Saturday, August 29, 2015

More on Egg-Gate: The Gay Storybook and the Pope

In the interests of good journalism, the Bear wouldn't write anything at all. But we're way beyond that by now, woodland creatures. So here is a consolidation of information scattered through the Bear's previous story and comments on the apparent endorsement by Pope Francis of a children's book promoting homosexuality.

It all started in June, when the new mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, banned 49 books from the city's preschool libraries. After a major controversy erupted, he rescinded the ban on all but two books, one of which was Piccolo Uovo.

Gay Penguins, Lesbian Rabbits, and a Rainbow

Piccolo Uovo, or "Little Egg," is a children's book written by Francesca Pardi. Among the fans of the book is gay pop icon Elton John, who, along with his male partner, have obtained two little boys, four-year-old Zachary and two-year-old Elijah. The book-banning became an international incident when Sir Elton blasted Brugnaro in the press. He described Piccolo Uovo this way:
Here is one of the Furnish-John family's favourite storybooks. It champions an all-inclusive world where families come in all shape, sizes and colours. And most importantly, that families are about love. Our boys adore it.
Piccolo Uovo also champions families headed by gay penguins and lesbian rabbits.

It is important to note that this whole situation unfolded against the backdrop of a high-profile controversy. There is every reason to believe the Vatican was aware of this controversy. As we shall see, the Vatican had in its possession pro-homosexual books by the author sent by the author herself. The point to remember is that the response by the Vatican was done with eyes wide open.

At some point, the author of the book, Francesca Pardi, sent an unknown number of copies of her books to Pope Francis. They included seven or eight books expressly dealing with homosexual issues. Accompanying them was a plaintive letter that Pardi showed to a reporter from The Guardian. According to that newspaper, her letter included the following plea:
Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us,” she wrote. “We have respect for Catholics ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?
Pardi was surprised to hear back from the Vatican.  In a letter dated July 9, Msgr. Peter B. Wells, a senior official in the Vatican secretariat, wrote back on behalf of the Pope. It said:
His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.
Msgr. Wells, an American, was appointed to his position by Pope Benedict. According to Vatican-watcher John Allen, Wells is far more than an ordinary functionary. He is a bellwether of Vatican opinion and a man of significant influence. In 2013, Allen wrote this in the National Catholic Reporter of Wells.
Cables revealed as part of the Wikileaks scandal show how much diplomats rely on Wells for readings of the Vatican's take on sensitive issues, such as the church's sexual abuse scandals. Other players know the score, too. In 2010, when parishioners in Boston wanted to appeal the closing of nine local parishes, they consulted a couple of canon lawyers about the best way to get the pope's attention, and the reply was to address the petition to Wells.
Msgr. Wells seems like the last fellow to do something that did not reflect the Pope's sentiments.

After the Guardian story broke on Friday, the Vatican Press Office issued issued a terse statement which placed responsibility for the letter squarely on Msgr. Wells. It did not mention homosexuality specifically, but explained the letter was not meant to endorse anything "not in line with the Gospel." "In no way does the letter from the Secretariat of State mean to endorse behaviour and teachings not in line with the Gospel."

The letter from Wells to Pardi on behalf of Pope Francis was also supposed to private.

The emerging narrative is that this was merely a polite, routine letter to an author of children's books. The problem with this is that it completely ignores the context, which in this case, is everything.



Analysis

So what happened?

First of all, note that Pardi's letter discusses the controversy and expressly asks for support of "the whole hierarchy of the Church." In other words, she is asking the Pope -- to whom she sent the letter and the books -- to take her side in the controversy. And that's exactly what she got, albeit in very careful language.

Second, the letter on behalf of the Pope speaks for itself. How the Vatican Press Office imagines one can praise an author for children's books that favor homosexuality and yet not endorse "behavior and teachings not in line with Gospel," is quite the mystery. Clearly, this is damage control to shift the blame to Wells and backtrack when the Guardian made the papal endorsement public. lt seems to have worked. The accepted narrative is that this was just a routine, polite letter to an author of children's books, and the Pope had nothing to do with it.

Yet Wells obviously felt he had the authority to speak on behalf of Pope Francis on a well-known controversy involving a children's book featuring gay penguins.  It would take a real Vaticanista to know if Wells would do that without the Pope's knowledge, but it seems unlikely to the Bear. If this had been some under-the-radar thing, the Vatican might plead ignorance. This was a matter of controversy, however, as shown by the public record, Pardi's letter and the books she sent.

It is interesting to consider once again John Allen's assessment of Wells. "[D]iplomats rely on Wells for readings of the Vatican's take on sensitive issues." This is a man acutely sensitive to his boss's positions. How likely is it that Wells misread Pope Francis on the controversial book?

Well's letter is admittedly pretty generic. (Query: does praise for spreading "genuine human and Christian values" seem odd coming from the Vatican?) Even so, it is blandly encouraging to an author who writes storybooks on lesbian rabbits for children. This is really the bottom line.

As the Bear asked in the previous story, what would it take to get Msgr. Wells, on behalf of the Pope, to encourage the aggressively orthodox Catholicism contained in this blog? The sun standing still comes to mind, but probably not even that. And yet Francesca Pardi gets an attagirl from Pope Francis for writing Elton John's and David Furnish's favorite gay storybook.

This might be dismissed as an aberration were it not for Pope Francis' -- and indeed most of the hierarchy's -- famous tolerance for sexual deviance. This is the "Who am I to Judge" papacy, the "Bravo!" Church. Pope Francis' priorities do not include teaching on the evils of abortion, homosexuality and contraception. He is a "son of the Church," but finds "it is not necessary to talk of these issues all the time." Or, as it turns out, any of the time.

This is not gratuitous criticism of the Pope. It recalls the context which makes it seem plausible that Pope Francis told Wells to "send a nice letter to the lady who writes about love and acceptance for children with gay parents." So whatever the details of this scandal, in a real sense, Pope Francis owns it.

19 comments:

  1. That's the most thorough, informative and wise (yes, all three!) piece that I have yet read on Penguin-Gate (my preferred term). I just gave you some Facebook link love. Once again, great piece.

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  2. Must echo Mr. Oakes' sentiment -- superb piece, Bear. I can't help imagining Msgr. Wells, right about now, looking in the mirror and wondering how it happened that he seems to have stumbled into the outer precincts of Hell. (Memo to the Msgr: you need this job like California needs hot air. Save yourself while you can -- there's still time!)

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    1. I imagine Msgr. Wells is quite secure, at least career-wise. On another matter, a long time ago you invited the Bear to do something ambitious, which he dismissed. Unless something changes, it might come true in a small way. Stay tuned. Mum's the word :-)

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    2. Perhaps you have already considered this Bear, but what do you think about writing a spoof letter to Msgr. Wells asking that Pope Francis recommend and bless your column? I think all of us were appreciate it.

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    3. Funny you should mention that. I thought I had a good email address for the secretariat. I drafted a short email with a link to my blog and respectfully requested Pope Francis endorse my apostolate of staying in the Church no matter what. I thought that whatever our differences might be, that is something we could agree on. Unfortunately, my email immediately got bounced back. Probably a letter would be better, anyway.

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  3. I third the above....superb analysis.

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  4. Bear,

    I believe reproducing the pictures contained in that squalid book is a type of pornography and you should refrain from doing so. Just my opinion. I'm sure if the author happened upon your blog she would be delighted that you gave her characters such a platform. Do you really want to do that?

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    1. Not pornography, and a legitimate part of the story to show how obviously gay it is and targeted at children. With all due respect, we'll keep the picture.

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  5. One more thing: it is highly significant that Pardi, in her letter to the Pope, discusses the controversy and expressly requests the Pope take her side in it. (You can read the excerpt in the main article.) And that's exactly what the Vatican did, albeit in very careful language. Knowing that was her purpose, why would you respond positively at all? Knowing this was all about a children's book about gay penguins and lesbian rabbits, why would you respond positively at all? Knowing this was a matter of controversy, why would you insert yourself into it on behalf of the author who wrote the book about gay penguins and lesbian rabbits? I mean, if the Vatican is going to pick a side, why not side with the mayor of Venice, who is, after all, trying to protect young, impressionable children from pro-homosexual indoctrination?

    Sadly, we all know the answers to these questions. The sympathies of the most powerful faction in the Vatican -- including Pope Francis -- lie with homosexuals. They are incapable of adhering to the Church's teachings on homosexuality because of their sympathy with homosexuals. Of course, they're going to give papal encouragement to Pardi and side against Brugnaro, who probably represents everything the Vatican despises. Un-loving, non-accepting, rigidly clinging to dusty doctrines instead of opening his arms in a loving embrace of diversity.

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    1. LOL....'a loving embrace of diversity'. More like.....'a loving embrace of sodomy' is more like it.

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  6. Something else for discussion. What do you make of the Vatican's high dudgeon mode about the letter being "private?" How likely is it that an encouraging letter from the Pope to an author embroiled in controversy is going to remain private? How stupid does the Vatican think we are? Isn't it more likely that Pope Francis is carefully telegraphing his support for families headed by homosexual couples in advance of the Synod on the Family coming next month? What better way than to choose the homosexual side in a controversy in such a way that clearly puts Pope Francis' seal of approval on it, yet maintains deniability? And one even has to question what the Press Office means when it says "not in line with the Gospel." Does that mean the old Catholic Gospel of rules and doctrines, or the new Francis Gospel of love and acceptance?

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  7. That the Vatican is a nest of sodomy is chilling. If we but for a moment think of the day-to-day depravity that takes place in a sodomite household the pain of the crucifixion comes into yet sharper focus. How Our Lord must have suffered knowing how His Law would be trampled.

    The children of sodomites, often, are conceived, if they are related by blood, via masturbation and artificial insemination and then the birth mother hands over the newborn to a household where two men routinely sodomize each other. Now, third world rent-a-womb services, used by sodomites, exploit impoverished women. Why didn't the latest encyclical mention that! S and M may be part of the daily routine, as might threesomes and beyond. The emotional dynamics are twisted and the household is bereft of mothering, so important for healthy child development. It's an environment of day to day coarseness and lewdness and self-absorption and stuntedness. It's EVIL.

    Our forebears were filled with wisdom and knew you could never institutionalise such bleakness, such depravity in the raising of children to build society.

    How did we get here?!

    Lesbianism is also unnatural and emotionally toxic to developing children. Girls and boys need a dad!

    I'm overcome by the enormity of the present crisis! Prayer and fasting are in order certainly but I also hope Our Lady will intervene in 2017 to set us on course once again.

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    1. The Bear is thinking only a large asteroid is going to be sufficient. The West is utterly corrupt and the Church has completely lost the thread. What happens in 2017?

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    2. Can I get my tubal ligation, now?

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    3. Bear, great analysis..even the asteroid part. Sandpiper, wow! Talk about getting down to brass tacks.

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  8. 100 years since Fatima. 500 years of the great heresy of Luther's which, as I understand, will be celebrated @ the Vatican. It simply feels like a year that portends something remarkable. I'm not hanging my hat on it, but I believe there to be a 51% chance that Our Lady will show her solidarity with the Church Militant.

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  9. One report by 'Catholic Family News' that is interesting to me, they report the 'encouraging letter' by Pope Francis to the author says at one point: 'Go ahead on your pathway'. Now, maybe this is just one of those 'misinterpretations' that people are claiming muddy the waters of the Pope's words we have seen so many many times in the past. Or maybe again this was taken 'out of context' and he was saying 'Go ahead on your pathway' to relate to children the Gospel of Jesus Christ in His Church? (I have to admit, this is quite ludicrous) 'Go ahead on your pathway' to me is pretty damning coming from the Vicar of Christ if this is indeed what was relayed to this author by Pope Francis via Wells.

    I'm not that savvy in linking articles, sorry but if you go to 'Catholic Family News' you can find it in their article on the subject. Unbelievable.

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  10. Were there any gay bears in the book?

    Seattle kim

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