Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dirty Old Man: Bergoglio's Interview Was Even More Bizarre and Disgusting than the Headlines Suggested

Yesterday, faithful Catholics all over the world were greeted by these news headlines:

Pope Francis compares fake news consumption to eating faeces

Fake news is like getting sexually aroused by faeces, Pope says

Pope Francis says fake news is like eating faeces

Now, Pope defenders used to always complain that the Pope was mistranslated. This time the Pope was mistranslated, at least slightly, and at least in those headlines. But it was not with any intention to mislead. Here's what the Pope actually said in an interview with the Belgian Catholic weekly, Tertio:
Disinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do, as opinion is guided in one direction, neglecting the other part of the truth. And then, I believe that the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey – without offence, please – to the sickness of coprophilia, which is always wanting to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even though they may be true. And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.
One of the humorous things here (if it's possible for there to be any) is that the Pope used two words (or their equivalents in Spanish) that headline writers knew most people would not know or understand. From the OED:

coproˈphilia n. [Greek ϕιλία affection] marked attention to defecation and to excreta.

coˈprophagy n. the eating of excrement (Coprophagia would thus denote the condition or tendency of desiring or feeling impelled to eat excrement.)

So the headline writers had to come up with a substitute. It's unclear to me why most of them chose "faeces" (English spelling) or "feces" (American spelling) over, say, "excrement," but they did. Curiously the only example I could come up with of "excrement" was:

Pope Francis Compares 'Fake News' to Excrement - Breitbart

Yes, that Breitbart. Maybe that was to make things more understandable to the white supremacists.

Other right-wingers chose another alternative:

Poop Talk With Pope Francis | The American Conservative

As you can see from the OED definitions, some of the headlines went too far. Technically "coprophilia" merely means "marked attention to" not necessarily "being sexually aroused by." See, the conspiracy to slander the Pope by mistranslating his words has even spread to liberal publications.

This is all weird, creepy and disgusting. But if you read his actual words (which probably few did) it gets even weirder, creepier and more disgusting.
the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey – without offence, please – to the sickness of coprophilia
Without offense, please? 

Without offense, please?

I'm about to make about the most disgusting charge one could possibly make against anyone, using disgusting language too disgusting for most people even to understand, and I don't want you to take offense?

Also, I'm wearing the white cassock of the Pope and doing an interview with a Catholic publication.

No offense.

But here's the worst part:     
And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.
Since people have the tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia...


Which people?

What is he talking about?

What is he TALKING about?!

People have a tendency to be attracted to eating excrement.

Is this what one learns in Jesuit seminaries?

Out of charity I won't bring up projection.

As some commentators pointed out, this wasn't the first time Bergoglio had publicly mentioned both coprophilia and coprophagia in the same breath. He did it also in 2013.
Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia: which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects.
Here he even put forward a scientific theory - coprophilia foments coprophagia. Again, one wonders where he learned this. But as one sometimes says with popes, maybe it's just his personal opinion.

Let me speak seriously now: If Bergoglio were anything else but the Pope, everyone would be in unanimous agreement that he was almost certainly a disgusting and perverted old man. Someone to pity, yes, but first and foremost someone to keep your children away from. 

Normal people don't use the words "coprophilia" and "coprophagia" as metaphors for enjoying the spreading of false gossip. They don't. They just don't. Normal Catholics don't. Normal Argentinians don't. And, yes, even normal Jesuits don't.

Bergoglio is deranged. The sooner his pontificate ends, the better.

The Desperate Hours - Is This the Beginning of the End for Bergoglio and His Men?

In the last two days these events have transpired:

1. The Pope and his close allies have started to promote the narrative that opposition to the agenda of Amoris Laetitia is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. The conspiracy involves American bloggers, English and Italian journalists, dusty Catholic periodicals, the leading Catholic media company, cyberattacks by quasi-anonymous "trolls" and those who spread "fake news." They're all part of the "right-wing propaganda machine."

2. The Pope used an incredibly vulgar metaphor to describe his opponents (or those who he identified as spreading "fake news"). In an interview he said they are either sexually excited by, or like*t. Needless to say, this shocked many faithful Catholics. It wasn't a mistranslation.

3. In the same interview, the Pope apparently confirmed that Amoris Laetitia sanctioned communion for the divorced and remarried. This is notable in that while he has now said much the same thing in a quasi-private letter and now in that interview, he has refused to say it "officially." Indeed, one of his men threatened to "de-cardinalize" four cardinals who asked the question through official channels.

4. A well-known and respected Rome-based journalist and Vatican "insider" claimed that the Pope is asking various allies to defend Amoris Laetitia.

5. The Pope and/or his allies signaled through the anonymous site Pope news (reputed to be another sock-puppet of the Pope's "mouthpiece" Antonio Spadaro, or the equivalent) that he has lost the support of EWTN. The broadcast network is now apparently part of the right-wing conspiracy.

6. Three of the Pope's leading opponents (and yes, I think it's fair to describe them as that) - Cardinals Burke and Bradmuller and Bishop Athanasius Schneider - made a joint presentation in Rome. Schneider spoke of a "schism" that was already a de facto reality, and likened the current "climate of fear" within the Church to that of the Soviet regime of his earlier days. It's probable that they are attempting to line up support for a "correction" of the Pope. The Pope fears this.

In my last blog post I made a Humphrey Bogart reference, likening the Pope's "mouthpiece" Spadaro to Bogart's paranoid Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. Bogart also starred in a film called The Desperate Hours about a family taken hostage by a desperate criminal (Bogart). It was a near thing but the criminal was finally defeated. I assume the "desperate" applied both to him and the members of that family.

Are we in the final reel of The Desperate Hours?

The Pope seems desperate and unhinged. Some of his allies (Spadaro, at the least) seem desperate and unhinged.  At precisely the same moment that Spadaro was commenting on the Pope's alleged patience and serenity, the Pope was lashing out at his "enemies," calling them sh*t eaters.

The Pope.

They're desperate. Does this mean a bright morning for the Catholics and the Catholic Church is about to dawn? No. Sorry to say it but desperate men sometimes win. Or even if they lose they manage to do a lot of damage. Hitler was defeated, but ask Europe whether that process was pleasant. 

And no, I'm not equating Bergoglio with Hitler. Hitler was a mass-murderer but as far as I know he didn't care one way or another about anyone's soul.

Bergoglio does. He wants to drag you with him to...well, you know very well where he wants to drag you to. You won't let him. And you will do all you can to prevent him from dragging others there.

But be on your guard. Cornered animals fight hardest when they are injured.

Desperate hours indeed.      

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Spadaro Lashes Out at Journalists and "Cybertrolls" - "It all started with the strawberries"

The original Antonio Spadaro

Antonio Spadaro, the Jesuit editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, and the man who has been called the Pope's "mouthpiece," just wrote a post on his own blog CyberTeologia where he made another attempt to defend his odd Twitter behavior. In the post he repeats some of the same points he made in a Crux interview of two days before. He also expands on what he obviously wants to develop into a major theme - the social media spats are really examples of an organized attack by "cybertrolls" against not only Antonio Spadaro but the Holy Father and the very Papacy itself. The post is titled:
The Manual for Making Cyberattacks Against Pope Francis
I think it's fair to say that due to Spadaro's weird social media activity, including apparently blocking virtually anyone who has ever said anything negative about him, Spadaro has become a figure of derision. He's one of the Pope's closet confidantes and yet he can't stop tweeting out attacks on cardinals in between pictures of what he had for dinner. He's an "expert" on internet matters and yet he's inept at various aspects of social media. People tease him behind his back without intending him to overhear and he strains to find out what they're saying.

But you have to admit the man has chutzpah.

A small number of Catholics tweet about Catholic subjects and find themselves, among other things, exchanging gossipy tweets about Spadaro's silly online behavior. So someone retweets a Spadaro tweet, adding the comment, "yikes, third Jack London post of the day." Or another asks,"is Pope_News an independent account or another Spadaro sock-puppet?" And so on.

And yes, Spadaro's own behavior eventually grew into a larger "story."  

But in an epic mix of paranoia, narcissism and a Goebbels-like desire to create a useful propaganda narrative, all of this becomes a monstrous conspiracy to launch cyberattacks against the Pope!

There is a serious side to this. For all of his silly games and missteps, Spadaro is not stupid. He is now trying to hitch his wagon to the anti-Trump anti-"alt-right," anti-bad conservative people, anti-"fake-news" narrative recently ginned up by the American left but now spreading to Europe. It's all a vast right-wing conspiracy, you see. Without sounding too conspiratorial myself, one wonders whether it's a coincidence that Pope Francis has suddenly picked up on the "fake news" meme. Spadaro and the Pope, are supposedly close, after all.

[UPDATE, 2:05 PM CST: The Pope just gave a bizarre interview to the Belgian Catholic Weekly Tertio. I hesitate to write this, but the following is exactly what the Pope said, and there appears to be no mistranslation: "Fake news is like getting sexually aroused by feces." The Pope later apologized for his language.]

Spadaro has now started to lash out at journalists. There are Good Journalists who respectfully write the truth and Bad Journalists who are in league with the cybertrolls that are against him. Unfortunately for the heroically put-upon Spadaro, the Bad Journalists outnumber the Good Journalists, or so it is implied in his post.

Ross Douthat of the New York Times is a Good Journalist. He repeated an allegedly false cybertroll attack and then apologized for doing so. (This is true as far as it goes. But as with most things Spadaro, it also has its silly side. Spadaro pestered Douthat about the apology over and over on Twitter - "Did you put it up yet?" "Did you put it up yet?" - until a friend stepped in, "Antonio, calm down, give the man some time.") But there are also Bad Journalists. First Things is a magazine of Bad Journalists - they don't apologize. Raymond Arroyo is a Bad Journalist because he tweets pictures of Cardinal Dolan dancing with scantily-clad Rockettes (Spadaro bizarrely believes that this was actually a snide attack against him!) The Italian, Marco Tosatti is a Bad Journalist because he repeats the allegations of the cybertrolls and then disclaims responsibility. Edward Pentin, an English journalist based in Rome, is a Bad Journalist because he sent Spadaro his own dubia asking questions. (Isn't that what reporters do?) And so on. Presumably Austen Ivereigh is a Good Journalist because he's always available for a puffball interview if one needs to get one's own side of the story out.  

I want to excerpt some of the post because I think it needs to be read. Indeed, it really has to be read to be believed, so to speak. Of course, much of it is silly. It's obviously largely about Spadaro himself and his interior battle with his own Twitter demons. But it's also about the attempt to defend Amoris Laetitia and (one has to admit) the Pope himself, from a rising tide of criticism, and the related attempt by those around the Pope to demonize the critics. That part isn't silly at all, since the Church may be headed into extremely dangerous and historically almost unprecedented territory due to the actions of the Pope and those around him. Spadaro's weird attempts at spin are perhaps the more humorous side to what Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently described as a "climate of threats" from within the Church, likening the atmosphere to that of the Soviet regime Schneider grew up in.

I apologize if the translation is my own cleaned up version of Google Italian. If Spadaro sounds in places like the comedian Roberto Benigni, it's possible that's my fault, not his. On the other hand, if Spadaro sometimes sounds like Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny, I disclaim responsibility:
There's an anti-Papal opposition strategy, which although small is very noisy...let's consider an actual case of indirect attack against's useful to study the dynamics of trolling from people who call themselves Catholics. 
The first rule of the anti-Francis manual is you have to create a narrative, a story... 
It has to begin with a fake story... 
...In some certain anti-Francis circles there is this technique: one writes something and then other accounts follow repeating it literally all the time trying to make it "viral." Sometimes it works, sometimes not. We are in what some have called the "post-truth" era, that is something based on the spreading of hatred and defamation: lies and half-truths artfully constructed and disseminated by an army of sympathizers. It is the organized trolling technique that assaults the opponent until it destroys spaces for discussion and especially patience.  
In this, however, they stumble into good people who are troubled by the "propaganda." At least in my case, I write tweets and emails where I make heartfelt prayers for their repentance. They are people who "fall into the network," so to speak, in good conscience. But in reality it is impossible to judge the conscience in these case or in general terms. Some trolls may feel in good conscience that it is right to fight their crusade against what is pointed out as the "enemy." The strategy is to identify a target, a precise objective: the enemy. 
...Douthat apologized. The ultraconservative blog undergrowth did not. Clearly we are talking about different standards. It strikes as a headboard that First Things did not have the courage to admit that it had been deceived... 
CNN asked me to comment on what was happening. This sent the army of trolls into delirium. But then it entered a more virulent phase... 
...Someone tried to breach my account. Part of the machinery of the mud alleged that I wanted to hide behind a fake account. From there another part of the machinery of the mud made sympathetic epithets, so it escalated. They wanted to say the account was fake when it was merely mine! 
...The famous Raymond Arroyo posted...which caused rejoicing [among the cybertrolls, I think he means]. 
Is there not something strange? 
Marco Tosatti, who collects these kinds of stories, simply recopied something from an American blog and added a few ironic notes. Then he tries to spread the word by posting the same tweet obsessively 15 times in a row from his account...I point out (politely) to Dr. Tosatti that he has fallen into the error of Douthat... 
...he tells me this, "To me it is unknown." Without any problem Tosatti admits that he knows nothing of the affair and does not understand the objection. Had he only heeded by pleas and not lent his voice to echoing the anti-papal American blogs that were the "echoes" of false news. 
...(Edward Pentin) sends me a series of questions stating that "avoiding answering them will be interpreted as a non-response." These echoed those scattered by the organized system of "trolls." Obviously I do not answer. 
What is the moral of the story?...The media strategy started soon after the dubia the Cardinals made public and delivered to the press. There had been no great reaction except in some circles. So someone saw fit to create as much noise as possible to draw attention. 
What makes us understand this strategy? The use of defamation and manipulation, in my view, suggests three things. 
The first is that the action of Francis is effective and touches a chord. He puts his finger on it. 
The second thing is that "the spirits express themselves", according to Bergoglio. The climate of hatred and provocation is always a sign of an evil spirit and has nothing to do with the Gospel. So you can easily discern this! If everything was seemingly quiet it would be worse. 
The third is that the ones hostile to Francesco are self-referential groups that do not hold open and serene debate but seek an enemy to fight against, echoing one another. Some sites have an uncritical copy paste policy  Not to mention some Twitter accounts. But these are things that are known... 
How to get out of this impasse? With patience. It takes a lot of patience. And trust in the ongoing process. The attacks are part of the process and are unavoidable... 
So there it is. Antonio Spadaro has problems, as he would even agree in a sense. But he would say that none of them are of his own making. So many people are against him. As the paranoid Captain Queeg testified, it all started with the strawberries...

But of course (to be serious now) we, as faithful Catholics, are facing a much larger problem, and Spadaro only represents an atom of it.

Or should I not call the community of faithful Catholics "cybertrolls," at least those faithful Catholics who participate in social media? Antonio Spadaro think that we are.

I am a troll. That Catholic school-teacher is a troll. The deacon is a troll. The mother of seven who at the end of a 14-hour day spends a half-hour on Facebook communicating with her Catholic friends is a troll. That priest is a troll. You are a troll.

We may be trolls now but I understand on good authority that we are all trying to eventually become saints. Even trolls have dreams, you know. God grant that many of us will succeed.

But in the morning, Antonio Spadaro will still be tweeting pictures of what he had for dinner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pope's "Mouthpiece" Spadaro Makes Bizarre First Response to Sock-Puppetgate

"Tweeto ergo sum"

The truth is always brilliant and clear. But it is often an involved and even complex process to explain what the truth is. Why this is so is itself unclear. If I make it to Heaven, I'll be sure to ask the authorities about it.

Liars make use of this. They sometimes tell a lie or a set of lies, or a set of lies, obfuscations, half-truths and truths knowing that it will be a pain for anyone to sort it out. And if anyone does, it will in turn be a pain for anyone else to follow the thread.

Goebbels was reputed to have said "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people are bound to start believing it." That might be true. But I would add, "if you tell a clever enough lie, people are bound to fall asleep before anyone succeeds in refuting it."

That's by way of an introduction to this long post.   

In an interview two days ago with Austen Ivereigh of Crux, Jesuit editor and papal confidante Antonio Spadaro responded for the first time to the allegation (made on this blog and reprinted at OnePeterFive) that he had used a "sock-puppet" Twitter account to make a petty attack on the four cardinals who had gone public with their dubia addressed to the Pope.

He also responded to another allegation about his strange Twitter behavior, as well as commenting generally on Amoris Laetitia and the dubia.

Obviously, the general issue of Amoris Laetitia is of infinitely more importance than a Twitter spat. But I'm going to comment on the Twitter spat, here, or at least one part of it, if only because I was involved in it. And of course others have already well-analyzed Spadaro's more general remarks.

Did Spadaro behave deceptively? Is he attempting to deceive now, or at least obfuscating in a way tantamount to deception? Did he behave on social media "like a teenage girl" (as I wrote a few days ago)?

Why does it matter, one might ask? It's only about a few tweets, after all, most of which are now deleted.

I think it does matter, among other things because it goes to the character of the man who has been referred to as the "vice-pope" or the Pope's "mouthpiece." He has emerged as one of the Vatican's most prominent defenders of the Pope's recent controversial Apostolic Letter, as well as one of the most vocal critics of those who have expressed criticisms, doubts or questions on it. Last Wednesday I wrote:
That’s right, Antonio Spadaro, the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica and one of the Pope’s main point men in promoting Amoris Laetitia had been “retweeting” his own tweets from a sock-puppet Twitter account. These fake retweets were used to defend an Apostolic Letter and attack four cardinals of the Catholic Church.
Let me proceed sequentially.

1. Who is Austen Ivereigh?

Ivereigh is a liberal or left-wing journalist who writes on Catholic subjects, sometimes for Crux. Four days before the Spadaro interview was released, Ivereigh published a short quasi-defense of Fidel Castro's legacy that itself ignited a minor Twitter storm. Ivereigh has also recently been Spadaro's go-to man when Spadaro wanted to make his thoughts known on matters related to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia. The journalist appears to be a sort of ally of Spadaro. They often retweet each other's material and Ivereigh has participated in at least one Twitter debate on the subject of whether Spadaro was a "liar" (he didn't think that he was).

Is there anything wrong with any of the above, in and of itself? No. Journalists are still allowed to have political opinions about things, and contemporary journalists often involve themselves in partisan debates on Twitter about this or that. One role of a journalist is to act as a conduit for a newsworthy person who wants to say something publicly, etc.

But I think Ivereigh's "bias" is important for context. Among other things it explains the lack of follow-up to some of Spadaro's odd responses. The "interview" wasn't an interview so much as it was Spadaro trying to get his message out via a friendly, though officially "neutral" source.

2. What was the original sock-puppet allegation?

Spadaro was accused of using a sock-puppet account to make a petty attack on the four cardinals. More specifically, the "attack" had been retweeted by Spadaro from another account that was also in fact his account but that had appeared to be that of another person. I believe I was the first blogger to claim this in a post, but the allegation had been publicly discussed on Twitter for a number of days. The initial sleuthing that linked the account to Spadaro was done by another party. Here is the main tweet in question:

And here is Habla Francisco, the account the retweet came from:

3. How did Spadaro respond to the allegation?

Here is the relevant portion of the Crux interview:
There’s also the issue of a Twitter account which some of your critics claim you are ‘hiding’ behind. 
What do they mean, “hide”?! The account was simply an under-used one of three or four I operate, including that of the journal. I often re-tweet from one to the other. 
If I had really wanted to throw stones from an anonymous account I would never, obviously, have re-tweeted it. And why should I feel any need to hide? I was merely quoting the view of an American friend who was commenting not on the behavior of the cardinals but the way the expression “the four cardinals” was being used on so many blogs in ways that reminded her of 1960s rock bands.
Steve Skojec of OnePeterFive labeled that response "absolutely bizarre." I agree. I would add that it's also clever obfuscation that is tantamount to a lie.

Here are the facts: The "under-used" account was "protected." No one except Spadaro  (and possibly some or all of his 18 unknown "Followers") knew it was Spadaro's account. And if he had "thrown stones" from it, no one outside that private little group would have been aware of them.

After the retweet was criticized, he deleted it without acknowledging that it had in fact come from him. When a Twitter user tweeted him to ask whether the account really was his, that user was immediately blocked.

And of course, the tweet was more than a comment, but an obvious petty little snark, the "trite" identifying it as such, among other things.

Spadaro's retweet came amidst criticism that Spadaro was himself making inappropriate attacks (which Spadaro stridently denied). So now (it appeared) he was attempting a juvenile work-around.

The "American friend," whether she really exists or not, is a red-herring. Of course he never mentioned her in the original Tweet. It might be useful to consider this hypothetical: If I had for some reason tweeted (or retweeted), "Spadaro reminds me of that stupid kid from That 70's Show," it wouldn't really be a defense (if I needed one) to later say, "I was merely expressing the sentiments of an Italian friend of mine."

Here is the most charitable explanation for what happened:

Spadaro used Habla Francisco to have private, sometimes jokey conversations with his allies and friends. He made a private snark at the four cardinals. But the snark was so good (he thought) that he just couldn't resist retweeting it from his own account.

Here is what I think actually happened:

Spadaro was smarting from being previously accused of inappropriately using Twitter to attack the four cardinals and other perceived "enemies." So he realized he had to tone things down. But he just couldn't resist the "trite 1960's rock band" poke. So he decided to use the Habla account to give himself some deniability.

We will probably never know what really happened. Spadaro certainly can't be relied upon to accurately tell us. What we do know, however, is that Spadaro's protestations of innocence here - of (as he would claim later in the interview) being ganged up on by an evil cabal of right-wing Pope critics or whatever - are laughable.

People - even "vice-pope" Jesuit editors - do silly things on Twitter. Or so it would seem. Spadaro's initial behavior made him look silly. His subsequent efforts to obfuscate and blame others for his own lapses in judgment make him look like a cad.

4. What is the Cardinal Dolan connection?

On the matter of the "sock-puppet" tweet, Spadaro went on to say this:
The funny thing was that when I sent that tweet, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN tweeted the photo of a cardinal [Timothy Dolan of New York] dancing the can-can with his legs in the air along with the Rockettes. His tweet was cheered by my detractors, from which I deduce that this attack on me is organized and deliberate.
Here is that tweet:
Spadaro's attempt at spinning now reaches stratospheric levels of strangeness.

Arroyo's tweet had absolutely nothing to do with Spadaro's tweet.

Among other things it was made three days later. There was no link, explicit or otherwise between them. For those unfamiliar with the context, it has become a Christmas tradition for Cardinal Dolan of New York to pose for photos with the Rockettes. Dolan obviously wants people to see these photos, and because of their nature people oblige by posting them and tweeting them around.

Some people think the photos "humanize" Dolan and/or the Church. Others view the pictures of a portly red-faced cardinal doing a kick line with scantily-clad dancers as showing what a ridiculous figure Dolan is. No doubt a few believe this proves that Vatican II was a false council. Or whatever. I have no idea what Arroyo thinks.

So what was Spadaro trying to say? Everyone I know has been scratching their heads on this. The most likely interpretation is something like, "well, even if I was making an inappropriate snark at the cardinals by making a pop music reference, others make fun of cardinals by making pop music references, and the same people who attacked me are fine with the other attacks." Or some such. Of course Dolan was making his own pop music reference. Also...well, never mind. I don't think there's any point in belaboring the point. The Dolan connection is a twisted non-sequitur, made with the intention to deceive. Among other things, if a reader of the interview were unfamiliar with the background or context of either the four cardinals tweet or the Dolan tweet, they might think Spadaro had made a sort of point.

The right-wing dubia conspirators are out to get me (Spadaro wants you to know). Ivereigh would earlier ask Spadaro sympathetically:
How does that make you feel?
5. What is Habla Francisco up to now?

Here's the clincher. At the very moment that Spadaro told Ivereigh that the "sock-puppet" account was no big deal, he unprotected the account!

Let me restate that by all appearances Habla Francisco had only made three tweets in three years - one of them being the attack on the four cardinals that he then deleted. If Spadaro was truthful about anything, it was that the account was under-used.  

But it's suddenly aliveHabla Francisco now has public Followers and is starting to publicly follow other Twitter accounts including that of Crux. Indeed, Habla has busily followed 32 accounts in the last two days. And it has even started to make public tweets. The tweets link to...wait for it...the Crux interview.

In one of the tweets he even wrote, "(this is Antonio Spadaro speaking)."

See, it's just another account. No big deal. I'm not trying to hide anything. This is Antonio Spadaro speaking.

His last tweet (beneath the hashtag #Calm) was of a flowerpot.

This is manic behavior.

Or as one Vatican insider remarked privately to me,
Wow.... Spadaro is a piece of work.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Blocked by a Cardinal: The Napier Interview

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban South Africa has blocked me on Twitter. This is in one sense strange, as to my knowledge I have never publicly mentioned Cardinal Napier on this blog nor have I interacted with his Twitter account in any way. To be honest, until yesterday I couldn't have even told you that Cardinal Napier was based in Durban.

But it isn't strange in another sense in that many Catholic Twitter users have reported that they have also been blocked by Napier without any understanding of why he may have done so. I can only assume that he, or more likely someone in his office, gets a list from someone else in the blocking business - Antonio Spadaro or Thomas Rosica or whomever - of "problematic" Catholics, and simply inputs them. Why anyone, let alone a cardinal would bother doing this is beyond me.

And the blocking thing may not be merely ideological. This tweet is poignant:
I've been blocked, but because the show must go on, I decided that this wouldn't stop me from doing an interview with the Cardinal, conducted, appropriately enough on Twitter.

The interview was conducted yesterday via tweets. Everything was "on the record" and the discussion was frank but cordial.
Mahound's Paradise: Good morning, Your Eminence. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions about the contemporary Church. 
Cardinal Napier: 
MP: Before discussing current issues, I thought I'd ask if you could give readers a sense of who you are, how and when you entered the priesthood and so on and so forth. 
MP: Thank you, Your Eminence. You were appointed Cardinal by Saint John Paul II in 2001. Did you know the late Pope well? 
MP: Do you have any stories or funny anecdotes or anything? 
MP: Thank you. If I may switch gears for the moment. The current Church is obviously confronting many challenges around the world. Are there any challenges or problems that you think are particularly pressing for the African Church? 
MP: Or to flip the question. Are there any lessons for the rest of the Catholic world that might be learned from the African experience? 
MP: The release of the Apostolic Letter Amoris Laetitia has clearly been one of the most important events of the current pontificate. What is your opinion on its significance? 
MP: If it's not too presumptuous to ask, I think it fair to say that you were previously considered somewhat of a "conservative" within the cardinalate. Recently, however, you seem to have lined up with the "liberal" faction by defending the Pope's refusal to answer the "dubia" submitted by a group of other cardinals. Should others read anything into this or is all of it just silly gossip? 
MP: Thank you. Moving on to politics. Brexit, thumbs up or thumbs down? 
MP: Interesting. And the recent American elections. Same old same old or fascism triumphant? 
MP: Thank you, Your Eminence. Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to ask about this blocking thing. It's not because I'm white, is it? 
MP: I understand. No worries. Hey, what about that movie Zulu with Michael Caine. Did you find it as inspiring as I did? 100 men against 50,000 and all that? 
MP: My mother's just fine, thank you. But I do need to follow up: How many other accounts have you blocked? 
MP: That's incredible. I didn't know that was even possible. So, once the algorithm is written, you just press "run" and let it go? Sweet. 
MP: Did Salt and Light give you the program or did you have to purchase it from them? 
MP: Ha! That's what many of my friends also think of him. By the way, who are you voting for at the next conclave?
MP: Come on, even though it's early, you must have some ideas. 
MP: Wow, I didn't even know he was in the running. Do you mind if I make that a "scoop" on my blog? 
MP: Thanks! And I'll make sure to link back to you. 
MP: You're welcome. But back to Amoris Laetitia. Do you think it's an authentic part of the Magisteria? 
MP: You know what I mean. The Magisterium. So, what do you think? 
MP: Got it. Okay. Well, thank you, Your Eminence. This interview has been very productive, and I think it will be fascinating for my readers. So, now that we've hit it off so well, do you think you could unblock me? 
MP:  I'll take that as a "maybe."