Let a hundred flowers bloom…

“4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels, 5 And every height that exhalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ”. — 2 Corinthians 10

bonifacius_by_emil_doepler“How To Win Converts and Influence Gods”

+ + +

“This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation[Unus enim Christus est Mediator ac via salutis / Solo il Cristo … è il mediatore e la via della salvezza]. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church…. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. … [The Church] knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.”

LUMEN GENTIUM ##14, 16 (21 November 1964)

“Given the premise, and this is fundamental, that the mercy of God is limitless for those who turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart, the issue for the unbeliever lies in obeying his or her conscience. … I would not speak about ‘absolute’ truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship [?]. Truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. [?] Therefore, truth is a relationship. As such each one of us receives the truth and expresses it from within, that is to say, according to one’s own circumstances, culture and situation in life, etc. This does not mean that truth is variable and subjective, quite the contrary. [?] But it does signify that it comes to us always and only as a way and a life. Did not Jesus himself say: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life?’ In other words, truth, being completely one with love, demands humility and an openness to be sought, received and expressed. Therefore, we must have a correct understanding of the terms and, perhaps, in order to overcome being bogged down by conflicting absolute positions, we need to redefine the issues in depth. I believe this is absolutely necessary [Penso che questo sia oggi assolutamente necessario] in order to initiate that peaceful and constructive dialogue which I proposed at the beginning of my letter.”

Pope Francis, letter to Eugenio Scalfari (4 September 2013)

“[Christian communication] is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. … Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others ‘by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth….’ We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death. … To dialogue means to believe that the ‘other’ has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute [ma alla pretesa che siano uniche ed assolute].”

MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS FOR THE 48TH WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY (24 January 2014)

I would like to understand how the latter two messages do not render the former meaningless. The problem, by my lights, is twofold: one performative, the other conceptual.

I affirm that (C) “the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ” for salvation as such (LG #14), but non-Catholics reject this truth. Their religious views and traditions do not support the claim that (C) the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. In this they are, absolutely speaking, wrong: C is the uniquely valid formulation of the truth as it concerns human destiny. The performative contradiction involved in uncritical interreligious dialogue–all the rage these days–is that I cannot affirm C without also considering it uniquely valid and absolute.

If I were to consider C merely one optional view among equally valid opposing views, I would cease to be a Catholic. Therefore, inasmuch as “dialogue”, according to Pope Francis, does not mean that I must surrender my own Catholic “views and traditions” (i.e., “if you want your faith, you can keep your faith”), dialogue requires that I, as a Catholic, insist on the absolute veracity of C. To “entertain” the idea that C is possibly invalid or not necessarily true (i.e., absolute), is simply to renounce my own “views and traditions” as a Catholic. Some concessions, however well intended, are suicidal. I can’t reclaim my belief in gravity once I leap off a building just to entertain the skeptic’s denial of that universal law.

Apropos, I find the pope’s rejection of “absolute truth” quite puzzling–not the least because by the end of the same paragraph he adverts to his own views on absolutely necessary principles. Far from being devoid of relationality, absolute truth is absolute precisely because it obtains in relation to every state of affairs. As we commonly hear, abortion is absolutely wrong because it is “always and everywhere” immoral deliberately to take the life of an innocent human being. As CCC 2270 says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” So the entire opening caveat seems to muddy the waters, but, to hear some tell it (c/o Ethika Politika), the greatest chrism of this pope is his zealous obscurity, so what do I know? There are no knives out in this post. I’m genuinely flummoxed by the pope’s most recent statements on “interreligious dialogue”. I’ve seen some of his strongest defenders say that “he’s a careful thinker” and that “he lacks philosophical precision,” so I ask you to help me sort it.

Let me, therefore, move onto the conceptual error involved in the pope’s purported pontifications on pious pluralism. The fundamental problem is that, if the Catholic Church’s traditional view of itself (C) is just as valid as an opposing traditional view of it, then who arbitrates the dispute? Absolute claims can only result in uniquely correct judgments. If we grant a “polyhedronal” plurality of views on the matter, how do we maintain the claim that, in order to be saved, one must hold that the Church was established by Christ as necessary? The ontological efficacy of the Church as the universal means of salvation (S:C) may be necessary for humans to be saved, but, apparently, knowledge of and acceptance of S:C by humans is not necessary. If anything, as one friend put it, “evangelism spreads culpability,” so we might show more mercy my letting the Church save souls ignorant of Her claims in the silent breezes of the Spirit. After all, as the Ethika Politika article to which I linked quips, “it would seem God isn’t all that big on clarity”.

Chris-Hayes-and-Pope-Francis-615x345In the beginning was the Nudge, and the Nudge was God.

Imagine a religious pluralist, turning his attention firstly to the Catholic faithful, assessing the claim that (C) the Church is necessary for salvation. The pluralist can grant this necessity for those who choose to accept it–or, as Pope Francis might say, he can affirm the truth of it as Catholics receive and express it “from within, … according to [their] own circumstances, culture and situation in life”–while also denying its necessity for those who reject it. If we follow the Holy Father’s lead on this matter, we must admit that C can’t be an absolute truth; it is but “a way,” a means for those to whom it is a given, but a non-absolute viewpoint for those to whom it is not a given.

Seeing as the Church’s teaching is clear, this, then, is my dilemma as a faithful son of the Church. On the one hand I am obliged to believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, but on the other hand I am obliged not to dogmatize the claim that the Church is necessary for salvation. Is the Church necessary for salvation only for those already in it? Once a non-believer understands the logic of why Christ established the Church, is he not ipso facto obliged to enter the Church? After establishing good rapport and trust with my neighbor, and upon proclaiming the Gospel to my neighbor, he answers me, thus:

“The state of mankind is very dire, I agree, and I therefore understand why the Church is necessary for salvation: a good God would not abandon humanity to damnation without a sure path of restoration. Indeed, I believe that God is so good that He would not abandon humankind to a single path back to Him. Let’s just say, then, that I fully accept the saving necessity of the Catholic Church; I just also happen to believe that its divine goodness flows to humanity by numerous channels. Indeed, this plurality only serves to underscore the overflowing mercy of God. So, you must be a good Catholic and I shall remain a noble pagan. Do you need to convince me to become a Catholic? No! No! No! We must discuss and get to know each other as brothers in God. That is enough; Jesus will do the rest.”

Given (arguendo) the regnant missiological assumptions in our day, and under this papacy in particular, I honestly fail to see the problem. I may not always “feel” the salvific necessity of the Church, but, insofar as I comprehend the Catholic claims about sin, hell, and grace, I am not therefore excused from submitting to them. Indeed, if Pope Francis is right that “the ‘other’ has something worthwhile to say” about this question, are there not strong interreligious grounds for ameliorating “my own views” of the “absolute necessity” of the Church in light of contrary views of it? After all, those contrary views are valid in their own way and free from absolutizing my own traditions.

Even before I became Catholic I could intellectually grant that the ontological basis of the grace I knew in Protestantism derived from Christ’s founding of the Church, but I don’t see a cogent reason in the pope’s words that would have prompted my past self to enter the Catholic Church. After all, the whole point of acknowledging C is that I was experiencing true divine grace, none of which would have filled the earth unless Christ had established the Church–I was merely encountering Christ under a Protestant guise. According to C, any grace which my Protestant worship may have conveyed to me had its origin in the Catholic Church’s prior salvific necessity. Why, then, was I obliged to enter the Catholic Church? Given my gratitude for the necessary origin of grace via the Catholic Church, what if my experience of grace as I knew it according to my own Protestant views and traditions (P) was adequate for me? I would not have been denying C, yet I would not be absolutizing P. By promoting a polyhedron of diverse parts (C, P, etc.) in the larger mosaic of “shared truth”, as opposed to a sphere of stifling uniformity, I would be creating a culture of encounter (cf. EG ##234-241). Since proselytism is verboten in our day–“downright nonsense”–, I wonder how Pope Francis would have gone about convincing me to enter the Church.

I am left wondering:

“Would he?”

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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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18 Responses to Let a hundred flowers bloom…

  1. Dale Price says:

    Since proselytism is verboten in our day–”downright nonsense”–, I wonder how Pope Francis would have gone about convincing me to enter the Church.

    I am left wondering:

    “Would he?”

    It is plausible he would have affirmed you in your then-tradition. In fact, there is precedent for it, isn’t there? There’s a rather large lacuna in his approach, it seems.

  2. “Would he?”

    I think we all know the answer to that, since he’s already made it perfectly clear.

    The amazing thing to me is how Pope Francis has managed to further obscure the already-vague teachings within Lumen gentium by finding a way to sort-of affirm its truth while altering it slightly. He is the anti hermeneutic-of-continuity.

  3. Hermeneutic of the continuity-of-ambiguity, says I.

    Dale says hermeneutic of….

  4. Apropos, I find the pope’s rejection of “absolute truth” quite puzzling

    But he doesn’t reject “absolute truth”; he says he would not speak of absolute truths in a very specific sense of ‘absolute’, and later explicitly calls attention to the fact that this is about having a correct understanding of the terms so as not to bog down the dialogue. I see nothing of your interpretation of the passage in the passage; and, indeed, it is inconsistent with everything else he says in the letter, which is about how the Catholic faith is built on the uniqueness of Jesus and His authority.

    Likewise, I don’t understand how you are getting your interpretation of his use of the term ‘way’ when he is explicitly drawing it from Jesus’s claim to be the Way, the Truth, the Life, immediately after saying that Truth is a relationship involving Jesus Christ, and in the midst of which he says that he is not implying that truth is variable and subjective? Notice that he doesn’t say that truth is “but ‘a way'”, as you paraphrase it; he says that truth, understood correctly, has to be a way and a life. (And it’s worth pointing out, incidentally, that you are here doing exactly the same thing that Francis is doing in this context, just with Way rather than Truth: you are claiming that you don’t attribute ‘a way’ even to believers if that is taken in a certain sense, because the way involved must always also be a truth and a life! But it would be absurd to take this to mean that you don’t think that the Catholic faith is a way, contrary to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.)

    Certainly the Pope says many things that are obscure or malformed; but this is not one of them. (It is worth pointing out, incidentally, that both of Francis’s predecessors explicitly condemned what they called ‘proselytism’ while encouraging what they called ‘evangelization’, and that Francis has followed in their footsteps on both terminological points. His emphasis on dialogue, of course, he is drawing directly from Paul VI; the echoes of Ecclesiam Suam are too common to be an accident.)

  5. Tony Jokin says:

    If I may, I think the issue is that when reading the letter to Scalfari, one gets the idea that the Pope is proposing a notion of truth that can only be subjective. This happens in the line

    “I would not speak about ‘absolute’ truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship. …….Therefore, truth is a relationship.”

    At this point you have almost a Protestant notion of truth. One could construe the message to very easily be that each individual must find the “truth” by having a personal relationship with Christ. But that is not quiet right. It is an absolute truth that Christ is the way and it is just as much an absolute truth that Christ speaks through the Church. So essentially speaking, the simple minded Catholic believer is still right in holding on to everything taught by the Church as absolute truth (including list of facts and logical rules of inference that he used in discovering the Catholic faith). So it makes little sense to speak of the Catholic believer needing to be “careful” when using the phrase of absolute truths.

    In short, the letter introduces what seems to be the idea that “many Catholics just don’t know what absolute truth means”. That is just outright absurd. It also undermines any Catholic who will even speak of this issue. Any person can just go “WAIT, your Pope said that it is probably not even right to use that phrase”. It is made all the more problematic considering the rampant push toward relativism.

    What I think happened with that letter is that the Pope tried very hard to make common ground with an atheist/relativist (presumably so that they can discuss some other core matter). It would have been alright if the matter was private because the Pope can clarify again as the other person asks a question and so forth. But its public and so you have people scratching their heads after reading it because they just can’t be sure. Even my presumption that he just stated this out of his love for dialogue is just my best guess. So that causes….distress.

  6. tamsin325 says:

    Regarding the Letter to Scalfari,
    I would not speak about ‘absolute’ truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship. Truth is relational, insofar as Truth begs to be communicated: to be put in common between two or more people. We are certainly using words to try to break out of the prison of our individual subjectivity, and make for the sunny uplands of collective objectivity. Saying the Truth is “absolute” should indicate the strength of the sunshine there… But, he seems to accept the pejorative use of the word “absolute”, to say the “absolute” isolates people in their dark prisons. It’s not clear he should cede the word.

    Regarding Francis’ Message,
    Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute. Hmm. Renouncing seems too strong of a way for him to say we are going to use “holy cunning” to keep the Truth quiet until we get to know somebody better. I hope he misspoke. Any chance the word was not “renounce”?

    Regarding your own analysis,
    Absolute claims can only result in uniquely correct judgments. If we grant a “polyhedronal” plurality of views on the matter, how do we maintain the claim that, in order to be saved, one must hold that the Church was established by Christ as necessary? Ah but, using “holy cunning”, I’m just pretending not to maintain my absolute Truth claim, while I entertain my interlocutor’s point of view and perspective.

    Lots to think about. Pro multis, population of hell, peasants in China, and so forth.

  7. Brandon,

    I was aware of his caveat about the sense in which he rejects the term “absolute”. I think it’s a redundant caveat, however, which is why I addressed it by noting my understanding of the meaning of “absolute” truth: “Far from being devoid of relationality, absolute truth is absolute precisely because it obtains in relation to every state of affairs.” By my lights, his caveat tells us nothing we did not already know. But a little casuistry goes a long way, as this pope tirelessly demonstrates. Should we also abjure the idea of “immutable truth” because it can be caricatured as devoid of all relations?

    Sadly, this is just one more case of not knowing exactly whom the Pope has in mind. Who speaks of truth in the terms which the Pope rejects? Scalfari? Self-absorbed promethean neopelagians? Gnostics? Smarmy butterfly priests? Christian pagans? Occult Leibnizians? Instead of simply affirming the existence of absolute truths (with as much ease as the CCC employs the term), Pope Francis preferred to give a tortuous reply which strongly implies that the absoluteness of Christ in all relations (including Scalfari’s fate) is morally contingent on whether one already recognizes Christ as one’s particular way and life. For Scalfari, the pope implies, it is enough for him to follow his conscience, but unfortunately, Scalfari’s background (AS WELL AS the presentation of Christ’s absoluteness in the pope’s own letter!) clearly renders this inadequate.

    If this were the only time he opted for obscure casuistry when conventional plain-speaking was needed, I’d just force myself to look away. Unfortunately, however, he used the same refractory handwaving on the flight back from Brazil when asked about the blight of adolescent abortion in Brazil, and again in the Spadaro interview when (relating a time) he was asked about homosexuality. It’s all a lot of seamless garment sloganeering, made most vivid in his recent speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps wherein he put abortion on the same moral plane as world hunger, the wasting of leftovers, and human trafficking. It’s “frightful” in his eyes that aborted fetuses will never see the light of day, but might he, please God, be burdened to add next time that it’s far more abominable that the aborting parents not only deprive those fetal eyes of the assurance of the vision of God, but also plunge their own souls into Hell?

  8. Incidentally, Brandon, I’m sure you’d agree that it would be interesting to see what Pope Francis thinks of “absolute divine simplicity”! 😉

  9. Should we also abjure the idea of “immutable truth” because it can be caricatured as devoid of all relations?

    Again, it has nothing to do with abjuring any idea; it is explicitly a matter of denying one particular way in which the words might be taken. Everything else seems to be you reading into it things that are at least not obviously there. Logically the qualification is not redundant; between “absolute truth” and “‘absolute truth’ taken in such-and-such sense” is all the difference of simpliciter and secundum quid — which is to say, logically all the difference in the world. As you yourself noted, your interpretation makes it apparently inconsistent with what the Pope says even a few sentences later; indeed, even more than this, it makes it inconsistent with everything else he says. The most natural conclusion is that the interpretation is the foreign element, imposing a sense on the passage it can’t have in its context.

    Who speaks of truth in the terms which the Pope rejects? Scalfari?

    I know people personally who would fit. But, yes, he is explicitly addressing an question by Scalfari, so obviously the most natural reading is that he is, in fact, taking it to be the assumption of Scalfari’s question. Indeed, what’s actually obscure is your reason for taking it in any other way.

    Pope Francis preferred to give a tortuous reply which strongly implies that the absoluteness of Christ in all relations (including Scalfari’s fate) is morally contingent on whether one already recognizes Christ as one’s particular way and life

    (1) It’s only tortuous on the implausible interpretation you are giving it.
    (2) It implies no such thing. For one thing, the point of the passage is that the question needs to be clarified before it can be answered because it assumes an understanding of truth that a Christian, taking Jesus to be Truth, would not accept. It explicitly denies that truth is variable and subjective. And the “As such each one of us receives the truth and expresses it from within, that is to say, according to one’s own circumstances, culture and situation in life, etc.” is standard Catholic doctrine. We receive the truth through relationship with God and express it according to our own circumstances, culture, and situation in life. The condition of recognition in your above statement is nowhere in the passage, and the contingency you claim to be there is explicitly denied.
    (3) What is actually going on here is that Scalfari has asked whether it is wrong to hold that there are only relative and subjective truths and not absolute truths, and the Pope has responded, quite reasonably, that Scalfari is assuming things about truth no Catholic would accept, because ‘Truth’ to us is linked to ‘Way’ and ‘Life’, so that truth may be profoundly personal, relating to us specifically, without being subjective or variable, making demands on us that require humility before it and a particular way of life. Far from being obscure, it is actually quite a good answer.

    In short, I don’t what you’re argument is supposed to be — most of your rhetoric assumes that your conclusion is true; when we ask what in your discussion is supposed to establish your conclusion, that’s what seems to be obscure. At least, you’ll have to be less thick with the rhetoric and more plain-speaking for me to see what your argument is.

  10. I tend not to have much interest in what popes think, as opposed to what they do; but what I think would probably be quite interesting is seeing what situation would actually bring him to talk about it!

  11. Quite so. Maybe it’s what he chats about over yerba mate? 😉

  12. 1) Here’s why I’m having trouble with his talk “a way” and “the way”. He notes that all truth is embedded in a lived situation, “a way”. He then buttresses this general account of truth by noting that Jesus Himself said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Okay. But what I take away from this is that each of us encounters “the way” which is Jesus by living in “a way” as we know it. Full stop.

    Please note that I am NOT trying to be reductionist with the pope’s words. I am just trying to hew closely to the words themselves. My overall problem with Pope Francis in scenarios like this is that the majority of what he says is solid, but it is what he omits that 86’s me. The whole time I was reading the exchange, I was screaming internally for him to add the little caveat, not simply that Jesus agrees with the theory that truth is “given to us only as a way and a life”, but that Jesus Himself is the unique way in which all individual are in search of along their little ways–provided that those on their little ways obey conscience. I realize that he addresses the obligation of binding conscience, but I find his presentation of the various elements so disordered as to be misleading, and very uncompelling. It does not suffice to tell a very aged apostate that truth (as an abstract term) is known in a lived fashion, and that Jesus said something similar about Himself. I wish he simply would have said, “By obeying your conscience, and living the truth as you know it, you are in fact obeying Jesus. Jesus Himself is the absolute truth, and the unique way to the Father, who manifests Himself to us in our subjective ways of living and loving, expect when those ways divert us from him with sin and lies.” A mouthful, I know, but this was not an off-the-cuff stump speech. This was a carefully crafted written document which falls under his official magisterium. He had no reason to be hasty, no to cut corners, and yet, epsecially in light of so many things I’ve seen and heard from Francis, there’s a troubling disconnect in his whole appeal to Scalfari as a man by all accounts on the path to hell. As it reads, though I may have missed it, he confirms Scalfari in the abstract autonomy of his conscience without explicitly calling him to the absolute surety and complete truth of Christ as The Way. Despite his heartfelt prose, I do get the impression that he’s fundamentally blase about whether Scalfari repents or not. (“Jesus will take care of it, ya know?”) That impression was bolstered in a radical way in the (now conveniently apocryphal) interview they had, so realize that I only brought up the letter to Scalfari as part of my larger confusion about Pope Francis’s missiology and soteriology. I simply do not understand what evangelizing means without calling others to repentance and conversion, nor, in turn, what converting others means without trying to convince them of the uniquely valid Catholic truths. All of which is to say that I don’t “buy” Catholic conviction that denigrates or marginalizes Catholic convincing. I’m reading what I call “the context of the context”– the pope’s words in any context must be read in the larger context of his parallel actions and words, and for a pope who denigrates doctrinal security also to fudge on the absolute uniqueness of the Truth who is Christ… it’s just a very hard season for me to be a docile listener.

    2) Let me add that I AGREE that his account of truth is really quite beautiful, and I’m actually going to “use it” on an agnostic friend to whom I pitched a similar idea years ago. If I can get the pope the back me up, we might have a big win! Again, the discrete elements of the passage are very good; there’s just something about the whole appeal that strikes me as deficient in some troubling way. I have mulled over that letter for months, by the way, and I didn’t even originally intend to include it in this post, but something in it called me back.

    3) I am willing to concede that my reading is defective, but I hope you can see that this is not a one-off gripe. At times, I have more trouble reading this pope than I do reading Derrida. As I noted in my post, I am seeking help on this confusion.

    4) My comment about what absolute truth means was intended to show that I don’t think his opening caveat about all truth being lived truth is very relevant, but, hey, let’s hope it planted a saving seed in Scalfari’s seasoned soul.

  13. that Jesus Himself is the unique way in which all individual are in search of along their little ways

    But he does say this, quite explicitly. Each of his sentences in the passage about truth as way is linked with the prior one until (going backwards) we get to ” Truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.” Further, he spent a considerable part of the letter already talking about how Christian faith involves the experience of the uniqueness of Jesus and His authority and saying things like, “The Christian faith professes that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way of love to all people” and ” each one of us is called to make Christ’s gaze and love his own, and to enter into his way of being, of thinking and of acting.” There is quite literally no other way to interpret it that is consistent with the evidence of the text.

    Part of my bafflement at your bafflement is that there’s nothing new about this: with regard to your link, for instance, Francis is quite literally doing the exact same kind of thing Bl. (and soon to be St.) John Paul II regularly did — and was regularly criticized for. Or, indeed, in how many of Benedict XVI’s comments on the New Evangelization does he actually connect it with calls for repentance? Repentance occasionally gets mentioned, but usually in passing in an affirmation of the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation for people doing the evangelizing; and, what is more, Benedict XVI was regularly criticized for this. And yet it is Francis particularly who is somehow baffling rather than just carrying on what his predecessors started — which seems to be what he is deliberately trying to do, as can be seen, for instance, from looking at the endnotes for Evangelii gaudium . From my perspective, you don’t seem to be looking at all that much context.

    My comment about what absolute truth means was intended to show that I don’t think his opening caveat about all truth being lived truth is very relevant, but, hey, let’s hope it planted a saving seed in Scalfari’s seasoned soul.

    I don’t know what this means; whatever you think about its relevance, you surely have no grounds for thinking that the Pope thought it was irrelevant. Even on the assumption that he entirely misdiagnosed what was really being asked, and thus what was relevant to the subject, that wouldn’t justify dismissing what he says as if it were irrelevant to interpreting what he means. But, again, I don’t know what you’re saying here, so maybe you’re talking about something very different.

  14. I certainly appreciate your help with this, but the querulous urgency of your replies does bring to mind the line, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” But again: “It’s me, not you.”

    The pickle I find myself in these days is figuring out why the context for reading Francis is by and large scrupulously confined to his immediate two or three predecessors. Although it devastates my credibility as a “conservative Catholic blogger” (yawn), I’m having “Vatican II issues.” The Year of Faith has been stretched into this year for me.

  15. The pickle I find myself in these days is figuring out why the context for reading Francis is by and large scrupulously confined to his immediate two or three predecessors.

    In context I don’t know if this is supposed to be some obscure criticism of my argument, or just a general comment. If the former, I don’t confine his context to his immediate two or three predecessors; Francis simply refers to them repeatedly, as, again, one sees in the endnotes of Evangelii gaudium and the fact that he repeatedly uses their terminology, so they pretty clearly are the context he puts his claims in and are the relevant context for how he probably interprets what he is saying. If you’re saying that the problem you’re having with Francis is really a problem with every pope since Vatican II, that’s entirely different from what I had been taking your problem to be, since I was under the impression that it was the contrast with his immediate predecessors that was the problem. If it’s supposed to be something else, I again don’t know what you mean.

    I’m not really sure what it means to be accused of “querulous urgency” for arguing on the basis of the textual evidence that you’ve misunderstood the passage in question — which I can’t help but note are the only actual arguments in this thread — and noting what’s baffling me about your bafflement. (And why ‘urgency’? I don’t know what that’s supposed to be criticizing.) But since it’s a direct insult whatever the occasioning offense, I’ll take it as a sign that you are tired of the discussion. Fair enough.

  16. I concede the basic point on this, is what I’m saying, but I hope you can understand that I’ve been getting flamed for months by raising my concerns. You’re at least as civil as you are blunt. A rare blend these days.

  17. And I apologize for insulting your intellectual integrity. I have been very harried of late, and not just about the pope. “Life.”

  18. Branch says:

    “Whether we admit it or not, there comes for everyone the moment when personal existence must be anchored to a truth recognized as final, a truth which confers a certitude no longer open to doubt.”

    John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

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