When bishops tell lies

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 10, 2020

Father Raymond de Souza has an important piece in the Catholic Herald, with a title that tells it all: “We used to believe bishops told the truth. What happened?”

The cases that Father de Souza cites do not involve differences of opinion or questions of interpretation. They involve simple, demonstrable, flat-out lies. Lies told by Church leaders in the US and in Rome; lies noticed by reporters in the secular and religious press, in news-analysis pieces and in straight news stories.

It isn’t late-breaking news, unfortunately, that bishops sometimes tell lies. The damage done by the sex-abuse scandal was compounded by the realization that bishops had almost routinely lied about the status of accused priests—and, as if that weren’t enough, impugned the integrity of parents who were making perfectly legitimate complaints.

But there is still no clear evidence that our bishops know how much those lies have damaged their credibility—how much work they will have to do to recover public confidence. On the contrary there is a cynicism on display: a willingness to lie even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Father de Souza recalls the “Pachamama” controvery:

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, insisted that there were no “prostrations,” despite his own department providing video footage of same. His deputy at the press conference applauded his denial, giving the whole affair a rather Soviet feel.

Sometime soon—we’re told—the Vatican will release its report on the McCarrick scandal. Father de Souza wonders aloud: “But who will believe what is being told?”

That’s a fair question. But I have another one. Has anyone ever heard a bishop apologize for a lie?

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: feedback - Jan. 15, 2020 1:58 AM ET USA

    A bishop's constant prayer should be: "Let those who wait in hope for you, LORD of hosts, not be shamed because of me. Let those who seek you, God of Israel, not be disgraced because of me." [Psalm 69:6-7]

  • Posted by: keelergmom2722 - Jan. 11, 2020 12:31 PM ET USA

    Bishops seem to live by a different ethic than the rest of us. What kind of training do they receive before they are consecrated? Is there a solemn swearing that they will never show a public (or private) disagreement with the Pope? An act of blatant idolatry took place in the Vatican gardens, in Santa Maria Transpontina and probably also in St Peter's if Pachama was processed into her. Cannon 1211 has something to say that is pertinent.Where are the Bishops of the world?!

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Jan. 10, 2020 11:55 PM ET USA

    Most of the lies can be followed by following the money that is funneled to many of the activities overseen by these bishops. They fear the loss of money more than the loss of truth. We see this regarding abusive priests and bishops. It is a sad day when you no longer can trust your bishops. Part of the problem is the lack of faith and trust in the USCCB. St. Michael defend us.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Jan. 10, 2020 6:40 PM ET USA

    not me. My experience is that clergy have a particularly difficult time repenting. They don't seem to know how, or how to ask forgiveness. Very puzzling to me.