The Corner

Gibson-Vatican Intrigue Deepens

As I wrote in yesterday’s

Dallas Morning News, I believe the Vatican could be hanging Mel Gibson’s people

out to dry on this papal quote story. The NYTimes story today quotes

my column in today’s account of the mystery surrounding

who-said-what-and-when, and they refer to an e-mail from papal spokesman

Joaquin Navarro-Valls to “The Passion of the Christ” producer Steve

McEveety, a copy of which I was leaked by someone close to the film company,

Icon Productions (the company would not cooperate with me). Here’s the

entire e-mail, exactly as I believe Mr. McEveety received it:

From: Joaquin Navarro-Valls [e-mail address deleted]

Sent: Sunday, December 28, 2003 6:06 AM

To: Steve McEveety

Subject: R: RE: Jewish Week article by Eric Greenberg

Dear Steve,

I don’t think it would be wide to argue with any small thing on this topic.

The piece on the WSY [Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal piece initially

reporting the papal quote–RD] was something and it remains “the” point on

our position. Nobody can deny it. So keep mentioning it as the autorized

point of reference. I would try to make the words “It is as it was” the

leit motive in any discusion on the film. Repeat the words again and again

and again Happy new year,

Joaquin

I wrote to Mr. Navarro-Valls at the e-mail address on the letter, and

received a prompt reply from him denying the authenticity of that e-mail. In

his column today, John Allen, the respected Vatican correspondent for the

National Catholic Reporter, quotes this same e-mail in its entirety.

Is someone lying to cover his tracks? Peggy

Noonan reported

yesterday

that prior to her initial column reporting the Pope’s view of the film, she

checked the quote with Mr. Navarro-Valls, who verified it via e-mail. Now

comes a report in today’s Los Angeles Times–and I can’t link to the story

because you have to be a paid subscriber to access this story on the website

– that:

Asked Dec. 19 whether the quote was reliable, Vatican press secretary

Joaquin Navarro-Valls told The Times, “I think you can consider that quote

as accurate.”

Why is this important? Because it further establishes that the source for

the controversial papal statement seems to not have been the imagination of Mel Gibson and

his production team, but the official Vatican spokesman. Mr. Gibson is

now being trashed by his enemies in the Church and in the media–see the

archliberal Fr. Richard McBrien in Wednesday’s LATimes, accusing Mr.

Gibson of trying to pull a fast one for the sake of money–for what they

take as his deliberate deception. But Mr. Gibson–and journalists like Ms.

Noonan, Mr. Allen, and the LATimes reporter who checked the quote out before

printing it– only did what the Vatican’s official spokesman told them

they could do. Their sin was believing Joaquin Navarro-Valls–and, if

you believe the e-mail leak I got is valid, Team Gibson used the papal quote

heavily in its promotion of the film because the pope’s own spokesman

told them to.

(By the way, I’ll be on O’Reilly tonight discussing this mess.)