Ladies and gentlemen: the "Church Whisperer"

From the Baltimore Sun, a profile of longtime FOB (Friend of the Bench) Rocco Palmo, the shockingly young upstart behind “Whispers in the Loggia”:

A 28-year-old guy living in his parents’ basement in South Philadelphia just might be one of the foremost experts on the American Catholic Church.

Rocco Palmo facetiously calls himself “The Church Whisperer,” and over the past six years, his blog has become a must-read for ecclesiastical insiders. After starting with just three readers a few days before Christmas in 2004, Palmo has built up a audience of roughly 500,000 unique visitors each month. When he attends church conferences, he’s treated like a rock star. Archbishops line up to shake his hand.

His most recent scoop occurred last week when Baltimore’s own Archbishop Edwin P. O’Brien was appointed to the prestigious post of grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The news broke in Palmo’s blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” on Aug. 27 — two days before the appointment was officially announced by the Vatican.

That’s not bad for a guy who, unlike his competition in the Catholic press, has managed to develop highly-placed sources in the Holy City without ever having lived in Rome. It’s not bad for a guy with a college degree in political science who learned journalism on the fly. And it’s not bad considering that Palmo is covering a notoriously secretive institution whose sources could be excommunicated for slipping him information.

“People always want to know how I find out pontifical secrets,” Palmo said during a recent meeting at a Fells Point restaurant.

“I was raised in a large Italian family, and that’s a pretty good template for the upper reaches of the Vatican. Everybody knows, but nobody knows. There are things that aren’t talked about at the dinner table. But after every family gathering, there’s a five-way conference call. Our natural instinct is to share.”

Read the rest. Rock on, Rocco.

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4 responses to “Ladies and gentlemen: the "Church Whisperer"”

  1. I don’t doubt that Rocco is a great guy, and also quite a “resourceful” one.

    That said, this sort of bothers me a bit:


    And it’s not bad considering that Palmo is covering a notoriously secretive institution whose sources could be excommunicated for slipping him information.

    End Quote:

    If the Church would really excommunicate and or find giving out the info from those ‘in the know’, isn’t that a betrayal of confidentiality? And if so, why is our “need to know”, before the Vatican wants us to know, so important?

    Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t for the most part, Rocco’s blog the Catholic version of the National Inquirer?

    Please feel free anyone to “set me straight”, seriously “just askin’.

  2. I find Rocco Palmo and his blog to be just delightful, even though I don’t always agree with him.

    Klaire: My main criteria for evaluating blogs: Does the blogger exhibit signs of hating the Church and wanting to bring her down. I do not see that in “Whispers from the Loggia.”

    I grew up in Philadelphia and went to high school with quite a few girls of Italian descent from South Philadelphia. My experience of a few (not all) Italian-Americans and by extension some people who have worked at the Vatican: Italians love benevolent intrigue (an oxymoron, I know) and take delight in rumor-mongering. It is not done maliciously.

    I would say that they take their Catholic Faith/Church very seriously but wear it very lightly.

    There is a story (I doubt its truth) that a baby was found in the Vatican a few years ago. Cardinal (at that time) Ratzinger, thinking that the baby might belong to one of the priests, was outraged, but another church official (Italian, I presume) supposedly said: “A child is the fruit of love. Therefore, surely it is not by us.”

    I know that I risk being accused of stereotyping here. I hope that my comments are not offensive to Italians, because that is not my objective. (And I don’t want to have a malocchio cast on me!)

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