The improbity of Team Bergoglio’s Recent Denials

Feast of Santa Lucia, Rome, Dec. 13, 2014:  The crux of the scandal surrounding “Team Bergoglio” — Dr. Austen Ivereigh’s nickname for the group of Cardinals who canvassed for votes on behalf of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before and during the Conclave of 2013 — is, without doubt, the curious denials of the testimony Ivereigh gives in his book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.

These curious denials are what sparked the interest of the Catholic world.  And their inconsistencies have fueled, not quieted, the speculation, since they are widely seen not as transparent statements, but as politically motivated misinformation.

The From Rome blog, however, mindful of the duty of objectivity, in all of its reporting regarding “Team Bergoglio” has taken as an a priori presumption, that neither Dr. Ivereigh nor those alleged to be part of “Team Bergoglio” are not telling the truth.  For that reason, to round out our coverage, the From Rome blog will now put to scrutiny what these denials say and do not say, so as to weigh their probity.

The denial of Ivereigh given by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor

DenialThe first official denial of Dr. Ivereigh’s narrative came from Maggie Doherty, the spokeswoman for the retired Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster, England:  his Eminence Msgr. Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.  That denial, published in the form of a letter to the editor of the Monday Daily Telegraph, on November 25, 2014, can be seen to the right (Note that the Telegraph’s editors have added the lead-title, “Papal plot”).

As the From Rome blog demonstrated yesterday, the most probable reason for the denial, as given, was to specifically negate the allegation of Dr. Ivereigh’s book, on p. 355, which said that the members of “Team Bergoglio”, first of all, sought the agreement of Cardinal Bergoglio to their vote-canvassing campaign.

This is because in  Catholic Church law (Codex iuris canonicis of 1983),  canon 1329 extends punishment for all acts criminalized with excommunication, to all accomplices of those acts, without which the criminalized act or acts could not be accomplished.

Consenting to a vote-canvassing campaign on one’s behalf is the most culpable act which an accomplice can make in it, since without such consent, the campaigners would never have reasonably considered to have undertaken such a campaign.

Canvassing for votes is specifically criminalized by the Papal Law, Universi Dominici Gregis, (here after UDG), of Pope John Paul II, published in 1996, as this blog has explained in detail in its article, “The Great Reformer”.

The improbity of the First Denial

Improbity refers to the inability of a person or testimony to be considered honest.  Of itself, what has improbity is not necessarily false, but in its totality it remains improbable, or, more precisely, aims to affirm what is improbable.  What has improbity is not untrue under every aspect, it can merely be an exaggeration or misleading or misdirecting.

Let’s, presume, as stated, that the letter by Maggie Doherty is true in everything it says. We know from Dr. Ivereigh’s twitter feed, that he regards the statement of Maggie Doherty as emanating from Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. In our previous report, Ivereigh + UDG 81 = A Radical Problem for the Pope, the From Rome blog speculated on the form and occasion and method of this denial. Now, let us consider it from another point of view: what it says and does not say, and whether the Cardinal could reasonably be considered to have given a testimony which has forensic value.

First of all, one must recognize that in denying the narrative presented in Dr. Ivereigh’s book there are several great problems: the first of which is that Dr. Ivereigh is the former personal secretary to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and if Ivereigh knew anything about the campaign in 2013, the public will presume that he had all this information either from the Cardinal or had it as confirmed by the Cardinal.  So in a sense, the Cardinal will appear to many to be denying himself.

Second, one can only give testimony to what one has seen or heard or did.

Third, one denies only what one denies. And when accused of many things, all which has not been denied, is implicitly or tacitly affirmed.

So, let’s examine the text of the Cardinal’s denial.  In the first sentence, he states that he is not denying what Ivereigh wrote, only aiming at dispelling any misunderstanding that might arise from reading Dr. Ivereigh’s book.  This initial statement greatly weakens the Cardinal’s statement: in a word, he denies nothing of the narrative presented, neither as regards names mentioned or as regards the chronology of events or the acts participated in.  He does not even deny the conversation which Dr. Ivereigh attributes to him, in asking Cardinal Bergoglio for his consent to the campaign.

In the second sentence he denies that he, or as far as he knows the other Cardinals, made any approach to Cardinal Bergoglio to seek his assent as a candidate.  In this statement, the opposite error occurs, for unlike the first in which he denies nothing and concedes all, in this statement he denies too much.  It would have been sufficient to deny with greater precision, but to deny that Cardinal Bergoglio was never asked by any Cardinal regarding his willingness to serve is beyond belief. And since “assent” regards an act of the mind, “consent” to that of the will, and since it is consent that makes one an accomplice, the Cardinal may be saying that he did not seek Cardinal Bergoglio’s assent, but did seek his consent.

Finally, the Cardinal can only deny what he knows: hence, since he cannot possibly know everything which every other of the named Cardinals did or said, his denial in that regard has no forensic value, except to exculpate himself in a conspiracy with Cardinals regarding seeking such a consent.  He has not denied that bishops, priests, deacons, laymen or religious or even journalists were used as intermediaries to obtain such consent.

What is the truth? Until the Cardinal is questioned by journalists or fellow Cardinals in consistory, we may never know.  But it appears from the second sentence that the Cardinal has affirmed that the campaign was a vote-canvassing / vote-promissing endeavor, because in denying too much in the second sentence, he implicitly affirms Ivereigh’s allegation as to the nature of the campaign.

For these reasons, assuming everything the Cardinal said is true, then one seems constrained to conclude that the Cardinal has denied nothing, but confirmed everything. And this is where the improbity arises, because a denial should deny specifics and the totality of an accusation.  One can understand, however, that the Cardinal, being a man of God from his earliest days, would never deny what was true, directly speaking, for that would be dishonest.

The denial given by the Four Cardinals through Fr. Lombardi

On December 1, 2014, with growing interest in the story regarding “Team Bergoglio”, the blog, Il Sismografo publishes in Italian, P. Lombardi su presunti comportamenti di alcuni cardinali nell’ultimo Conclave, which contained Fr. Lombardi’s statement on the affair.  Our English translation read as follows (1st the editors preface, then Lombardi):

In view of what is circulating regarding the recent Conclave, we asked Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Press Office.  Here is Fr. Lombardi’s response:

In a book recently published about Pope Francis, written by Austen Ivereigh in English with the title, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (Henry Holy & Co.), and in Italian as, Tempo di misericordia. Vita di Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Mondadori), there is affirmed that in the days preceding the Conclave, four Cardinals:  Murphy O’Connor, Kasper, Daneels e Lehmann, “first secured Bergoglio’s assent” to his eventual election, and “then they got to work” with a campaign to promote his election.

I can declare that all of the four Cardinals, just named, explicitly deny this description of the facts, both as much as regards the request of prior consent on the part of Cardinal Bergoglio, and as much as regards the conduction of a campaign for his election, and (that) they desire to be known that they are stupefied and opposed to what has been published.

The improbity of the Second Denial

In the first part of Fr. Frederico Lombardi’s official denial, he casts a net about too little: because he denies only the activity of 4 Cardinals, when, as this blog has shown, the text itself names 7 and 2 other suspected accomplices, and implicates as many as 30 in the crimes of vote-asking / vote-promising.  Therefore, his statement must be understood, authentically, of not regarding the activities of these others Cardinals, nor of any intermediaries they might have used, nor any other details of Ivereigh’s account.

In the second part of Fr. Lombardi’s statement, too little and too much is denied.  Too little, because, as this blog has shown, it is not a crime to seek the consent of a candidate to be a candidate. Nor is it a crime to profess willingness to be a candidate.  But it is a crime to conduct a vote-canvassing campaign to promote a candidate (this is a violation of UDG 81), and it is a punishable offense to give consent to such a campaign on one’s own behalf, with knowledge that the campaign has this nature.  Too much, because it is not a crime to conduct a campaign on behalf of another Cardinal.  Since the 4 Cardinals, through Fr. Lombardi, have not denied that it was a vote-canvassing campaign, they implicitly have affirmed it.  Since they have not denied that Cardinal Bergoglio gave his consent, they implicitly also affirm that. They have not denied that they were accomplices, only that they were leaders conducting it. They have not denied that they promised votes or solicited the promise of votes.

Furthermore, Cardinal Bergoglio did not have to be asked to give his consent; it is sufficient that he gave it spontaneously, willingly and with knowledge of the nature of the campaign, which nature and its existence none of the Cardinals have denied.

For this reason, this second denial also has great improbity, because it has the form of a denial, but when reasonable interpreted according to the above stated method, it can be considered to be a confession.  For, when accused, the accused must rebut the nature of the crime and the acts committed, if he disputes one or the other or both.

In conclusion, it appears from both denials, that these four of the seven members alleged to be part of “Team Bergoglio” are in fact affirming all which is necessary to indict Cardinal Bergoglio for the crime of being an accomplice in the vote-canvassing campaign. They also leave open the possibility that Cardinal Bergoglio, himself, was the ringleader or initiator, though no one has accused Pope Francis of this.

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Public Questions for the Vatican that need to be Answered

Rome, Dec. 8, 2014:  Regarding the allegations of Dr. Austen Ivereigh, in his new book:  The Great Reformer: Francis & the Making of a Radical Pope, we have seen claims, denials and counter claims.  To get to the bottom of the truth of the matter, I here publicly question the sources of the Vatican denial, published via the blog, Il Sismografo, on Dec. 1, in the name of Fr. Frederico Lombardi, the Head of the Vatican Press Office and spokesman for the Holy Father.  Since the latter does not have twitter, I will direct my questions to Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome), who describes himself at Twitter as the “Senior Adviser for Communications, Secretariat of State Formerly Fox News Rome Correspondent”. FYI: @AdamShawNY is a Fox News Journalist who recently published a story on Ivereigh’s book.

You would think that there was at least 1 journalist, who had the professional integrity to ask simple questions like these, but as none has appeared in 7 days, I will do so in their stead.

Here are my 4 questions, which I conveyed to Mr. Burke via Twitter:

These are questions that need a response from the Vatican, questions which will not go away.

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For a complete list of our coverage on Team Bergoglio and a list of reports from major news outlets the world over on it, see here.

Vatican Radio seeks to kill story on “Team Bergoglio”

Note: For a more recent summary of the Allegations contained in Dr. Ivereigh’s Book, click here.

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Rome, Dec. 4, 2014:  The remarkable and stunning revelations by Dr. Austen Ivereigh in his new book, The Great Reformer: the Making of a Radical Pope, have shown their importance in recent days by the sheer number of news articles which have appeared, framing the news of the book on the basis of the story regarding “Team Bergoglio”, the name Dr. Ivereigh gives to the group of 4-6 Cardinals of the Roman Church who, in the days prior to the opening of the Conclave on March 6, 2013, organized an electoral campaign to urge the candidacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenas Aires, Argentina.

While the story did not get traction, outside of the UK, until it was covered by the noted Vaticanista, Marco Tosatti of La Stampa, in Italy, once he did, it broke in numerous news outlets the world over, both in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the United States.  Soon Ivereigh was taking interview requests from as far away as Peru. And since it has, he has given numerous talks on his book.

However, what most do not know, is that within hours of Tosatti’s published comments, the Vatican was moving behind the scenes to quash the story.  For the Italian blog, il Sismografo, which published Fr. Frederico Lombardi’s carefully worded denial of the allegations, is, unbeknownst to many, run by Fr. Lombard’s colleagues at Radio Vaticana.

The nature of the denial issued by Il Sismografo indicates that great fear and trepidation is had in circles much higher up at the Vatican regarding the allegations.  This can be seen from the fact that the denial was not issued through an official source, that the publishers of the denial were colleagues of Lombardi hiding behind the anonymity of a blog, which is widely read by journalists.  Neither of which could be done without direct knowledge of Cardinal Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Vatican.

As is now, nearly universally known, it was John Bingham of the Telegraph, in the UK, who first broke the story and used the ascription “a discreet, but highly organised, campaign” to describe the work of “Team Bergoglio“. In his story, he quotes Dr. Ivereigh saying of the Team’s work that it was an “organised pre-conclave effort to get Bergoglio elected“. After the publication of his story in the Sunday, Nov. 23 edition of the Telegraph, Dr. Ivereigh was interviewed on Premier Christian Radio about his book and did not discount Bingham’s characterization of the story, but did show extreme unease as he dodged the question as to its nature.

As this blog, From Rome, has speculated, the reason for the great trepidation and swift denials of Dr. Ivereigh’s narrative of events, both by the spokeswoman for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, and now by Fr. Frederico Lombardi, the head of the Vatican Press Office, is most likely that the papal law for elections of the Roman Pontiff expressly forbids under pain of automatic excommunication, any type of campaigning which obliges in any manner the elector to vote or not vote for a specific candidate or candidates.

As of yesterday, however, the scrubbing of the story is underway: with Google Books removing from online viewing the pages regarding the electoral campaign.

This blog, From Rome has published 2 articles on the canvassing campaign and another on the history of reports about the stories on “Team Bergoglio”.  We have characterizing the lobbying effort from the beginning as canvassing, on the basis of the moral quality of the work done:  for to canvass for votes means, in English, ‘to urge to an elector the worthiness of a candidate and to ask or inquire by words or signs whether the elector can be counted upon to vote for the candidate who has been urged.’

Dr. Austen Ivereigh, himself, uses the word, “canvassing” in The Great Reformer, when he writes (on-line edition, not paginated):

The Spanish cardinal, Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of St. Mary Major in Rome and a former nuncio in Latin America was vigorous in canvassing on Bergoglio’s behalf among the Iberian bloc.

That the lobbying campaign was an effort at canvassing is confirmed by the words of one American Cardinal, who in the summer of 2013, in an expression of dismay about the course the pontificate of Cardinal Bergoglio was taking, quipped in public that, “We didn’t get the goods which we were sold!“.  While this phrase is not, as some have claimed on the Net, certainly indicative of a sale of votes, it is indicative of an organized effort to solicit votes.

Yet, such an asking or solicitation is expressly forbidden by paragraph 81 of Universi Dominici, which is as wide in the activities which it forbids as it is with the manner of obligation assumed.  While it seems incredible to some, very knowledgeable in the affairs of previous conclaves, that such is forbidden, the fact remains that in the conclave of 2013, if just 4 or 6 Cardinals were involved, the small marginal victory of Cardinal Bergoglio in the final vote of 78 in favor (+2 votes more than the 66% required) would be put in doubt on account of the terms of Canon 171, which nullifies all ecclesiastical elections wherein the votes accrued for victory are only obtained with the counting of votes of excommunicated electors.

That “Team Bergoglio” knew beforehand of the risks involved seems indicated by the fact that it was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Conner, who was not eligible to vote in the Conclave, who was their leader; because by participating in a canvassing campaign, if he were to run afoul of the papal law against such, the loss of his vote would not risk the effects of Canon 171 § 2, the invalidation of the election.  This seems further indicated by the fact that the denials issued by the Cardinals have regarded the consent of Cardinal Bergoglio (a most untoward allegation, as far as the ethics of the Sacred College go) and the participation of Cardinals, but not other persons: denials which seek to undermine an allegation regarding a conspiracy and the invalidity of the election, rather than the canvassing of votes per se.  Indeed, what apologists, who have appeared on the Net in favor of “Team Bergoglio”, have attempted to stress is only that what was done was no different than what was done in the conclaves in the past.

That the Cardinals named by Dr. Ivereigh did participate in a lobbying campaign seems confirmed by a report by the Wall Street Journal, by Stacy Meichtry and Alessandra Galloni, entitled, Fifteen Days in Rome: How the Pope Was Picked:The inside story: From the Red Room where Bergoglio’s name was first dropped to a faithful night on Rome’s Piazza Navona, which was published on Aug. 6, 2013.

Though, until today, no one has publicly commented on the novelty of Pope John Paul’s law, Universi Dominici Gregis, which puts such a harsh penalty on what seemingly would be the natural course of events in an election conducted by human prudence.  Indeed, the whole tenor of the current papal law on the election of the Roman Pontiff stresses that it should be conducted only in a religious manner, one free from all such political gamesmanship.  And this is the chief point which the allegations seem in trepidation aimed at affirming.

For a time-line of reports, including our own coverage, click here.