Not With a Bang, But With a Whimper
This is how the story of The European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology (ESAG) vs. the Patristic Institute and the Vatican ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. You may recall that ESAG claimed to have secured conference facilities at the Patristic Institute for their 1st World Congress.
Each side utterly disputes the other's account, yet neither side will back up their claim with evidence.
Inquiries to the Patristic Institute simply went unanswered. The Vatican must remember the unfortunate incident of 1493 and retains their "no communication with Bears" policy. All we know is that they disputed ESAG's claim. Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Press spokesman also denied a connection.
ESAG, on the other hand, issued a press release yesterday insisting that there was an agreement, the Vatican knew the nature of the conference, but backed out of the agreement once some colorful stories appeared first in the Daily Mail, then in Catholic blogs. It also stated ESAG had the evidence to back up their side of the story.
Unfortunately, ESAG is now playing the lawyer card, and will not reveal any of the evidence that would vindicate it in the realm of public opinion.
So we're back where we started from, in the curious position of two sides saying opposite things, but neither willing to back up their story with a scintilla of evidence. Anyway, as a story, this affair is finished at the choice of the parties. When half the conservative Catholic bloggers on the planet get sued and are eating cat food the rest of their lives, the Bear will cover that, assuming he can keep the broadband on.
The Bear does have a couple of additional observations, however.
What We Did Right
First, Oakes Spalding of Mahound's Paradise, and Maureen Mullarkey, at her blog Studio Matters, were eventually unwilling to accept the Institute's, and later, the Vatican's denials at face value. They examined what little we knew (some of it brought to light by the Bear's investigation) and concluded it just didn't make sense that a respected surgeon would invent out of whole cloth an imaginary conference venue, in the Vatican of all places. Ms. Mullarkey even went so far as to write a new article withdrawing a previous "mea culpa" written after her original article had been pulled by The Federalist.
This is good blogging. Curious, tenacious, original and smart.
The Bloggers and the Parties
However, the Bear wonders if bloggers didn't have a little too much fun with the story. Of course, what we were all doing is pointing at another misstep by the Bergoglio Vatican. Let's face it: it's low-hanging fruit. Does an aesthetic gynecology conference belong at the Patristic Institute, within spitting distance of the Vatican? Certainly a debatable proposition on which the Bear takes no position. However, both parties should have foreseen the storm of raillery that would engulf them.
Criminal defense lawyers do legitimate and important legal work in all sorts of fields the general public finds incomprehensible or distasteful. The Bear would probably not choose the Patristic Institute for a conference on "Credibility Issues In Rape Cases" (and he can think of far more alarming examples) even though that is certainly a legitimate subject for a legal conference. Why wouldn't the Bear do this? Because it is foreseeable that the Daily Mail would run a story entitled "Vatican Hosts Rape Conference," and the whole thing would unravel.
By and large, while salacious, the reports did not strike the Bear as any more inaccurate than any other story. The headlines, emphases, and general tenor of sensationalism and humor, however, do leave me sympathetic with Dr. Bader, the man behind the conference. Bloggers may have had their targeting reticles fixed firmly on the Vatican, but this was a story with a third party -- Dr. Bader. Maybe he assumed the risk when he scheduled the conference (assuming he did), but maybe bloggers should take their hands off their keyboards and think for five minutes before writing any story that may make a third party collateral damage.
Ultimately, this is all about perceptions. From inside Dr. Bader's professional bubble, G-Spot Enhancement is no more strange or funny than a tonsillectomy. Outside the bubble, it's like Woody Allen said. "I don't know the question, but sex is definitely the answer."
Finally, this article contains an Easter Egg for reading to the end: Study: Devout Catholics Have Better Sex.