The Cardinal Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, released a statement on Friday – late in the afternoon, Rome Time, heading into the Christmas weekend – regarding the disgraced celebrity Jesuit artist-priest, Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ, accused of serial sexual and other abuse over several years and possibly more than two decades, much of which he passed under the aegis of Rome.
Cardinal De Donatis made several remarks ranging in credibility from improbable, through implausible and on to almost certainly false (if they could be made to mean anything at all). He did, however, say one thing that has more than a soupçon of verisimilitude about it.
Actually, De Donatis said the thing that has a ring of truth about it more than once, the first time in the opening sentence of his statement. “The Diocese of Rome,” De Donatis said, is “comforted by the discernment of her Supreme Pastor[.]”
That may read like boilerplate, In a sense, it is boilerplate. Only, the thing about boilerplate is that you have it to hand. Those who know how to read it may discern why you chose this rather than that pre-packaged word salad. Still, it says a great deal to anyone with facility in the exquisitely degraded idiom of Roman ecclesiastical bureaucrats known as curialese.
Basically, Cardinal De Donatis is telling everyone who reads and understands curialese that Pope Francis is calling the shots on this one, and that Pope Francis has Fr. Rupnik’s back.
Like every great curialese stylist – and there is no denying De Donatis is a master – the statement is more than slippery enough to protect the writer from anyone trying to sus out his meaning. Still, by invoking “the discernment of the Supreme Pastor,” De Donatis is letting his professional ecclesiastical readership know that Rupnik is under the pope’s protection.
De Donatis confirms this by his second circumloquacious invocation of Pope Francis, at the very bottom of the statement.
“We entrust all to the mercy of the Lord,” Cardinal De Donatis writes in his last line, “and to the prudent discernment of those who are called to make decisions about the people involved.” The thing is, there’s only one guy “called to make decisions” in respect of Fr. Rupnik or anyone else involved in this egregious shambles, and he is the Argentinian priest – also a Jesuit – currently occupying the Chair of St. Peter.
There is no doubt that the Rupnik Affair has global implications. The mere facts of the case that are known and reported to date confirm at least culpably incompetent mishandling at the very highest level of government, if not deliberate and malicious corruption. The ability not only of the faithful but also of bishops around the world to rely on Roman justice is now utterly compromised. Nevertheless, De Donatis’s Friday statement evinces how this business – ghastly and preposterous as it already appears, if not flagrantly nefarious – is also a most Roman contretemps.
One may be forgiven the impression that even the official Vatican news media outlets are reticent to give the statement too much space, if not actively trying to bury it. This could change between the time of this writing and publication, but a quick perusal of the major language pages on early Saturday morning showed that only the Italian and Portuguese services at Vatican Media had stories reporting De Donatis’s statement on their front pages. Both of those stories are at the bottom of their respective pages. Sadly, such “memory holing” is neither unheard-of, nor really attributable to much else besides concern for the institution. There is precious little sign of anything like the shame that ought to accompany such flagrant dereliction of duty on the part of senior leaders, which has resulted in so egregious a miscarriage of justice.
Ils mentent comme ils respirent, is what the French say. “They lie as they breathe.” In this case, however, a very little of the truth may have squeezed through the gimlet holes of curial and ecclesiastical mendacity. How much was the result of pressing and how much is owing to mere gravity is, for now, beside the point.
Be assured: Truth will out.
Meanwhile, folks of every conviction and none at all in every walk of life – all of whom have a right to the Gospel and to the Church as Christ intended her to be – may reasonably wonder whether an “Apalachin moment” has not come at long last to the redoubt on the western bank of the Tiber.
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