Another awkward 'clarification' from the Vatican

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 25, 2015

Every reasonable person understands what Pope Francis meant when, in a private message to a friend in Argentina, he used the term “Mexicanization” to refer to the troubles of a country torn by drug trafficking. Among other things, we understand that the Pope did not intend this message for public consumption.

Unfortunately, private messages can be become public. Pope Francis is still learning that painful lesson, and the Vatican press office is still learning how to cope with the fallout from the Pontiff’s habitual candor.

So today we have another “clarification” of the Pope’s comment, with the press office insisting that the Pope loves the Mexican people and does not “underestimate the commitment of the Mexican government in its fight against narcotics trafficking.” It’s an awkward exercise in damage-control, and it gets worse.

As is known, the expression “avoid 'Mexicanisation'” was used by the Pope in an email of a strictly private and informal nature, in response to an Argentine friend who is deeply involved in the battle against drug abuse, who had used the phrase.

What are the first three words—“As is known”-- doing in that sentence? If it really is generally known, why say it? But in fact this sentence is, or should be, the core of the Vatican’s response to the brouhaha. The Pope was writing a “strictly private and informal” message to a friend. He was not making any official announcement or policy statement.

If the Vatican press office made that statement forthrightly—perhaps, just for a change, putting it in the active rather than passive voice—it would put the onus of responsibility where it belongs: on the Argentine organization that made a private message public.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Leopardi - Feb. 27, 2015 4:53 PM ET USA

    Now wait. What's wrong with the frank, unvarnished truth? The reason that the term 'Mexicanization' is commonly understood is that people know that Mexico is riddled with crime, violence and corruption related to the illegal drug trade and that legitimate forces in government have failed to quench the flame. Let's not back away for the sake of cosmetics. Let's instead offer our prayers and, in the case of Pope Francis, his considerable political influence in support of those in suffering