“An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed…. He who does not oppose an evident crime is open to the suspicion of secret complicity.” – Pope Felix III
“The Vatican is filled with heretics and liars” is a story I’ve grown incredibly weary of telling. This particular ditty isn’t just familiar, it’s stuck on repeat, with the volume turned all the way up.
The latest episode comes from what is, by my unofficial guestimate, somewhere in the range of the seventh, eighth, or ninth published conversation with the pope by the nonegenarian atheist editor of Italy’s La Repubblica — a man famous for his interviewing style, which does not include voice recorders or the taking of notes, but conversations which he later reconstructs from memory. I’d go back and find each one and count them, but that’s an hour of my life I’d never get back, and after five or six, it all becomes a meaningless blur anyway. As one of America’s most notorious political minds famously asked: “At this point, what difference does it make?!”
As they have multiple times before, Scalfari says that he and the pope talked about Hell — specifically, how it doesn’t really exist*:
[Scalfari:] Your Holiness, in our last meeting you told me that at a certain point our species will disappear, and God, always using His creative seed, will create other species. You never spoke to me about souls who die in sin and go to hell to suffer there for eternity. Instead you spoke to me of good souls who are admitted to the contemplation of God. But what of evil souls? Where do they go in punishment?
[Francis:] They do not go anywhere in punishment. Those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and go among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and therefore cannot be forgiven vanish. Hell does not exist, only the disappearance of sinful souls.
I’ll pause for a moment to let those of you who still possess the capacity to be surprised to collect your jaw from the floor.
Scalfari isn’t exactly being honest (or is suffering from a strange memory lapse) when he says that the pope has never spoken to him about this before. In fact, this statement is indicative of the unique problem Scalfari poses for those trying to discern what to believe about his representations of the pope’s thoughts. Scalfari has, however, given us other examples on this topic in the past. For example, in October of 2017, Scalfari told us that the pope, along with his hand-picked pervert at the head of both the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II institute, Archbishop Vincenzo Pagalia, believes that that “the souls dominated by evil and not repentant cease to exist while those who are redeemed from evil will be assumed into beatitude, contemplating God.”
Earlier that same year, Scalfari told us that the pope had said, “In a millennium or so our human species will be extinguished and souls will merge with God.”
And in 2015, the dynamic duo were said to have discussed Francis’ bizarre eschatology with similar results:
“What happens to that lost soul? Will it be punished? And how? The response of Francis is distinct and clear: there is no punishment, but the annihilation of that soul. All the others will participate in the beatitude of living in the presence of the Father. The souls that are annihilated will not take part in that banquet; with the death of the body their journey is finished.”
There are those who have taken pains to explain every Scalfari interview away — each one, it seems, contains a bombshell or two — by pointing out the inaccuracy of an interview method that relies on the memory of a 93-year-old man to reconstruct the contents of an undocumented conversation.
But it is clear by now that the pope is relying on this very excuse. When he wants to let his freak flag fly — to put his most controversial ideas out into the public eye with no fear of accountability — he just calls up his old pal Eugenio and hoists his wildest theories up the flagpole. As they disseminate to the masses, the Vatican PR team goes into spin mode while the pope is nowhere to be found, leaving everyone with the inescapable impression that yes, of course he said it, but you can’t really quote him on it now, can you?
As before, with today’s alleged denial of the dogma of Hell, the Vatican has released a statement that constitutes neither an affirmation nor a denial of what the pope said. As always, we are given a convenient — and entirely unconvincing — excuse:
The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.
Again, a familiar tune — so familiar it has all the same notes in roughly the same order. As I documented in my November 2015 examination of the Scalfari phenomenon, these not-actual-denials are a dime a dozen. One of my favorites was this:
Fr. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Holy See Press Office, told LifeSiteNews, “All official, final texts of the Holy Father are found on the Vatican website,” and since they were never published by the Holy See Press Office they “should not be considered official texts.” They were, said Fr. Rosica, “private discussions that took place and were never recorded by the journalist.”
See? If it’s not on the Vatican website, it didn’t happen. Who cares that the pope participated in it and the global media reported it and everyone who reads it believes it? More to the point, who cares that neither the pope nor the Vatican has made even the slightest effort to correct any of the whoppers contained in any of the more than half-dozen interviews?
Of course, at least one of the interviews — the first one that got the ball rolling — did appear on the Vatican website. Before it was taken down in late 2013. Then briefly re-appeared in 2014. Then disappeared again.
This same interview also appeared — along with other Scalfari interviews — in an Italian-only book called Interviews and Conversations With Journalists (Interviste e Conversazioni con i Giornalisti), published by the Vatican’s official publishing arm, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. As Italian journalist and author Antonio Socci wrote in 2015, “the interviews of Pope Bergoglio in Scalfari…have never been denied.” He continues, “Indeed they have been republished in full on the L’Osservatore Romano, and they have even just been completely republished by the same Argentine pope in a book signed by him from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. So they are, in effect, official…”
There is indeed an art to a denial-flavored non-denial. But at the heart of the matter, we must remember that the pope has always had the power to correct the representation of his words. As the former papal spokesman, Fr. Frederico Lombardi, told us in October of 2013:
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.
He would have said so.
But he didn’t say anything. He never does.
That means that no matter how much the Vatican communications team wants to cast doubt on Scalfari’s credibility, Francis is perfectly happy with the way his thoughts have been represented. And as my friend, Senior National Review Writer Michael Brendan Dougherty tweeted today, “There’s something really dishonorable about a Vatican that won’t make any specific clarification of the Pope’s words, but depends on Catholic media to impugn as an atheist and exaggerator, the very reporter the pope himself chose.”
And of course, if we really doubt that this is what the pope believes about Hell, there’s the little matter of Amoris Laetitia 297, which reads, “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” This little gem, “If understood as meaning that no human being can or will be condemned to eternal punishment in Hell,” was given the theological censure of “Heretical, contrary to sacred Scripture” by a group of 45 international theologians and Catholic scholars in 2016. And as Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has brought to light, Francis is also on record
preaching last year that “everything will be saved — everything” and that at the end of history there will be an “immense tent, where God will welcome all mankind so as to dwell with them definitively.” He also said judgment was not to be feared because “at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus.”
For every day Catholics, the situation presents a different, more pragmatic problem.
Catholic commentator and journalist Damian Thompson tweeted today, “It’s not the liberalism of this pontificate that bothers me. It’s the dishonesty.”
Frustration over yet another scandalous statement from the pope coming just as the Easter Triduum begins is a sentiment being echoed by Catholics all over social media. Their exasperation is at a peak.
One woman, a convert and mother of a large family I spoke with this morning, asked me how she’s supposed to teach her kids about the faith when she also has to teach them the pope can’t be trusted. She admitted to me the frustration she felt over what is going on in the Church. “It’s bad enough we have to teach our kids to fight society,” she said. “now we have to fight the Church, too?”
With Lettergate I and II still fresh in their minds, the faithful now have every reason to believe that the Vatican will manipulate, omit, or fabricate the truth entirely according to their own whims as long as it advances their chosen narrative. In other words, having played fast and loose with the truth for so long, we have absolutely no reason to believe them when they tell us it’s the other guy we shouldn’t trust.
So until Francis issues a corrective statement, our only reasonable choice is to take what Scalfari said as gospel.
It seems Pope Felix knew what he was talking about.
*Translation by Giuseppe Pellegrino.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.