The Salad and the Dressing
Atila Sinke Guimarães
Book review of Gone with the Wind in the Vatican (Via col Vento in Vaticano),
Anonymous (Milan: Kaos Edizioni, 1999), 297 pp.
English version, Shroud of Secrets (Key Porter Books Limited, 2000)
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The book Via col Vento in Vaticano (Gone With the Wind in the Vatican) has been attracting a lot of attention in the Catholic milieu. I had read about the Holy See’s wrath against this publication and press speculations regarding the authorship of the work. The book appeared under the pseudonym of I Millenari (the millenarians). Recently, Msgr. Luigi Marinelli, a 72-year-old retired ecclesiastical, admitted that he was one of its principal authors. It was issued in Milan last February by a small publisher and received little publicity until the Sacred Rota, a specialized Vatican court, demanded the destruction of all copies.
I was following this new focus of the scandal at a distance when I received a copy of the Italian edition from John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News, and a request for a review. Thus I find myself within this polemic, offering the reader my opinion on this controversial topic.
As for its contents, the book is extremely violent. To give a general idea for the reader, I will make a voil d’oiseau through its pages and point out some of the highlights. In the 300 pages of his work, the author accuses the Vatican, among other things, of favoring a “consumerist Church”, (p. 16), of suppressing freedom of expression (p. 20), and of being a grand gossip center (“un villaggio de lavandaie”).
He says that Vatican diplomacy began with the betrayal of St. Peter (p. 22) and that a system of absolute and unlimited power reigns internally in the Holy See (p. 32), a system contrary to the fundamental rights of the human person (p. 35). He accuses the Vatican of unjustly brandishing the anathema of heresy against those who denounce this “cancerous infection” inside the Holy See and follow “the passion of the mystical Christ” (p. 40).
He also accuses the Vatican of habitually shielding the crimes committed by career-climbers in “court conspiracies” (p.43), and of covering up the theft of files that recount the dissatisfaction of subordinates with their superiors (p. 57-9).
The book further accuses John Paul II of being a plaything in the hands of the Curia, which sends him off traveling so that it can direct the internal politics as it so desires (p.63). The majority of those chosen to become Bishops, it goes on to say, are chosen by the exchange of favors, and not by merit (p. 79), and the author says that even the lower dignities are bought and sold in the “marketplace of monsignors” (pp.85-6). He compares maneuvers of ecclesiastical politics to Mafia tactics (Cosa nostra) (p.103), with subordinates forced to obey silently and mindlessly (p. 106). He states that it is very common for those who do not walk the line to be cast “into the dust and the mud of calumny”(p. 109). He compares the control that the Prefecture of the Pontifical House exercises over the Pope to a Masonic stratagem (pp. 109-10), and affirms that the Curia is controlled mainly by two currents, the Piacentini (those who come from Piacenza) and the Romagnoli (those who come from Romagna) (pp.113-122). “Morality in the Vatican is infested with intrigue, corruption, favoritism and endorsements,” says the author (p. 126). Backstabbing and denunciations are also the common orders of the day (p. 130).
Homosexuality is viewed with complaisance in the Vatican, he accuses, and then names Paul VI as one implicated (pp. 135-44). He tries to describe with details the career struggle of the ambitious and points to those linked to Masonry as those who are most successful (p. 161). To climb the career ladder, some who knew “the weaknesses” of Paul VI threatened to expose these things to the press (p. 169).21 He affirms that, with the knowledge of Msgr. Giovan Battista Montini (the future Paul VI) when he was the pro-Secretary of State of Pius XII, a Jesuit priest delivered to the Soviets a list of Bishops and priests who were there in clandestine, and that these were imprisoned and killed (p. 170).
He also declares that Masonry has infiltrated the whole Vatican (pp. 223-242), emphasizing that Paul VI was particularly pleased to choose Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, known Masons, to important administrative roles in Church finances (p. 226). He emphasizes the “condemnation to a forced retirement” that is the sentence for ecclesiastics who disagree with the reigning politics (pp. 250-1).
These and many other accusations are launched against the Holy See like a mudslide. Undoubtedly it is an extremely disagreeable offensive for the Vatican progressivist since many of the accusations, despite the lack of proof, have in their favor the appearance of truth, given what is known about the process of self-demolition of the Church in this sad post-conciliar phase. What would make it even worse would be if it were indeed proved that the author had, as a hidden card up his sleeve, evidence of what he has affirmed.
On the other hand, it must be considered that works of detraction that have authors who have left movements are generally written with a rancorous and vengeful tone marked by a self-love wounded by not having their real or imagined qualities acknowledged. The same could apply here to a possible Monsignor who would have been disgusted with the direction of the Church. These are facts that should be taken into consideration in following with a non-sensationalist interest the pathway of the discussion of this book. Having briefly described the subject of the book, I will go on to examine the form in which this material is presented.
Regarding the actual credibility of the work, the first thing that attracts attention is the fact that the author was anonymous. At the first moment of its launching, no one had the courage to assume the responsibility for what is being affirmed here. Even though now Msgr. Marinelli has admitted reluctantly to have been one of the principal authors, my observation remains valid. It seems to me somewhat contradictory that someone who would make such serious accusations of the Vatican based on things that supposedly occurred there would refuse to give the name of the witnesses who can support these accusations. This is especially the case since the book offers almost no other proof for such allegations except for the value of these witnesses.
The anonymity of the author immediately removes the book from the ambit of serious literature and launches it into the world of intrigues and gossip. In this world and from this perspective I can understand why the author does not want to appear. Because the accusations are so numerous and so grave that if his name would be known and if he could not present real proofs for what he says in the book, most probably he would spend the rest of this days responding to legal processes of defamation and slander. In fact, judicial processes have already been brought against Msgr. Marinelli (1).
Another element that does not testify favorably is the fact that the author has allowed himself to “invent” many of the supposed testimonies that he published. For example, he imagines a conversation, putting the words in quotes, of a personal talk between Paul VI and only one interlocutor, an Archbishop (p. 174). One could say that, to be honest in his citation, the author would have to have had direct knowledge of these words from either the Pope or the Archbishop - which seems highly unlikely - or at least he would have heard the talk on a tape recorded without the knowledge of either party. However, it seems unlikely that he would now attack the party who would have verbally confided to him the conversation. It is likewise improbable that he would have taped the conversation. And if, in fact, he had done one or the other, why didn’t he affirm this in the text? Therefore, the most probable thing is that he invented the dialogue, imagining what was said. Thus the book leaves the ambit of apparently true intrigues and gossip and moves to the sphere of a mere novel.
I cite other example: The author has also imagined a conversation that would have taken place in a confessional between a repentant Satanist and a priest (pp. 220-1). Now, if the author was the priest and is revealing what took place under the seal of confession, he is committing a sacrilege. This violation would tend to discredit the rest of his work. If he is the penitent, he is confessing publicly matters that would be morally harmful to him. Neither hypothesis seems probable to me. The probable is that once more the author has invented conversations. This sensationalist behavior lacks seriousness.
As for the authorship, in an introductory note of the work, the publisher tells us that it was written by a group of writers. In fact, the amount of gossip contained in the book is so enormous and covers so many subjects that this leads one to suppose that there really were various collaborators. However, by the unity of the style that it adopts, one can easily conjecture that it had a final editor, or even only one author who gave a unity to the work. I will not enter into the discussion about the authorship of one or various persons, and will use the term “the author,” without taking sides. I center my analysis on the unity of the work.
In the various expositions of themes, there is almost always the same order: the presentation of the intrigues, a brief resentful and radical judgment, a defense for the reform of the Church, and an appeal to a phrase of Holy Scripture or some Saint who corroborates the “sentence” given. The language employed is almost always a uniform fluent Italian, colorful, aggressive and vulgar. In the aggressive style it adopts even when it lacks sufficient proof - which seems to me to be in the great majority of cases - one notes an extraordinary resentment. The vulgarity of language is expressed principally in the use of coarse or even improprietous terms, turned toward giving personal offense, conceding to temperamental explosions or raising the easy laughter of fools. In my view, these points reveal a unity in the final edition.
Saying that the style pays tribute to the vulgar is not to anathematize popular language. I am a fan of wise popular expressions and simple language. Nor do I affirm that the book does not have the merit of a certain level of erudition. I willingly acknowledge that the author is a well-educated ecclesiastic. With regard to popular and erudite language in Italy, let me digress a bit.
In a highly cultured, intellectualized and politicized people like the Italian, erudition is a patrimony of even the lower classes. I remember one winter Sunday morning I was walking very early along a street in the center of Rome (near Gesù). Even though I was in a hurry, I had to stop to observe a beggar, all in tatters, gazing intently at a bookstore window featuring the latest releases and choosing the book that he would probably buy on Monday. He certainly would prefer to have the pleasure of a new book than a new jacket, or at least, a clean one. Days before, the gas delivery man, while exchanging empty iron bottles for full ones in the home where I was staying, carried on a competent conversation with the master of the house on the philosophy of Plato, complete with citations and the mention of various works. I could give many other examples. Yet, even while being erudite, Gone With the Wind pays tribute to certain vulgarities which, in my view, would be better not to exist in a work that intends to analyze the most noble institution on earth: the Holy See. And even while I am well aware that for some time progressivism has dominated the Vatican, I do not believe that one should “throw out the baby with the bath water.”
Regarding the orientation of the work, some persons have commented upon this book as if it were a conservative work, which would actually be attacking the progressivism installed in the post-conciliar Vatican. Does this opinion in fact correspond to reality? It seems to me in part true and in part false. Let me explain.
Without a doubt, the book expresses in certain points an admiration for the prophecies of Our Lady of Fatima, for Latin in the Liturgy, for the Gregorian chant. It also presents itself as anti-Masonic and somewhat anti-communist. In these points it can awaken the legitimate sympathy of traditionalist Catholics. In addition to this, the work here and there presents some facts that, if true, would not place Paul VI or John Paul II in an enviable position.
However, at the same time and in a contrary sense, one can note that the book shows a great admiration for John XXIII, considering him a prophet (pp. 69-74), and accepts Vatican Council II as a good and an indisputable acquisition (pp. 7-8, 37-8, 65-6, 74, 207). It recommends a total reform in the Church (pp. 8,65f, 284) along the lines of the democratic reforms defended by Archbishop John Quinn (pp. 19-20, 28, 34, 65-6, 97, 102) (1), who is praised by name in the work (pp. 65-6), and supported by radical movements such as We Are Church and Call To Action (2).
1. See Guimarães, “Toward the Yeart 2000: The Strange Council of Archbishop Quinn” in TIA booklet Petrine Primacy Challenged.
Among these reforms would be the election and deposition of Bishops by the people, not excluding that this system be applied even to the Pope (pp. 97-102). Like Quinn, the author supports the realization of a new council to effect these changes (p. 66). It seems to me that the execution of these reforms expresses the exact sense of the title Gone With the Wind in the Vatican. What should be blown away with the wind would be the present hierarchical system that still remains in the Church. “The hour has arrived to liberate the Church from the bitterness of the shackles of a system that holds it prisoner!” exclaims the author (p. 102). The book also combats ecclesiastical pomp, ceremony and power. As a consequence, it defends a “poor and servile Church” (p. 40), and goes so far as to qualify the fact that the Church has power and goods as “sin” even “prostitution” (p. 43). Thus the author reveals his sympathies for the more aggiornate and radical aspirations of Catholic progressivism.
2. See Guimarães, We Are Church, Radical Aims, Dangerous Errors, Dallas, TIA, 1997.
Confirming this tendency are references in the book praising Savonarola as a prophet and martyr (pp. 11, 43, 277). Yet, as is known, Savonarola established a theocratic republic with communist hues in Florence. The book makes a defense of false progressivist ecumenism, which supposes salvation in all religions. It supports the thinking that “all those who do not find themselves inside [the Church] can avail themselves of other providential means for crossing the ocean to the final end of man … or, that is, by means of other religious beliefs, which with difficulty and less agility lead men to salvation” (pp. 37, cf. pp. 41f, 70). He also defends evolution in moral principles (pp. 51-2), which is the principal characteristic of “situation ethics,” all so agreeable to the progressivist current.
Therefore, from a progressivist viewpoint, the book presents an enormous quantity of intrigues and gossip that ultimately aim at the abolishment of the hierarchical and sacral institution in the Church. In an opposite sense, there are various elements that - intentionally or accidentally - try to make the book acceptable to the conservative palate. In summary: a progressivist salad with a conservative dressing.
It seems interesting to me to consider further a subtlety that I’m not sure if the author was aware of or not. The book, as I said, firmly attacks the Roman Curia and attributes to the present system the blame for all the immoderations that would have taken place if the intrigues and gossip presented are true. Thus, what would be proven would be the existence of nepotism, simony, group interests, personal greed and moral scandals of various orders - detraction, calumny, betrayal, theft, blackmail, escroquerie (illicit money deals), sexual corruption and homosexuality, among others.
The author does not refrain from making a strong insinuation that John Paul I would have been assassinated at the order of Cardinal Achille Silvestrini (pp. 118-9). Even if all this were true, it seems to me that one could not necessarily attribute the blame for this to the hierarchical and sacral system that still exists in the Vatican. The author would have proved that the men who occupy positions in the Holy See were bad, but not the system. Further, the examples cited are almost in their totality post-conciliar examples. Therefore, the men who are being accused are directly or indirectly, in a proportion greater or lesser, linked to the progressivist current. From this it follows that the suspicion for abetting the evil should be attributed to the progresivist current. Up until the installation of progressivism in the Vatican, the book does not point out practically anything wrong.
Therefore, given that the innumerable intrigues are true, two conclusions follow:
1. The accusation that such “vices” are inherent to the hierarchical structure of the Holy See is illogical;
2. On the contrary, this proves that progressivism would be the real cause of these evils.
Therefore, the author’s accusations of a progressivist bent against the Curia would turn against progressivism itself - like the boomerang that turns back to strike the one who threw it. This being the case, the true title of this work could be Gone With the Wind in Progressivism.
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