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The sad story of Emanuela’s disappearance in 1983 from Vatican City has recently been made into a Netflix movie. I have no real desire to see it since it seems to be filled with sensationalism. There is something about heartbreaking atrocities becoming a form of entertainment that offends my soul. Conversely however, it’s very difficult to share the story without actually, sharing the story.

If you you are not familiar with the crime, Wikipedia gives a good rundown. I thought this documentary was rather well done.

I’m not sure why, but she has been on my heart and mind lately, so I went looking for updates. There really aren’t any. Her disappearance represents the end of my own innocence, the death of my trust in even the potential goodness of institutions. I didn’t even know her but I got the message loud and clear that she didn’t matter, that she was just collateral damage from those who really did matter. And because they mattered more then she did, they would never be held accountable.

She was just a bit younger then me, but we were of the same generation, and she lived during a time when these things just did not happen, and certainly not in Vatican City.

Her brother was supposed to give her a ride that day and he didn’t. Likely driven by guilt that doesn’t even belong to him, he has spent a lifetime trying to find out what happened to her and who was responsible. Her father spent his own lifetime loyal and working for the church before dying disillusioned, heartbroken by the betrayal and cover up.

We actually don’t know how the Vatican was involved at all. There are many theories about various connections to the mob, money laundering, banking, terrorism, sex trafficking. They are still just that, speculation, theories, attempts to fill in the blanks and try to understand. There is no concrete evidence proving any of these things.

However, what is concrete and evident is the cover up, the lack of transparency, the code of silence, the failure to take care of their own when it came to this family who deserved answers, an explanation. They were betrayed in that awful way where those you thought you could trust, the things you thought you could believe in, turn out to have all the substance and integrity of a wet paper bag. That is a painful, painful place to be and my heart goes out to them.

If you’ve ever been in that situation, watching a bunch of wet paper bags dissolve into nothingness, the urge to blame yourself can be powerful. Don’t do that! There is no sin in believing in the potential goodness of something or someone, in fact, it is very brave. It is better to have hope, to believe in something and risk betrayal and disappointment, then to never believe in anything at all.