For several weeks, the most powerful dicastery of the Curia, the Secretariat of State, has been the subject of attacks against its deputy, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra. The Vatican media and the Venezuelan episcopate have entered the fray to put out the fire that is manifesting as a power struggle at the highest level of the Church.
The Secretariat of State is currently the dicastery of the Roman Curia closest to the pope. It has two sections. Its primary mission is to dispatch the daily business affairs of the sovereign pontiff, both in his relations with the universal Church and with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
It is headed by a substitute with the rank of archbishop: since October 2018, this office has been filled by Mgr. Edgar Pena, a Venezuelan prelate. The latter, according to the Vaticanist Edward Pentin, of the conservative newspaper the National Catholic Register, is a close friend of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a member of the council of six cardinals charged with assisting the Holy Father with the reform of the Curia, undertaken in 2013.
This reserved prelate, who speaks Spanish, Italian, French, English, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, and Russian, has been thrown in front of the media scene, since the June 10, 2019 interview given to the Washington Post by one of Pope Francis’ opponents, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The latter mentions in an opinion column in of the largest American newspapers, the existence of a “corrupt mafia” in the Vatican, which, according to him, has “taken control of many institutions of the Church, from the top to the bottom” and would exploit “the Church and the faithful for immoral purposes.”
The Washington Post, however, has taken the precaution of censoring part of the scandalous opinion column of the former nuncio, which he was able to publish through several conservative sites, including LifeSiteNews. Archbishop Vigano accuses the current substitute of the Secretariat of State of misconduct and serious deviations.
Shaken by what it considers to be an attempt to destabilize it, and vis-à-vis the sovereign pontiff, the secretariat of state reacted indirectly through the media it officially heads: Vatican News, or informally : Vatican Insider. These two news sites have thus relayed a letter of defense of the substitute, in various languages, written by the bishops of Venezuela, who felt “obliged” to intervene, according to their own wording.
This letter stresses that Archbishop Edgar Pena is “known and appreciated for the important ecclesial and humanitarian work done over 30 years in different parts of the world.” As for the accusations that concern him, the Venezuelan bishops note that “certain reports coincide neither in the dates nor in the physical presence” with the mentioned facts.
In this deleterious context, everyone goes with his hypothesis: for some, such as Professor Roberto de Mattei, this new affair would designate “Pope Francis as directly responsible for the terrible crisis that is hitting the Church.”
For others,—like Nicolas Sénèze who in August 2019 published in La Croix several chapters of his latest book entitled How America Wants to Change the Pope—there is a conspiracy at work against the Argentine pope, led by influential, conservative, and wealthy Americans, to put an end to ongoing structural reforms.
Difficult to unravel the skein without abandoning the objectivity that is imposed on a Catholic journalist. One certainty remains: it is always Christ who holds the bar of the two thousand year old Barque of the Church, against which “the gates of Hell” cannot prevail. It remains to pray that His Vicar, supported by the Tradition of the Church, has the strength to make the right decisions.