10 February 2016

Frankly, I don't believe it.

That story about the Pope losing his temper.

Frankly, I don't believe it.

I spent three decades in a gossip-riden institution, and learned something of the dynamics of rumour. You can hear a story, vividly recounted, from five different sources; but if each source was simply recounting what X had said, then there is only one actual source. I know this sounds so absurdly obvious, the simplest possible Cmmon Sense; but it is very easy to forget it. Time and time again I discovered, on asking "who actually told you that? Have you heard it from anybody else?" that a tale was traceable to one unreliable origin.

Frankly, I don't believe it. The accounts I have read are very thin on eye witness sources. Autopsy and autography are conspicuous by their absence.

And perhaps unsubstantiated gossip is the sort of thing we should all be giving up for Lent?

Especially when the victim is the Sovereign Pontiff. But not only then.


Jacobi said...

Unsubstantiated allegations is something we should all be thinking seriously about whether the Pope, or prominent public figures, or allegations against the clergy, or by the clergy, to be fair.

The idea that an allegation, even if unsubstantiated or unsubstantiable must be investigated usually at great expense has become a cancer in our society both within and without the Church.

Anyone who publishes or reveals unsubstantiable allegations should be held to public account.

Marco da Vinha said...

Which story might this be?

Tom Broughton said...

And if he did lose his temper, so what? To not express one's feelings and keep them bottled up is not healthy: in time, one's feelings will atrophy. It is just a question of decorum--assuming this incident happened at all.

Liam Ronan said...

I have had experiences with institutional gossip myself, Father, and have always been inclined to discount rumour without first-hand evidence. Unhappily, it is not always possible to be privy to certain acts and utterances and, to that end and to the extent the subject of the rumour has a record for certain behaviours and utterances, one might add more weight to some rumours than others. I often found that the person who was the subject of the rumours engaged in the alleged actions (verbal or other) precisely because the person calculated that the witnesses would spread it about, thus allowing the 'plausible deniability'.

One must always refrain from gossip (calumny or detraction), most particularly in Lent, but sometimes one's very life depends on whether smoke portends fire.

Richard Chonak said...

I was disappointed to see a supposedly serious Catholic news outlet air this story the other day (claiming that Pope Francis had spoken angrily about certain cardinals during the synod). That news outlet had no source for the story themselves, only the word of a writer on an opinion site. And that writer had no direct knowledge of the alleged event: her source, whose name she didn't disclose, was two steps removed from the supposed witnesses to the alleged papal remarks.

This was not even a rumor: it was a rumor of a rumor.

Paolo said...

Frankly, I believe it. The "rumor of a rumor" effect stems from the fear reigning in Rome.

Cut my comment, if you want. That would not change the situation.