A number of people have sent me some version or another of the story on Pope Francis’ meeting with the Chilean bishops last month and asked me to comment on it. According to the bishops of Chile, Francis told them what appear to be some very self-contradictory things. I didn’t have time to commission a human translation of the Spanish, nor do I particularly want to waste any of our translators’ time on it.
Why? Because it’s essentially meaningless. Like listening to static and hoping to find guidance. One of our readers from Latin America graciously provided us with a translation on condition of anonymity*:
Among the topics discussed between the Pope and the Chilean bishops was the progress of the decriminalization of abortion in the South American country. Mons. Ramos [the Secretary of the Conference of Bishops] explains this in El Mercurio :
” The Pope was very clear: abortion understood as the quest to eliminate a human being is always a murder, and must not be confused with accepted medical practices to save a life ».
And Bishop Silva [the President of the Conference of Bishops] added:
“Abortion is a well-known issue for Francis. Being Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was very hard on President Mauricio Macri when Macri, as governor of Buenos Aires, regulated ‘non- punishable abortions’. Moreover, he [Francis] stopped a ‘medical guide’ that Cristina Kirchner tried to spread.
Francis spoke in the same way to the Chilean bishops and he made especial mention of Catholic politicians who vote in favor of the legalization of abortion:
“He insisted that they cannot take communion and that they must receive help in order not to continue committing sins. The Pope is much stronger than he looks.”
As for the possibility of ordaining married men as priests, Bishop Ramos explained the position of the Holy Father and of Cardinal Stella. When asked “Is it true that the Pope was thinking about ordering married men?”, raised as a consequence of the interview given by the pontiff to the German newspaper “Die Zeit”, the auxiliary bishop of Santiago answered:
“No, it is not true. And in that very interview the Pope says that voluntary celibacy is not on the agenda.”
And then Ramos explains that the Pope was asked about the possibility that the “viri probati,” married men of proven Christian life, would help in secluded places. The topic was also addressed by the Prefect of the Clergy, Cardinal Stella, and he was categorical: “that is not the way .”
Faced with the question of the communion for “remarried” divorcees, the bishop [Ramos, Secretary of the Conference of Bishops] explains that the Pontiff denied that his goal in calling for the Synod on the Family were to authorize communion for the divorcees. He told the Chilean bishops that there is no “moral situationism,” say other sources [translator’s note: in both El Mercurio and Infocatólica this is a very strange way of writing: it seems that Ramos says that “other sources” state the last sentence. Unintelligible]. “It’s hard for us to see gray tones,” Francis reportedly told the Chilean bishops when he referred to a personal case, a case in his family:
“I have a niece married to a divorcee, a good man, a Catholic, who attends Sunday Mass. When he confesses he tells the priest ‘I know you may not give me the absolution, but, please give me your blessing.’
People are latching on, in particular, to this bit:
Faced with the question of the communion for “remarried” divorcees, the bishop [Ramos, Secretary of the Conference of Bishops] explains that the Pontiff denied that his goal in calling for the Synod on the Family were to authorize communion for the divorcees. He told the Chilean bishops that there is no “moral situationism,” say other sources. “It’s hard for us to see gray tones,” Francis reportedly told the Chilean bishops when he referred to a personal case, a case in his family…
So why do I say it’s meaningless?
First, because — as our papal positivist friends like to say whenever we report a second-hand account of the pope’s words — this is hearsay. Only in this instance, it’s actually out of character for him to say it. It goes against the conduct of the Synods, Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s letter to the Argentinian Bishops, his praise for the German bishops’ guidelines, the policy enforced by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the Vatican’s promotion of the Maltese bishops’ guidelines, Archbishop Coccopalmerio’s book (and it’s associated Vatican press conference), and so on. The evidence is piled high and deep that Communion for the divorced and remarried is exactly what he wanted. One little anecdote from a Latin American bishop does not a reversal make.
But the second point — one you probably won’t hear anywhere else — is that self-contradiction is all part of the big, confusing game plan for Francis and company. Hilary White explained this months ago:
What people who have decried these incomprehensible contradictions have failed to understand is that “meaning” is irrelevant. The purpose of these communications has not been to inform the Catholic faithful of the pope’s thought or reflections on Scripture. Content is irrelevant; only submission counts, only power. This means the more ambiguous, the more contradictory, the more vapid, the more illogical, the better.
And this is what people are missing. He has been perfectly consistent in all his responses, since he is always saying the same thing: submit. Indeed, we have had a report recently that he knows full well that his work to change the Church’s ancient teaching must rest exclusively on the pure exercise of raw power. When Cardinal Müller of the former Holy Office asked why Francis had demanded the abrupt dismissal of three of his best priests, the pope is reported to have responded as all tyrants do: “I. AM. THE. POPE. I don’t have to answer to anyone.”
Positivism, the denial of an objective reality, must lead ultimately to authoritarianism. If there is no objective reality, there is no need for any rules that regard it; any notion of a Rule of Law is meaningless. What have we seen happen throughout history when the Rule of Law breaks down? There can only be Rule of the Strongest, Rule of Power. This is why, now that the make-reality-up-as-you-go-along principle is firmly in place in the papal office, the pope must clamp down so furiously on “dissent,” even the softly diplomatic “dissent” of asking politely for a clarification.
What does Amoris Laetitia mean?
“It means what I say it means. It means shut up.”
Whether or not he said what he is reported to have said to the Chilean bishops is irrelevant. The Dictatorship of Mercy continues apace.
NOTE: I’ve published an addendum to this piece with another important point of consideration.
*We originally used the Google translation of this report, but have replaced it with a reader-submitted human translation.
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.