Gynogate: Is the Vatican Lying?

Gynogate: Is the Vatican Lying?

[“Through its teeth!” because in view of other recent things happening at (or being agreed to by) the Vatican, FrankenChurch is dumb enough to agree initially to such a harebrained conference on its premises]

Posted by Oakes Spalding

Nothing sexy here. Move along now.

The original story was that a Catholic university overseen by the Vatican would be hosting a conference of aesthetic gynecologists, headed by Dr. Alexandros Bader, a world-renown “expert” on the “G-spot”.

Mahound’s Paradise posted on this, offering some new information but also reprinting one of the juicer news stories on the conference from the Daily Mail.

The original story was based on claims made in promotional materials from the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecologists (ESAG). Essentially there were three claims:

The conference would be held in or at Vatican City.

Social events would include a tour of the Vatican gardens and an audience with the Pope.

The precise venue was the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum.

My post suggested, based on the contents of the materials themselves, that the first claim was exaggeration–the Institute is near St. Peter’s but is not technically on Vatican grounds. Indeed, that it was exaggeration was sort of confirmed by a spokeswoman for the ESAG after the story broke.

However, a few days ago, all of the claims were apparently denied by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Federico Lombardi (English text courtesy of Google Translate):

In some press reports there was talk of a First World Congress organized by the “European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology”, which would take place “in the Vatican” in the month of April.

The material for the program that is in the site intentionally suggests this approach, using the shape of the facade of St. Peter, specifying that participants may attend the general audience and visit the Vatican Gardens, and saying well – in some text – that the conference will take place “in the Vatican.”

In another text on the Site it is said that the conference will take place at the Institute Augustinianum. The Augustinianum denies in the strongest terms. Also not in any way that the organization of such a conference has to do with some Vatican institution or the Holy See.

A few journalists and bloggers who reported the original story then quasi-apologized for their initial enthusiasm, and used the word “hoax.” This was done out of admirable motives–in the interests of accuracy even at the expense of looking slightly silly. But I think it is fair to say that they now believe they were too quick to backtrack. One of them–The Bear of St. Corbinian’s Bear–decided to do some additional investigation (as we shall see below).

While it is true that on its official website the ESAG subsequently scrubbed references to “Vatican City”, the Vatican related social events and the Institute–the organization now lists the conference as occurring in “Rome”–there are still numerous links to the earlier claims on ESAG’s Facebook page, Dr. Bader’s Facebook page and some non-ESAG sites related to surgery or medical events.

Note that Lombardi does not deny this and even confirms part of it. But he essentially implies that the ESAG made it all up.

Bear with me as I enter some of it into the record.

This is from the Facebook page of Alma Surgery, announcing the conference and inviting attendees to purchase tickets. Note the claim that “. . . the first 50 registrations (will) attend the audience of Pope Francisco himself”


This letter from Dr. Bader was removed from the ESAG website, but the ESAG Facebook page still links to it at BlueEvents. Note the reference at the bottom to “the general audience of The Pope” and visits to “the vatican gardens” and “St. Peter’s Chapel.”


Here is one of the original virtual brochures, describing the venue as “Rome, 20-21 April 2016; Vatican City State, Italy, Rome; Venue Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum”. It is still on the ESAG Facebook page.


And this is taken from Dr. Bader’s current Facebook page:


So, if it was a hoax, it was a hoax perpetrated by someone inside ESAG–someone who, for example, thought it would be funny to write “Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum” on promotional brochures and forge a letter from Dr. Bader (by, I guess, hacking his Facebook site, among other things) describing that “tour of the vatican gardens” and that “audience.”

That possibility is clearly absurd and (as we’ll see) has been denied by the ESAG.

A second possibility is that the organizers of the ESAG lied about the Vatican links. There was no contract to use the Institute’s conference center and they just made up the bit about the social events. What inscrutable reasons could have motivated them to do this is of course anyone’s guess, as if potential attendees–aesthetic gynecologists and associated people–would be more likely to attend a conference on cosmetic surgery if it were held in the conference hall of a Catholic scholarly center dedicated to the study of the Christian Fathers, or as if multi-million dollar surgeons who specialize in “Brazilian Butt-lifting” techniques (from their brochure) would be more likely to come to Rome if they could meet the Pope (though wouldn’t some of them demand their money back if they found out that that promise–made by Dr. Bader himself–was a complete fib?).

A third possibility is that the ESAG made arrangements with the proper officials, but due to the embarrassing publicity, the Institute (and whoever is in charge of organizing garden tours and Papal audiences, etc.) cancelled. And now they think it’s best to deny everything.

Subsequently, The Bear did the obviously right thing (though it wasn’t obvious to me): He actually asked ESAG to comment. Here was the response from Dr. Bader himself:

Dear Mr. [Bear], we had a clear agreement with the Vatican to rent their premises in order to organize the Congress. Recently and in unfair way they regret and escalate the issue just to slip away from their responsibilities. We have evidence and documents to prove this and soon we will come out with an official press release as well as we still keep our rights for all legal actions against all involved parties who defame our Society and me personally. The Congress still will take place on the same dates in a different venue which will be announced soon.

By the way, stay tuned to St. Corbinian’s Bear on this. The Bear subsequently writes:

The Bear has engaged in subsequent communications with Dr. Bader, and expects to report more news soon.

Obviously, either ESAG is lying or the Vatican is. Again, ask yourself why the ESAG of all organizations would make up the Vatican links out of whole cloth and put them in their promotional materials. On the other hand, I suppose it might be claimed that even if the arrangements were initially made, the Vatican is not technically lying now. Saying that the Institute “denies in the strongest terms” that they will host such a conference does not technically contradict the claim that they had initially agreed to do so.

But that would be pharisaical.

Let me offer a charitable hypothesis as to what really happened: The Institute did indeed agree to host the conference and the tour and audience were arranged through the usual channels. Consider that the Institute does host non-religious events–they recently hosted a meeting on climate change–and the Pope has audiences with all sorts of people and groups. The relevant Vatican officials focused on the “surgery” or “surgeons” part, not quite realizing how potentially embarrassing (and non- or even un-Catholic) some of the thing was. Perhaps the ESAG tacitly cooperated here, not going out of its way to emphasize the juicier bits about the conference. (Imagine that they know from experience that they run into resistance whenever they do.) Possibly a few Catholic doctors were mentioned or used as references, etc.

If this hypothesis is true, then to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me that the arrangements for the conference were initially made. It was a silly mistake.

It does bother me that they now appear to be lying about it.

But then secrecy and deception are hallmarks of this pontificate, aren’t they?

Contrast that with the behavior of those Catholic bloggers who were quick to admit apparent error, even when as one of them put it, it showed them with “egg on their face.” That it now appears they weren’t in error makes the irony all the richer.

The crisis continues.

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5 comments on “Gynogate: Is the Vatican Lying?

  1. Maureen Mullarkey Withdraws Apology over ESAG Piece

    Posted by St. Corbinian’s Bear on Sunday, December 27, 2015

    Based on research and analysis conducted by the Bear and the Hound, writer Maureen Mullarkey has withdrawn her apology over submitting “The Theology of the Clitoris,” to The Federalist. This was her contribution to the body of work sparked by the Daily Mail’s revelation that the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology was holding its 1st World Congress at the Patristic Institute, next to the Vatican. Inevitably it was spread as “the Vatican G-Spot Conference.” (Which really irritates the sponsor, so we should probably not use that anymore. But most people don’t have any idea what “ESAG” is.)

    Mullarkey, one of the most talented writers around, was informed by The Federalist that they had pulled her piece after a complaint by the Patristic Institute, who denied the whole thing, and maybe even used the word “hoax.” (They also confiscated her stipend, which the Bear assumes is something like salmon.) Apparently, The Federalist took the Patristic Institute’s claim at face value and did not make further inquiries.

    Oakes Spalding of Mahound’s Paradise made a comment on the Bear’s blog that maybe there wasn’t a hoax after all. The Bear began snooping around and contacted Dr. Bader, who is behind the ESAG conference. The Bear can tell you, he is one mad aesthetic gynecological surgeon who feels shafted by the Vatican. Read previous articles to understand why the Bear finds his story credible. (And, the Patristic Institute’s and Fr. Lombardi’s not.)

    Although the Bear has his preliminary opinion, the case remains open. There are certain pieces of evidence the Bear is waiting for, and Dr. Bader has promised a press release that will contain proof.

    But you won’t want to miss why Ms. Mullarkey has withdrawn her apology: “Scrap the Mea Culpa!” [see comment below]

    • Scrap the Mea Culpa!

      Maureen Mullarkey on December 27, 2015

      I take it back. There was no hoax—certainly nothing that required apology from me. In hindsight, my haste to correct a supposed error was premature. As things stand, it looks as if the Vatican, embarrassed by bad publicity, reneged on its agreement with the European Society of Aesthetic Gynecologists [ESAG].

      Backspace to Jay Akbar’s column in The Daily Mail, “Secrets of the G-Spot Unraveled . . . . by the Vatican: Catholic university overseen by the Catholic Church to host conference about the secrets of the female body.” A provocative title to be sure, but not a deceitful one. Organized by the ESAG, the conference was advertised as taking place at the Patristic Institute this coming April. You can view a pdf. of its schedule of presentations and international speakers here.


      Akbar’s article appeared online on December 11th. My reaction to it appeared on The Federalist ten days later. Acting in good faith after an email from the Institute disclaiming association with ESAG, The Federalist removed my essay “Theology of the Clitoris?” the day after it appeared. This, while ESAG still cited the Institute on its Facebook page. (Later the following day the conference venue was downgraded to simply Rome.)

      If Akbar’s report was based on a hoax, why is the original Daily Mail report of the conference still available online? Did the Vatican fail to contact a major British tabloid with millions of European readers before refuting a less visible essay in The Federalist? Not likely. Or had The Daily Mail been skeptical of the Vatican’s disclaimer? If no agreement with the Patristic Institute had been in the offing, why is Dr. Bader, president of ESAG, speaking of legal action?


      Lastly, is it even creditable that ESAG would risk professional prestige in a burgeoning, lucrative field by announcing a fake booking for a conference already organized and speakers confirmed?

      Enter the pseudonymous Bear of St. Corbinian’s Bear and Oakes Spalding of Mahound’s Paradise, the keen spirits behind two of the most insightful, witty sites in the Catholic blogosphere. I know neither one of these writers personally; know nothing about them, not even the identity of the Bear. I only know that they share an eye for gall and wormwood, a gift of immense value in low times and among high-placed dissemblers.

      The intrepid Bear, with the instincts of a solid journalist, had the good sense to contact ESAG. Had a contract been signed? At the moment, all we know—thanks to Bear’s inquisitiveness and tenacity—is that Dr. Bader had been sufficiently assured of the booking that he promoted it in the press, on social media, and on ESAG’s website. Angered by what he sees as a mendacious exercise in seller’s regret, Bader said he has “evidence and documents” to disprove Vatican disavowal. Read the physician’s initial rejoinder in full on St. Corbinian’s Bear. Correspondence between them continues. Bear will quite likely post whatever additional disclosures come from the ESAG for the press.

      Stay tuned. In Bear’s own words: “This stinks like week old salmon.”

      Oakes Spalding, applying the substance of Bear’s investigative initiative, walks through the possible scenarios at work in “Gynogate: Is the Vatican Lying?” It is an instructive read, one that raises the farcical old ghost of a Nixonian cover-up.

      Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s press office, denied that “such a conference” had anything to do with any Vatican institution. He pulled his hems back from ESAG’s promotional material even though it mainly drew on the Institute’s own advertising. The Institute solicits “meetings at the international level,” and markets its various conference facilities in terms of proximity to the historic city center and locates itself close to the left arm of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Its website boasts—in addition to restaurant, catering, and Wi-Fi services—the quietude of property “surrounded by a green area that separates the conference environment from the outside noise of the city.” In light of the Institute’s own boosterism, Fr. Lombardi’s umbrage at EASG’s use of the Basilica as a logo for the conference and reference to the Vatican Gardens falls flat.

      On the face of things right now, it is difficult to come to any conclusion other than the obvious: Vatican disclaimer is a disingenuous exercise in rug-pulling designed to save face. Or as Robert Conquest put it in regard to weightier matters: “ . . . mistaken bureaucratic decisions do not undermine bureaucracy; on the contrary, the resulting trouble requires further bureaucratic effort.”

      In the end, the only thing I have to regret is lost income. When The Federalist pulled my essay, my stipend went with it.

    • Aesthetic gynecology! Throngs of frat boys are knocking themselves in the head for not coining that one.

      So now we have TOC (per Mullarkey) to append to TOB. It’s perfect for the psuedosaint Wojtyla Westheimer who coached men to be attentive to their wife’s … fulfillment.

  2. [St. Corbinian’s Bear says, “The crisis continues”; and so it does]

    St. Corbinian’s Bear says on Sunday, December 27, 2015:

    Gynogate: More From Dr. Bader and Most Likely Scenario

    Thumbnail History

    Well, you’ve got to call it something.

    You will recall that The European Society of Aesthetic Gynecology (ESAG) advertised its “1st World Congress” to be held in the impressive and well-advertised conference facilities at the Patristic Institute, just outside the precincts of the Vatican. It quickly became known as the “Vatican G-Spot Conference,” even though only one program dealt with that sensationalistic matter. The Patristic Institute is supervised by the curial Congregation for Catholic Education.

    As far as the Bear can tell, the story was broken by the Daily Mail, which set the sensationalistic tone. As you can imagine, the story proved irresistible to bloggers, particularly of the lazy sort who played it for laughs, such as the Bear. (Rest assured, however, that the Bear is on this story for real, now.) Maureen Mullarkey wrote a story for the Federalist, which they pulled (more anon).

    Why It Matters

    The reason this is important is that it appears the Patristic Institute and Fr. Federico Lombardi are not being truthful, and are damaging the reputations of respected writer Maureen Mullarkey, and, for that matter, Dr. Bader, the surgeon behind the ESAG Congress. Think what you want about his field, but he is evidently a respected surgeon in it. Add every other blogger who discussed this and has been accused of reporting a hoax, many of them issuing apologies, and you’ve got quite a number of aggrieved parties.

    Of course, that is small potatoes compared to the Vatican deliberately lying to save itself some embarrassment. Perhaps the relevant parties should review the lessons of Watergate.

    A Look at the Evidence: More From Dr. Bader

    In order to believe the Vatican, you would have to conclude that Dr. Bader is (a) delusional; or (b) perpetrating a senseless hoax on himself and his own organization. On the other hand, you may conclude that Dr. Bader (with whom the Bear is in communication, and who sounds like a reasonable surgeon who is bent out of shape by his treatment) at least believed he had an agreement with the Institute.

    Based on all the evidence, it seems likely that ESAG did have an agreement, but the Institute (or the Vatican) grew skittish after people started laughing at it, and broke off the agreement at whatever stage it had reached.

    The Bear has set up legal conferences for hundreds of lawyers and many presenters from all over the country. No one would just assume they have some venue as they’re scheduling incoming speakers, assuring that they have the equipment they need, planning catering, and providing for some down time. Not to mention advertising for attendees! The Bear would grow extremely angry if he thought he had a venue and it disappeared.

    Against Fr. Lombardi and the Institute we have Dr, Bader’s unequivocal statement. [Sic.] (English is obviously not Dr. Bader’s native language, but he does well enough.)

    We had a clear agreement with the Vatican to rent their premises in order to organize the Congress. Recently and in unfair way they regret and escalate the issue just to slip away from their responsibilities. We have evidence and documents to prove this and soon we will come out with an official press release as well as we still keep our rights for all legal actions against all involved parties who defame our Society and me personally.The Congress still will take place on the same dates in a different venue which will be announced soon.

    The Bear now makes available additional information from Dr. Bader. [Sic.]

    I understand completely the Vatican position but they where the one who promised the rental of the Patristic institute. We never had the target to embarrass the holy chruch. We are a scientific organisation who are organising a meeting which will come with conclusions and guidelines and that’s why we invited 30 different speakers from all over the contents [continents] and with all varieties of religions just to expose their opinion as this will give a big asset to the whole thing. Even the G-Spot topic which was the one which all your colleagues used to defame the congress, the society and me personally it is under the title G-Spot truth and myth? which obviously shows our goal to investigate and to come one step beyond what we know now. The word hoax is unfair and totally illegal and this will be considered from us on all our next action.

    Sounds to the Bear like Dr. Bader has a point. He is obviously not very happy. In defense of my “colleagues,” the Bear does not believe any disrespect was intended toward Dr. Bader and ESAG. The thrust of the story was the incongruity of a sex surgery congress being hosted by the Vatican. For that matter, inject “G-Spot” into a conversation and you’re likely to elicit some juvenile humor. At least if you’re a Bear. It’s sort of a defense mechanism we use when we’re uncomfortable with frank discussions about sex.

    Which brings us back to the claims by the Vatican and the Institute that there was never an agreement, and the implication (if not outright claim) that it was a hoax. One of the reasons it is vital to obtain a copy of the Institute email is to see how they characterized the matter, and whether they used the word “hoax.”

    The Email from the Institute

    Once the Congress was publicized, The Federalist published an article by respected writer Maureen Mullarkey (You may remember that she was let go by First Things due to her criticism of the Pope. She is definitely one of the good guys, and the Bear encourages you to read her wonderful writings via the link to the right.)

    The Bear is hoping to obtain the original of the “forwarded email” from the Institute or The Federalist, with whom he has established a line of communication. He has also contacted the Institute with a number of questions, including seeing their communication to the Federalist. They cannot complain that no one has inquired, now. Whether they are interested in someone probing their narrative is a different matter.

    Based on the communications quoted above, Ms. Mullarkey issued her apology.

    We’re waiting for Dr. Bader’s press release, which, for all the Bear knows, has documentation that will prove ESAG’s version.

    Vatican vs. Dr. Bader: Credibility Contest

    It is difficult to imagine a scenario that brings the Vatican’s statements and Dr. Bader’s statements into agreement. The best the Bear can do is that the parties did enter into some sort of preliminary agreement that caused Dr. Bader to think he had a solid contract, but the Vatican canceled at some point.

    To avoid further embarrassment, the Vatican then took the additional, unwise, step of denying that there had ever been any agreement or discussions, and possibly called the whole thing a hoax. The Patristic Institute communicated a denial strong enough to cause The Federalist to pull Ms. Mullarkey’s story without further investigation.

    The Bear really wants to know if the Institute used the word “hoax.”

    Fr. Lombardi has doubled down on the complete denial story.

    The Bear has decades of experience sorting facts, assessing evidence and judging people’s credibility. If Dr. Bader is not being truthful, the Bear’s a monkey’s uncle.

    Comment from J. (December 28, 2015): Time to make some popcorn!

    Reply from St. Corbinian’s Bear (December 28, 2015):

    Better make a lot of it, because this is going to go on awhile. In the end, Fr. Lombardi will announce that he was correct in saying there is no truth to the story about the ESAG and the Patristic Institute. There were initial inquiries made by Dr. Bader, but the Institute did not enter into any formal contract to host the Congress. If Dr. Bader wanted to advertise a venue based merely on assurances from the Institute that they would handle it, that’s his problem. (Actually, probably not that last sentence.) Of course, there’s always the possibility Dr. Bader produces a written agreement. Then what does the Vatican do? Blame some minor functionary at the Institute? Admit to it, but say the Institute backed out once it realized the nature of the conference? The Vatican certainly does not want to be in the position of breach of contract, especially if it called the whole thing a “hoax,” damaging Dr. Bader’s expensive reputation. Bear does not understand why the Vatican keeps digging itself into what looks like a hole, when it would be so easy to admit they made a mistake in judgment, and corrected it.

    • “For that matter, inject “G-Spot” into a conversation and you’re likely to elicit some juvenile humor. At least if you’re a Bear. It’s sort of a defense mechanism we use when we’re uncomfortable with frank discussions about sex.”

      ROFL! It’s obviously getting dicey for the Bear!

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