Papa Frankie is at it again…

repubblica francisco[1 Oct 2013, evening –– Good news! This post by Sr. Anne at nunblog clarifies how, so far, two major head-scratchers in the ‘encounter’ with Scalfari were mistranslated. I’ll note the revisions below in red. This is good news, but, as you’ll see in my discussion of these newer translations, it does little to ameliorate the fundamentally squishy nature of the Pope’s latest “off the cuff remarks.”]

The Italian periodical La Repubblica recently released a nearly 5,000-word exclusive interview with Pope Francis conducted by the leftist atheist Eugenio Scalfari. Not even two months ago, Scalfari and Francis had a noteworthy written dialogue/debate in the pages of La Repubblica, the major media fallout from which was, as Jimmy Akin so ably disentangled it, the confused claim that Pope Francis said atheists will go to Heaven.

This time around?

Well, let’s just say that Mr. Akin’s services will be called upon in short order. Indeed, Fr. Z has already been summoned by the faithful for more loyal damage control.

You’ve got to hand it to Pope Francis: he’s a real job creator. His “off-the-cuff” comments have provided job security for countless Catholic media pundits who feel compelled to handle damage control for “the real Francis.” Indeed, this latest interview guarantees weeks of work for the Pope’s conscripted lay handlers. In Scalfari’s own concluding words, “This is Pope Francis. If the Church becomes like him and becomes what he wants it to be, it will be an epochal change.” As we all know, nothing sells like hope and change.

Apropos the word “change”, note that while the English translation––which may well be superseded by a different translation in other venues––reads, “how the Church will change,” the printed Italian title, as Whispers in the Loggia notes, is, “‘Thus I will change the Church’ [‘Così cambierò la Chiesa’], with a subhed quoting Francis that ‘To open oneself to modernity is a duty.'” [I do not find this phrase on the cover, but I do see the phrase, “Starting with the {Second Vatican} Council, open to modern culture.” Yet the danger is the same: an open Church, to paraphrase Chesterton, is only as good as an open mouth, which is worthless if it cannot close and bite down on something solid. In an even darker vein, to insist that Holy Mother Church always be, ahem, open and inviting to the world is but to render Her a whore.]

This is not insignificant.

For, as The Sensible Bond argues in his reaction to Pope Francis’s seismic interview with Fr. Anthony Spadaro, S.J., in La Civiltà Cattolica:

The word [“dynamism” or “dynamic”] is used at least four times [in the Spadaro interview]. Vatican II was a new “dynamic” of reading the Gospel; reform requires “new historical dynamics”; God enters the “dynamic” of human relationships; the Synod of Bishops is not “dynamic”. Look for the buzz words. “Dynamic” comes from the Greek for power(ful) but I would claim that its rhetorical value in contemporary discourse is “irresistible force”. By way of contrast, the word “tradition” appears once in the interview and only then in relation to the Orthodox who have a tradition of synodality (lucky them!). Benedict’s buzz word was that good, old-fashioned German warhorse “authentic”. Francis’s, I hypothesize, will be “dynamic”.

So, why does this disquiet me? Because, paradoxically, it denotes a language of power, rather than authority. Francis has behaved autocratically since he came to power, although his excuse has been that it is more humble to cast off the detritus of papal ceremony and convention. Yet, this dynamism seems never aimed as conservation but always at change.

Quite so. By some strange alchemy the Holy Father believes that his “humility and ambition” entitle him to effect badly needed and long overdue change in the Church. Change, always change, always hopeful change–or else. Power, charismatic power, always power humbly shrouded.

Now, with your mouth safely void of any drinks, here are some gems from “the encounter” (LINK to the original Italian):

“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. …

Scalfari: Your Holiness, I say, it is largely a political and economic problem for states, governments, political parties, trade unions.

“Yes, you are right, but it also concerns the Church, in fact, particularly the Church because this situation does not hurt only bodies but also souls. The Church must feel responsible for both souls and bodies. … It is not the only problem that we face, but it is the most urgent and the most dramatic.””

[Did someone say “seamless garment Catholicism”? Do keep these initial comments in mind when you read the Pope’s later opinions on the political role to be played by religion in the public square.]

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. … This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.

“…I repeat it here [that the conscience is autonomous]. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

[Again, while this is technically correct in a very narrow theological sense, as Fr. Z explains, the Pope’s use of the word “everyone” unquestionably lends favor to the idea that even ill formed and dissident consciences are autonomous, full stop. As I keep saying, the Holy Father just keeps making it too easy for liberal spin machines, and, worse, and he doesn’t seem to be upset in the least about it. Let us pray for him.]

The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. I will show you the way, he said. Follow me and you will find the Father and you will all be his children and he will take delight in you. Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.” [emphasis added]

[How’s that?]

“I don’t like the word narcissism[. … It] indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this  –  which is actually a kind of mental disorder  –  are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists“. [emphasis mine]

[Oh the irony!]

Scalfari: Do you think it was right that the Pope [John Paull II] fought against [liberation theologians]?

“It certainly gave a political aspect to their theology, but many of them were believers and with a high concept of humanity.”

[Well, I guess that clears it up.]

“Someone who is not touched by grace may be a person without blemish and without fear, as they say, but he will never be like a person who has touched grace. This is Augustine’s insight.”

[Come again? A person devoid of grace may be unblemished? Immaculate, even? … Yes, yes, I know: I need to consider the “context” of these comments. Okay, here’s the context: they’re coming from the mouth of the face of the universal Church. Perhaps we might expect Francis himself to weigh the context of his own role before making comments like these? Or would that be too “reactionary” and “small-minded”?]

Your Holiness, you said that you have no intention of trying to convert me….

“…I don’t have any such intention.”

jedi-mind-trick[Good grief, the actual St. Francis of Assisi would have never uttered such a thing. As Real Clear Religion writes, “Although Francis was not on a formal mission of peace, converting the [M]uslims was his attempt to bring about peace. According to one scholar, Christopher Maier, ‘Francis like the crusaders wanted to liberate the holy places of Palestine from Muslim rule. What was different was his strategy…. He wanted their total submission to the Christian faith.'” Move along, Papa Frankie, this isn’t the Francis you’re looking for.]

“Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about.”

“I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John [XIII], decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.” [emphasis added]

[Buzz words? What buzz words?]

“I’m not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and his holiness. But I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.

“I have already said that the Church will not deal with politics.” …

Scalfari: But just a few days ago you appealed to Catholics to engage civilly and politically.

“I was not addressing only Catholics but all men of good will. I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres. All my predecessors have said the same thing, for many years at least, albeit with different accents. I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I’m here.” [emphasis added]

“…I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator.”

[Salvageable but daft. As always. Ahh, modern Jesuits.]

“In the letter I wrote to you [to Scalfari], you will remember I said that our species will end but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will all be in everyone.”

Scalfari: Yes, I remember it well. You said, “All the light will be in all souls” which – if I may say so – gives more an image of immanence than of transcendence.

“Transcendence remains because that light, all in everything, transcends the universe and the species it inhabits at that stage.”

[Did someone say Teilhardian universalism? Nah, that’s just the media spinning the Pope again for its own treacherous aims. Here again we see the Pope’s Hegelian dialecticism and Whiteheadian process theology seeping out.]

Scalfari: Your Holiness, you are certainly a person of great faith, touched by grace, animated by the desire to revive a pastoral, missionary church that is renewed and not temporal. But from the way you talk and from what I understand, you are and will be a revolutionary pope. Half Jesuit, half a man of Francis, a combination that perhaps has never been seen before. …

“[In our next discussion we] will also discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember you [sic] that the Church (la chiesa) is feminine.”

As that last comment indicates, Francis is fully of a mind to provide more grist for the papal gossip mill and, like a true papa patron, to provide endless work for his orthodox clean-up crew. Off we go, team! Let’s gear up for Round 3 of Spin The Spin That Isn’t Really Spin!

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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7 Responses to Papa Frankie is at it again…

  1. Crude says:

    For the record, I don’t think I’m part of any orthodox clean-up crew – not sure if I was included in that. My focus has largely been on the Pope’s attitude towards abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and what I thought was a severe misreading. I stand by that. When it comes to touchier and more intricate subjects of orthodoxy, faith and deeper Christian dogma and metaphysics, I’m more out of my element and I realize it.

  2. Dale Price says:

    Can’t wait to see the damage control efforts on this one.

    By which I mean that I definitely can wait.

  3. No, Crude, I didn’t mean you. I mean people I’ve seen who are getting an almost mystical glee from standing behind everything Pope Francis says.

  4. Dale, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m beyond getting worked up by this point. It’s become a comedy of errors. You have to laugh so you don’t cry. And all that. Apart from this post, I’m just going to try to focus on his saner comments that make for useful evangelistic tools. I post a lot more of his stuff via Facebook than these interviews, perhaps because those memes and poster not only come from his pre-Francis days but also have been tidied up in good soundbite form by those who made them.

  5. I don’t know. I’m not the Pope. He speaks a lot, and his theology seems to differ a little (I won’t say a lot because I still think he’s orthodox) from our last two Popes. But he’s our Pope. This is my attitude with a lot of conservative responses to things these days – I’m practically more tired at conservative backlash than at the liberal spin.

    I understand the idea of not agreeing with everything the Pope says or does, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (it’s impossible, really), but can we try and throw our support behind the current Pope instead of complaining? We’re Catholics. He’s OUR Pope. He’s no Alexander V. Shouldn’t we support him?

  6. And frankly? I’ve had discussions with Eastern Catholics before (Crude nowithstanding), and this new emphasis on collegiality is, in my opinion, not a bad thing at all. How the hierarchy of the Church is set up, and how it properly should be set up, is a more complex subject than it looks like at first glance, and I think it’s about time for a change.

    There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls – 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers.

    – Mother Teresa

    Pope Francis sounds an awful lot like Blessed Mother Teresa to me right now. Whether or not this is a good thing (he is, of course, in quite a different position than she was) I suppose remains to be seen, but it’s not as if this sort of theology has never been seen before among the orthodox.

    I don’t know. On one hand, I don’t want to be an apologist for the Pope. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with the way he’s going about things. Say what you like. On the other hand it does, I confess, disturb me a little bit how passionately people disagree with him. I’m glad I’m not the Pope right now, and I’ll just end it there.

  7. Pingback: The F1 F/X Files… | FideCogitActio : omnis per gratiam

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