(Image credit: By meandmybadself [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Over at LifeSiteNews, editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen has an analysis of the current state of confusion as regards the papal position on Holy Communion for the divorced and “remarried” boldly titled, Pope Francis is playing with fire. Hell fire.
Westen has, as we’ve recently noted, been taking a harder line against Francis, and is being met with a positive response from Catholics who are not a part of the “traditionalist” movement, where such criticisms originally seemed to take deepest root. In his new piece, Westen observes:
We had his signature on a letter supporting the Buenos Aires bishops’ interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. We had testimony to the Pope’s view by Germany’s Cardinal Marx, one of the Pope’s Council of 9 Cardinals. We had the Maltese bishops say so. We had the chief interpreter of legislative texts at the Vatican say so. And we’ve seen numerous articles published in the Vatican newspaper advocating this break with Tradition.
While the statements from Cardinal Muller seemed to be more his own opinion than that of the Pope, the Chilean bishops recently made comments to one of Chile’s major papers that seemed to indicate Pope Francis himself gave them a conservative interpretation of his exhortation forbidding Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In addition, some Catholic bloggers have interpreted the Chilean bishops’ statements to indicate that Pope Francis also opposes communion for Catholic politicians who support abortion. Some have even taken from the bishops’ remarks that the Pope rejects a married priesthood, contradicting what he said to the German newspaper Die Zeit in an interview only a short time after their meeting.
To sort all this out is not easy. One key comes from the Catholic Herald’s Dan Hitchens. He points out correctly that the reporter who interviewed the Chilean bishops, and those commenting on the bishops’ remarks, may actually be engaging in wishful thinking.
- What the Chilean bishops are saying amounts to nothing more than hearsay, particularly in light of the overwhelming evidence already in existence that the pope’s position is indistinguishable from the so-called “Kasper proposal”.
- Self-contradiction has been part of Francis’ mode of operation from day one, and as Hilary White argued some time ago, the purpose of all this confusion seems to be to help him foment his power, through a forced acquiescence to his ever-evolving hermeneutic of self. Or as she so succinctly put it, his answer to those trying to understand what Amoris Laetitia means is: “It means what I say it means. It means shut up.” If you want to know what Francis means, you have to listen to what he’s saying today, and forget what he said yesterday. He’s the only decoder ring to all of his own incomprehensible verbal chaff.
- Allowing the Chilean bishops to disseminate the idea that he is in fact in favor of the orthodox position on Communion for the “remarried” acts as an effective smokescreen against the Four Cardinals and their allegedly still-in-the-works formal correction. It’s far harder to correct a guy throwing out mixed signals than one who is perfectly clear.
This is where Westen brings to bear an anecdote that I found particularly illuminating:
For those who knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his election to the pontificate, this is nothing new. I spoke to a few priests from Buenos Aires who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in different capacities and from them learned that confusion is emblematic of his ministry. One anecdote in particular was very instructive. I was told that people from opposite camps would both come out of meetings with Cardinal Bergoglio believing he supported their position. “He’s with us but can’t say so publicly,” they would relate, as would those who met with him from the opposing camp.
While in an archdiocese this may work for a time, this learned priest told me, in the Vatican where just about everything the Pope says is trumpeted to the world, these kinds of discrepancies become evident more quickly. Francis, the priest told me, is very much a Peronist — named for former Argentina President Juan Domingo Perón. Like Perón, Pope Francis plays with both left wing and right wing factions.
The priest tells a story about President Peron that helps to understand Francis. Once Peron was in his car and at a fork in the road his driver asked him which way he would like to go, to which Peron replied: “Put the flicker on for a right turn, but go left.”
And there you have it. Every time this happens, it’s like deja vu all over again.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher 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 eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.