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Catholic Culture Overview

Pope did not comment on Gibson's Passion

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 24, 2003

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According to our collleagues at Catholic News Service, an informed Vatican official has denied reports that Pope John Paul commented favorably on Mel Gibson's film. The Pope watched the film, but made no comment at all, the official insists.

Now here's what makes this particularly interesting:

The "senior Vatican official" in the CNS story is not identified. The official who originally conveyed the Pope's alleged comment was identified: Archbishop Stanislas Dziwisz, the Pope's longtime personal secretary.

Just a few days earlier, another anonymous Vatican official (or maybe it was the same one; who knows?) told reporters that Cardinal Renato Martino was not speaking for the Pope when he accused American troops of treating Saddam Hussein "like a beast."

Notice the pattern? One official, speaking for attribution, issues Statement X. Another official, under cloak of anonymity, says that X is not Vatican policy. The net effect is that everyone is thoroughly confused.

What is the Vatican policy? What does the Pope think? If the Pope would prefer not to comment-- a very sensible alternative-- why are other Vatican officials speaking out? Most confusing of all, if the official line is "no comment," why are the officials who say "no comment" reluctant to identify themselves?

I'd like to offer answers, not just questions. But I'm stumped.

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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