June 30, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – Long time readers of Roma Locuta Est are well aware that this site has long had a great interest in the tale and identity of the mysterious “influential Italian gentleman.” This seemingly mysterious character visited ex-Cardinal McCarrick before the 2013 conclave and asked him to ‘talk up Bergoglio’ among the cardinals.
The “influential Italian gentleman” has been the subject of several articles on this site, including the detailed The “Influential Italian Gentleman”, and Questions Regarding the “Influential Italian Gentleman”. There is also the more recent ‘cliff note’ version that might serve as an introduction (The 7th Anniversary of McCarrick’s “Influential Italian Gentleman”). I recommend folks check these out for background if this is all new to you, or even to take a look for a refresh of this interesting tale.
Based on the available evidence — including McCarrick’s description, and various books and articles on the 2013 conclave — Roma Locuta Est has offered a specific hypothesis as to who this individual is. As we have said before — correct hypothesis or not — the request for McCarrick to “talk up Bergoglio” could have been entirely innocent. After all, how many of us, if the random opportunity arose, might ask a Cardinal we might meet to vote for Archbishop Vigano, or Bishop Schneider, or a Cardinal Burke for pope…and to ‘talk him up’ at a future conclave. However, the interesting scenario arises, what if “you” — a lay person — made this request because the papabile-candidate himself had asked you to get a specific cardinal to “talk him up,” possibly because this specific cardinal had unique influence? Would that violate canon law or conclave rules?
Catholics who have followed some of the controversies surrounding the 2013 conclave know that ex-Cardinal McCarrick recounted a very curious tale. This tale involved McCarrick meeting an “influential Italian gentleman” in Rome at the North American College prior to the start of the General Congregations, the meetings of Cardinals held before the start of the conclave. By my reckoning, this meeting took place on the afternoon of March 2nd, or on March 3rd of 2013. Roma Locuta Est continues to investigate this incident the best it can, hoping to research and uncover additional information to either confirm or reject the aforementioned hypothesis, as well as to uncover additional information of interest on McCarrick and the 2013 conclave. This particular article address one tidbit recently ‘discovered.’
The tidbit of information just ‘uncovered’ is a USCCB blog post written soon after the election of Pope Francis. The blog post was written by the late Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who covered conclave events in Rome for the USCCB from about the time of Benedict’s resignation (February 28, 2013) through the General Congregations, the Conclave and election, and inauguration of Pope Francis’s pontificate on March 19, 2013. In her blog post, dated March 15, 2013, Sister Mary Ann wrote (emphasis added):
…Cardinal McCarrick stopped by our office for a meeting with Ann Rogers, reporter from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who had earlier interviewed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, a Pittsburgh native. When asked what he said to Pope Francis when they met, he said he didn’t say much because he got all choked up. Prior to the Conclave Cardinal McCarrick, a non-voting cardinal because he’s over 80, was touting the praises of Cardina Jorge Borgoglio (sic), whom he had met on his many travels.
(Source: USCCBlog, “Pope Francis Has A Style All His Own,” by Sister Mary Ann Walsh. March 15, 2013)
The curious thing is, in Sister’s account, McCarrick had been “touting the praises of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio” prior to the conclave. Yet, as we see from McCarrick’s account of his early March (2nd or 3rd) meeting with his visitor, he was admittedly “surprised” when the visitor raised Bergoglio’s name, telling the visitor ‘no one is talking about him‘ and ‘he’s not on anyone’s mind.’ Paul Baklinski’s LifeSiteNews article provides the relevant portion of the transcript of the conversation, as provided by McCarrick (see here):
We sat down. This is a very brilliant man, a very influential man in Rome. We talked about a number of things. He had a favor to ask me for [when I returned] back home in the United States.
But then [the influential Italian] said, ‘What about Bergoglio?’
And I was surprised at the question.
I said, ‘What about him?’
He said, ‘Does he have a chance?’
I said, ‘I don’t think so, because no one has mentioned his name. He hasn’t been in anyone’s mind. I don’t think it’s on anybody’s mind to vote for him.”
He said, ‘He could do it, you know.’
I said, ‘What could he do?’
He said, ‘[Bergoglio] could reform the Church. If we gave him five years, he could put us back on target.’
I said, ‘But, he’s 76.’
He said, ‘Yeah, five years. If we had five years, the Lord working through Bergoglio in five years could make the Church over again.’
I said, ‘That’s an interesting thing.’
He said, ‘I know you’re his friend.’
I said, ‘I hope I am.’
He said, ‘Talk him up.’
I said, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens. This is God’s work.’
That was the first that I heard that there were people who thought Bergoglio would be a possibility in this election.
On its face, the “influential Italian gentleman” is recruiting McCarrick to campaign on Cardinal Bergoglio’s behalf. But what would be the basis or motive for such a request? In other words, is there a reason why Cardinal Bergoglio might conceivably believe McCarrick, a non-voting cardinal, could help him in the run-up to the conclave?
Roma Locuta Est‘s earlier articles outlined precisely why McCarrick would be an important asset for a Bergoglio campaign ahead of the conclave (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”). Certainly, McCarrick could ‘talk up Bergoglio’ with his fellow American cardinals at the NAC for sure, but even more importantly McCarrick was known to be very influential with third world cardinals from Asia and Africa. Curiously, speaking after Bergoglio’s election, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor — a key member of “team Bergoglio” and the St. Gallen mafia — would later say “the key was getting the Asians and Africans to support Bergoglio.”
We do know that in a talk given by McCarrick during the General Congregations, meetings of Cardinals before the conclave, that he urged the cardinals to elect someone from “Latin America who could identify with the poor.” This certainly pointed toward Bergoglio. But, now, returning to the USCCB blog from March 15, 2013. What is very interesting about the USCCB blog post is that it is the first specific bit of evidence with a witness, at least that I am aware of, that McCarrick actually did ‘talk up, Bergoglio‘ prior to the conclave. Just as Sister Mary Ann Walsh relates: ‘prior to the Conclave Cardinal McCarrick…was touting the praises of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.’
So, we know from McCarrick’s account that McCarrick had not been talking up Bergoglio at all prior to the visit from the “influential Italian gentleman.” As McCarrick clearly said, ‘no one was talking about him‘ and ‘he wasn’t on anyone’s mind.’ Yet, Sister Walsh’s blog post now confirms he was specifically “touting the praises” of Bergoglio before the conclave.
Something or someone changed McCarrick from a man of inaction with respect to Bergoglio, to a man of action. The USCCB blog post lends support to the view that McCarrick was influenced by and acted upon the visitor’s specific request to ‘talk up Bergoglio.’ Though certainly possible, it seems unlikely that a narcissist like McCarrick would have been moved to such action had this request come from some random acquaintance without links to Bergoglio. What seems more probable is that he would be moved to action if he knew this request ultimately came from someone directly tied to the effort — a campaign — to elect Bergoglio, someone who could specifically favor McCarrick in return.
Might that someone have been Bergoglio himself? We do know, as Archbishop Vigano reported in his Testimony, that McCarrick was rehabilitated by Bergoglio soon after the conclave, and sent to China. What motivated Pope Francis to lift Pope Benedict XVI’s sanctions on McCarrick? Archbishop Vigano in his Testimony suggests one factor was the “important part he (McCarrick) had played in his (Bergoglio’s) recent election.” Here Vigano has in mind McCarrick’s revelation in October 2013, during a lecture at Villanova University, in which he recounted the curious tale we have been discussing, i.e., of the “influential Italian gentleman.” Was McCarrick rewarded by Pope Francis for his support in ‘talking him up’ prior to the conclave to all who might listen, especially the third world cardinals with whom he had influence?
But, if we accept this as a possibility, then this obviously suggests Bergoglio knew of the visit to McCarrick. Indeed, was he behind it? Did he send the “influential Italian gentleman” to McCarrick? Did this Italian act as a middleman between Cardinal Bergoglio and McCarrick, conveying the message (“talk up Bergoglio”) to the now disgraced ex-Cardinal?
All interesting questions. But there are more. If it could be demonstrated that Cardinal Bergoglio conspired to send the “influential Italian gentleman” to visit McCarrick, would that run afoul of Pope John Paul II’s legislation governing papal elections, Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG)? Consider, UDG explicitly prohibits:
“…all possible forms of interference, opposition and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree, or any individual or group, might attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope” (cf. UDG 80).
Was the mysterious visitor acting with the knowledge, direction, and approval of one or more cardinals seeking to elect Cardinal Bergoglio? Would it make a difference if this plot could be shown to have been hatched on February 27, 2013…the night before Pope Benedict XVI resigned?
Why is Rome holding the McCarrick report? Could this be why? Could someone please interview McCarrick before he dies?
Roma Locuta Est continues to investigate these and other questions. I’d be surprised if there were not any priests, bishops, and or cardinals in Rome with information of interest on these questions. We invite any individuals with any relevant information, leads, or additional insight into these events, and or the identity of the “influential Italian gentleman” to contact me by email or through this site. All sources will be treated confidentially, and anonymity will be protected.
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of the recently published Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler: @StevenOReilly).