George Neumayr, RIP

In some shocking news, George Neumayr, a brilliant writer and columnist on Catholic matters, who exposed untold corruption and other scandals in the Catholic Church, has died while on a reporting trip to the Ivory Coast.

According to Catholic World Report:

The sad and shocking news broke this morning on social media that journalist and editor George Neumayr died of malaria while in Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (often referred to as Ivory Coast) in West Africa, where he had been visiting and reporting for The American Spectator.

The Lepanto Institute tweeted:

Regarding the death of @george_neumayr, here is what we know from CONFIRMED sources:
1) George was sick seven days ago.
2) George steadfastly refused to go to the hospital.
3) The US Consulate tested his body and confirmed that he tested positive for malaria.

Neumayr, who was in his late fifties, was my predecessor at Catholic World Report; he was editor from 2006 to 2011.

His family put out this message:

“It is with great sadness that the family of George Neumayr announces his untimely passing on January 19, 2023. He was abroad in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, living out his passion for defending the Catholic Faith and the Church’s mission to save souls. He passed away after contracting malaria. The family is devastated by this sudden loss and requests prayers for the happy repose of his soul and the consolation of his family.”

What's sad here is that Neumayr was an absolutely fearless investigative reporter, who brought us hard-hitting news we never would have known about, and probably won't get much of again, about the nature of truly bad actors such as pervy Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and other plagues who burrowed their way into the Church hierarchy. His reporting had impact, and bad guys were put on the run.

Any stories about Vatican doings are not easy to get, as I once heard Crux editor John Allen tell a Catholic group in Anaheim a few years ago. Stories about crimes and coverups among them are even harder, which makes Neumayr's achievements even greater.

I wrote this commentary on Neumayr's scoop on Cardinal Joseph Tobin, a protege of McCarrick's, with his odd housemate, beginning with this:

Was the man who who's widely believed to be the next cardinal for the Washington archdiocese, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, bunking with a houseboy?

It looks like it, given the reporting of the indefatigable George Neumayr:

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.

American Thinker's archives show that George contributed four articles to this publication:

Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Neumayr's longtime editor at the American Spectator, wrote a moving tribute to him, beginning this way, with many fond memories of Neumayr and his dogged, determined, and very high quality reporting:

We join in those prayers, even as the news is impossible to fathom, let alone accept. George, as anyone who knew him or even read him knew, was one of a kind: fearless, intelligent, and a font of clarity and profundity. And modest and gentle to a fault.

I don't think I ever met Neumayr, but I had a slight connection to him, in that I was in the same St. Ignatius Institute traditional Catholic education program as he was at the University of San Francisco, a few years earlier than him, and knew his delightful sister.

The fact that Neumayr exposed a lot of riff-raff and corruption in the Church and at the Vatican, enraging its deep-state-like special interests, and the fact that he was painfully young in his 50s and died suddenly, has not unexpectedly led to questions as to whether his death was natural.

A couple of tweets here attempt to make sense of the shocking death:



But the preponderence of the evidence suggests that that wasn't what happened at all.

The Lepanto tweet points to malaria, a disease we don't even think about in the states, which is an absolute monster in the part of Africa, Ivory Coast, where Neumayr died.

Where is the scourge of malaria the most lethal? According to the Centers for Disease Control, sub-Saharan Africa, where 95% of the 627,000 annual deaths from the disease occur:

Malaria occurs mostly in poor, tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Africa is the most affected due to a combination of factors:

  • A very efficient mosquito (Anopheles gambiae  complex) is responsible for high transmission.
  • The predominant parasite species is Plasmodium falciparum , which is the species that is most likely to cause severe malaria and death.
  • Local weather conditions often allow transmission to occur year round.
  • Scarce resources and socio-economic instability have hindered efficient malaria control activities.
  • In other areas of the world, malaria is a less prominent cause of deaths, but can cause substantial disease and incapacitation, especially in some countries in South America and South Asia.

There are four malaria-tranmitting anopheles mosquitos and the parasite within the sub-Saharan African one is most likely to kill: 

  • In 2020, malaria caused an estimated 241 million clinical episodes, and 627,000 deaths. An estimated 95% of deaths in 2020 were in the WHO African Region.

 And who are the most vulnerable to catching it? According to CDC:

The most vulnerable are persons with no or little immunity against the disease. In areas with high transmission (such as Africa south of the Sahara), the most vulnerable groups are:

  • Young children, who have not yet developed partial immunity to malaria
  • Pregnant women, whose immunity is decreased by pregnancy, especially during the first and second pregnancies
  • Travelers or migrants coming from areas with little or no malaria transmission, who lack immunity.

Deadly mosquito, lethal parasite, vulnerable traveler, Neumayr could have easily been hit on all three fronts, as could anyone who lives in the west and travels there for the first time. He died and it could have been any of us in the same place. CDC has a photo gallery of ordinary people who have contracted the disease, often not expecting to, while on travels to these affected areas. Preventative treatments are said to be recommended as a defense, based on this National Institutes of Health history of the disease.

Malaria is such a broad-based horror. It hit Africa's people so hard it is attributed to the genetic mutation that, when paired with the genes of two parents with the trait, creates sickle-cell anemia, but unpaired, as if from one parent, creates resistance to the disease as a defense.

It's possible that Neumayr may have underestimated the danger he was in, given that malaria gives off the symptoms similar to a bad cold. Or, he may have distrusted local hospitals in the Ivory Coast, where medical standards may not have been high.

In an ironic recall of a different death, that of my friend foreign correspondent Nate Thayer, another great investigative journalist with a very different personality, whose death was announced on January 6 at age 62, of extended health issues, one of which was indeed malaria contracted on the Thai-Cambodia border in the 1990s. I recall how Nate told me in a conversation at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in Bangkok, Thailand, that he was almost dead from the malady in a Thai hospital and knew that there was but one dose of an antidote for the disease in a hospital medicine cabinet. He told me he could see it from his bed and asked the hospital bureaucrat to be administered the medicine. The bureaucrat told him 'no,' because they were saving it 'for good.' "Can't I have it?" he asked, recounting it to me. "Can't I have it?" Such are the challenges of contracting malaria in an underdeveloped country in a remote outpost.

 Bottom line: It's very believable that Neumayr's death was exactly as the Lepanto Institute said it was.

And that doesn't bring George back. It's a terrible loss, but his contributions to our understanding are unique and immeasurable. He explained his fearlessness this way in a tweet cited by Church Militant, which has much detail about Neumayr's current work:

But as self-dramatizing as it may sound, I don't give a damn at this point. I don't care what happens to me. I will not sit on my hands as these wicked charlatans defile Jesus Christ's Church. It belongs to Him, not them.

Rest in peace, the great George Neumayr.

Image: Twitter screen shot

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