Mainstream Media’s Failure to Report Francis-Era Scandals

Another month, another scandal. That seems to be the case these days with former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

It’s also the case when we talk about Vatican life in the tense era of Pope Francis. World without end. Amen.

The most-recent drama in Rome involves Luca Casarini, who recently took part in the Synod on Synodality as a special nominee of Pope Francis.

Here is the key for religion-news consumers: The problem isn’t that the mainstream press has done a poor job covering this case — it’s that mainstream journalists have’t covered it at all. This fits into a recent trend in which important and, for many, troubling stories about Catholic debates, scandals and divisions are simply ignored by leaders in elite newsrooms.

The Catholic press, however, has been on this latest story, especially newsrooms with Rome-based bureaus and reporters. This is what noted Vatican journalist John Allen reported on Dec. 3 for Crux:

Perhaps under the heading that no good deed ever goes unpunished, Pope Francis today finds himself dragged into a new controversy which, among other things, illustrates that even the very best of intentions have the potential to generate heartache.

The case centers on an Italian non-governmental organization called “Mediterranea,” the head of which is a former leader in the “no-global” movement and a longtime leftist activist named Luca Casarini, who recently took part in the Synod of Bishops on Synodality as a special nominee of Pope Francis.

While saving lives unquestionably is a worthy cause, there have been accusations that the group’s motives aren’t entirely altruistic.

Currently, Casarini and five other individuals associated with Mediterranea are under investigation in Sicily for an incident in 2020 in which the Mare Jonio, without permission from local authorities, disembarked 27 migrants in a Sicilian port whom it had taken on board from a Danish supply ship which had rescued them at sea 37 days before.

The Danish company that owned the ship, Maersk, later paid Mediterranea roughly $135,000, in what the company described as a donation but which prosecutors suspect was a payoff for violating Italian immigration laws. A judge is expected to rule Dec. 6 as to whether the case should go to trial.

The press in Italy has been all over the story since the start of this month, but legacy media in the English-speaking world have not. It may be because it involves this pope and a hot-button issue such as immigration, one of the most painful fault lines in European life today.

Either way, it is the latest in a growing number of scandals that have either been ignored or downplayed in recent years.

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