ROME— Barely a week after Rome woke up full of anti- Pope Francis posters, anonymous critics were back at it, sending a fake version of the Vatican’s official newspaper to cardinals and officials via email, claiming that the pontiff had answered five dubia, or questions, posed to him by four conservative cardinals about his document Amoris Laetita.
“He has answered!” reads the cover of the satirical edition of L’Osservatore Romano (LOR), the Vatican’s newspaper, which carries the date of Jan. 17.
“May your speech be yes yes no no,” reads the excerpt of the cover story, in reference to Matthew’s Gospel that says “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.” (In Roman circles, Si Si No No is also familiar as the title of a small publication put out by the“St. Pius X Catholic Center for Anti-Modernist Studies,” expressing traditionalist criticism of post-Vatican II reforms.)
According to the fake LOR, Francis replied to the five yes-or-no questions put to him with both “yes” and no,” expressing his own “unequivocal previous magisterium.”
The dubia were submitted to Francis by American Cardinal Raymond Burke; Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna; German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; and German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne.
Their claim was that they were seeking clarity over what they perceived as “grave disorientation and great confusion” created by the pope’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, particularly when it comes to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and their access to Communion.
When Francis decided not to respond to the questions, the prelates made them public, prompting endless commentary and analysis.
On Thursday, when the Jesuit-run magazine released the full transcript of a papal address from last November, right in the midst of the dubia-generated turmoil, he may have been talking about it when he said, “It’s good to be criticized. I have always liked this. Life is also made up of misunderstandings and tensions. And when criticisms make you grow, I accept them, and reply.”
Despite the fact that the fake cover of the Vatican’s newspaper, as the posters around Rome did, seems to once again come from conservative circles, the tone it takes at times is more informal and almost funny- though some parts of it are clearly very dark humor, as they speak of a monsignor dying when reading the pope’s responses.
It’s unknown at this point who received the original emails, but Crux has received it through several sources, so its presence online, and also via WhatsApp message, is spreading quickly among Italian readers.
According to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, which reported on the spoof in its Friday print edition, it was sent out via email to “monsignors, cardinals, bishops, and gentlemen” inside the Vatican.
As an example, the first question posed to Francis in the dubia was whether “after the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, absolution and Eucharistic Communion can be given ‘in certain cases’ to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio,” meaning as man and wife.
The spoof claims the pontiff responded “yes and no,” with the following explanation taken from an address he gave on Nov. 15, 2015: “I make the question my own. I ask myself: ‘The Supper of the Lord is the end of a journey or is it encouragement to walk? There are questions to which only if one is honest with oneself and with the few theological lights that I have, one must respond the same, you see.’ And from there you accept the consequences. It is a problem that each one must answer.”
The fourth question, in which the cardinals asked whether, after Amoris Laetitia, circumstances or intentions can transform an “intrinsically evil” act into something subjectively good, is answered with an explanation built by a series of famous one-liners from the pope, taken completely out of context.
“Responsum: Yes and no!” the pope allegedly writes. “Explicatio: Who am I to judge? [June 28, 2013]. I don’t meddle [Feb. 17, 2016]. But if doctor Gasparri, a great friend, said a curse about my mother, he can expect a punch! But this is normal! It’s normal! [Jan. 15, 2015]. God is unfair? Yes, he was unfair with his Son, who he sent to the cross [Dec. 15, 2016].”
Beyond the main article, there are five others, two with “reactions” to the pope’s response from Cardinal Walter Kasper, who was the first to suggest a case-by-case study for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion ahead of the synod, and one from papal friend Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.
Kasper, under the headline “I fell on my knees,” is “quoted” as saying: “I confess, kneeling down is a bit uncomfortable, but this is the only way one must be when reading the soothing responses from the Holy Father to the four doubting cardinals.”
Spadaro, instead, makes an “historic announcement: After these responses, 2 plus 2 will be 5.” As the text then explains, this a direct reference to a (real) tweet he sent this past January:
— Antonio Spadaro (@antoniospadaro) January 5, 2017
Another article is about Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Vatican court the Roman Rota, who not long ago said that Francis could — but wouldn’t — take the red hats away from the four cardinals, virtually returning them to their priestly state.
Incorrectly (but presumably on purpose) called a “cardinal,” Pinto allegedly died upon reading Francis’s responses. “Clearer than this, you die,” were his “last words.”
The only article with a byline is credited to Lucetta Scaraffia, an actual contributor to LOR, who has an article with a French title: “Cherchez la femme!” meaning “Look for the woman.”
Scaraffia often writes about women’s issues, and this fake article is no exception. The satire claims that the first “clear, unambiguous explanations” given by Francis to the five questions come from one posed to him by a woman during his 2015 visit to a Lutheran church in Rome, which is in fact true.
The woman, herself a Lutheran but married to a Catholic, had asked the pope why she couldn’t receive Communion when going with him to Mass.
According to the fake Scaraffia, this is a clear example of how the questions capable of generating Francis’s most “illuminating and decisive” responses are always posed by women.
The Associated Press reported that editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, was unperturbed: “We were only sad because the layout wasn’t as nice as ours.”