March 3, 2015

Who is stealing books about divorce from the Vatican?



Synods can get crazy, especially when the commemorative engraving kicks into high gear. Image via Wikipedia.

We are always  willing to brave the many conspiracies of the book world, whether they’re the mysterious (which is to say suspicious) Colorado book drops, or John Darnielle’s deal with Satan. It appears that MobyLives has another lead, and this one may be the biggest—because it’s about missing books at the Vatican. The Vatican! My symbology degree is finally paying off.

When the Vatican isn’t busy shit-talking cool nuns, hurting for cash, or frantically backing up their work, they’re holding these things called “synods”. Which isn’t just the expression you make when admitting to owning an entire shelf of Tom Robbins books; it’s also a term for an ecumenical council meant to parse the big questions surrounding the Catholic doctrine. Questions like: “Divorce: uncool, or super uncool?” (Answer: pending) and: “Can we prosecute a corpse?” (Answer: somehow yes.)

Synods are big events, and this one was split into two parts, the first one occurring last October and the next one a year later. It’s addressing the concept of family, the first synod to do so in 25 years, and the various men involved are expected to address the thorny issue of divorce. Cardinal Walter Kasper is expected to be a central figure; he gave a speech to the College of Cardinals last year in which he advocated for a more liberal treatment of divorced Catholics and their receipt of the sacraments. Acknowledging the doctrine’s rigidity, Kasper nonetheless called for a nuanced, case-by-case approach.

It’s widely speculated that Pope “Cool” Francis agrees with Kasper, if not publicly, but the Cardinal’s ideas weren’t exactly well received by his colleagues. Five of Kasper’s fellow cardinals quickly collaborated on a book that affirmed a hard-line doctrinal stance on the subject of divorce, and published it right before the synod began last October.

The Associated Press reports that Ignatius Press, the publisher of Remaining In The Truth Of Christ: Marriage And Communion In The Catholic Church, mailed out copies of this book to the bishops attending the synod. The number of copies sent isn’t clear (the AP says “upwards of 100”) but however many it was, almost all of them have allegedly disappeared. That’s a lot of missing stock, especially for a $24.95 paperback.

The editor at Ignatius, Father Joseph Fessio, confirmed that the books were received but not distributed to the intended bishops. Newsmax then reported/spread the rumor that the synod’s Secretary General, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, had the packages intercepted. Asked to comment, Baldisseri’s office claimed no wrongdoing:

“There was no censorship and the parcels that arrived were delivered. When they were delivered, the parcels only had an Italian stamp on them but had not been stamped either by the Italian or the Vatican postal services. Before distributing the parcels to the Synod Fathers, the Synod Secretariat asked the Vatican postal service to stamp them. Each parcel that arrived was then placed in each of the Synod Fathers’ corresponding named mailboxes. The contents of the parcels remained confidential as happens with all post distributed as normal.”

“The stamping process delayed the delivery of the parcels by half a day. Nobody made the parcels disappear and if anyone did not receive their parcel, this is simply because it did not arrive. What is more, the book in question was available at the Vatican Publishing House book desk, at the entrance of the Synod Hall.”

In the meantime, Ignatius issued a hilarious press release with bold font size choices.

Baldisseri has previously gone on record about how he hopes the synod addresses divorce, and his ideas echo Kasper’s. But until we at MobyLives can get our hands on a smoking gun (i.e. a bill of lading), the allegations against him are just that. However, any theft (and possible destruction) of the cardinals’ published writings will just confirm what is already being speculated, which is that this synod is set to be long, drawn-out, and ugly. Get a good seat, folks, because there’s a rumble going down in the Vatican, and not even the books are safe.


Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.