as releasing doctored photos to create a false impression is a violation of basic journalistic ethics. Given that just a few weeks earlier Pope Francis devoted his annual World Day of Communications message to inveighing against 'fake news,' it was painfully embarrassing that his communications head was doing, precisely to the letter, what the Holy Father decried,” wrote de Souza.

“Then the unfathomable became truly scandalous” when L’Espresso's online blog written by Magister "published the most uncomfortable paragraph of Benedict’s letter,” the “one in which Benedict makes clear that he is refusing the request to support the book launch” and “then revealed the content of the last paragraph, the one against the theologian Hünermann.”

"Six hours after the publication of this post" on March 17, Viganò released the complete text of the letter by Benedict.

In Viganò's letter of resignation to Pope Francis dated March 19, he made no admission that he tried to deceive the public but, instead, blamed “controversies” for his stepping down. Viganò also offered his “availability to collaborate” with the pope “in other ways.”

Pope Francis responded to Viganò by a letter dated March 21. He accepted the resignation “not without some effort.” He asked Viganò “to continue” in the department and appointed him as “councilor.” The pope praised Viganò’s “humility and his “profound” service to the Church.

“Viganò’s deception made it untenable for him to continue as head of the department, but it is acceptable for a senior deputy?" asked de Souza. "Why did Pope Francis not simply let Msgr. Viganò go? Perhaps it is because what he did, while unacceptable in its deceit, was in other ways in keeping with the culture of this pontificate. In that sense, it became an unusual but fitting way to mark the Holy Father’s fifth anniversary week" de Souza wrote.

“In a similar way, those responsible for financial crimes and misconduct in the Vatican are supposed to face tougher sanctions after recent reforms, yet no one has so far been tried for money laundering, despite many cases coming to light, while those pushing for financial reform are thwarted.” observed Pentin.

"The Catholic Church's Mission is to Preach the Gospel"

as Pope Francis has told us. And this mission is "inseparably united with her Lord,” he said. There is nothing in Jesus' instructions to his disciples about secretly trading in financial markets around the world or using the most sophisticated media methods to create a cult of the Superstar pope as directed by the vulture capitalists at McKinsey & Co.

The Vatican actually does have a Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples founded in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV and and a Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization created by Pope Benedict in 2010.

But they have received little - if any - attention from Pope Francis.

 

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Raggedy Ann's picture

As a recovering catholic, I have no use for the religion. I had hope, in the beginning, about Pope Francis, but, alas, the system is too corrupt. Like America. It's gotta go.
Pleasantry

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Women are human beings, not prey.
(I forgot where I read it although it might have been in The Intercept)

@Raggedy Ann that the institutional Roman Catholic Church is corrupt.

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Betty Clermont

Money laundering, secretive bank accounts, manipulating the media, CONSTANT sex abuse-wait, why is religion irrelevant again?

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .