“The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.”
I worked real hard for the dear old firm,
I learned most every advertising term.
I said to the men in the dark gray suits,
“Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.”
— Allan Sherman (1963)
“God … has bestowed on me a healthy dose of unawareness. I just do what I have to do.”
— Pope Francis (7 October 2014)
+ + +
As Steve Skojec explained yesterday, the relationship between Pope Francis, Eugenio Scalfari, we Catholic sheep, and a little ol’ thing called truth, is quite the contested battlefield in Catholic Commentarydom.
Fortunately, however, we need no longer remain in doubt.
Neither the Pope himself nor the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has left us in the dark about how reliable or significant Scalfari’s published interviews of Francis are.
Not one to be upstaged, Pope Francis himself has also weighed in on the place his non-homiletical homilies (viz., his irrepressible press interviews and his trademark off-the-cuff off-the-wallisms) in the larger picture of his papacy:
Look, I wrote an encyclical, … it was a big job, and an Apostolic Exhortation, [and] I’m permanently making statements, giving homilies; that’s teaching. That’s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out, it’s very clear.
Like it or not, then, according to Francis himself, it behooves faithful Catholics to heed his frequent “statements” (as distinct from his “homilies”) with the same respect as we heed his homilies, exhortations, and encyclicals—and vice versa.
Like it or not, according to Francis himself, “permanently making statements”—even to the likes of Scalfari—is part of his “teaching.”
Why, then, does Fr. Lombardi insist on undermining the pope’s public statement-making-magisterium by levying charges against Scalfari?
Check It Out, Y’all, It’s Very Clear
Sensing an even deeper pastoral thirst in the flock, Pope Francis expanded further on how we must parse his Very Clear Magisterium Of Statements.
In the disco-ballish light of the recent Synodal Language Event, our Jesuit-in-Chief explains that we must avoid “falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said,” a warning which Scalfari has clearly heeded by transcending “a facile repetition” of what was said during his interviews with Francis.
Likewise, the Pope has warned:
[Being Synodal™ is] about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.
Who knows better than Scalfari how to indulge in the freedom that his Christian baptism provides by transmitting the beauty of Bergoglian Novelty, without leaving it encrusted in
transcribed archaic, incomprehensible, much less Pharisaically objectively precise, language?
As Francis warns us, if we desire, as he does, to engage in “dialogue that is open and free of preconceptions, and which reopens the doors to a responsible and fruitful encounter,” we must rise above blinkered conspiracy theories that would tar Scalfari as an enemy of the truth.
After all, as Fr. Lombardi has humbly reminded us, if the Pope felt his thought had been “gravely misrepresented,” he would have said so.
He hasn’t, though.
Embrace the clarity, I guess.
Check it out: There’s room for all of us on the Papal Polyhedron
As our Bishop in Rome has clarified, “the Synod experience”™ helps us “realise that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit.”
This is where Scalfari really shines.
For who else than Scalfari, as indicated by the Pope’s repeated and personally unrepudiated self-entrustment to that old atheist, who else than Scalfari can uphold the spirit of Francis’s words, if not their every jot and tittle? Who better than Scalfari can create fresh language events for Pope Francis to spread his legs and assess how the sheep are smelling this week?
Amidst this flurry of Vatican paraprosdokian intrigue, it’s hard to keep up, but most likely in Francis’s mind, it all boils down to this:
If a successful Italian journalist constructs his reports from memory, and is sought out by the Pope for as many as five personal interviews, and has good will, who are we to judge him?
Who, indeed, are Scalfari’s bloghack critics to judge him?
He’s got the Pope’s ear, while they’ve got a nifty SEO app to show you over egg nog this Christmas season.
Unlike those throwers-of-dead-stones in the Catholic blogsophere, true charity extends as much to Scalfari as it does to Francis. If a pope is Modernist and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?
Pope Francis is teaching Catholic Commentarydom that it needs to transcend its obsession with the letter of what he has said, and instead drink from the polyhedral font of the spirit of his words.
To invoke Albert Schweitzer, with whom the image of looking down a well is often (though erroneously) associated, we should regard The Rashomon Papacy as ultimately being a conflict of visions about the papacy, and about the Church as a whole: In one corner, the Hermeneutic of Continuity in Ingenuity 4 AKA, The Pseudo-Franciscus Lombardiensis School, and, in the other, the Hermeneutic of Continuous Creativity 5 AKA, The Psuedo-Franciscus Scalfariensis School—though, I admit, it’s hard to tell them apart after a while.6 What difference, at this point, does it make? Either way, the trick is to keep talking—to keep adapting. For the Church that Pope Francis sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic dogmatism, is only the reflection of a Liberal Jesuit face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.
It’s not like any of this this is is Denzinger, after all.
All we need to know is that Pope Francis is whatever we need him to be for us.
He just has to do what he has to do.
Elliot Bougis (Florida Man™) is a convert from the Reformed tradition. After a decade of teaching in Taiwan, Elliot returned to America and is now a freelance translator, interpreter, marketer, and writer. He is a happily married, multilingual father of three and occasionally a fitness nut. Find out more at ebougis.wordpress.com.
|↑1||AKA, The Proto-Forrest Gump|
|↑2||London and New York: Longmans, Green and Co. (1909), p. 44 [world cat link]|
|↑3||The Religion-Formerly-Known-As-Catholicism was not available for comment.|
|↑4||AKA, The Pseudo-Franciscus Lombardiensis School|
|↑5||AKA, The Psuedo-Franciscus Scalfariensis School|
|↑6||What difference, at this point, does it make?|