Pope Francis brought the Church into Holy Week with Mass in St. Peter’s Square this past Sunday, during which he delivered a homily that was remarkable not least for its frankness — not to say bluntness — in decrying what amounts to an abandonment of our duty to the truth. It was a powerful homily, and timely.
Expounding on the cry of, “Crucify him!” Pope Francis called this, “[T]he voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit, without concern for the good name of others,” saying it is, “[t]he cry of those who have no problem in seeking ways to gain power and to silence dissonant voices,” and, “the voice of those who want to defend their own position, especially by discrediting the defenseless.”
The full paragraph is bracing, situated in the center of what was, again, a trenchant homily.
Crux editor John Allen noted that those powerful lines read as “a sort of media criticism” that identified Jesus as “the original target of false public ‘spin’.” One might quibble with the assertion — Allen’s, not the Pope’s — that Jesus was the original victim, though there are no bones to be made with the idea that Our Lord was an exemplary and even archetypical victim of such treatment. Truth in the flesh was the victim of the most appalling slander and the most vicious maligning.
That eloquent denunciation hit very close to home after a week in which the Holy Father accepted the resignation of his hand-picked media czar, Msgr. Dario Viganò, precisely for making partial use of the truth in an ambitious spin game that became a disaster when the press discovered it.
One would like to think that this was an instance of the Holy Father’s famed capacity for reproof, or one in which — as is his wont in his ferial fervorini at the Domus Sanctae Marthae — he was preaching to himself. The Pope, however, asked Viganò to stay on as “Assessor” to the dicastery he had led from its foundation, in the very letter he wrote to accept Viganò’s resignation from the post of Prefect in it. Francis’ refusal to allow Viganò simply to step aside and out of the way makes such a surmise of self-critical intent measurably more difficult to ground.
Then this week opened with speculation that Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, the former number two man at the Secretariat for Communications under Msgr. Viganò and current Prefect ad interim, may be at the top of the short list to replace his former boss permanently. Whatever else a Ruiz in the Prefect’s chair would mean for Vatican media, it would mean more of the same for the reform of it — a reform that is in its “final stage” and that has been implemented entirely under the tutelage of a man whose relationship with the truth is apparently a complicated one — a reform that nevertheless apparently cannot do without Viganò’s “human and professional contribution” to hear Pope Francis tell it, anyway.
Perhaps the Holy Father feels that Msgr. Viganò is the victim in all this: a well-intentioned and basically honest fellow, who may have innocently miscalculated the optics of an operation, but whose intentions were blameless, at least. It would be a happy thing, indeed, to know that there are sound reasons to believe so, and happier still to know them.