The “we” in “We did it!” — and what they did

August 15, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – This article is the ‘promised’ followup to my recent article on Theodore McCarrick and the 2013 conclave (see McCarrick on Bergoglio’s Election: “We did it!”). As reported in that article, following the election of Pope Francis, McCarrick is said to have excitedly told a prelate in Rome that “we did it.” The prelate in question said he understood this to mean that McCarrick, with others, had campaigned for Bergoglio’s election (see McCarrick: “We did it!” ).

The interest for Roma Locuta Est in continuing to investigate certain aspects of the pre-conclave maneuvers has been primarily a historical one. The reason I say ‘primarily historical’ is for the following reason. It is certain that the rules governing conclaves (cf Universi Dominici Gregis, Normas Nonnullas) would not invalidate an election that was achieved through simony (cf UDG 78). Consequently, given that paying for votes does not invalidate an election, it is hard to imagine how campaigning for votes would do so. That is for canonists to debate. But if campaigning does not  invalidate an election, it is still curious that “St. Gallen mafia” members — who are widely believed to have done so — reject this suspicion so adamantly. It does seem these members of the St. Gallen mafia ‘doth seem to protest too much‘ — that is, if campaigning is all that is in question.

In the last article, I recalled Patrick Coffin’s interview of Cardinal Burke in August of 2019. The interview touched upon the various concerns surrounding the 2013 conclave involving the activities of the “St. Gallen mafia” and of McCarrick’s “influential Italian gentleman” (see here). In that interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke, at least as I understand him, speaking in the hypothetical, seemed to suggest there “could be” an argument to invalidate the conclave if two things were demonstrated: (1) that the St. Gallen mafia engaged in an active campaign to undermine the pontificate of Benedict XVI and (2) that the St. Gallen mafia, at the same time, engineered the election of someone to their liking (see Coffin interview here, especially at 20:39-21:33)

Roma Locuta Est has already written much on the pre-conclave period of February and March in 2013, including the importance of the timeline (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”The 7th Anniversary of McCarrick’s “Influential Italian Gentleman”).  However, revisiting Cardinal Burke’s criteria, I thought I’d summarize some key points.

Whatever the date of the late Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s dinner with Cardinal Bergoglio in early March 2013  before the start of the General Congregations [see note 1], Murphy O’Connor would have us believe the two did not discuss Bergoglio’s prospects in the upcoming conclave, and contrary to Ivereigh’s original account of the pre-conclave period, no approach was made to Bergoglio to determine his interest in the papacy. [see Note 2]  This is true not only in ‘pope-maker’ Murphy-O’Connor’s account of the period, but in journalist Gerard O’Connell’s account as well (see The Election of Pope Francis).  Bergoglian-friendly sources paint a picture of Bergoglio blithely disinterested in the papacy.

However, In his book The Dictator Pope, Henry Sire observes while Bergoglio made a show of being ‘indifferent’ and “making a circus of not wanting to go to Rome” for the conclave, this was far from the truth. Sire cites El Verdadero Francisco which quotes one priest, who dismissing this pretense of disinterest, said “…I knew that he was talking to half the world and plotting like mad.” That Bergoglio took an active interest in events in Rome following Benedict’s resignation announcement also comes through clear enough in O’Connell’s book. 

Still, Gerard O’Connell’s sources, per his book, would have us believe Bergoglio “knew nothing” of a vote-counting meeting of cardinals prior to the conclave at “Cardinal Nicora’s apartment” and nor was he aware of “earlier meetings at the English and American Colleges and the British Embassy” (cf The Election of Pope Francis, p. 181). Murphy-O’Connor was a close friend and confidant of Bergoglio, and one of the key “St. Gallen mafia” members leading the effort to advance the candidacy of Bergoglio in all of these meetings. Yet, we are expected to believe not a word was said to Bergoglio on any of this, or his potential candidacy until the day the conclave began (March 12). But even then, we are further expected to believe Murphy-O’Connor briefly warned Bergoglio, only saying to him: “Stai attento!” (“watch out!”) [p. 189], and nothing more.  And, to this cryptic comment, Bergoglio —  who we have just been told was blithely ignorant of it all — somehow grasped the meaning of the English cardinal, and replied, “capisco” (“I understand”).  Unbelievable.

The Befuddled Beneficiary of many Happy Coincidences?

In February and March of 2013, Cardinal Bergoglio was blessed by many happy coincidences, it seems. On the day of Bergoglio’s arrival in Rome (February 27) before the effective date of Pope Benedict’s resignation (February 28), the cardinal — who we are expected to believe would be surprised to be elected pope — just happened to dine with four influential Italian journalists, all close friends. Two of these close friends were influential Vaticanisti (see here). Someone more ambitious for the papacy, more so than our blithely indifferent Bergoglio, might die for such an opportunity.

So, it was additional happy coincidence that one of these two Vaticanisti (Andrea Tornielli) published an article on the morning of March 2nd that — whether by design or happenstance I cannot say for sure — certainly boosted Bergoglio’s papal candidacy (see here). Surely, it must have had that practical effect on the cardinals assembling in Rome at the time. Consider, quoting an anonymous cardinal, the article’s opening line famously read: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.” That is certainly an attention grabber for the cardinals in Rome at the time, all of whom followed Vaticanisti commentary on the conclave and papabili closely.

The infamous “influential Italian gentleman” (see here and here) used a very similar line in his meeting with McCarrick (see Villanova Speech), though he used “five years” — assuming McCarrick had not just simply misremembered or garbled the quote —  instead of “four years” as was written in Tornielli’s article. The ultimate origin of this phrase is a bit murky. The same phrase bubbled up to the surface in various places at the time. It was quoted by at least three separate reporters using two to possibly three separate sources — not to mention its use by the McCarrick’s visitor [see Note 3]! What all the known sources who used the phrase have in common (Tornielli or his source, Cardinal Errazuriz, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and ex-cardinal McCarrick’s visitor), is that all were close friends of then-Cardinal Bergoglio. Thus, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the root source of the phrase was none other than Cardinal Bergoglio himself. After all, the phrase served as a pithy elevator pitch intended to assuage cardinals concerned about Bergoglio’s age, which might have otherwise been considered an obstacle to his election.  

Roma Locuta Est has offered some hypotheses as to whom the “influential Italian gentleman” might be (see here and here). One of the names previously discussed is that of Andrea Riccardi (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”: A Sant’Egidio Connection?). He is an interesting possibility. For one, by his own admission, Riccardi described himself as being a “convinced Bergoglian” since 2005 (see here). In addition, it seems that he had a prior habit of lobbying before a conclave. For example, Italian journalist Sandro Magister writes of Riccardi (emphasis added):

“On the eve of the conclave of 2005 he carried out an incessant lobbying effort among the cardinals, in order to block the Ratzinger candidacy and to push that of Dionigi Tettamanzi, at the time the archbishop of Milan.”

(Source: Sandro Magister, Between “Gay” Marriage and Elections. Can the Pope Trust Andrea Riccardi?, January 10, 2013)

Indeed, even as far back as 1998, Magister, commenting on the Community of Sant’Egidio founded by Riccardi, wrote (emphasis added):

But they´ll get their way. The members of Sant´Egidio are few in number. It´s difficult for them to make new recruits, and many leave. But they think of themselves as “the ant capable of doing great things with modest resources.” They are a powerful lobby. They will influence the conclave that elects the next Pope. No Church leader wants to have them as an enemy. Riccardi frequently says to his followers: “We must seem to be more than what we really are. That is our miracle: the great bluff.” (Source: Sandro Magister, The Story of Sant´Egidio. The Great Bluff. April 9, 1998)

Riccardi was a “convinced Bergoglian” who also, apparently, according to Magister above, was an anti-Ratzingerian. Coincidentally, this is something he held in common with the members of the St. Gallen mafia. Also, coincidentally, the founding member of the anti-Ratzingerian St.Gallen mafia, the late Cardinal Martini, had close ties to Sant’Egidio and Riccardi (e.g., see The Story of Sant´Egidio. The Great Bluff. April 9, 1998, by Sandro Magister) [see note 4].  Magister even described Martini as a “cardinal protector” of the Community of Sant-Egidio.

While confirmation of the identity of Riccardi as the “influential Italian gentleman” remains, for the moment, up in the air; what is clear from the context of McCarrick’s description is that his visitor was close to Pope Bergoglio (e.g., he knew McCarrick and Bergoglio were friends). We have also outlined elsewhere in detail how McCarrick could be very useful to a papal campaign (see here), and thus, why he was sought out for this very purpose.

The “influential Italian gentlemen” visited McCarrick before the start of the General Congregations, the meetings of cardinals held prior to the actual conclave. As these began on March 4th, the meeting of the two men was likely on March 2nd or 3rd. If we accept McCarrick’s Villanova account, the ex-cardinal had not been actively campaigning for Bergoglio before this time frame. After all, speaking of Bergoglio, McCarrick told his visitor ‘no one was talking about him’ and ‘he wasn’t on anyone’s mind.’  McCarrick in his Villanova speech told the audience it was on this occasion that he first heard mention of Bergoglio as a viable candidate.

The same visitor, then reminding the McCarrick of the ex-cardinal’s friendship with Bergoglio, asked McCarrick to “talk him (Bergoglio) up.” We now can confirm that McCarrick did, in fact, “talk up Bergoglio.” First, he did so indirectly during the General Congregations, suggesting in a short speech it was time to elect a pope from Latin America. Second, we have direct evidence McCarrick did so in the contemporary, written record of an eyewitness.  Sister Mary Ann Walsh wrote on her USCCB blog at the time that prior to the Conclave Cardinal McCarrick…was touting the praises of Cardinal Jorge Borgoglio’ (sic) [see USCCBlog, “Pope Francis Has A Style All His Own,” by Sister Mary Ann Walsh. March 15, 2013]. Third, McCarrick’s “we did it” statement is itself direct confirmation and admission he contributed to the election of Cardinal Bergoglio (see McCarrick on Bergoglio’s Election: “We did it!”). While the evidence above is enough to demonstrate the point, I am quite confident there are cardinals in Rome and elsewhere who could also confirm that McCarrick “talked up Bergoglio.”  

Engineering an Election?

Prior to March 2nd, McCarrick was not ‘talking up Bergoglio’ but after the visit from the “influential Italian gentleman,” a friend of Cardinal Bergoglio, he commenced doing so.  As I opined before (see The Influential Italian Gentleman: McCarrick “touted the praises” of Bergoglio Prior to the Conclave), it seems unlikely that a narcissist like McCarrick would have been moved to action had this request come from some random acquaintance who did not have a direct link to Bergoglio. What seems more probable is that he would be moved to action if he knew this request ultimately came from Bergoglio, someone who could specifically favor McCarrick in return. That Bergoglio had knowledge of McCarrick’s efforts on his behalf seems to be a reasonable deduction, given Bergoglio’s otherwise inexplicable lifting of restrictions imposed upon McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Vigano, as well, in his Testimony suggests this was done due to the “important part he (McCarrick) had played in his (Bergoglio’s) recent election.” Thus, it does not seem so outrageous to suppose as likely, if not probable, that the “influential Italian gentleman” acted as an emissary not only on behalf of Bergoglio but he had done so with Bergoglio’s prior knowledge, consent, and direction.

All the above considered, even if a “campaign” by itself might not invalidate a conclave, there is evidence to suggest that Bergoglio was an active participant in the campaign that elected him, if not the probable instigator of it. For me at least, there are too many “happy coincidences”, as I outlined earlier….and as a former intelligence officer: ‘there are no such things as coincidences.’  The evidence suggests planning for a Bergoglian campaign had begun prior to the effective date of Benedict’s resignation.

Undermining the Pontificate of Benedict XVI?

As indicated above, the two criteria, outlined by Cardinal Burke, which together might invalidate the conclave would be (1) an attempt by the St. Gallen mafia to undermine the pontificate of Benedict XVI, and (2) an effort to engineer the election of a pope to their liking. With regard to the second of these criteria — discussed above, there is evidence that the St. Gallen mafia and others aligned with them, e.g., the influential Italian gentleman, and even Cardinal Bergoglio himself campaigned for — or “engineered” — Bergoglio’s election, even before the effective date of Benedict’s resignation. But what of the first criteria? Is there evidence the St. Gallen mafia undermined the pontificate of the Benedict XVI with the intent to bring an end to it? On this question, I have no evidence at present. None. Here the matter might end. However, there are a few observations I would make on some things I do find curious and notable.

First, in 2012, the late Cardinal Martini — mentioned earlier as a “cardinal protector” of Sant’Egidio, and a founder of the anti-Ratzingerian St. Gallen mafia — urged Pope Benedict XVI to resign, months before Benedict did so. Martini made this suggestion in the summer of 2012 after the embarrassing Vatileaks scandal had been in the headlines for some time (see here). According to one of Martini’s associates (Fr. Fausti), the ostensible reason for Cardinal Martini’s suggestion in 2012 was that Benedict had failed to reform the curia (see here).

Second, curiously, this was not the first time Martini had mentioned to Benedict the possibility of resigning as a consequence of failing to reform the curia. During the 2005 conclave, Martini threw his own support and votes behind Ratzinger’s election. Reportedly, he suggested to then Cardinal Ratzinger that if he failed to reform the curia, he should resign at some future point.

Third, while the reform of the curia had been one of the supposed goals of Cardinal Martini and of the St. Gallen mafia; St. Gallen’s pope of choice — Cardinal Bergoglio — has had a only spotty record at best on the subject. Without going into a comprehensive list, we might touch upon a few items from the record. Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis lifted the sanctions on ex-cardinal McCarrick, despite the horrendous nature of the accusations against him; accusations of which he was undoubtedly made aware by Archbishop Vigano….that is if Pope Francis had not already been aware of them. There were the Pope’s dubious appointments of Bishop Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (see here), and of Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra as an assistant Secretary of State at the Vatican (see here). The Pope halted an investigation into sexual abuse accusations against the aforementioned Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor (see here). Third parties were said to have interfered with CDF sexual abuse investigations, and Pope Francis dismissed two priests involved in such investigations at the CDF under Cardinal Mueller, then prefect of the CDF (see here). There have been additional sexual scandals, such as the orgy — by some accounts, presided over by a cardinal close to Francis (see here). Without going into great detail here, it is enough to note that financial reform has fared no better (e.g., here and here).

Given the record of St. Gallen’s Pope on reform in Rome, one might wonder whether Cardinal Martini’s suggestion to Benedict (i.e., that he resign) was motivated more by an interest in seeing Benedict gone than in seeing the Curia reformed. That is, was the latter the means to achieve the former? I have previously offered some thoughts on such a hypothetical papal plot in a previous article (see Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots):

Given the St. Gallen group had a secret agenda (opposition to Ratzinger, “drastic reform” of the Church, “modernization” of the Church, etc.), Cardinal Martini—in both of his discussions with Ratzinger on the question of accepting the papacy (2005) and resigning the papacy (2012)—appears to have been disingenuous, to say the least. The St. Gallen group wanted “drastic reform” and “modernization” of the Church—not reform of the Vatican Curia—and it opposed Ratzinger. The evidence on its face suggests Cardinal Martini as a member of the Saint Gallen group was duplicitous on both occasions. It appears Martini played his Machiavellian best with his losing hand in the 2005 conclave (to appear magnanimous in throwing his votes to Ratzinger!) and thereby setting up a plausible pretext (i.e., “reform of the curia”) to push Benedict XVI to resign in 2012 when he had failed to do so.

Reportedly, Benedict made his decision to resign on December 17, 2012 after receiving a report on the Vatileaks scandal and the “Velvet mafia” (i.e., a gay lobby) operating in the Vatican (see here). Following his resignation, this report was provided by Benedict to Francis. However, it has yet to see the light of day. Francis has taken no discernible action on this report. Given his actions with regard to McCarrick in 2013, we might reasonably surmise his attitude toward the “Velvet Mafia” report was at best indifferent. 

So, I do have questions about Cardinal Martini’s and St. Gallen’s professed interest in curial “reform” in relation to prior suggestions that Benedict resign. Was St. Gallen’s profession of interest in “curial reform” an end, or was it a means to an end? That is, might the leaks regarding various scandals have been orchestrated by anti-Ratzingerians as the intended means to further exhaust and dishearten an aging Benedict to the point he would resign?   

Final Thoughts

We began this article by recalling Patrick Coffin’s interview of Cardinal Burke, wherein the Cardinal, replying to Coffin, seemed to suggest there “could be” an argument to invalidate the conclave if two things were demonstrated: that the St. Gallen mafia (1) engaged in an active campaign to undermine the pontificate of Benedict XVI and (2) at the same time engineered the election of someone to their liking (see Coffin interview here, especially at 20:39-21:33).

Regarding the second of Burke’s criteria, in my opinion, the evidence appears strong that plotting to elect Bergoglio was underway before the effective date of Benedict’s resignation. However, with regard to the first of the criteria — that there was an active campaign to undermine Benedict’s pontificate, I know of no such evidence. That said, we do know a St. Gallen cardinal, Martini, had on at least two occasions discussed a papal resignation with Pope Benedict.  On the first occasion, at the 2005 conclave, he suggested to Ratzinger that, if elected pope with Martini’s support, he resign should he fail to reform the curia. On the second occasion, 2012, he suggested to Ratzinger that he resign because he had failed to do so. We also know that St. Gallen’s pope has a questionable record on or interest in true “reform” (e.g., McCarrick, Zanchetta, Parra, etc).  

As for cardinals, bishops, reporters, etc., who might be reading this–particularly those cardinals who participated in the 2013 conclave; again I suggest….now might be a good time to seek an opportunity to interview McCarrick, and to query him about the “influential Italian gentleman,” his own efforts on Bergoglio’s behalf, the identities of McCarrick’s “we“, what the we “did” precisely, and what did Bergoglio know about “it.”  He should also be queried about his knowledge of Vatileaks and the “Velvet mafia.”  In addition, I think some questions should be directed toward some of the other names mentioned above (e.g., Tornielli, Riccardi).  


The last curiosity of this story involves the report that Pope Benedict XVI made his decision to resign on December 17, 2012 — after receiving the report on Vatileaks and the “Velvet mafia” (i.e., gay lobby) in the Vatican.

The date of December 17 popped up in another article I read today.  Maike Hickson on her LifeSiteNews blog (see What we know of Our Lady of Fatima’s ‘3rd secret’ appears to be unfolding in Church today: priest) discussed and provided a commentary by a German priest (Father Frank Unterhalt, “a German diocesan priest and speaker of a group of faithful priests called Communio veritatis“). In his commentary, provided by Ms. Hickson, Fr. Unterhalt offers interesting commentary on the Third Secret of Fatima and our times. I won’t go into the article in detail here, but recommend folks definitely read it. However, toward the end of Fr. Unterhalt’s article, speaking of St. Faustina, he writes:

So, during this time, she experiences in everything the passion of Jesus and the abysmal iniquity of the betrayal. 

Christ made the servant of the true Mercy, St. Sister Faustina, experience all the bitterness of the Church’s agony of Gethsemane. She wrote in her diary: “On that day I suffered more than at any other time, inwardly and outwardly. I did not know that one can suffer so much in a single day.” The most terrible dimension of Gethsemane is the appearance of the traitor. St. Sister Faustina noted the date of this worst day of suffering. It was December 17, 1936.

One must read Fr. Unterhalt’s commentary in full to appreciate the context of his citation of St. Faustina. But the mention of the date, December 17, as the day of greatest suffering in St. Faustina’s account above, struck me when I read it. I thought I had seen that date before, and then I remembered: Benedict reportedly made his decision to resign on December 17 — the day he received the reports on the Vatileaks scandal and the “Velvet mafia” (see here). But…then I remembered something else associated with the date of December 17. It is the birthday of Pope Francis. 

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 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  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler: @StevenOReilly).


  1. There is much that doesn’t add up, or that at least is in need of clarification. There is, for example, the curious discrepancy between Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s account of the  timing of his dinner with Cardinal Bergoglio, and journalist Gerard O’Connell’s timing of that same dinner.  In his own book, Murphy O’Connor places the dinner on March 3rd, the eve of the General Congregations, meetings in which vote- and non-voting eligible cardinals would begin their pre-conclave discussions. In the ‘pope-maker’ Murphy-O’Connor’s account, this dinner did not take place until the fifth night of Bergoglio’s arrival in Rome, whereas O’Connell — apparently basing himself on notes of direct discussion with the cardinal — places it on March 1st, the day immediately following Benedict’s resignation.
  2. Certainly in terms of credibility, there are reasons to examine more closely the credibility of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who — despite his protestations there were no violations of the rules against campaigning — may have, nonetheless, been the potential source of information provided to journalist Gerard O’Connor. This information, provided at the start of the conclave, allowed Andrea Tornielli to appear quite prescient  as to how the voting was going in the conclave (see 2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?). If Murphy-O’Connor, or another cardinal had been the ultimate source of such information, the act was a violation of the oath taken by the cardinals (see UDG 12).
  3. The origin of the phrase — “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things …” — is a curious one. As I discuss in more detail in my original article, “The influential Italian Gentleman,”  Tornielli cites an anonymous cardinal, as indicated above. Gerald O’Connell, in his book, The Election of Pope Francis discusses the famous quote. In it, one of O’Connell vaticanisti colleagues, Mathilde Burgos, quotes Cardinal Errazuriz, using the same line: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things!” While it is possible Errazuriz used the line with both Burgos and Tornielli, writer Paul Vallely quotes Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor use of the line (see here): “”Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, and an old friend of Francis, told me.”  This is curious indeed.  We have Cardinal Errazuriz using the line with a Chilean reporter, and we have either Cardinal Errazuriz or Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor using the same line with Tornielli.  Or was it yet another cardinal that used it with Tornielli? With such an circuitous pedigree, the “four years” line appears to be a pre-packaged, electioneering talking point manufactured to defuse concerns cardinals might have about Bergoglio’s age–and indeed there had been such concerns. We know the line was used with at least three different journalists, and was possibly used by two or even three different cardinals, and by the “influential Italian gentleman.” Yet, given this commonality, one may rightly wonder whether the line was even original to any of them!  There is the real and amusing prospect that Cardinal Bergoglio himself was the ultimate and original source of the pithy phrase.
  4. “Another cardinal protector of Sant´Egidio is the Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini, the archbishop of Milan. They even call Martini an honorary member, because in 1975, when he was in Rome as the rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he was thunderstruck upon meeting them and was part of their community for four years: he took care of an old man in Trastevere and said Mass in the blue collar neighborhood of Alessandrina.” (Source: Sandro Magister, The Story of Sant´Egidio. The Great Bluff. April 9, 1998)

4 thoughts on “The “we” in “We did it!” — and what they did

  1. Agree completely with the above assessment of conditions in the Church. We are now in the times spoken of in Revelation. A key moment in the timetable of these End Times was Vatican II which was a conspiracy to introduce Protestantism into the Catholic Church which has now been nearly completely accomplished

    The way forward will be most troublesome. However, we should look for direction from Catholic leaders in our day who speak the truth. One of these IMO is Archbishop Vigano. Listen to him and others and they arise in our most troubled times in the world and the Church.

    Each of us must do our best to prepare ourselves spiritually for the great suffering ahead. God will be with us if we are with Him. Let us pray we will not be led astray.


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