The newly released book The Dictator Pope has drawn international attention for its claims about the current pontificate, and reports say the Vatican is anxiously hunting down the author, who goes by the alias Marcantonio Colonna (a 16th-century Italian aristocrat who served as admiral of the papal fleet in the Battle of Lepanto). Church Militant spoke with the author via email to discuss his hopes in publishing the book and his thoughts on the current regime.
Church Militant: Why did you write the book, and what do you hope Catholics do with this information about Pope Francis?
Marcantonio Colonna: My aim in publishing the book was to show the immense gap between the present media image of Pope Francis and the reality. What Catholics can do with the information may vary: At best it may encourage the leaders of the Church (and I know that many cardinals and other senior figures have read the book and absorbed its message) to confront Pope Francis and halt him in his present course of government. If that is impossible, I hope that at least it will serve as a lesson to the cardinals at the next conclave not to make the same mistake of electing a little-known cardinal who turns out to be very different from what he was thought to be.
CM: Inside sources have told CM that the atmosphere in the Vatican under Pope Francis is "like North Korea" — meaning fear reigns, especially among more orthodox clergy. We've also read comments from various prelates that a great deal of spying and bugging of phones/computers in the Vatican is going on. Is this true? If so, can you elaborate?
MC: The espionage in the Vatican is exactly as you say, and I give details of it in my book. Clergy and laity working there find that their offices, cars and even private homes are bugged and their telephones tapped. Everyone you talk to in the Vatican, of all parties or none, will tell you that the atmosphere there is one of profound fear, a state of affairs completely unlike anything known in living memory.
CM: How are you obtaining such inside information about the pope, and how can the public know this information is reliable?
MC: I have been living in Rome for the last four years and more, and have spoken to many priests and laymen working in the Vatican. For some of the most sensitive information it is impossible to disclose one's sources, but a great deal of what is contained in my book has already been published by journalists such as Sandro Magister and Philip Lawler, who know the Vatican well. Their testimony has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, and one objective of my book is to give it more impact by collecting it all in one place.
CM: Pope Francis has offered conflicting public remarks about the "gay lobby." On the one hand, he acknowledges its existence; on the other, he seems to tolerate and in some cases promote pro-gay clergy. Pope Benedict acknowledged he did confront and try to break up the gay lobby in the Vatican. Do you think Pope Francis is making a point to fight this homosexual network?
MC: In fact Benedict XVI's attempted work of cleaning out the homosexual lobby from the Vatican (and from the clergy as a whole) has been totally undermined by the present Pope. He has continued the policy for which he was well known as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, of deliberately making use of morally weak subordinates because of the hold it gives him over them. Not only have prelates of scandalous character been promoted by Pope Francis but they have been given a platform to promote their programme of changing the Church's teaching on sexual morality, as they attempted to do, with considerable success, in the two Synods on the Family.
CM: Rome seems intent in finding out your identity. What do you think will happen to you if Rome discovers who you are?
MC: If the Vatican finds out who I am and chooses to disclose my identity, the main effect will probably be to give me fresh publicity. What I am more concerned about is the possible purge of people whom the Vatican may choose to associate with me, because punishment of the slightest dissidence is the hallmark of the present papacy, and the propaganda machine is relentless in blackening the reputation of those who are identified as being "on the other side."
CM: What are your thoughts on the papal rescript? Do you think this is Pope Francis' way of answering the dubia?
MC: I have avoided taking doctrinal sides in my book, and as far as Amoris Laetitia goes I was mainly concerned to show how indirect and ambiguous is Pope Francis' way of teaching the Church. The rescript that you mention is a good example. Why should the authoritative interpretation of a document such as Amoris Laetitia be conveyed in a letter to the Argentinian bishops? If Pope Francis has a new teaching to give the Church, if he is seeking as he claims to bring the true spirit of Christ to defeat a tradition of clerical legalism, why does he not proclaim it boldly and clearly, as the great teachers of Christian doctrine have always done? Under the present papacy we have moved from a regime of teaching by clear dogma to insinuating by political manoeuvre.
CM: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
MC: I would just like to make a remark prompted by some journalists' reactions to my book. Some of them seem to have been taken so much by surprise by an unfamiliar story that they suppose that my purpose in writing it was to plug a particular, personal view of Pope Francis. In fact nearly everything that I say in the book is quoted either from things that have already been published or from private informants. The objective I wanted to achieve was to get the facts into the open, and I hope that my book will encourage further investigative work to lay bare Pope Francis and his pontificate even further. Just yesterday the Pope gave an address to journalists in which (conceivably inspired by some developments of the past few weeks) he has called for "precise and complete" information from the journalistic profession. This is a wish in which I am happy to be absolutely on the Pope's side.