It seems that a side discussion has crept up about how chatty clergy get amongst themselves, and the things that fly over drinks in ecclesiastical circles. Some seek to deny that this type of communication exists -- e.g. "Archbishop Burke would never say that."
I wonder what planet they come from.
So from the Romanita' desk, here's this week's Letter from Rome of Robert Mickens of The Tablet. Mickens really seems to know what he's talking about, except when he says "clericalism is back."
Clericalism is back? Where did it ever go?
Archbishop Paul Marcinkus (now there’s a blast from the ecclesiastical past!) used to call it the “washing well”. It was his reference to the gossip mill in clerical Rome. Now, if you didn’t know that clericalism is back (and in a big way), and if you don’t know who Marcinkus is, then you must have tuned-out some time last century. “Chink” – as the archbishop is nick-named – was a looming presence in the Montini-Luciani-Wojtyla era as papal bodyguard, governor of Vatican City State, and Vatican fall-guy for the Ambrosian Bank scandal. He is currently somewhere in sunny Arizona improving his golf game and – we all suspect and hope – writing his memoirs. “You can see all the dirty laundry at the washing well,” he used to say. And there’s no better place for that than at the coffee bars and trattorias throughout the Borgo where the gossip oozes as thick as the espresso priests and news hacks
gulp down in tiny porcelain cups. “Che dicono?” is a favourite ice-breaker – “what are people saying?” And from there it can be “off to the races” with an earful of juicy titbits, or – quite frequently – a tricky and disciplined game of cat-and-mouse. Usually the curial “deep-throats” end all their revelations with a qualifying, “così dicono,” which basically means, “Hey, don’t blame me if this isn’t true; this is just what people are saying.” Indeed, the snoops and gossipmongers often get their items mixed up at the washing well. The other day a Vatican type said he had a hot tip for me, but he couldn’t remember where he had heard it. It turned out not
be a hot tip at all, but something he got from me! By the way, the ever-shrewd Marcinkus made this famous remark, as he was about to “retire” to the United States: “The psalmist says, ‘Put not your trust in princes.’ That goes especially for princes of the Church.”