Some nasty sleet covered Baltimore on early Thursday morning. Looking at a twenty-minute walk in it, I nearly scotched my plan to walk over to the Inner Harbor Marriott to see if I could catch Cardinal Joseph Tobin checking out of the hotel after the U.S. bishops’ conference wrapped up at it. I wanted to ask Tobin about a story I broke in October: that an Italian actor, Francesco Castiglione, was living in his rectory, which had caused murmuring among concerned Catholics in his archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. Some of those concerned Catholics had called me, suspecting that Castiglione was the real recipient of Tobin’s infamous accidental tweet from last February in which he declared to someone unknown, “Nighty-Night Baby, I love you.” An embarrassed Tobin had explained away the Twitter misfire as a late-night message to one of his sisters.
My slippery walk to the Marriott proved productive. I lurked about the Marriott lobby for a few minutes, then looked up and saw Tobin emerge from the elevator and saunter over to the check-out desk. Here was my chance. I waited for him to complete his business, then introduced myself and asked him about Francesco Castiglione.
Was Castiglione living at the rectory until I reported it? Tobin responded that, yes, Castiglione was living at his rectory “temporarily.” I asked him why. He said that Castiglione was taking “language classes” at Seton Hall. Asked why he would provide temporary housing to a random Seton Hall student, Tobin couldn’t offer an explanation.
Where was Castiglione now? “As far as I know, he is back in Italy,” said Tobin hesitantly. (I had been told by a well-placed source in Newark that after my reporting about Castiglione Tobin’s aides moved him out of the rectory and put him on a plane back to Italy. But his recent Instagram and Facebook postings indicate that he has returned to New Jersey; he is seen in one picture getting ice cream in Summit, New Jersey and in others hanging out in New York City.)
Then I got to an even more delicate matter: Was Castiglione the real recipient of the “Nighty-Night Baby” tweet? Tobin stuck with his story about sending it to a family member. “I sent that to my sister,” he said. I asked him if she could provide proof of that. That didn’t go over well. “I don’t have to prove anything to you,” he said, as he started to walk away from me.
I asked him one last batch of questions before he took off: Was he going to succeed Cardinal Wuerl in Washington, D.C.? “No, I am not,” he replied. Are you in the running? He demurred again, then turned back to me and said, “I am going to focus on Newark.”