|Once again, the big story in Rome this week is the
Vaticans full-court press to try to stop a war in Iraq.
Vatican announced Feb. 9 that the pope had dispatched Cardinal Roger
Etchegaray, 80, to Baghdad as his special emissary. Though the wording of the
announcement was vague, its clear that Etchegarays mission is to
plead with Hussein to cooperate with the weapons inspectors and United Nations
resolutions in an attempt to stave off armed conflict.
Etchegaray, a Frenchman of Basque origins, is a veteran papal troubleshooter,
having represented John Paul in such hotspots as Vietnam, Burundi, China, East
Timor, and the Middle East. These assignments earned Etchegaray the title of
the popes mission impossible man. He has been to Iraq twice
before, once in 1986, when he visited prisoner-of-war camps on both sides of
the Iran/Iraq war, and in 1999, in a vain attempt to pave the way for a papal
visit in 2000.
Etchegaray, the former head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,
was the architect of John Pauls 1986 summit of world religious leaders in
Assisi, and is a close collaborator of the Community of SantEgidio. Some
accused Etchegaray of injecting ideology at the Council for Justice
and Peace, steering it too close towards the outlook of the secular European
political left, but others credited him with bringing vision and passion to the
Accompanying Etchegaray on the trip is Msgr. Franco Coppola of the Secretariat
of State, one of the Vaticans experts on the Middle East. Coppola was at
Etchegarays side when the pope sent him last year to try to negotiate a
settlement to the standoff between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in
Meanwhile, Tarik Aziz, the number two figure in the Iraqi power structure, will
be in Rome on Friday, Feb. 14, for a meeting with John Paul II. Husseins
top deputy will meet with Italian politicians on Thursday, and is then expected
to go to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, to pray for peace on Saturday.
Aziz is a Chaldean Catholic whose family is reportedly devout, and his Assisi
stop will be a major media event.
Given the coincidence of Etchegarays mission to Baghdad, the visit of
Aziz takes on special significance, as observers will be waiting to see if he
carries some kind of response to the papal overture. If so, and if it is
rendered public, it could change the diplomatic calculus surrounding a
(This eleventh-hour papal diplomacy beckons memories of John XXIII and the
Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, when the popes personal appeals to
both Kennedy and Khrushchev were later credited with helping to turn the tide
towards compromise. Khrushchev is reported to have later said, The
popes message was the only gleam of hope, while Kennedy
posthumously awarded John XXIII the Presidential Medal of Freedom).
Though neither the Vatican nor the United Nations has officially confirmed the
appointment, it is also expected that next week Kofi Anan will come to the
Vatican for a meeting with John Paul II, another indication of the popes
commitment to involving himself in the search for peace.
Rome is full of trial balloons about other papal initiatives. The Iraqi
ambassador to the Vatican, Amir Alanbari, told the Reuters news agency on Feb.
10 that a papal visit to Iraq would be welcome, and that Aziz may even invite
the pope to make such a visit.
For the pope to visit a country that is really about to be victimized by
a super-power, to be destroyed I would say... would be viewed by the rest of
the world as expressing sympathy even if he does not say a word, Alanbari
Most observers regard such a trip as improbable, for four reasons: the
popes physical condition; the problem of security; the fact that popes
simply do not travel at the last minute; and the pressure that would come from
the Americans to avoid handing Hussein a public relations coup.
Meanwhile, Romes daily Il Messagero hypothesized on Feb. 10 that
the pope might also send an emissary to President George Bush, and tipped
retired Cardinal Pio Laghi for the role. Laghi, 80, served as apostolic nuncio
in the United States from 1980 to 1990.
Laghi, however, told NCR Feb. 10 that he knows nothing of
such a possibility, and doesnt see the conditions for
dismissing the rumors, Laghi gave me one of the best summaries of much Vatican
journalism Ive ever heard: Many times journalists print
guesses, he said. If they come true, they can claim to have
discovered the truth; if not, well, they figure they havent done any
the Vatican intensifies its effort to avert a war in Iraq, conservative
American Catholic intellectual Michael Novak came to Rome Feb. 7-11 to try to
make the case that a war may eventually be necessary. Such a war, Novak argued,
would be justified from the point of view of Catholic just war
Novak was received courteously by Vatican officials, and his visit attracted
strong media interest in Rome, but there was little immediate sign he had
changed any minds.
Novak met the morning of Saturday, Feb. 8, with officials in the Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace and in the Secretariat of State. At State, Novak
was received by the popes foreign minister, Archbishop
Jean-Louis Tauran, but Archbishop Renato Martino, president of Justice and
Peace, delegated the session with Novak to his staff.
Novak gave an interview to Vatican Radio after his meetings. On Sunday, Feb. 9,
Novak and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson, who organized
Novaks visit, attended the 10:30 am Mass at Santa Susanna, the American
parish in Rome. Novak met with Italian political figures on Monday, Feb. 10,
then conducted a press conference and lectured before an invitation-only crowd
at Romes Center of American Studies before returning to the United States
on Feb. 11.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding Novaks visit, with a group of
62 lay and religious leaders in the American Catholic Church writing a letter
to protest the appointment of a theologian to represent the Bush
administrations point of view. In presenting Novak, U.S. Ambassador to
the Holy See James Nicholson emphasized that Novak spoke neither for the
American government nor for the Catholic Church.
Novak also went out of his way to avoid any impression of disagreement with
John Paul II, stressing that he has publicly termed this pope John Paul
his Rome presentations, Novak argued forcefully that Saddam Hussein presents a
clear and present danger to the security of the United States, especially in a
post-9/11 world in which non-state terrorist groups have the means to inflict
serious damage. Even if a clear connection between Hussein and the Al Qaeda
network cannot presently be established, Novak argued, only an imprudent,
foolhardy statesman would trust that these two forces will stay apart
addition to Iraq, Novak nominated Yemen, Iran and Sudan as states that have
links with international terrorism.
fact, Novak insisted, it is a terminological mistake to refer to a strike in
Iraq as a preventive war. The truth, he said, is that we are
already involved in two wars. One is the 1991 Gulf War, which never really
ended because Iraq has refused for 12 years to honor the cease-fire terms, and
the other is the war against non-state terrorist groups declared with the 9/11
attacks. In that sense, Novak said, a war in Iraq would fall under the
traditional standards of self-defense, not some speculative new category of
Under the right circumstances, Novak said, it is not just possible to go to
war, but morally obligatory.
For the public authorities to fail to conduct such a war would be to put
their trust imprudently in the sanity and good will of Saddam Hussein,
Novak also underscored that according to the Catechism of the Catholic
Church, it is the public authorities in this case, the
Bush administration that has the right and duty to decide whether to use
his interview on Vatican Radio, Novak lamented some of the anti-war rhetoric
coming from the Vatican in recent weeks, especially given the way the sex abuse
scandals of the past year have already traumatized the American Catholic
Some of the comments that have come from some Vatican sources have been a
bit emotionally anti-American, Novak said. I just wish people would
mind their rhetoric a little bit more.
Among friends of mine, some in Washington, some just around the country,
theres some pain about that, especially if they are Catholic, Novak
said. Catholics are the largest single religious group in the country,
but still theres a tradition of anti-Catholicism. Unfortunately the
scandals of the last year about the conduct of a few clergymen evoke the most
lurid images of the polemical literature of the 19th century that pictured
Catholic priests as engaging in deplorable moral behavior. So in this tide of
anti-Catholicism, it isnt as easy as it was two years ago to just slough
Americans are used to criticism, everybody criticizes us, it seems to be
the favorite pastime of the world. But its a little painful coming right
now, because people, or at least a lot of the people I know, really do want to
meet the test of a just war and have the highest admiration for John Paul II
Novak singled out the Jesuit-edited journal La Civilità
Cattolica, reviewed by the Vaticans Secretariat of State prior to
publication, which asserted Jan. 18 that the real motive for U.S. interest in
Iraq is oil, and warned of a misplaced American messianic vocation
to spread democracy.
Novak argued that if the United States really wanted Iraqs oil, they
would have grabbed it in 1991, when the road to Baghdad and to the oil
fields was wide open at the end of the Gulf War.
Finally, Novak was asked how he squares his position on the war with that of
the American bishops. Their Nov. 13 statement said, Based on the facts
that are known to us, we continue to find it difficult to justify the resort to
war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of
a grave nature.
response, Novak told a story related to the U.S. bishops 1983 pastoral
letter on the threat of nuclear war, called The Challenge of Peace. In
1981 and 1982, Novak said, there was alarm in some circles about early drafts
of that letter, which seemed to some conservative critics to lean too strongly
towards disarmament. He said leading conservative Catholic laypersons such as
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Hyde, and Clare Boothe Luce approached him with
similar concerns, and together they drafted their own letter.
Novak said the main difference between the two documents is that the bishops
focused on weapons systems, while Novaks group centered on communism.
Weapons dont kill, they argued, ideologies do, and if they could change
attitudes in the Soviet Union, disarmament would follow. Twenty years later,
Novak argued, his groups letter holds up better than that of the
This is the lay role in the church, Novak said, to argue
about matters of prudence rather than doctrine.
* * *
English-speaking Catholics, the head of the English desk in the First Section
of the Secretariat of State is an important post. The office is responsible for
crafting the popes speeches and documents in English. Everything going
into the pope and back out in the English language runs through this office,
which at full strength numbers some seven priests.
Theres a history of heads of the English section moving on to higher
office. Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis once held the job, as did Bishop
James Harvey, the American who now serves as prefect of the Papal Household.
More recently, Bishop Brian Farrell was given the post of secretary of the
Council for Promoting Christianity Unity after heading the English
Thus its worth noting the man John Paul has tapped as Farrells
successor: Monsignor James Patrick Green, an American priest from the
Philadelphia archdiocese. Green is a member of the papal diplomatic corps,
whose most recent post was as charge daffaires in Taiwan. Before
that, he served in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, South Korea, the
Netherlands, Spain, and Scandanavia.
Ordained in 1976, Green served as secretary for the late Cardinal John Krol,
and was also an assistant master of ceremonies for the 1979 visit of Pope John
Paul II to Philadelphia.
caught up with Green in Taiwan to ask for a quick reaction to his new
It will certainly be a special privilege as well as challenge to assist
the superiors in the Secretariat of State in their close collaboration with the
Holy Father and his care for the universal Church, Green said. I
shall be new to the Vatican scene and know that I have much to
learn. I pray that the tasks which lie ahead of me will not be too daunting and
that those with whom I shall be working will be patient.
asked if Green felt a special challenge, knowing the big shoes he will have to
I am particularly blessed to have both Bishop James Harvey and Bishop
Brian Farrell as good friends, Green said. In addition, they are
both in Rome. I am certain they will be an invaluable source of assistance to
me and I count on their counsel and experience. I have seen how hard they have
worked over the years in the English section of the Secretariat of State, and
certainly hope I am able to maintain the high standards they have
Since Green hails from Philadelphia, I called Archbishop John Foley, president
of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and a fellow Philadelphian,
to see if he had a read on the new man. As it happens, Foley taught Green at
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and renewed his friendship when
Green was in Rome in the 1980s doing graduate studies. Foley said Green wrote a
dissertation in canon law on bishops conferences that at the time was
seen as the definitive work on the subject.
He is hard-working, intelligent, and efficient, Foley said,
an outstanding person.
Green leaves Taipei on Friday, Feb. 14, and arrives in Rome the following
morning. Hes expected to report to work the following week.
* * *
When the closest aides to a senior Vatican heavyweight begin moving on to
higher posts, its usually a sign that things are winding down. The VIP
wants to be sure his subordinates are taken care of before the curtain comes
down. Thus it was for the famous Benellis widows, Vatican
personnel under the patronage of the late Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, the
right-hand man of Paul VI. The widows all received career-launching
appointments when Benelli moved on: Giovanni Battista Re, Rigali, Agostino
Cacciavillan, and Edoardo Rovida.
Vatican observers are reading the exit of key personnel from Cardinal Joseph
Ratzingers entourage these days in the same way. Recently his long-time
secretary, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, was named the new archbishop of Genoa.
On Feb. 12 came news of an even more telling transfer. Josef Clemens,
Ratzingers long-time private secretary, has been named the new
under-secretary at the Congregation for Religious. Clemens is to Ratzinger what
Stanislaw Dziwisz is to John Paul II; a long-time alter ego, whose loss will be
Clemens has been at Ratzingers side for all the battles of these past 20
years. When Ratzinger needed someone to pick up Leonardo Boff at Fiumicino
airport and bring him in for his Sept. 7, 1984, interrogation, at the peak of
the struggles over liberation theology, it was Clemens who was
Its been clear in recent months that Ratzinger has been pulling back
somewhat from the details of the congregations work, and his undoubtedly
reluctant willingness to let Clemens go is a further sign of withdrawal.
Ratzinger came to work for John Paul II on Nov. 25, 1981, and has stayed in his
post long beyond the normal five-year term of office for a curial prefect. Most
believe the pope is hoping that Ratzinger will remain in charge of his
congregation, at least in a titular sense, as long as humanly possible. But
increasingly, we will see Ratzingers new subordinates taking a lead role,
which makes the jobs of secretary (Italian Archbishop Angelo Amato) and
under-secretary (American Fr. Gus Di Noia) even more important than
* * *
Despite general agreement in the Church that the liturgy should be a moment of
unity, Catholics nevertheless manage to get themselves into knots fighting over
even the tiniest details of their rites and prayers. It falls to the
Vaticans Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments to settle these differences when, as the saying goes, somebody wants
to make a federal case out of it.
Thus it is that in the November/December issue of the congregations
bulletin Notitiae, we find a letter from congregation officials on
whether or not someone may be denied communion if they want to receive it in a
kneeling position. Apparently, a priest had refused communion to someone who
had insisted on kneeling, and reports of the incident reached Rome. The
congregation said in its letter that similar complaints had also arrived from
faithful who found themselves denied communion for the same reason in other
most readers will immediately recognize, the imbroglio over kneeling trips
larger ideological wires because it symbolizes much post-conciliar angst over
the direction of liturgical reform. Both progressives and restorationists on
liturgical issues are likely to react to such disputes with a level of emotion
that can seem disproportionate to whats actually at stake.
the end, the congregation sided with kneeling.
In its letter, addressed to
the bishop of the diocese from which the Vatican had received complaints, the
congregation said that refusal to administer the sacrament to someone who
chooses to kneel represents a most grave violation of one of the most
basic rights of the Christian faithful. The letter cited canon 213 of the
Code of Canon Law, which states: Christs faithful have the
right to be assisted by their pastors from the spiritual riches of the church,
especially by the word of God and the sacraments.
(The letter was written in English, suggesting that the complaints came from an
English-speaking diocese. It was dated July 1, 2002, and signed by Cardinal
Jorge Medina Estévez, former prefect, along with Archbishop Francesco
Pio Tamburrino, secretary).
Citing canon 843, the letter says faithful may not be denied the sacraments who
opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by
law from receiving them.
Further, the congregation said, it is never permitted to refuse communion to a
Catholic who wants to receive it during Mass, except when it poses the danger
of grave scandal to other believers. Examples would include persons who are in
a condition of unrepented public sin, or who are publicly involved in a heresy
letter strongly defends the option of kneeling.
In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently
emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a
centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration,
completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of
Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species, the letter
Priests should understand that the congregation will regard future
complaints of this nature with great seriousness, the letter said,
and if verified, it intends to see disciplinary action consonant with the
gravity of the pastoral abuse.
Notitiae also published a second letter signed by Fr. Mario Marini,
under-secretary of the congregation, apparently responding to one of those who
had written to complain. This person must have expressed some reservations
about taking the matter to the Vatican, because Marini assures the writer that
doing so is the right of every Catholic.
In consideration of the nature of the problem and the relative likelihood
that it might or might not be resolved on the local level, every member of the
faithful has the right of recourse to the Roman pontiff either personally or by
means of the dicasteries or tribunals of the Roman Curia, Marini
Please be assured that the congregation takes this matter very seriously,
and is making the necessary contacts in its regard, Marini wrote.
At the same time, this dicastery continues to be ready to be of
assistance if you should need to contact it again in the future.
* * *
Speaking of Catholic opposition to a war in Iraq, the latest prelate to speak
out is Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Ukraine.
Husar, the head of the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, began a
tour of Canada Feb. 9 by urging people to campaign for peace. He spoke to
hundreds of parishioners crowded into a Winnipeg church Sunday, telling people
that faith, justice and love are more important than ever during dark
Very little has been done to further justice, the cardinal said in
an interview later. And you cannot have a peaceful world simply throwing
bombs. You have to cure the world.
I suppose most readers know by now, I am fond of Husar, even touting him as a
papabile, or candidate to be the next pope. Ive pointed to his
intelligence, his deep understanding arising from his Eastern background of the
proper ecclesiological relationship between unity and diversity, his humanity,
and his spirituality.
a reminder, however, that all politics is local, I received an e-mail from a
Ukrainian Catholic in Canada telling me of efforts to organize a boycott of a
banquet featuring Husar in Toronto on Feb. 23. The effort is being led by
Ukrainian Catholics with roots in Poland, who feel Husar has defended the
rights of Poles in Ukraine too much and the rights of Ukrainians in Poland not
There is hardly a Ukrainian family in Poland that has not been wronged by
the Poles and the Polish government, the reader asserts. Thus, when
[Husar] stands up for cemeteries of Polish soldiers in Ukraine, and does not
stand up for the cemeteries of Ukrainian soldiers in Poland, then he is seen as
not looking after his flock.
reference is to a dispute over the Lychakivskyi Cemetery in Lviv, where Polish
activists suggested that the words To Unknown Polish Soldiers Who Died
Heroically For Polands Independence be inscribed on the Polish
common Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Ukrainian side considers
such an inscription intolerant, and insists that the words
heroically and independence be omitted.
Husar issued a statement addressing the controversy in June.
The love of ones people and the readiness to sacrifice ones
life for its ideals is a virtue that every nation cherishes and every church
blesses, Husar said.
Quarrels over ways to venerate military burial places have produced so
many various historical, political and psychological arguments that getting to
the truth behind them becomes more and more difficult. As a result, clouds of
mutual suspicion and offense have gathered over the mortal remains at the
Lychakivskyi Cemetery and are gradually poisoning our souls, the cardinal
I call upon all the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to
bow their heads over the graves of the Ukrainian and Polish military at the
Lychakivskyi Cemetery in a sincere Christian prayer.
was Husars attempt to be gracious. Obviously, however, one persons
graciousness is anothers weakness.
* * *
Community of SantEgidio celebrated its 35th anniversary with a Mass at
Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Feb. 7. (They couldnt do it at their
normal liturgical gathering point, the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere,
because it couldnt hold the overflow crowd). The site was fitting, since
it was near St. Pauls in Febuary of 1968 that the first group of young
Catholics met to dedicate themselves to the service of the poor, founding a
group that would eventually become SantEgidio.
movement was named for SantEgidio because thats the
piazza in Trastevere where they eventually established their
SantEgidio was born in Rome out of the radical student energies of the
late sixties, by a group of young leftists who wanted to work for social change
without losing their commitment to the Catholic faith. SantEgidio works
on issues ranging from abolition of the death penalty to inter-religious
dialogue. They are also successful diplomats, having played a key role in
negotiating the Mozambique peace accords in 1992.
keeping with the SantEgidio spirit, a place of honor at their anniversary
Mass went to an ecumenical delegation of visiting clergy from the Serbian
Orthodox Church, in Rome for talks with the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Ive written before that the Vatican does not see the new
movements in the church the way some American Catholics do, i.e., as
creatures of the Catholic right, in large measure because in Rome the most
visible movement easily is SantEgidio, and it tends to skew toward the
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, 69, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, was
on hand to celebrate the Mass. Re is seen as a moderate among the
papabili, or candidates to be the next pope, and his embrace of
SantEgidio will bolster that impression.
his homily, Re said SantEgidio has lived an intense, complex 35
years, saying they have managed to live in the world, but anchored
to the gospel. Re praised the work of SantEgidio on behalf of
peace, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, and the struggle against AIDS in
Africa. Re also praised SantEgidios commitment to prayer and
liturgy, noting the large crowds that throng to the regular evening prayer in
We stand with SantEgidio in sympathy and friendship, Re said,
and pray that God will make them ever more instruments of good in our
footnote: During Res homily, a woman stood up in the crowd at St.
Pauls and began shouting. Only bits and pieces were comprehensible, but
it was clear that she was homeless and wanted someone in the church to take
note. A few Vatican security personnel were on hand, undoubtedly for Re and the
other curial power-brokers in attendance, and they swooped in as soon as the
disruption started. In typical SantEgidio fashion, however, several
community members surrounded the woman, comforted her, calmed her down, and
eventually she took her seat and stayed for the rest of the Mass. They showed
patience and compassion, traits with which it is possible to do a remarkable
amount of good.
* * *
Saturday Feb. 15, the Vatican archives will unseal a long-awaited set of
records concerning the relationship between the Holy See and Germany during the
pontificate of Pius XI (1922-39).
documents are being made public ahead of schedule, since their release was
originally set for 2009. The accelerated release is an attempt to respond to
the bitter public debate over the Catholic Church and the Holocaust, and
especially the role played by Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pius XII on March 2,
Normally the Vatican unseals all the records from a given pontificate at once,
at a rhythm of approximately 70 years from the death of the pope. The last
pontificates records to be opened were those of Benedict XV (1914-1922).
But given the controversy surrounding Pius XII, including urgent demands for
full disclosure of archival material, the Vatican has tried to speed things up.
The rest of the material from Pius XI should be available in 2005 or 2006, and
the first batch of material from Pius XII is anticipated somewhere between 2007
records to be presented on Saturday will be subjected to immediate scrutiny by
partisans on all sides of the Church/Holocaust debate, though critics convinced
the Vatican is hiding something will obviously remain unsatisfied until all the
records from both Pius XI and Pius XII are revealed.
650 files set to be unsealed Saturday contain thousands of documents. To get a
sense of what we might expect, I sat down on Thursday, Feb.13, with Jesuit Fr.
Peter Gumpel, the Vaticans point man on the sainthood cause of Pius
Documents of immediate interest, Gumpel said, will include those concerning
Pacellis term as nuncio in Munich, and later in Berlin, in the 1920s,
when he was writing regular reports on the German situation. In December 1929
Pacelli was made a cardinal, and in 1930 Pius XI appointed him Secretary of
State. Scholars will want to comb through his correspondence pertaining to
Germany in that period as well.
Gumpel said that although in theory he had full access to these documents, he
chose not to examine them before their release, because he didnt want to
be accused of tampering or monopolizing the records. He told me, however, that
he asked the staff of the archives to tell him if there was any smoking
gun that would incriminate Pacelli, and they assured him there is
Scholars are not completely in the dark about what theyll find. Many
documents have already been made public. The German state archives, for
example, contain the originals of all correspondence sent from the Holy See in
the 1930s and 1940s, and they have been published. Likewise, the fifty protests
Pacelli wrote to the Nazis in response to violations of the concordat with the
Catholic Church have appeared. In other cases, oral testimony has given the
experts a fairly clear picture of what many files contain.
document sure to make headlines is a letter written in April 1933 by Edith
Stein to Pius XI concerning the danger facing European Jewry. Its been
suggested that Stein specifically asked the pope in this letter to write an
encyclical against the Nazis, and his delay in doing so has been advanced as
evidence of the Vaticans pattern of silence. Gumpel, however,
says scholars will now be able to see that there was no such request in
does it take so long to prepare this material for release?
Gumpel said most of the material was in the form of loose sheets thrown
semi-randomly into boxes. The pages had to be sorted, stamped, registered, and
bound. Thats expert work requiring a specialized knowledge of languages,
church history, and Vatican systems, and at the beginning there were only two
full-time archivists on the job. Today that number is larger, but still under
10, because this kind of specialization doesnt grow on trees.
Its going to take some months, if not years, for scholars to sort through
this material and come to some consensus about what it teaches us. The model
for this process is not a team of reporters from the Boston Globe
combing through archdiocesan records unsealed by court order, and uncovering a
series of damaging revelations in a matter of a few hours. For one thing,
journalists wont be let anywhere near these records, only scholars. For
another, the Vatican archives are a relatively small operation. Privately
Im told that if 40 academics turn up Saturday morning, the operation will
be overwhelmed. It normally takes two to three weeks just to get photocopies.
Also, scholars who dont know Italian are not allowed to bring
translators, so theyll have to wait to get home to really understand what
Despite these speed bumps, Gumpel said the Vatican is committed to full
disclosure, even knowing that some people may use this material to impugn the
church and Pius XII.
We have nothing to hide, Gumpel says. The truth should come
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