Editor’s Note: As this article went to press, the Vatican Press Office—clearly in response to worldwide expressions of dismay by concerned Catholics—has floated reports that the interview of Pope Francis by Eugenio Scalafari quoted in this article was not a verbatim transcript and that Scalfari did not use a tape recorder or take notes. The same neo-Catholic commentators who attempted to defend some of the Pope’s shocking statements in the interview are now exulting that perhaps the interview was not accurate after all—showing once again their willingness to bend and twist themselves in any direction to persuade us all that nothing is amiss in the Church. We are, however, witnessing the Vatican apparatus’s usual two-step. The interview in its entirety, complete with quotation marks, has been posted on the Vatican website and the Pope has not corrected a single word of it. Further, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told the press that “if Francis felt his thought had been ‘gravely misrepresented,’ he would have said so.” The Remnant will not dance either the Vatican or the neo-Catholic two-step. Unless the Pope himself indicates to the contrary, the Remnant will assume that His Holiness stands every word attributed to him by Scalfari and posted on the Pope’s own official website. We have had enough of this nonsense! Another interesting development: Cardinal Dolan has informed the press that the “mystical moment” recounted in the Scalfari interview, when the Pope-elect supposedly stepped into a room adjacent to the Sistine Chapel to ponder whether to accept the election and was illuminated by an interior light, never happened. In fact, there is no such room next to the Chapel. Yet, the interview as posted on the Vatican website retains this entire account. It is up to the Vatican to explain this glaring discrepancy. We merely report it. MJM
Francis has mocked Catholics who counted the Rosaries in their spiritual bouquets for him, belittling them before an audience of young people as poor peasants who “return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through—not you, because you are not old…” And he has maintained a drumbeat of derision of Catholic traditionalists: they are “Pelagians,” “restorationists,” and “legalists,” who in their hearts do not believe in the Risen Lord and thus indulge in “triumphalism” and a “triumphalist” liturgy; they seek an “exaggerated doctrinal ‘security’” (note the contemptuous quotation marks around the word security), want “everything clear and safe” in the Church (imagine!), “always look for disciplinarian solutions,” “stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists,” and “have a static and inward-directed view of things” that reduces their faith to “an ideology among other ideologies.”
Having issued these public judgments against faithful Catholics, the Pope who will be known forever by the phrase “Who am I to judge?” respecting homosexuals has also passed judgment on the Church herself, and by implication his predecessors, suggesting that he will correct her many shortcomings as Vatican II demands. Quoth Francis in the now infamous America magazine interview and elsewhere:
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, little rules.”’
“Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers.’
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”
“The church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”
“But the church has lived also times of decline in its ability to think. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism. In thinking of the human being, therefore, the church should strive for genius and not for decadence.”
“When does a formulation [of doctrine] of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself…
The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”
“The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done [!] in that direction….“I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.”
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In addition to insulting faithful members of his own flock and denigrating the Church he is divinely charged to lead, defend and protect against her enemies, Francis has issued a series of astonishing pronouncements suggesting that the Church has no business seeking converts and that the salvation of the members of all religions and even atheists is possible so long as they pursue brotherhood and their idea of the good:
Interview with Scalfari, La Repubblica:
“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.”
“… I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God.”
[Comment: Of course God is not literally Catholic—as if anyone thought so. But this facile remark, so pleasing to modern ears and delivered by no less than a Pope into the eager hands of an anti-Catholic press, harms the cause of the Gospel because it obscures the truth that God Incarnate did indeed found the Catholic Church, “which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts. 20:28). The Church that God founded and purchased with His Blood calls itself Catholic, thus imparting an unalterable sacred significance to the word, which belongs to the very Creed that begins: “I believe in God.” To declare “there is no Catholic God” is to detach in speech the Gospel from its divinely ordained sole guardianship in the Catholic Church—to the world’s great delight. How disturbing it is to see a successor of the very Rock on which the Church was founded descending to such banality.]
“The Son of God became incarnate to instill in the souls of men the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father.”
“I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love.”
“The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.”
“And I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics…. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Address to inter-religious assembly at Refugee Service:
Many of you are Muslims, of other religions, and have come from different countries, from different situations. We must not be afraid of the differences! Fraternity makes us discover that they are a treasure, a gift for everyone! We live in fraternity!
Address at Shrine of St. Cajetan:
“Do you need to convince the other to become Catholic? No, no, no! Go out and meet him, he is your brother. This is enough. Go out and help him and Jesus will do the rest.”
Then there are the Pope’s remarks suggesting that, unlike his predecessors, he is not “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, “same-sex marriage” or the sin of sodomy relentlessly promoted as perfectly normal by those he (unlike any other Pope) calls “gay”:
“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world [!] these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope…This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, “who am I to judge?”
“During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
Certain Neo-Catholic commentators, continuing the cover-up of disaster in which they have been engaged for almost half a century, are frantically churning out orthodox interpretations for this torrent of astonishing papal remarks. Typical of these is Francis Allen, whose article “Misreading Pope Francis” misses the immense significance of the fact she herself admits: “many conservative Catholics, who disagree with liberals on practically everything else, actually agree with their archenemies that Francis is poised to radically alter the Catholic Church” (Yes, but only to the extent this is possible, for not even a Pope can change the deposit of the Faith.)
This time, however, the neo-Catholic explainers of What the Pope Really Means are overwhelmed by their task, for Francis has dropped far too many bombshells to defuse. And, as we have seen, the damage has been devastating. The world’s mass media are experiencing a collective transport of joy over Francis the Awesome, singing his praises in headlines and newscasts from every precinct of the culture of death. We have all sampled the innumerable media hosannas, but one CNN headline says it all: “Pope Speaks Against Catholic Traditions.”
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. The media always supply a certain degree of spin to papal remarks. The point, however, is that no Pope has ever given the media so many statements to exploit, and in so little time. It will not do simply to protest that “the Pope’s remarks have been “‘cherry-picked’ by commentators who are presenting only a few phrases out of a lengthy interview,” for Francis has given them a bushel of cherries for the picking. At the very least, the Pope has recklessly disregarded—again and again—the entirely predictable reading of his words.
Furthermore, in this case the media are not that far off the mark. The Neo-Catholic “out of context” defense fails in the face of so many explosively disturbing statements, all of the same dramatic, liberalizing tenor. There is a reason every conceivable constituency of the Church’s enemies, both internal and external, is hailing Pope Francis: from Hans Kung (“was overwhelmed with joy” at Francis’s election), to the National Abortion Rights Action League (“To Pope Francis: Thank you”), to Stephen Colbert (“a seismic ripple throughout the world of Catholicism”), to Jane Fonda (“Gotta love new Pope. He cares about poor, hates dogma”), to Chris Rock (Francis is “the greatest man alive”), to the man that vulgar comedian worships as the “dad of our country” and “our boss”—none other than Barack Obama, who is “hugely impressed with the pope’s pronouncements.” When a politician who can rightly be viewed as a forerunner of Antichrist is “hugely impressed” by a Pope’s statements, there must be something gravely wrong with what the Pope is saying.
This time the neo-Catholic cover-up is not succeeding. Francis has simply gone too far along the trajectory of the Council’s supposed “dynamic of reading the Gospel,” and now even prominent members of the “conservative” Catholic mainstream have had enough and are speaking out. A sampling of these protests demonstrates that the problem with Francis does not exist in the fevered imaginations of “radical traditionalists,” as the neo-Catholics commentators would have it, but rather is an objective threat to the Church’s credibility and mission. Consider the following:
No less than Germain Grisez, the world-renowned moral theologian who is hardly a traditionalist, gave Inside the Vatican permission to publish his objection to the Pope’s rhetoric, including this blistering comment:
I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity. For a long time he has been thinking these things. Now he can say them to the whole world—and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.
The equally prominent moral theologian Janet Smith, writing in the neo-conservative journal First Things under the bitter title “Are We Obsessed?”, had this to say about Francis’s musings, couched in ironic observations about her friends:
In fact, I don’t think the Holy Father was speaking about my friends, when he states: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. [W]hen we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.” My friends definitely talk about these issues “in context,” in fact in many contexts…. [T]heir reason for boldly and sacrificially and ardently addressing these issues is precisely because they love Christ and the Church and want others to do so.
[Francis] also said: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” … Again, I don’t think this statement refers to my friends since there is nothing “disjointed” about the way they present doctrines nor do they “impose” them “insistently.” They make the call to conscience that John Paul II makes… to live in accord with the natural greatness that God gave them. They do not make threats of damnation or make calls for blind obedience…
I also began to realize that the Holy Father was not speaking of the same context in which I live and labor… He seems to think that many people are hesitant to embrace Christianity or Catholicism because they believe that they are beyond redemption and that the Church is a judgmental, intolerant institution that won’t accept them…. I think most people think they are not sinners and not in need of redemption. They do not think having abortions, using contraception, using pornography, fornicating, masturbating, or engaging in homosexual acts are immoral actions. They think what they are doing is fine and they are fine just as they are.
Pope Francis finds the homily a proper place to teach moral truths but thinks priests have gotten the order wrong. Where is he hearing these homilies that hammer on moral truths at the expense of preaching the gospel?... [V]irtually none of us have heard it done! We have heard homilies on abortion—perhaps at most once a year—while homilies on contraception and homosexual acts are so rare as to cause astonishment and generally earn the pastor an influx of hate mail.
George Neumayr of The American Spectator has written a series of increasingly critical commentaries on the Pope’s statements. Herewith a sampling from those pieces:
§ From “Reading the Papal Tea Leaves”:
Francis’s papacy may not so much move the Church into the future as back to the recent past, circa 1970…. Emboldened liberal bishops under him may seek a reform of the “reform of the reform,” and they may push for a revisiting of settled moral, theological, and disciplinary stances. None of this repositioning will take place at the level of official teaching but at the murkier levels of tone, emphasis, and appointment.
That the Catholic left considers his election a shot in the arm can’t be chalked up simply to projection…. They believe that this is their moment to try to undo the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict and return to the casual, informal, and spontaneous liturgical spirit of the 1970s while reviving a more poll-friendly situational ethics. Tweeted Mahony: “Don’t you feel the new energy, and being shared with one another?”
§ From “When Paul Corrected Peter”:
The Pope’s scolding of “small-minded” restorationists for “pastoral” incompetence is laughable in light of his own order’s disintegration: What exactly would the editors of America and the other Jesuits whose liberalism Pope Francis was flattering in the interview, know about saving souls? Just look at the U.S. Congress: it is overflowing with Jesuit graduates who have abandoned the faith and support abortion and gay rights. Oh-so-pastoral Jesuits, heal thyself.
Indeed, the need for a St. Paul to correct him grows with each passing week as his pontificate emboldens the Church’s enemies and undercuts her friends and most loyal members.
§ From “The Pope They’ve Been Waiting For”:
No, this is not an Onion parody. This is the Catholic Church, circa 2013, under the hope-and-change pontificate of Francis—the one Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Jane Fonda have been waiting for. They had long pined for an enlightened pope and now they have found him in a Latin American Jesuit so loose, so cool, so “spiritual”… that he doesn’t fret over such fuddy-duddy anxieties as the killing of the elderly and the corruption of children… but rather their isolation and joblessness.
Anyone who is familiar with the cocky clichés of lightweight, dilettantish modern Jesuits will understand the import of this interview and hear all of its dog whistles: the praising of the late heterodox Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini, the politically correct sniffing at St. Augustine (“He also had harsh words for the Jews, which I never shared”), the condescension to saints of the past as products of their unenlightened times (as if Francis is not a product of his liberal times and liberal religious order; self-awareness is evidently not part of his “humility and ambition”), the Teilhard de Chardin-style jargon (“Transcendence remains because that light, all in everything, transcends the universe and the species it inhabits at that stage…”).
Pope Francis let it be known that he is eager to run the ball into the end zone for team spirit-of-Vatican II, and now that small-minded, rule-bound restorationists like John Paul II and Benedict XVI aren’t around anymore to tackle him he has an open-field run…
Were St. Ignatius of Loyola alive today, he wouldn’t recognize Francis as a Jesuit. He might not even recognize him as a Catholic.
Father Michal P. Orsi of Ave Maria School of Law, writing in The Washington Times, issued this scathing review of the effects the Pope’s utterances are having on the Church’s witness concerning social issues:
Pope Francis assured his interlocutor that he is a loyal son of the church and accepts the church’s teachings on the aforementioned issues. This addendum, however, is not good enough to mitigate the damage his words have caused for the pro-life movement and those who are trying to defend marriage as being between a man and a woman. His remarks have effectively given a sword to those who want to stifle them.
Most affected are those who have borne the heat of the day in the culture-war protests against abortion and same-sex marriages. The once-sure moral support that these groups enjoyed under past popes has been undermined….
[T]he pope’s words provide a sword for those critical of the church’s moral teachings on life and of the purpose of human sexuality. It will now be quite easy for them to say, “Why don’t you just listen to the pope and move on?” This sentiment has already been advanced in a letter to the editor in the New York Times by a Planned Parenthood official, who applauds the pope for “getting in step with modern times.”
[T]he pope’s musings have provided cover for Catholic politicians who support liberal abortion laws and legalization of same-sex marriage. They can now claim that they, like the pope, are concerned about the bigger issues, such as poverty and concern for the poor.
The pope’s “big tent” approach for Catholicism is bound to diminish the church’s presence as a moral force in society. It is also detrimental to the church’s main ministry, the saving of souls. If there is only a distant and muffled voice on the life and human sexuality issues, how will people know that they are transgressing God’s laws?
The pope’s remarks have moved to the background those bright red lines of acceptable human actions that must not be crossed. This is neither pastoral, nor merciful. As Jesus said, only “The truth will set you free.”
A piece by John-Henry Westin of Lifesitenews.com takes Francis to task under the title “Here’s how Pope John Paul II handled the charge of ‘obsession’ with abortion.” Westin quotes John Paul II’s reply precisely to the charge (related by Vito Messori) that his “repeated condemnation of any legalization of abortion has even been defined as ‘obsessive’ by certain cultural and political factions…” Said the late Pope:
It is… very difficult to speak of obsession in a matter such as this, where we are dealing with a fundamental imperative of every good conscience—the defense of the right to life of an innocent and defenseless human being.…
… I categorically reject every accusation or suspicion concerning [my] the Pope’s alleged “obsession” with this issue. We are dealing with a problem of tremendous importance, in which all of us must show the utmost responsibility and vigilance. We cannot afford forms of permissiveness that would lead directly to the trampling of human rights, and also to the complete destruction of values which are fundamental not only for the lives of individuals and families but for society itself.
There are other examples, but the point is made. The liberal utterances of this Pope are so disturbing, and the world’s thunderous applause so alarming, that we are suddenly facing a new stage in what Pope Benedict (writing as Cardinal Ratzinger) called “the continuing process of decay” that began immediately after the Council.
Mike Matt and others have rightly noted that Pope Francis is merely extending the trajectory on which the human element of the Church has been moving since Vatican II. As Neumayr puts it, Francis is “run[ning] the ball into the end zone…”—just when we thought, under Pope Benedict, that team Vatican II had been penalized and moved back a few crucial yards toward the goalpost of Tradition. But under Francis the ball is moving downfield again with amazing rapidity, even beyond where it was before Benedict was Pope. Now, not only we traditionalists, but also prominent conservative Catholics of good will are standing up and calling foul. With us, they can see what lies ahead in the end zone, and they do not like what they see; they are, in fact, frightened by it.
Perhaps, then, the emergence of Jorge Bergoglio from the last conclave was a providential development. For it is forcing more and more Catholics to make a choice: either the continued absorption of the Church into the “modern world” to which the conciliar Popes imprudently opened the Church’s windows, or a definitive return to the safety of the very “fortress” the “spirit of Vatican II” despises: that house built upon the rock of Peter; that refuge of sinners, sustained against the storms by the solid structure of obedience to the commands of the Gospel: “And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand/And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof…. If you love me, keep my commandments.” (Matt. 7:24-27; Jn. 14:15).