…and count this as a genuine celebration of the power of prayer.
The always alert Mundabor has alerted his readers to some fascinating news: “Pope was concerned interview could be misunderstood, writer says” – by Andrea Gagliarducci (Vatican City, Oct 31, 2013 / 04:03 pm).
According to a Catholic writer in Italy, Pope Francis was aware that his reported words in an Oct. 1 interview published in “La Repubblica” could be misunderstood, and took measures concerning this.
What measures might those be, Holy Father?
You mean to tell me that… ideological critics like myself might have been right all along that the Scalfari interview, if nothing else, was regrettable coming from the Vicar of Christ? Might we panicky bedwetters finally see a retraction?
In the interview, Eugenio Scalfari, founder and former director of “La Repubblica,” quoted Pope Francis as saying that “the conscience is autonomous, and everyone must obey his conscience.”
Pope Francis reportedly reiterated his phrase, adding that “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.”
“Reportedly,” indeed. To think, that an experienced reporter would actually report what he’d heard in an interview.
Blame the quoter, not the quotee.
These sentences led to a certain amount of criticism for the Roman Pontiff.
Well, I guessso… but only from the Pharisees, Pelagians and Older Brothers in the Church who stink up the New Evangelization with their moralistic legalism and concern for truth. Meanwhile, most of the Catholic blogosphere knew all along that there was nothing objectionable in the interview.
“Antonio Socci, a Catholic columnist for the Italian newspaper ‘Libero,’ [reportedly] wrote Oct. 27 that after the publication of the interview, Pope Francis was [reportedly] fully aware of the risk of misunderstanding of some of his words, particularly those on conscience. …”
Yet he went ahead with it anyway.
In Italy’s largest secular daily.
Although I generally try to take a softer line than Mundabor, I agree with him on the facts that need to be held in plain view, and as such I shall let him speak for me on this point:
“Would not this be the moment when I do not say the Pope, but a child of eight would have been able to understand that the interview cannot be published in the form proposed to him? Does this not prove that Francis, in fact, did read the draft of the interview before giving green light to the publication, and was very aware of its destructive potential?”
Did somebody say papal handwaving? At least he’s not making up his papacy as he goes along.
“The Pope’s knowledge that he could be misunderstood is why – according to Socci [reportedly, at least] – Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, was [reportedly] ‘told to maintain that the text of the interview had not been revised by Pope Francis and that it was [reportedly] penned by Scalfari after an informal chat.'”
Wait a minute. Am I to accept the idea that, after he realized that his words to Scalfari might cause scandal, the Pope (or someone else?!) ordered Fr. Lombardi to “maintain” that the interview was not accurate after all? What sort of counterfactual, Orwellian voodoo is this? As Mundabor puts it: “Who told Lombardi to lie about the degree of information of the Pontiff? Why would Lombardi say something so directly questioning the character of the Pope – an interview destined to be read worldwide is given the green light without the Pope even reading the draft: the behaviour of a perfect idiot by any human standard – unless the order came from Francis himself?”
Almost a month ago, CNA had reportedly reported that “Scalfari … stated that he showed the text to Francis for his approval, but it’s not clear how closely the pope read it.” Yet, for some reason, we are only now hearing about the Pope’s alleged disapproval of the text. Perhaps Pope Francis is now upset that too many people paid attention to what he actually said, and so he feels the need to un-say it? He’s clearly not a big fan of people trying “to catch him at something he might [or did in fact] say.” Yet, as early (or as late, depending on which Orwelian calendar you prefer) as October 5, we had no less an authority than John Allen, Jr. reporting the following:
“Pressed by reporters on the reliability of the direct quotations, Lombardi said during an Oct. 2 briefing that the text accurately captured the “sense” of what the pope had said, and that if Francis felt his thought had been “gravely misrepresented,” he would have said so. Nonetheless, Lombardi stopped short of saying that every line was literally as pronounced by the pope, suggesting instead that it represents a new genre of papal speech that’s deliberately informal and not concerned with precision.”
Perhaps the most insightful take on all this came from Lombardi himself, who said we’re seeing the emergence of a whole new genre of papal speech — informal, spontaneous and sometimes entrusted to others in terms of its final articulation.
A new genre, Lombardi suggested, needs a “new hermeneutic,” one in which we don’t attach value so much to individual words as to the overall sense.
“This isn’t Denzinger,” he said, referring to the famous German collection of official church teaching, “and it’s not canon law.”
Back to the CNA story by Gagliarducci:
“[Poor] Fr. [“Jay Carney”] Lombardi also underlined that ‘the interview is not part of Pope Francis’ Magisterium.’ Despite this, ‘L’Osservatore Romano,’ the Vatican newspaper, re-published the interview in its Oct. 2 edition, and it is included among Pope Francis’ speeches on the Vatican’s website. According to Socci, Pope Francis ‘regretted’ the publication of the interview in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ and ‘complained of it to the director, Gian Maria Vian, in Assisi on Oct. 4.'”
Over time, incompetence is indistinguishable from malfeasance.
Such (reported) complaints are heartwarming coming from the Holy Father, but a more expedient solution might have been, oh, I don’t know–not saying what he said to the entire world in the first place.
But it’s a start. For we are now, I think, at least allowed to nod silently at the elephant in the room. Nudge nudge, wink wink!
Yet, old habits die hard.
Notice how Socci, in the grand tradition of soft ultramontanist water-carrying, asks questions which only vindicate the “restorationist” critiques of the past weeks:
“‘Would you really believe Pope Francis thinks that everybody can have his own idea of good and evil and thus justify what he does?’ he asked. ‘Is it really possible Pope Francis has an idea that would make being Christians, or believing in God, into nonsense?'”
By asking these rhetorical questions, Socci admits what the Pope’s words to Scalfari entailed, which is exactly whence my and others’ objections have arisen. For a month now, we “panicky bedwetters” have been scolded and talked down to for seeing anything at all wrong in the Pope’s “off the cuff” remarks. Yet, it turns out that the Pope himself ought to be counted among those who fret about the merit of those very same malapapalisms.
I guess prayer really works, after all.
While Lombardi has denied the interview(s) should be counted as part of Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge?” magisterium, the Scalfari interview, in six languages, retains its place among the Pope’s official speeches. To cite Mundabor once more:
It gets even stupider than this. Francis is, then, displeased about the interview. He does not order the immediate removal of it from the Osservatore‘s site, and does not publish an extensive, perfectly clear, apology about what he said and clarification about what he should have said.
No. What happens is that he might have whispered in the ear of the newspaper’s director, very much en passant during a ceremony, that what the Pope says is not supposed to go on the Vatican newspaper; a fact which would, in the mind of these people, make all fine again. I quote [from Gagliarducci’s CNA article]:
Video from Vatican TV shows that when Pope Francis went to visit the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, he stopped by and had a one-minute chat with Vian. According to Socci, “that is probably the moment when Pope Francis complained to Vian.”
So, Francis is seen talking with the man in public for… one minute, and we do not know what they said. This is enough. We can dream our dream of the orthodox Pope now.
All of this, of course, raises the interesting question: how far does Our Francis of the Interviews’s self-doubt extend? Since we have been assured by his online handlers that everything Pope Francis said to Scalfari in the interview was uncontroversially orthodox (and maybe even a little awesome)–and if what he said in that interview was all of a piece with his interview with Spadaro–and if all of that off-the-cuff blather was in harmony with his letter to Scalfari–and if all of that blarney is in perfect orthodox accord with his comments on the flight back from Brazil–well, if literally everything Pope Francis has ever said or written stands as a brilliant example of how to “do” the New Evangelization, yet Pope Francis himself sees how the most recent domino is a stinker, then might not the whole chain of dominos be a long line of Stinky Catholicism? Given this new genre of papal speech, how are we to know how far back we should follow Our Francis of the Interviews? Might not the orthodox biblical Tradition be a reasonable guide for navigating this new hermeneutic of ambiguity?
Meanwhile, if his regret over the Scalfari interview is sincere, might we not be witnessing in Pope Francis a Pius-IXesque conversion from a rose-colored liberalism to a repentant conservatism?