Monday, June 20, 2005

Così Dicono

When clericalism gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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.”



Blogger Gyrovagus said...

Reminds me of that wonderful scene in Jean Anouilh's BECKET (film version) where Pope Alexander III (played by Paolo Stoppa) and Cardinal Zambelli (wonderfully played by Gino Cervi - did he ever work in the Curia???) try to discuss an issue, with Zambelli trying to "feel out" the Pope to see whether he's heard a certain rumor - till the Pope reminds him that he (the Pope) got the rumor from him (Zambelli).

"Zambelli," says the Pope, "if you try to outmaneuver yourself to no purpose, we'll be here all night."

The whole scene - like the Fellini-esque meeting between Innocent III and Francis of Assisi in Zeffirelli's BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON - is enjoyable because, when you compare each to the real life Vatican, the exaggeration is NOT as great as you might first imagine.

Anyhow, from that same movie, BECKET, comes an evaluation that could be applied to any number of today's "players" high and low:

"DEEES man ees an ABYYYYYSS of AMBEETION!" (to be spoken with appropriate Italian facial expressions and hand gestures) in reference to your most (un)favorite cleric.

20/6/05 12:32  

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