Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano speaks to thousands during the "Walk for Life" rally and March, Saturday, January 24, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo / Alex Washburn)

At that time there were Catholic newspapers scattered around the back of the parish church, with articles that moved with the church in the middle of the street, rarely challenging the hierarchy aggressively.

But this week's news that Catholic journalists were involved in the processing and distribution of an explosive and largely unverified letter from the Vatican diplomat calling for the pope's resignation revealed an influential and tight-lipped conservative Catholic digital media network operating during his archenemy's tenure , Pope, Francis was particularly active.

[Former Vatican ambassador says Popes Francis, Benedict knew of sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick for years]

Like many of the media in our hyperpolarized, digital era, Catholic news sites have become profound divided between left and right. And today, the dividing line is almost always what Francis says or does for almost everything, from global warming and tax cuts to the death penalty and the increasing acceptance of LGBT Catholics and unmarried people.

So when Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wanted to challenge a first public assault of a Vatican member on a sitting Pope, he naturally turned to conservative places like and the National Catholic Register in the US, as well as celebrities to conservative journalists in Italy who in recent years have started bossy blogs where they can talk about Francis.

Similar to Breitbart and The Drudge Report served as a medium for the brand of conservative American populism under the leadership of Donald Trump. The conservative Catholic media have become rulers of power by conveying the anti-Francis view and this time become part of history.

[The former Vatican ambassador behind the explosive allegations against the Catholic Church is no stranger to intrigue]

"My wife points out," If you publish it, you think that's how you're on his side. "Are you alright?" Yes, I am, "wrote Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli on his blog on Tuesday about his decision to meet Vigano and tell him whether he wanted to know Francis and some of his allies about sexual misconduct, or not from a senior clergyman, former DC Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Valli says he shares Vigano's view that people at the head of the church "do not work to bring the gospel of Jesus to the men and women of our time, but to bring chaos and follow the logic of the world."

Valli was just one star in the constellation of conservative Catholic media reportedly part of the 11-page letter. The Associated Press reported that the conservative Italian journalist Marco Tosatti spent three weeks sitting at the dining room table of Tosatti's living room when they both rewrote and edited the letter and even worked on the timing – for the impact.

"I think if you want to say something, that's the moment, because in the US it all goes upside down, he said, 'OK.'" Tosatti said he told Vigano.

[As rumors of sexual misdeeds swirled, Cardinal McCarrick raised millions for the Vatican]

Vigano eventually distributed his letter to a handful of conservative Catholic websites, including the register owned by the Alabama-based conglomerate EWTN, the Eternal World Television Network. According to its website, EWTN operates 11 round-the-clock networks reaching 270 million households in 145 countries. EWTN was founded in the early 1980s by nun-magnate Mother Angelica, a media visionary committed to promoting traditional social values.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that two weeks ago Vigano shared his plan with Timothy Busch, a Koch Brothers-type figure in conservative Catholic circles sitting on EWTN's board. Busch said the head of the registry had personally assured him that Pope Benedict, a conservative favorite, had confirmed Vigano's report. Benedict and his representatives refused to confirm the report.

The telephone calls to Tosatti were not reciprocated, but he tweeted that his role was exaggerated and that he had only edited the letter.

Valli told the Post on Wednesday that he had met Vigano three times after initially going to a conference for conservatives. For the first time in March, Vigano has listed a long list of internal Vatican issues. For the third and last time, on August 21st, Vigano handed out a memory card with a design with a baseball cap and Valli sunglasses, the journalist said. The two outlined the plan to distribute the letter during Francis's trip to Ireland. if the pope were surrounded by reporters.

Vigano was much more motivated than the McCarrick case, Valli said.

McCarrick was more like the trigger. [Viganò] He had a broader vision, "he said." What he really cared about [is that] Since the end of the pontificate of John Paul II, the problem of homosexuality in the church has been well known. But it was hidden. "

A message left with Busch's office was not returned.

But while Catholics of all political persuasions suspect there is a cover-up under their leadership that deals with abuse – and McCarrick's case in particular – even many conservatives say they want Vigano's letter to be partially independently ratified, in part because of its links to right-wing Catholic media. The general trust of US Catholics in their media, like the Americans as a whole, seems to have declined in recent decades, some long-time journalists in the field say, as the Web has produced endless, headstrong blogs that point to anonymous references then the bigger Catholic news affect websites.

John Thavis, who for decades covered the Vatican in Rome and was the office manager of the Catholic News Service before retiring, said the digital boom after 2000 had significantly increased the number of Catholic media votes.

"Many of the smaller Catholic organizations take a conservative line and may reflect their donors' church policies," he said. Vatican journalists started their own blogs, where they could oppose more about papal politics – and usually on the conservative side, said Thavis.

In the early 2000s, the center-right Catholic news agency was founded in Denver. CNA is now part of the EWTN, as well as the registry whose website was populated on Wednesday with articles on Vigano, homosexuality and transgenderism.

One of the top priorities of Valli and Tosatti and other Italian conservative journalists, according to Thavis, are "their warnings of homosexuality". The powerful Italian conservatives in the media focused in particular on the preservation of church practice, especially after the liberalizing changes of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, when the empowered left pushed for even more changes, such as the admission of women to priests , The Conservatives focused particularly on issues such as sex and family, and were furious with Francis's encouragement to dialogue and whether divorced Catholics should receive communion.

After decades of rule by the traditional John Paul II, Thavis said the Vatican press corps had been invested in JP2's view of the church. He remembers a loud cheering in the press room when the Cardinals in 2005 chose the like-minded Benedict as his successor. He also recalls the loud complaints in 2013, when the newly elected Pope Francis, at his first meeting with journalists, said that he would not offer the traditional blessing of his predecessors because there were non-Christians in the corps and he wanted to show respect ,

"It was enlightening for me to see how conservative [some of the media were] on specific church doctrines and practices. I do not want to say that they were more Catholic than the Pope, "said Thavis, but for the conservative reporters, Francis's efforts to reduce the pomp and royalty of the ministry was not just traditional, but a gimmick.

The priorities of the emerging new network of conservative Catholic media are not limited to topics related to sex and ritual. Not only sits on the board of the EWTN and many other Catholic organizations, Busch is also the eponym of the Business School of the Catholic University, a graduate school known for unifying free markets, capitalism and Catholic education. Franz, on the other hand, is more in the socialist model of Catholicism.

In 2011, Busch co-founded the Napa Institute, a fairytale TED talk conference in Napa, California, for conservative Catholics to prepare the faith for "the next America," the website said.

When he was in the United States, a well-known conservative lay leader said, the conservative media circles were the ones where Vigano traveled. And sometimes oceans were crossed, such as when Tosatti wrote for influential US conservative magazine First Things. The conservative Catholic media in the US and Italy are "all part of a world," said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Vigano case is so divisive, and that person did not want to be seen as a supplement.

The National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, and EWTN represent the core of conservative Catholic media, with being seen as advocacy rather than journalism and even more. LifeSite is led by Michael Voris, a journalist who "carries a message of the need for an unwavering defense of Catholic truth," the website said. LifeSite was launched in the 1970s by a Canadian organization dedicated to the fight against "abortion, euthanasia, cloning, homosexuality," and other issues.

Conservative Catholic outlets have stirred the pot in front of Vigano. A year ago, the Theological College of the Catholic University canceled a performance by the liberal Jesuit James Martin, a prominent proponent of LGBT acceptance, by calling "increasing negative feedback from various social media sites." A statement stating that the refusal was only a decision of the seminar – not that of the entire university – reflects "the same pressure exerted by the left at universities to withdraw invitations from speakers," wrote President John Garvey.

Although some conservative Catholics are inspired by what they hope for, the letter's potential to reduce Francis influence is skeptical of the way it was shared.

"This whole episode seems like total fake news," said the conservative lay leader. The charges of covering up sexual abuse "must be investigated wherever they go, but the way it came out really impressed me:" They are really in search of Francis. "

But people who are part of the right-wing news sphere do not see it as Catholic journalists on the left see their work halting the pope's reform efforts as a vendetta against another part of the church. But a commentator in the conservative Catholic media sphere, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there is no question that the journalists who published Vigano's full letter without reporting it had a mission.

"I think they would all see it this way: they are not trying to be objective," the person said. "They try to evangelize, they try to spread the good news, they spread the message the way they understand it, they are activists."

Chico Harlan in Rome contributed to this report.

Continue reading:

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