The first point to be made is that the sources for recent the “reports,” are not responsible news outlets but bloggers, all of them, except one, are pseudonymous or anonymous. They have provided no evidence, that is, they have made purely hearsay allegations, or otherwise claimed to have “evidence” from which they have quoted excerpts without producing the document or its context. All the sources for these reports are clearly biased against the Commissioner and the Holy See and the bloggers in question are working in concert (Rorate Caeli and Correspondenza Romana, for example, regularly repeat and support each other’s reports).
Again, no reputable news outlet has taken responsibility for such “reports.” As far as I know—at least in the English-speaking world—no responsible news outlet has even repeated these stories emerging from the blogosphere. Please consider that when real journalists publish information from anonymous sources, the reporter takes personal responsibility with his real name, and the organization attempts to confirm the information by evidential reporting of independent sources. Nothing like this has ever been attempted by these bloggers. On the contrary, as already mentioned, there is an incestuous relationship between the various bloggers and their sources, and there has also been the habitual refusal to accept personal accountability for the damaging information that has been released.
During the recent Advent season one such “report” was made by Rorate Caeli about the Commissioner forbidding a novena of Masses and preventing one of our contemplative communities from providing itself financially. The allegation was purely hearsay, without a shred of evidence—again from an anonymous source—posted on the Internet by a pseudonymous blogger. I immediately provided the facts concerning matter, which showed the allegation to be pure calumny. But no retractions were made, nor did the bloggers in question provide a link to the information I posted.
Within the last several weeks another report was made by Rorate Caeli concerning a video of our seminary community. Once again, the source of the information and the claims made in its regard where from an anonymous source and posted on the Internet by the same pseudonymous blogger—of course without evidence. In the post, three false claims were made by the blogger: 1) that the video was shot on the day the seminary was closed; 2) that the information in the video was suppressed by the Commissioner; 3) that the video represents “what was,” and that the community as it “had been” has all been destroyed. I provided actual evidence, manifest and verifiable, that these allegations were false. Again, no retraction and no link.
In spite of this, I have been receiving messages and comments that completely ignore the manifest facts, so I will rehearse them once again. The seminary was ordered closed by the Commissioner on December 8, 2013, but the friars actually moved out sometime later. All the shots of the liturgy in the video are of the Extraordinary Form, but the celebration according to the old form ceased during the summer of 2013, some three to four months before the seminary was ordered closed. Furthermore, there are multiple liturgical colors used, so the various liturgical celebrations could not have been shot the same day. According to the seminarians with whom I live, one of whom is the videographer of the material, the video was not even shot entirely at the seminary. Thus, claim that the video was shot at the seminary on the day the seminary closed is false.
In fact, the various parts of the video were shot over many days, and the seminarian who shot the video produced a video from these shots which he posted approximately three months before the seminary was ordered closed (look at the time stamp on the YouTube video). If you watch the original video, you can see that some of the same material appears in both videos, and also that the second video even copies the style of presentation of the first. So the allegation that the Commissioner suppressed information is an outright lie. Finally, not a shred of evidence has been provided to prove that our life has substantially changed since the seminary closed, aside from what everyone has already known since the beginning of the Commission, namely, that we have had imposed on us restrictions regarding the use of the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy—by Pope Francis himself.
In spite of having provided irrefutable evidence that at least the first two allegations are falsehoods, no one who has spread these lies have, to my knowledge, attempted to correct the record.
The Occasion for This Response
Now there is another “report” from Rorate Caeli concerning an alleged civil judgment against Fr. Volpi, the Apostolic Commissioner of the FI, which has been passed from a single pseudonymous source in Italy, Dom Camillo through several other pseudonymous sources (Chiesa e post concilio and Francesca Romana, the pseudonymous translator at Rorate Caeli) to a final English speaking pseudonymous blogger at Rorate Caeli. Again, the report is pure allegation with no evidence and no one who is willing to put their real name to the charges.
But realizing they ought to provide at least the appearance of a confirming report, Correspondenza Romana, headed by Roberto de Mattei who regularly collaborates with Rorate Caeli, published a post in which it is claimed that the website is in possession of a court document that proves that Fr. Volpi admitted to
the felony [reato] of defamation and lies [menzogna, also: falsehood] on February 12th 2015
as fair compensation, [he] will have to pay 20,000 Euros to the Manelli Family, plus all legal expenses, the publication of a public apology on internet sites run by him, as well as circular letters to all of the friars and nuns.
Here are the facts, among which I have included items I have paraphrased from a letter of response by Fr. Volpi, released on our official website:
Assets were alienated from the legitimate legal associations in possession of the goods of the Institute at the time it was commissioned by the Holy See. This was done in favor of the former superiors in order to deprive the legitimate ecclesiastical authority within the Institute of using these means to provide for the needs of the friars. In good faith, Fr. Volpi informed the friars of Institute of this in an internal letter, which he had no intention of making a matter of public record. Friars loyal to the Founder then immediately leaked the letter to traditionalist blogs and then Fr. Volpi was accused of by the Manelli family of defaming them because he mentioned the family of the Founder as being among the recipients of the alienated assets.
Please note that the responsibility for the entire public spectacle and the damage to reputations on all sides belongs to the traditionalist activists within and outside the Institute who leaked and broadcast the information and then accused Fr. Volpi of publically defaming innocent people. There has been an orchestrated effort from the beginning of the Commission on the part of these individuals and their organizations to undermine the will of the Holy Father for the Institute. Roberto de Mattei has made it very clear that if the Institute is not to remain as he thinks it ought, then it must not continue to exist at all. He and all of his anonymous collaborators have committed themselves to this project, and their latest effort is of this species.
According to current Italian civil procedural laws, any action that may give rise to a judgement can occur only after mediation between the parties has been attempted. Thus, in such mediation with the Manelli family—not in a court proceeding—pro bono pacis and in the fraternal spirit of St. Francis, Fr. Volpi reached settlement, which did not involve an admission of guilt or a legal judgement of guilt. He made this agreement in order to avoid further civil proceedings before the Court of Rome and further costs to the Institute. By the agreement he consented to clarify matters on the official website of the Institute.
But Dom Camillo who began the latest wave of propaganda, writes.
Padre Volpi, dopo avere ammesso il suo reato di calunnie e menzogne, il 12 febbraio è stato condannato.
Father Volpi, after having admitted his crime of slander and lies, was sentenced on the 12 February.
Fr. Volpi has not, in fact, been convicted of any offence, nor subjected to any criminal proceedings; nor has he ever—in court or outside—admitted committing a crime, or uttering slander or lies. Thus, because a peaceful accord, already reached in good faith, by Fr. Volpi was not respected by the other party; but instead, the mediation process has been used by them as a tool the further efforts of propaganda against Pope Francis’ plans for the Institute, Fr. Volpi considers the agreement null and void and has no intention of fulfilling it.
Please, I beg you, consider the fact—not a conjecture, but the plain manifest fact—that no evidence (none) has been provided to the contrary of Fr. Volpi’s claim above. All of it is hearsay, even the “document” claimed to be in the possession of Correspondenza Romana. Nothing is proved, as Rorate Caeli claims. I honestly wonder if they even know what it means to prove something.
The Leprous Catholic Internet
Brothers and Sisters, this is the state of the Catholic Internet. It is a disgrace and a scandal to the world.
I implore all those of good will, no matter how much their knee jerks in reaction to what they consider unjust restrictions on the use of the Extraordinary Form, to look at the facts, which are verifiable. Then give the benefit of the doubt based on the evidence provided by those who are willing to stake their personal reputation and good name on what they say in public.
As I have pointed out elsewhere, there is something terribly wrong with a large portion of the Catholic Internet and it seeps across the blogosphere and beyond.
Since when by Catholic standards do we judge it good and right to ruin men’s reputations with mass media gossip by means of anonymous sources and unconfirmed reports? Since when are the soldiers of Christ too afraid to speak in the light of day what they claim to be true, too callous to believe in fair-play, and too rationalistic to adhere to the principles of basic justice.
I have seen any number of Catholic blogs repeat the same rumor from an unnamed source, posted by a unnamed blogger, destructive of reputations, with the disclaimer “unconfirmed report.” That sounds so much like what they do in real newsrooms, but in reality it is the virtual echo chamber of wishful thinking.
The tragic defect of many, but not all, traditionalists is that they believe the justice of their cause, the piety of their intentions, their reverence before God, their self-applied status of persecuted class, and the urgency of their crisis sanctifies deeds that no sane Christian, free from the compulsion to justify everything they do, would ever attempt to rationalize.
But the damage is done and the ones who suffer the most are the legitimately anonymous little ones within the Institute, who just want to live what they promised and be left alone.
Some have criticized me for sounding shrill and in this way of undermining my own arguments. But ninety-nine percent of those who so urgently multiply and publicize their thoughts on the matter of our Institute, don’t have any—meaning zero—first hand information about us, nor do they have even the least bit—meaning not one jot—of personal investment in our community. All they know is that they are afraid the restrictions put on us with regard to the use of the old liturgy may at some future date affect them, that they do not like or trust Pope Francis. These fears have become the filter through which they see everything.
Forget what you think of my tone for a minute. Put your prejudices aside and follow the evidence. The Church intervened in our case because the Institute and many of those who support us have a reality problem.