Evaluating Another One of Those Single Unnamed-Source News Stories . . . | National Review

Evaluating Another One of Those Single Unnamed-Source News Stories . . . | National Review

Pope Francis waves during a pray for war victims at the Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square in Mosul’s Old City, Iraq, March 7, 2021. (Abdullah Rashid/Reuters)

John Gizzi, the long-time Washington correspondent of Human Events, now works for Newsmax and offers the shocking report that the Vatican is secretly preparing for a conclave to select a new pope because “Pope Francis is dying.” Gizzi reports that “Vatican insiders, including my source, do not believe he will survive past 2022.”

Other Vatican correspondents, such as Bree Dail, say that they cannot confirm the report, and in fact have heard nothing along these lines.

Let’s begin by observing that Pope Francis is about to turn 85, had part of one of his lungs removed many years ago, and had surgery in July removing part of his intestine and colon. (As Vin Scully said, “he’s listed as day to day, but then again, aren’t we all?”) But Francis has been keeping his usual public schedule and does not appear to be in poor health.

Gizzi attributes his scoop to “a secretary of one of the most powerful Vatican Cardinals.”

There are at least three possibilities here.

First, maybe everything is occurring exactly as Gizzi is reporting. Maybe Pope Francis is indeed dying, he is indeed unlikely to live past 2022, and the Vatican is indeed secretly preparing for his passing and a conclave to select his successor. (Then again, it might just be common sense for the Vatican to be prepared for the passing of an 85-year-old man!) It would be remarkable if the pope and everyone around him managed to keep an enormously consequential secret such as this one hidden away from every reporter who covers the Vatican and every other Church official, but one secretary of one cardinal spilled the beans to a correspondent for Newsmax. Stranger things have happened though.

The second possibility is that Gizzi is accurately reporting what his source said, but his source is exaggerating or stretching the truth. Francis has indeed had health issues recently, and there’s a highly contagious virus that can be dangerous to the elderly, even if they’ve been vaccinated! It would be reasonable for someone to worry that Pope Francis might not be on this earth for much longer. But the source could be taking a reasonable and accurate statement — “Between his age and the existing health risks, there is no guarantee that Pope Francis will be alive in 2023” and turning it into a shocking one — “Pope Francis will not survive past 2022!”

The third possibility is that Gizzi is accurately reporting what his source said, but his source is just making stuff up to stir up trouble. It is not reassuring that Gizzi’s report includes sentences such as, “It has long been viewed that the Holy Father is physically and perhaps mentally not well.” By whom? How? Based upon what evidence? There are a bunch of clergy and laymen who love Pope Francis, and there are a bunch of clergy and laymen who can’t stand Pope Francis. Some folks might get a thrill, or feel like their position is strengthened, by starting or spreading the rumor that Pope Francis is about to pass on. Also, if you report “elderly man approaching death,” your reporting is guaranteed to be correct . . . eventually.

(I have enough faith in Gizzi to believe that his source exists, and that he’s quoting him accurately, but your mileage may vary.)

Finally, Newsmax gets the epic, world-shaking scoop that the pope is dying and that the Vatican is hiding the seriousness of the pope’s health challenges and then . . . puts the article behind a paywall?

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.