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 L’Osservatore Romano:

An International Scandal


Michael J. Matt

Editor, The Remnant


Vatican Recommended?

(Posted 3/12/10 When a young Catholic, especially a famous young Catholic, publicly demonstrates pride in his Faith these days it tends to be something of a media event. Robbed of his identity and made to feel ashamed of his “hateful” history, the child of the “new springtime” tends to be content to conceal his Faith much like wayward schoolboys used to conceal their scapulars.

There are notable exceptions. Catholic actors Jim Caviezel and Eduardo Verástegui come to mind, as does the Oakland Athletics’ top prospect for 2010, Grant Desme—the baseball star who after a MVP-winning season last year announced he would leave baseball to enter the priesthood this year. Jaw drop!

South Korea’s Stella Kim Yu-na deserves honorable mention, as well. When the record-setting figure skater made the Sign of the Cross before her gold medal performance at the Vancouver Olympics, fans and television commentators alike were stunned. Public displays of religious affiliation are fine for Wiccans and Scientologists, but Catholics?  

On the other hand, some disenfranchised Catholics were intrigued: “Her crossing herself made me also make the Sign of the Cross as I watched her performance on TV,” Monica Lee Ji-yun told the Union of Catholic Asian News. “Her faith in God and her ceaseless training finally paid off. As a Catholic, I’m very proud of her.”

According to the UCA News, “many youths thought her rosary ring was an engagement ring. Kim was baptized in May 2008, along with her mother. Since then, she has always worn a rosary ring...” According to Father Ignatius Kim Min-soo, “Big stars like Kim making the Sign of the Cross in public can help the Church’s evangelization activities indirectly. Her public display of her Catholic identity fills local Catholics with pride and influences non-Catholics too.”

Yes, that’s generally how it worked for the first one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five years of the Church’s existence. But the little skater from South Korea wasn’t alive in 1965. Mercifully spared the spiritually debilitating effects of the “new springtime” she still wants to be a Catholic, and a proud one at that.

As a convert, she’s excited about who and what she is, and wants to share it with a world that just couldn't care any less. For that matter, neither could most Catholics since the Church went to war with her own identity by “outlawing” her ancient liturgy, ceasing to teach her venerable prayers, abandoning her official language (Latin), closing her churches and schools by the hundreds, and adopting the ways of the modern world in dress, worship and attitude.  Catholics no longer “stick out”, much to the delight of her ancient enemies the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Take the Vatican’s newspaper of record, L’Osservatore Romano (LOR), for example. It’s become so politically correct these days that, at least as a Catholic enterprise, it might as well be going around incognito. I don’t judge its editors rashly; I just read their stuff, most of which tends to bring to mind tie-dyed tee-shirts and ponytails.

Recent examples are myriad—from LOR editor Gian Maria Vian’s assertion that Barack Obama “is not a pro-abortion president”, to his attempted rehabilitation of Socialist pop guru John Lennon, to the fulsome praise of the Beatles’ White Album (described as “magical musical anthology” and a “unique and strange alchemy of sounds and words”), to a semi-favorable review of Catholic-basher James Cameron’s “Avatar”, to the 4-star review of the latest Harry Potter vehicle (based on the children’s series roundly criticized as “spiritually dangerous” by Pope Benedict XVI), to their outrageous eulogy for pop idol (and alleged child molester) Michael Jackson, who LOR’s Marcello Filotei described as a “child prodigy” with an “extraordinary soul voice”, and “no accusation, however serious or shameful, is enough to tarnish his myth among his millions of fans throughout the entire world”.

This is mere child’s play, of course, compared to LOR’s revelation last March (see “On the Side of the Brazilian Girl”) that direct abortion could be morally justified and its evil mitigated in some “extreme circumstances”. The worldwide pro-life movement is still staggering around, trying to pull that knife from its back.

Undaunted, L’Osservatore Romano soldiered on, even tapping Italian essayist Luca M. for a glowing tribute to the vulgar animated television program, The Simpsons, on the occasion of that program’s 20th anniversary.

LOR is evidently okay with the fact that as early as 2005 The Simpsons had already featured Springfield – the fictional town where the show is set – legalizing same-sex marriage. As the mayor of Springfield put it, “Springfield: a place where everyone can marry – even dudes.” Entire episodes such as “Three Gays of the Condo” (season 14) were devoted to playing down the stigma attached to so-called “gay marriage”.

“The striking thing in the case of The Simpsons,” writes NCR’s John Allen in his January 21st post, “is not that the Vatican paper should weigh in, but that it did so favorably. Possati suggested that without the ‘tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, deranged and profound’ program, with its ‘philosophical and at times even theological’ touches, ‘today many would not know how to laugh. Rigid censors turn off their TVs, but more serious analysts praise the realism and intelligence of the scripts, even if they also object – justifiably – to language that’s sometimes crude and the violence of certain episodes.’”

Evidently, sophisticated Catholics don’t shy away from immoral and blasphemous programming anymore. That’s for all those pre-Vatican II types who still haven’t cast off the shackles of a repressive medieval Church and its oddball affiliates such as the National Legion of Decency and the Legion of Mary. Real Catholics have grown up, or so LOR would have us believe.

On the other hand, the young Thomas Peters of the American Papist blog reacted to LOR’s junior-high journalism with the two burning questions on everyone's mind lately: “What the heck is going on with L’Osservatore Romano these days? Who is commissioning these embarrassing articles, and who is allowing them to go to print?!”


Case in point: Last month L’Osservatore Romano released its picks of the top ten rock and pop albums of all time. Though there is no link to this on LOR’s website, major media organs on both sides of the Atlantic were quick to pounce on it. This from the Wall Street Journal, for example: “The Vatican has previously denounced rock music as the devil’s work but in a surprise change of tune on Sunday the Holy See’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published what it called ‘a semiserious guide’ to the top ten rock and pop albums of all time.”  Here’s the list:

The Beatles’ “Revolver”
Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”
Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
U2’s “Achtung Baby”
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”
Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly”
Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural”
Paul Simon’s “Graceland”
David Crosby’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name.”

According to L’Osservatore Romano, the Beatles’ “Revolver” anticipated the “rock revolution represented by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and still today manages to produce “goose bumps.”

Come again? Are there any actual grownups working at LOR? Goose bumps—over the musical legacy of the ultimate Marxist minstrel who back in 1966 sarcastically informed the Evening Standard’s Maureen Cleave that “Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary”, and who was nicknamed "the Devil's own child" by Little Richard after he’d allegedly urinated on German nuns outside the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany?


Their own press officer, Derek Taylor, described the Beatles in this way: "They're completely anti-Christ. I mean, I am anti-Christ as well, but they're so anti-Christ they shock me which isn't an easy thing." (Saturday Evening Post, August 8-15, 1964, p. 25) Though Lennon was an Anglican, and McCartney and Harrison were baptized Catholic, each of the Beatles rejected Christianity, and even admitted to being atheists in a 1965 Playboy interview.


No wonder so many priests, ministers, rabbis, Christian youth groups and radio stations across America hosted “Beatles record burnings” in protest of the band’s countercultural agenda, anti-Christian bent, and advocacy of sex and revolution.


Simpletons!  If they’d only known that a mere forty-something years later that same rock band would be giving the folks at the “Pope’s newspaper” goose bumps!  This is just further proof that parody is impossible in an age whose absurdities are incapable of enlargement.

LOR is now publishing absurdities in several languages and leaving the world under the impression that they somehow reflect the “official positions” of the Holy See—a misconception dutifully left uncorrected by a secular media ever eager to place on the lips of the Holy Father every bit of dingbat drivel that finds its way into LOR.  At the end of the day, the Devil himself couldn’t make the Vatican appear any farther off its rocker.

To wit, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is cast by LOR as a “masterpiece of the king of pop!” Got that? As far as the world is concerned, “the Vatican” is recommending an album produced by a disturbed child abuser who became incapable of sleep for the last few years of his life and finally died of a massive, self-prescribed prescription drug overdose. Goose bumps all around!

During a 1993 Oprah Winfrey interview, Jackson attempted to justify the vile sexual gestures for which he’d become famous during his concerts: It happens subliminally. It’s the music that compels me to do it. You don’t think about it, it just happens. I’m a slave to the rhythm.”

And then there’s good old David Crosby—another drug addict rocker, who, by the way, gained renewed notoriety recently as the “sperm donor” for the two children of lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and her “partner”. No problem for LOR: Crosby’s music still rocks!

Number 6 on list is a Fleetwood Mac album—a notorious band whose lead singer was a drug addict and an alleged witch who was eventually crowned “Reigning Queen of Rock n’ Roll” by Rolling Stone. Stevie Nicks is evidently a-okay with LOR.

On it goes—drug and sex addicts writing song after song about mortally sinful behavior and then peddling their lurid ditties to entire generations of children. This is the lasting legacy of rock ‘n’ roll—the engine of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the drugs revolution of the 1970s and the homosexual revolution of the 1980s. But that’s a lot of hooey for the sophisticated cats running the “Pope’s paper” in Rome. Just because we’re Catholics, the puerile argument goes, doesn’t mean we have to deprive ourselves of all the “good music”. 

Catholic identity is so obscured now that the even the Roman observer is incapable of finding anything amiss in recommending the music of iconic subversives who waged cultural revolution against the Family, God and especially the Catholic Church.

Nine years after it was established, L’Osservatore Romano printed a declaration of obedience to the Pope. The year was 1870—exactly one hundred years before rock ‘n’ roll would reach its zenith. That declaration reaffirmed that LOR would remain faithful “to that unchangeable principle of religion and morals which recognizes as its sole depository and claimant the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth”.

We’ve come a long way, baby! Quite obviously the Devil who was given free reign on October 13, 1884 to attack the Church for one hundred years was not some figment of Pope Leo XIII’s imagination. One century later the “pope’s own newspaper” is endorsing the Devil’s own counterculture.

Deaf to the current Holy Father’s frequent warnings against rock music, LOR behaves less like a faithful papal defender and more like a rebellious teenager.  They may have chosen to ignore Benedict’s warning against rock ‘n’ roll in his 1985 address to the International Church Music Congress in Rome, for example, but we haven’t:

Music [can] become ecstasy, liberation from the ego, amalgamation with the universe. Today we experience the secularized variation of this type in rock and pop music, whose festivals are an anti-cult with the same tendency: desire for destruction, repealing the limitations of the everyday, and the illusion of salvation in liberation from the ego, in the wild ecstasy of a tumultuous crowd. These are measures which involve a form of release related to that achieved through drugs. It is the complete antithesis of Christian faith in the Redemption. In a way which we could not imagine thirty years ago, music has become the decisive vehicle of a counter-religion and thus calls for a parting of the ways. Since rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibility, it can be on the one hand precisely classified among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite.

What are a few harsh words against the "Devil's music" from a prudish old churchman compared to the inspired poetry of the gods of rock ‘n’ roll! To the hipsters at LOR, rock ‘n’ roll is king; it’s the music they grew up with; it defines them. Never mind that it is perverted music, much like pornography is perverted art--they still dig it! Never mind that just last year the Vatican’s chief exorcist acknowledged the Church’s growing concern over worldwide interest in Satanism and the occult, which, according to Father Gabriele Amorth, is making inroads with young people through the aegis of  rock music. (  Culturally at least, rock ‘n’ roll has replaced Christ as king even inside Vatican City itself--a startling development one might even liken to an abomination of desolation.

On June 26, 1861, Pius IX gave his approval to the regulations of L’Osservatore Romano, Article 2 of which includes the following: “The newspaper will pursue the following aims…to recall the firm principles of the Catholic religion and those of justice and the law, as the stable foundations of any kind of social existence; and to inspire and promote the veneration of the august Sovereign and Pontiff…”

Clearly, L’Osservatore Romano has abandoned its founding principles when its antics make a laughing stock of the same august Sovereign Pontiff its founding editors once swore to defend. “Upon this Rock ‘n’ Roll, I Will Build My Church”, sneered one columnist in reaction to LOR’s Top Ten list. But of course he did!

Under the masthead of each edition of L’Osservatore Romano appear the words Non praevalebunt (“[The gates of Hell] shall not prevail”).  Surely, the gates of Hell can never prevail against Christ’s Church—we have His promise on that. But we have no such promise where L’Osservatore Romano is concerned.

They may have our buildings (and our newspapers)—but we have retained enough of the Faith to call for the Vatican’s quasi-official newspaper to be suspended indefinitely, and to beg the Holy Father to remove this embarrassing blight from our Church. For, surely, “it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.” (Eccl. 7:5)  L’Osservatore Romano has become a sort of ecclesial jukebox filled with the songs of fools and offering scandal to the children of God.  Basta!

St. Michael the Archangel, Defend us in Battle!

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