June 23, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Things are getting stranger. Yesterday, Dr. Roberto De Mattei published an article in Corrispondenza Romana suggesting rather strongly that Archbishop Carlo Vigano has used a “ghost writer” for some of his more recent messages (see The Viganò Case: The Archbishop and His Double).
Archbishop Vigano was very quick to respond with a denial which certainly appears absolute, and unequivocal (see Abp. Viganò: About some declarations of Professor Roberto de Mattei which recently appeared at ‘Corrispondenza Romana’]). Vigano’s message reads in part (emphasis added):
“The idea that I have a “double” must be the fruit of some adviser to whom Professor de Mattei has improvidently lent his faith, without realizing that by doing so he has exposed himself to the public refutation of completely unfounded allegations, which also sound, if I may be allowed to say so, not very charitable in my regard. I am therefore taking the opportunity afforded by his article to deny his impudent and fanciful theses, reassuring those who have the goodness to read me and listen to me that there is no ghost writer, and that by the grace of God I still have full possession of my faculties, I am not manipulated by anyone, and I am absolutely determined to continue my apostolic mission for the salvation of souls.”
Also yesterday, I provided my own, brief outsider’s take on what this is really all about (see Dr. De Mattei’s Vigano Theory: What is this really about?):
“I don’t know for sure. I have no inside information. Looking in from the outside, De Mattei’s article ultimately reflects a divide within the ‘resistance’ in Rome. That is, some in the ‘resistance’ — perhaps the likes of Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider among them, and with whom Dr. Mattei is very likely in contact — are simply uncomfortable with Archbishop Viganó’s more visible and vocal approach, and the content of his message. Theories of authorship aside, that is fundamentally what this is all about. That the disagreement over content and tone of Viganó’s message had to descend into questions of authorship is unfortunate. Again, if you have a disagreement over content, argue that point.”
Unfortunately, this whole mess didn’t end with Vigano’s clear denial of it all.
Now, as said, this morning, Dr. De Mattei doubles down on his theory — pun intended — in a second article (see Viganò case: Who is the real author of the writings of Archbishop Viganò ?). In this second article, Dr. De Mattei provides greater detail with regard to some of his evidence, as well as to the specific identity of the supposed ghost-writer in his view. I invite the reader to review his evidence. My fear now is that this whole controversy is destined to drag out for quite some time. I’ll provide a couple high-level comments on Dr. De Mattei’s second article below.
First, it is obvious Dr. De Mattei believes his evidence and conclusion are solid. One thing that puzzles me is his whole approach to the question. Why did he not lay out all his cards on the table for Vigano in private? For all Dr. De Mattei knew — even assuming his conclusion has some basis in fact — Vigano could have had an innocent explanation for the fact pattern presented to him. Now, instead of a potential amicable conclusion, there is now the public accusation Vigano used a ‘gay friendly’ ghost-writer, which possibly and unfairly damages his credibility no matter how this turns out. Why would De Mattei — based on his belief in the strength of his own evidence — not give Vigano a private opportunity to gracefully distance himself from any alleged association to the alleged ghost writer? Instead, there is the appearance Dr. De Mattei employed a ‘rope a dope’ tactic; that is, enticing an absolute denial from Vigano based on a vague accusation only to then quickly administer a sucker punch via a more detailed accusation. To be clear, none of this is to suggest I doubt Vigano’s denial based on any of the evidence provided to date. Rather, it is to suggest Vigano is quite justified in saying Dr. De Mattei’s accusation was “not very charitable.”
Second, Dr. De Mattei’s second article offers some evidence. What about it? In my first brief article on this controversy, I called Dr. De Mattei’s evidence, as presented in the first article, “questionable” and “flimsy.” His second article provides more information on his analysis. Dr. De Mattei indicates that they used something called “stylometric research” (see Stylometry). Now, stylometric research is a real thing. But, one thing to note is that “Stylometry can only offer statistical probability, not definitively claim authorship” (see https://guides.temple.edu/stylometryfordh).
We may suppose that Dr. De Mattei likely has more examples of evidence from this stylometric analysis than he had space to print in his article. Still, absent the statistical analysis, the examples provided in the article strike me as weak. For example, the supposed ghost writer and Vigano use similar terms in their writing, such as “counter-church”, and “conciliar sect,” and “innovators.” However, such commonality may have innocent explanations. These terms are sure to populate many potential source documents and websites that have harsh views of Vatican II. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
I assume Vigano will respond, and by the time this article is published, he may have already done so [NB: I’ll update this article accordingly, if so]. But I suspect that even another absolute and unequivocal denial may not be the end of it as far as Dr. De Mattei. Regardless, especially if he is going to insist on his conclusion, it seems to me that Dr. De Mattei must make public his analytical methodology (e.g., what writing samples were searched, how many potential authors were searched, what software was used, etc.), and the detailed results of his stylometric research, e.g., data inputs, the outputs (e.g,, the probabilities, charts, tables, PDF documents, etc), and so forth.
All of this unfortunate. This was ultimately and fundamentally, in my opinion, about what Vigano says. If someone has a disagreement with an argument, address the argument. In the end, the result may only be that one or both parties will have their credibility unnecessarily sullied in this whole mess.
Viva the ‘resistance’?
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 StevenOReilly@AOL.com or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).