In Rome it was good to meet up again with my friend Ed Pentin – Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Register and Diane Montagna of LifeSite News. I also had a nice visit with Breibart news correspondent Thomas Williams and his wife Elizabeth Lev.
As you would expect there was lots of discussion around the table of Vatican goings on. None of it is on the record, so I’ll have to speak in generalities, and there is nothing that most people in this instant news age don’t already know. My comments, by the way, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my hosts.
The general feeling is that there is much unrest in the Vatican, that conservatives are keeping their heads down, and there is dismay especially among American Catholics–both in the hierarchy and among the laity–that faced with financial scandal, sexual immorality, child abuse and doctrinal confusion the response from the Vatican is simply to shrug and assume that it will pass. In other words, just as they did in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century the response is the same: deny, defend, deflect and then attack the critics.
This tactic doesn’t work, at least it doesn’t work in the long run. While the problems may well be denied, deflected and the battlements defended, eventually something has to give. I couldn’t help pointing out to my sons the Passetto di Borgo–the wall that runs from the Apostolic Palace to Castel St Angelo. In 1527 Pope Clement VII fled along that wall as the German mercenaries of the Emperor sacked Rome, overwhelmed and slaughtered the Swiss Guards.
Speaking of Swiss guards, the Longeneckers came from Switzerland. If my boys could prove their Swiss heritage could they apply?
Anyway–I used the visual aid to remind them that the history of Rome has rarely been calm. The course of true love never does run smooth.
I asked Diane about the reputation of LifeSite News. Was she aware that in many circles LifeSite is regarded as a somewhat quieter sister to Church Militant. Not that this is such a bad thing. It’s my opinion that sites like LifeSite and Church Militant also have their role to play in the bigger picture. However, a reputation for too much tabloid journalism and sensationalism can hurt one’s reliability. She said the editors especially want to move away from the more sensational and make sure their investigative articles are solid, well sourced and reliable. She’s one of the ones who is trying to steer the website in that direction. More power to her.
Edward Pentin regaled us with stories on what it was like to travel with the Pope on his apostolic journeys and how to navigate the inside corridors and personalities of power in order to get a good story and report it well. It was a great evening and good for my boys to learn from people like Ed and Diane who are on the inside.
I came away from our time in Rome with a real sense once again of the depth of history in our faith. God is working his purpose out in and through the vagaries of human history. The trials, tribulations, triumphs and tragedies all fit together with his divine providence. We get upset by the sin and scandal, the corruption and immorality–and so we should. However, we should also always remember that God is at work. He uses even our sin and rebellion to accomplish his plan.
I also had supper with John Allen and had a good chat about things from his point of view. Now that I’m back I’ll be completing my twelve part podcast series on his book The Future Church. I’m using this book to analyze and think through where our church is today and where God is taking it in the future. If your’e not already listening, I invite you to tune in. An abridged version of each podcast is available free at BreadBox Media and at all good podcast outlets. The full version each week is posted here at the blog and is available for Donor Subscribers. Go here to learn more.