The resignation of pope Benedict xvi and the death of journalism at the Irish times

Irish Times(By Fr. Marcel Guarnizo,
catholicnewsagency.com, on Friday, Feb. 22) Mr. Paddy Agnew of the
Irish Times, descended to what can only be
described as new lows of journalism. Mr. Agnew’s article, title
“Report into Vatican pushes Pope to resign” does not meet even the
most fundamental requirements of serious journalism, corroboration,
and fact-checking.

Sources who can testify to claims being made and are
reliable witnesses are obligatory for any professional journalist.
The serious nature of the completely unsubstantiated charges Mr.
Agnew levels against the Holy See, without any compunction – for
the fact is that his story is completely uncorroborated – makes one
wonder if spreading propaganda that seeks to hurt the Church, and
the faith of the Irish people in the public square, has become the
new normal for Irish Times. Under the guise of
reporting on Pope Benedict XVI resignation, Mr. Agnew incredibly
levels the charge that the Pope is retiring because he “… was at
least partly prompted by the ‘inappropriate influence’ of various
lobbies, including a gay lobby, in the internal Holy See affairs.”
Indeed the initial story comes from another newspaper, but it is
still Mr. Agnew who is copying the story and spreading serious
accusations against persons and institutions without any effort to
document the story. This report, is something he picked up
virtually in its entirety from a report written by Mrs. Concita De
Gregorio in the Italian journal La Repubblica.
That story had hit the stands just hours ahead of Agnew’s piece
being copied off of the Repubblica journal and
sent to the Irish Times. Mr. Agnew’s
“reporting,” was to take a story from a previous journalist, after
reading a newspaper the same morning and propagating enormous
accusations about persons and institutions, without any
corroboration or any journalistic effort to inquire about the
matter. Another journalist, Mr. Robert Moynihan, who after running
with the story, has had the decency to admit that the initial story
he ran with (the story which Agnew is still pedaling), from a
journalistic point of view, is completely unfounded and
uncorroborated. He narrates how Agnew that morning at 10:51 a.m.
was already typing way, and in front of him he had the morning
edition of the La Repubblica, narrates
Moynihan, “… the striking thing was that Paddy had marked almost
every single paragraph of the story with colored markers…” Here
we have the extent of the sourcing for Agnew’s story, page 17. of
La Repubblica. Mr. Agnew had not even spent a
few hours with the story, since it was that morning’s edition. Now
when Moynihan asked what it was that he was writing from, the
answer from Agnew is telling. “It’s from this morning’s
La Repubblica. Someone has leaked the results
of the cardinals’ commission investigation…” You can see perfectly
the anatomy of investigative reporting that went on in the story
that Agnew would not hesitate to send around the world. Notice his
assertion that the report had been leaked, this a few hours (maybe
less) after reading it in one newspaper. This is journalism? I can
do that too, I read the paper every day. Agnew adds the following
fantastic assertion, supposedly based on the long-awaited and
recently released report on the Vatileaks scandal to the pontiff
from a trio of Roman Catholic cardinals. “…The Cardinals’ report
claimed that various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently
breaking the sixth and the seventh commandments, namely ‘thou shalt
not steal’ and ‘thou shalt not commit adultery…’” Notice that Mr.
Agnew quite on his own authority is stating what the secret report
contains. As if he had seen it. All that Agnew did to make the
extraordinary claim, was buy a newspaper and a cup of coffee. I
guess some believe everything they read, but is this a journalistic
standard these days? Not satisfied with the completely
uncorroborated statements he has penned thus far, he adds, “The
‘stealing’ was in particular related to the Vatican Bank, OIR…”
Agnew has leveled some serious charges, worth a defamation lawsuit.
But, Agnew is crafty enough to refrain from mentioning names – no
doubt because he does not have any. Let us dispel this malicious
fantasy of Mr. Agnew for the Irish public. Trading on nasty
innuendo does not make for serious journalism. First, from simple
Journalism 101 basics: what is the source for the report? The main
source for Mr. Agnew was the hard left La Repubblica
journal published in Rome. This would prompt even the
first year student of journalism to corroborate the sources and
story before running wildly with it. But there is more that Mr.
Agnew chooses to ignore. The author of the article is Mrs. Concita
De Gregorio, she was the editor of L’Unita
from 2008-2011 (a paper founded by Antonio Gramsci,
famous Italian communist). During her tenure as editor it was owned
by the Democratic Party of the Left. All of this should urge some
caution. Any pause yet, Mr. Agnew? None at all. This man is
supposed to be an experienced journalist? Back to Mr. Agnew’s
article in the Irish Times. “Furthermore, the
Cardinal’s report claimed…” Really? The readers of the
Irish Times can rest assured that the claim
that Mr. Agnew has access to the contents of this Vatican report is
completely impossible. The report of which Agnew speaks, was the
result of an investigation the Vatican conducted regarding the
leaks that took place at the Holy See. There were no copies made of
the report, and the one final report was handed directly – and only
– to the Pope himself. Mr. Agnew knows he never saw the report. He
further should know, if he has any serious experience in Rome, or
has ever talked to anyone who does, that the three cardinals who
were tasked with the investigation – Cardinal Julian Herranz,
Joseph Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi – beyond reproach and would
never speak to Paddy Agnew, about this. In fact, they did not speak
to Mr. Agnew nor to anyone to whom Mr. Agnew spoke. It is also
ludicrous to imagine that La Repubblica’s De
Gregorio (Mr. Agnew’s only “source” for his story) read the private
Vatican report or was given an audience by any of the cardinals who
wrote it. So much for sources. Now, the original source for the
Repubblica story, was an article written by
Ignazio Ingrao, in Panorama magazine. Had Mr.
Agnew read this article, his role as a copyist would have been
halted. For nowhere in the original source of the story does
Ingrao, claim that a homosexual lobby, blackmailed the Pope and
forced him to resign. In fact, he never levels the accusation of
money being stolen from the Vatican bank, as Agnew so brazenly
does. To imply that the Pope left to cover up names of people
mentioned in the dossier regarding the Vatican leaks is a pure
invention and fantasy of Mr. Agnew. The further claim that the
shock was so violent and the Pope was under pressure to reign
flatly contradicts what Ingrao reports, “The Pope knows well the
misery and weakness of the curia.” The accusations which are
nothing but innuendo, as Mr. Ingrao has also not seen the report.
He clearly states, in his own writing that the report exists in one
copy and was handed directly to the Pope. He further states that
the three Cardinals in charge of the investigation are, “ …
respected and feared because they are above any political games in
the curia.” In a Feb. 22 interview with Mr. Ingrao, the
Repubblica article is characterized as an
“instrumentalization (of Mr. Ingrao’s story) to attack the Pope.”
It is further affirmed that the Repubblica
article is not based on an “… original investigation (done by
La Repubblica), as the article leads readers
to believe…” In it he affirms, “ Certainly it cannot be said that
the Report on the situation of the Curia was the only motive for
the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI… it was a decision that was
maturing for some time…for a multiplicity of reason.” (My
translation). Ingrao also states in the interview, that “he does
not wish for people to think that all this has to do with the
Vatican curia.” Mr. Ingrao has also not seen the report, claims
that it has leaked are blatantly false. Ingrao affirms, “What I did
was to reconstruct the methodology followed by the three
cardinals.” Furthermore, to claim that the Pope decided to resign
on the day that he received the cardinals’ report is the work of
amateurs or ill will toward the Holy See. And we now see the
result. Agnew simply regurgitated salacious unfounded accusations
and innuendo, having done no research into the matter and ignoring
the plain and obvious fact that no one could have seen the Vatican
report described by Mrs. De Gregorio. But there was more that
should have given Mr. Agnew some pause – and that concerns the
slurs regarding the Vatican Bank. Agnew writes that, “… the report
claimed… the stealing was in particular related to the Vatican
Bank…” Along with this text, La
Repubblica publishes three pictures, two of
young individuals working in different capacities with the Vatican
and one of Mr. Rene Bruelhart, Director of the Authority of
Financial Information for the Holy See. This placement of course
suggests that these three individuals were somehow identified with
the irregularities at the Vatican Bank or the so called gay lobby.
But none of the three is mentioned in the article. That would give
me pause as well, if I were Mr. Agnew. The La
Repubblica article does not even mention the
reason for having the picture of these three important figures in
the Vatican under a title that speaks of gay lobbies and stealing
money. Now, I say these attempts are ideologically driven and Mr.
Agnew cannot be such a simpleton as to not realize this. Mr. Rene
Bruelhart, far from stealing money, is known in the international
banking community as the “anti-money laundering guru.” He was the
head of the Liechtenstein’s financial task force and was brought in
by the Vatican to help the Holy See comply fully with international
standards on financial transparency. Could Mr. Agnew not see that
the innuendo on stealing money from the Vatican, with Bruelhart’s
picture under such a title, is absurd? This is propaganda at its
worst. To his credit, the American journalist who was with Mr.
Agnew that morning when Agnew was merely copying from La
Repubblica
the salacious details for his story, applied
his critical thinking and journalistic ability to retell the story.
He narrates how Agnew had just bought La
Repubblica
that morning and had the whole story
underlined in different colors and was frantically typing away, for
the Irish Times. From newsstand to the typewriter. Laziness is
becoming an unfortunate trait of many journalists. Agnew, did not
go out to interview people, he did not seek to corroborate the
story, no, why bother? It’s only the Catholic Church, after all,
and the Irish people will never know the difference. The analysis
of American journalist Robert Moynihan, after considering the
sourcing on the story, reveals the unfounded nature of the stories
that are now circulating far and wide. Moynihan’s revisited his own
initial coverage and states that it is clear the report was never
leaked. He also states there is no evidence implicating in any way
the people whose photographs appeared in La Repubblica. Moynihan
writes that, the more he studied the two articles on the matter,
the more it dawned on him that “…there were numerous un-sourced
statements and conclusions.” His judgment after initially running
with the story, just behind Agnew, is devastating. Writes Moynihan
about the initial report in La Repubblica, “…the evidence for a
powerful ‘gay lobby’ (in the) Vatican…is sketchy to say the least.”
He presses on, “Nowhere in the article – nowhere – is there any
indication that the author has actually seen the cardinal’s
report.” (Yes, Paddy, there is that little detail.) Additionally,
“… there are only four quotations, that is, only four sourced
sentences, in the entire article.” Amazingly, all the quotations
have nothing to do with the report; two are simply quotes of the
Pope when speaking publicly at different occasions to the people.
Moynihan concludes after a detailed analysis of the sources for
this story: “In other words, this article contains no sourced
evidence whatsoever, except for the alleged statement of a ‘man
close to the man who drafted the Report.’” He writes, “That
sentence is the only ‘semi-sourced’ sentence in the entire
article.” Moynihan’s precise analysis of the one source of this
story (La Repubblica),
should put everyone in the media who may be recirculating Agnew’s
fiction, on notice. This is from a journalist who initially ran
with the story as soon as he read it. In Rome all who understand
this just smile at the absurdity of international media being
duped, so blatantly fooled, by La
Repubblica and the Irish
Times. Upon reading the La
Repubblica
article, anyone in Rome easily sees, that
their final innuendo item, is perhaps most illuminating.
La Repubblica claims that, on the last day of
his pontificate (Feb. 28), the Pope will travel next to Cardinal
Tomko, one of the three charged to produce the cardinals’ report,
to Santa Maria Maggiore, to be with the Slovak bishops and the
faithful from Slovakia. This is yet another effort to connect the
Pope’s resignation, to the unseen report. But as we all know in
Rome, that story is just another invention, to foster intrigue.
Moynihan sees that and point out in his second article, which
corrects his initial version, “But it is simply not true that the
Pope will meet with Slovakian Catholics…anywhere. This sentence is
simply not true.” As we are very aware, such a trip would require
extensive planning on the part of the Vatican. None is going on.
Writes Moynihan, “Frankly, anyone who knows anything about the
Vatican, any Vatican journalist, from the newest to the oldest,
would have and should have, known that this statement…is impossible
and silly.” For its part, the Vatican today characterized the many
stories as “unfounded, not verified, and outright false…with grave
damage of persons and institutions…” To characterize them as the
Vatican did today, as serious defamation, is no overstatement of
this matter. The only honorable thing for the Irish Times
to do, is to retract the accusations with immediacy and
issue a public apology to the Holy See and the Catholic Church in
Ireland. For this kind of “journalism” is unworthy of their pages.
This holds true for others, taking the lead from the
Irish Times and the sloppy editorial job that
permitted these stories, to be printed. Otherwise indeed they will
be confirming, “The Death of Journalism at the Irish Times and
elsewhere.

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