Right on the heels of the New York Times piece on Pope Francis being “strikingly tone-deaf toward the sensitivities and needs of women” in the Catholic Church, The Daily Beast ran a story on Monday that wrongfully suggests Pope Francis has permitted a priest to speak out about the supposed confession of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro.
Before Moro was killed by a terrorist group called the Red Brigades in 1978, a priest by the name of Antonio Mennini allegedly heard Moro’s confession, then was said to have performed the sacrament of extreme unction – similar to the last rites given to danger of dying.
Barbie Latza Nadeau wrote up an article headlined “In Italy’s Most Famous Terror Case Will the Confessor Confess?” She wrote of the Pope:
“…the Pope’s move has raised eyebrows in Rome, where confessors are assumed to have to take the secrets of those who confess to the grave. And while Mennini will be able to refuse to testify about what Moro told him during that last confession, he could face contempt of court if he refuses to tell investigators about the circumstances during that confession now that his immunity has been lifted.”
Nadeau then gets a bit dramatic. She writes, “The implications are far-reaching. Much like lawyer-client privilege, priests are protected in many countries by a clergy confidentiality agreement that keeps them immune from testifying about what they hear in the confessional. If Mennini is pushed to divulge potentially incriminating details, it could lead to other priests being held similarly accountable.”
If Nadeau did her research, and read a little Catholicism 101, she would know that everyone in the Vatican (as well as most Catholics) knows the Pope has no power to lift the secrecy of the confessional.
As Breitbart’s Thomas D. Williams rebutted:
“Religion reporting is notoriously sloppy compared to the more rigorous fact-checking involved in political writing, business reporting and even sports coverage, but this howler stands out as particularly egregious. Nadeau seems to confuse the Pope’s lifting of Mennini’s diplomatic immunity—which means that he can testify in court despite his diplomatic status as a Vatican nuncio—with releasing him from the obligation of silence regarding the sacrament of confession.”
Williams writes that Nadeau’s dramatization of the case is far less sensational than she’s making it out to be. He writes:
“The facts of the case are far less sensational than Nadeau would have readers believe. Pope Francis has asked Mennini, who had contact with Aldo Moro while he was a prisoner of the Red Brigades, to testify to an Italian parliamentary committee that is still investigating the murder of the former Italian prime minister. That’s it....The seal of the confessional has nothing to do with it.”
For his part, Mennini, now an archbishop, insists he never heard Moro’s confession while he was held captive. Mennini also reiterated that not even the Pope himself can dissolve the seal of the confessional.
In the end, all Pope Francis would like is for the members of the Church hierarchy to “cooperate in every possible way with a criminal investigation that is still open,” Mennini being one of them.
Nadeau ends the erroneous article stating that “Whether Father Mennini’s testimony amounts to a confession or not, it has already sent the message that under Francis, secrets are no longer the status quo.” Apparently, doing your basic research isn’t the “status quo” at The Daily Beast.