I asked my parish priest what he thought of Cardinal Bertone's widely publicised parting words, in which he claimed that during his term of office he had been surrounded by 'crows and vipers' who had worked against him, writes Francis Phillips.
- The Catholic Herald
Not surprisingly, my priest thought Cardinal Bertone had been ungracious; whatever the provocations and sense of personal injury, the outgoing Secretary of State should have kept his thoughts to himself and bowed out with more charity and discretion. I agree; we do expect more of dedicated ministers in the Church. Yet the standard of Christian behaviour and the requirement to turn the other cheek is very high and, being human, we are all prone to fall below it from time to time – even it seems the highest ranking Vatican official after the Pope himself.
I was struck by the language used by Bertone; Italians might be more operatic than us northerners – but 'crows and vipers'; in one small phrase the Cardinal has put the Vatican straight back into its historical stamping ground of corruption, intrigues and plots that we all hoped (and still hope) it had left behind in a new age of transparency.
I understand the 'viper' analogy; venomous and, being a serpent, never getting a good press in the Bible. But crows? Not being a twitcher, I had to look up their characteristics: 'Bird of family Corvidae, esp. carrion; smaller than raven and larger than rook; feeding on dead flesh.' It does not paint a pretty picture of what went on at the centre of the largest and most ancient Christian Church and it puts Pope Benedict’s untimely resignation in a new light.
According to widespread reports last week, Cardinal Bertone signalled his feelings about his time in office, and in particular, what went on behind the scenes in the 'Vatileaks' scandal, by saying, 'On balance I consider those seven years to have been positive. Naturally there were problems, particularly in the last two years they have made many accusations against me…A mix of crows and vipers.'
He added, 'There were matters that got out of control because they were problems which were sealed within the management of certain people who did not contact the secretary of state.' He also remarked that 'An honest assessment cannot but take note of how the secretary of state is the first assistant of the pope, a faithful executor of the tasks with which he is entrust. Something I did and will do.'
One has to feel sorry for a man who confesses, 'I always gave everything but certainly I had my shortcomings and if I could relive certain moments now I would act differently. But it does not mean I did not try to serve the Church.'