Fact Check

Did Italy Arrest Cardinals and Seize Vatican City?

"The article starts out seemingly sane and then spirals into absurdity ..."

Published Jan. 22, 2019

 (Flickr/Benson Kua)
Image Via Flickr/Benson Kua
Italian law enforcement has arrested cardinals and seized Vatican City.

On 17 January 2019, the blog Laughing in Disbelief published an entry headlined "Italy Arrests Cardinals and Seizes Vatican City":

Italian law enforcement worked for months to launch a sting program on the pedophile clergy that made up Vatican City. The operation was codenamed Spotlight after the 2015 movie about clergy sex abuse scandal in Boston, Massachusetts.

Inspector Anthony Canard is the commanding officer of Spotlight. “Everyone knew Vatican City was the center of an international pedophile ring,” he stated. “We sent busloads of orphans into Vatican City for the annual Cardinal Convention. Long story short? The kids were never in harm’s way, and we nabbed a lot of perps.”

Although many readers saw the article's headline circulating on social media and wondered if the story were true, observant audience members may have noticed the definition of the surname of the putative law enforcement inspector, Canard, is "a false or unfounded report or story."

Although the Patheos platform that is home to "Laughing in Disbelief" offers serious perspectives on religion and spirituality, material posted on the "Laughing in Disbelief" blog is satirical in nature rather than real news. Under a tab labelled "Is this satire?", the article notes that "The story you are reading is satirical. The post may have links to real events that the satire is based on, but the Laughing in Disbelief article is fake. There are winks to readers in each piece besides the link(s) to this page that I humbly offer as hints that the story in question is satirical. Maybe there is someone in the story who has a name derived from canard?"


Hall, Andrew.   "Italy Arrests Cardinals and Seizes Vatican City."     Laughing in Disbelief.   17 January 2019.

Hall, Andrew.   "Is This Satire?"     Laughing in Disbelief.   Accessed 22 January 2019.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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