Gone are the days when “Vatican secrets” meant something. In yet another episode of insider information sharing, someone within Vatican walls with privileged access to documents has leaked a draft of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment to the Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who has never hesitated to publish anything he can get his hands on.
Magister found out Tuesday morning that his accreditation as a Vatican journalist had been revoked.
After Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, passed along entire bundles of stolen documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi in 2012, people have come to expect the worst from those who work around the Pope. There are still many organizations in the world that require employees to take an oath of secrecy regarding the information they are privy to, and the Vatican is one of them. It would seem that oath-taking, however, has come to mean little.
For its part, the Vatican press office was quick to issue a statement that read:
An Italian text of a draft of the Pope’s Encyclical “Laudato Si’” has been published. Please note that it is not the final text, and that the rules of the Embargo remain in place. We ask journalists to respect professional standards, which call for waiting for the official publication of the final text.
Indeed, a number of typographical errors are in evidence throughout the leaked text, which may explain, in part, the provisional nature of this draft. It is unknown at this time whether the final version that will be released this Thursday will contain other, more substantial, modifications.
The press office, in fact, often releases “embargoed” documents to reporters, which are advance copies made available so journalists can prepare commentary prior to the public release of a document rather than having to scramble to publish a hasty article.
When accepting embargoed texts, journalists agree not to publish articles based on them until the time the document is officially released, at which point the embargo is lifted. It is considered a breach of journalistic ethics to publish embargoed texts prior to the agreed upon time.
Judging from the draft version of the letter, no one will be totally satisfied with its contents. Those who are pushing for a progressive embrace of radical ecology will find with dismay that the Pope has reaffirmed that human beings occupy a singular place in creation “above every other creature,” that the population control promoted by certain lobbies and international organizations is morally repugnant, that GMOs have proven to be a great benefit for mankind and that defense of nature is “incompatible with a justification of abortion.”
On the other hand, climate skeptics will have their fears confirmed that Francis has accepted the “scientific consensus” regarding global warming, that he tends to blame wealthy, capitalist countries for the suffering of the Third World and that he favors coordinated international regulation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases as well as the consumption of fossil fuels.
All should find some comfort, however, in the Pope’s advocacy of a continuing debate regarding the causes and solutions to environmental problems.
“On many concrete questions,” the draft says, “the Church does not intend to propose a definitive teaching and she understands that she should rather listen and promote an honest debate among scientists, respecting their diversity of opinion.”
“To this end, what is needed is a scientific and social debate that is both responsible and broad, in order to consider all the available information and call things by their name,” it says.
“A selective reading of the facts makes it difficult to arrive at a balanced, prudent judgment on different matters, considering all of the variables in play.”
It is necessary to create “forums of debate” in which of those involved in any way “can explain their problems and have access to ample, trustworthy information,” it says.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome