As Pope Francis-mania rolls into its final hours in the Acela zone, The National Catholic Register -- part of the Eternal Word Television Network operation -- has tossed a genuinely unsettling story into the news mix, along with its stack of glowing papal news reports. This shocker contains one or two crucial facts that cannot be denied, yet ultimately stands on the word of one very controversial cardinal.
The problem is that this cardinal has very little incentive, at this moment in time, to making an outrageous claim -- that he was part of an organized coup that all but forced Pope Benedict XVI to resign. The goal of the coup was to elect the man who became Pope Francis.
So, we have one of those "Got news?" stories that jumps straight into, you got it, conservative social media and news -- alone. The question is whether a similar story linked to a less popular pope would have, because of the timing, received major play in the American mainstream press.
Here's the top of the National Catholic Register report by Edward Pentin, which apparently echoes coverage in La Stampa in the Italy. Read carefully. You are looking for the one word, and one word alone, that should matter to mainstream reporters evaluating this material:
Further serious concerns are being raised about Cardinal Godfried Danneels, one of the papal delegates chosen to attend the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family, after the archbishop emeritus of Brussels confessed this week to being part of a radical "mafia" reformist group opposed to Benedict XVI.
It was also revealed this week that he once wrote a letter to the Belgium government favoring same-sex "marriage" legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups.
A quick comment: Passive voice in two straight paragraphs is NOT how a reporter builds credibility with savvy readers. But read on:
The cardinal is already known for having once advised the king of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990, for telling a victim of clerical sex abuse to keep quiet, and for refusing to forbid pornographic, “educational” materials being used in Belgian Catholic schools. He also once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development,” although he has sought to distinguish such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.
According to a forthcoming authorized biography on the cardinal co-written by Jürgen Mettepenningen, a former spokesman for Cardinal Danneels' successor, Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard, and Karim Schelkens, a Church historian and theologian, the cardinal expressed satisfaction over the disappearance of “discrimination” against LGBT couples after legislation was passed approving same-sex "marriage" in 2003.
Did you spot the key word? It's this one -- "authorized."
What does it mean when someone writes an "authorized" biography of a major public figure?
This means that the cardinal cooperated in the production of this book and the approved its contents.
Normally, that saying that a book is an authorized biography simply means that it is nice and safe and free from any information that will make headlines and hurt the person whose life is being presented to the public, with that person's blessing.
The election of Jorge Bergoglio was the result of secret meetings that cardinals and bishops, organized by Carlo Maria Martini, held for years in St. Gallen, Switzerland. This, according to Jürgen Mettepenningen et Karim Schelkens, authors of a newly published biography of the Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who calls the group of cardinals and bishops a “Mafia club”.
Danneels according to the authors, worked for years to prepare for the election of Pope Francis, which took place in 2013. Danneels, moreover, in a video recorded during the presentation of the book in Brussels, admits that he was part of a secret club of cardinals who opposed Joseph Ratzinger. Laughing, he calls it “a Mafia club that bore the name of St. Gallen”.
The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, much more modern and current, with Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, as its head. They got what they wanted. Besides Danneels and Martini, the group according to the book were part of the Dutch bishop Adriaan Van Luyn, the German cardinal Walter Kasper and Karl Lehman, the Italian Cardinal Achille Silvestrini and British Basil Hume, among others.
In other words, this circle is made up of key players in the European coalition that is expected to clash with Catholic leaders from Africa, Asia and the rest of the Global South in the next round of marriage and family synod battles at the Vatican.
Timely stuff, as Pope Francis delivers talks on the family, religious freedom and other related topics in front of elite audiences here in the United States.
The National Catholic Register article, which has all kinds of things to say about doctrinally progressive stands by Danneels, also added another hard fact that might have interested mainstream reporters:
The Vatican listed him second in importance out of 45 delegates personally chosen by Pope Francis to participate in the upcoming meeting. He also took part in last year’s Extraordinary Synod as a papal delegate.
My first reaction to reading this was, "No one would dare publish such a story right in the middle of a glorious media frenzy like the one currently being enjoyed by Pope Francis."
Right. Actually, that's kind of the point.