Wednesday, 2 October 2013
The Loggorhea flows into the Tiber
UPDATE 1: The reliability of the reported words of the pope discussed in this post has been cast into doubt without being completely denied. See my comments on this here.
UPDATE 2: The interview of the pope referred to in this piece has now been removed from the pages of the Vatican website. What is extraordinary is that it was ever there in the first place.
I announced translation errors in the English version of Francis's latest interview this morning, but since then I have barely had a moment to myself, and I now see that others have picked up what the The Sensible Bond's Italian language department (aka Mrs Ches) noticed as soon as she looked at it. On reflection, the translation errors, while dissatisfying, were not too heinous. Unfortunately - for those who are so inclined - neither can they be cited as proof that Francis has been misunderstood (although the bit about Christ being 'incarnate in the souls of men' definitely set off some alarm bells). Anyway, he hasn't been misunderstood (such that his meaning is now clear). Things are as unclear as ever. The interview today confirmed everything that I have been wondering about over the last ten days, and brought other matters into sharper focus.
Don't worry, this won't be a long one. With three children aged 2-and-under to care for and a busy job to boot, I've been burning the midnight oil a bit too much since last Friday. On the other hand, if any one of the 10,000 visitors I have had since last week wants to pay me to do this twice a week, I'm open to negotiations!
So, who would have thunk it? Another interview from Pope Francis. Another procession of apparently liberal-coded statements. And, again, another scramble in quarters far and wide to assure us that he didn't really mean what we fear he might have meant. It's like some ghastly groundhog day movie, isn't it? You just finish analysing and questioning the implications of one papal interview, and the very next day, damn it, there's another one in the press!
To be honest with you, I believe that when you sit down and compare the claims and assertions of these different interviews, the picture that emerges is one of chaotic, not to say incoherent, persiflage. For example,(he says in this latest interview ), if everyone followed what they thought was the Good, that in itself would make the world a better place... Do I actually need to explain the subjectivist fantasy that claim implies? Well, perhaps I do. When the Church says not to interfere with the conscience, she is not saying that the outcomes will be positive in the social order. A man must obey his conscience by natural law (unless he senses or knows it to be wrong) but how can it escape the pope that people do some wicked things for the sake of conscience? The fact that one chooses t do something conscionably does not provide some immunity against the outcome.
But like I said yesterday, Francis is - wittingly or unwittingly, I know not - using a liberal code which genuflects to all the liberal pieties. How else, for example, could one explain his extraordinary claim in this interview that proselytism is 'solemn nonsense'? The Pope's sermon yesterday (thanks Rorate) talks a lot about Mission, so surely we must interpret this remark favourably. Nevertheless, in the same interview, while ruling out proselytism, what Francis never seems to rule in is conversion. The point is, even if he wants outsiders to convert, this coded language will be taken as a signal by ecclesial relativists. Moreover, at the same time, he insists that the Church is only there trying to spread a lot of love (principally to help the youth employment situation and lonely old folk). And there was me thinking it had something to do with God (and it does, but you wouldn't get that from this interview ...). I mean, he does not even express the hope that maybe one day Scalfari and his readers might encounter Christ. Honestly, if he thinks this represents good tactics, he really has no antennae for how the liberals will interpret him internally.
Fr Z, bless him for his links, was today vainly trying to explain away this morass of ill-formed thoughts by referring to the context: what else do you expect the pope to say in a secular newspaper? I can't wait to see Francis's interview in Playboy (not that I subscribe; I'm sure it will be released in a safe pdf download at some point). But, okay, let's address the point. If you want context, almost the first thing that Francis tells this secular newspaper journalist is that he does not want to convert him (and now we're back to that again!). Don't tell me conversion is only sought by strong-arm proselytism!
Can it mean that he doesn't want to bring the man to Christ? Doesn't he want to illuminate his soul with the truths of the faith? Is every attempt to convert someone to be seen now only as a kind of wicked colonial imposition? If the pope cannot admit to his desire to see an unbeliever convert, even in a secular newspaper, who on earth can? I noticed some people cheering yesterday at the fact that the pope told this man that he did indeed have a soul. Would it really have overstepped the mark to have told him what this implied? But hang on, he did. And what he said about souls sounds frankly bizarre. Here's the purple passage itself:
"From my point of view, God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us. In the letter I wrote to you, you will remember I said that our species will end but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will all be in everyone."
Heavens, I think I must have missed this last proposition when reading the catechism. What in blazes in that supposed to mean? Some people are saying that in this interview, Francis the pastor gets down with the atheist kids and talks to them in their own language. But nobody talks like this, do they? Unfortunately, here is where the language becomes code, both by being obscure and by evoking liberal theses. Even if Francis would actually like to bring his interlocutor to Christ - and this last quote seems to imply his interlocutor will end up as Christ's whether he wants it or not - there are quite a few liberal Catholics who would not bother. And, for them, Francis's language is simply bound to legitimize, reinforce and in all other ways promote what is essentially a current of relativism inside the Church, according to which God will save everyone at the end, and for now we can crack on and talk about love. No need for any other unpleasantness, unless you really want to (and in which case, the outcome won't be that different anyway because God's light will be 'all in everyone' at the end). Am I being harsh, dear reader? Perhaps I need a new dictionary.
What was even worse in today's interview - worse than the liberal code stuff - was the avowed intention for reform. Here are the chilling words in which it was couched:
"Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. 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."
Very little done, eh? Has he never heard of Assisi? Oh, yes ... er, scratch that. But really, I'm most perturbed here by the last sentence: I have the humility and ambition to want to do something. You mean unlike your predecessors, Holy Father? Were Buddhas on Assisi tabernacles and prayers in the Blue Mosque not enough of a farce to spread the message of Christ's sacrifice? Has this experiment not already been tried and found to explode in the Catholic face? I merely ask for clarification.
But, when we consider how he will change the Church, we have to hear what one commentator called the dog whistles. For this reason, I was intrigued that the pope mentioned the late Cardinal Martini twice in the interview. If we have any doubts about whether this was just window dressing, just reread the interview that Martini gave before his death last year. The only question for me is just how much of Martini's programme does Francis want to carry out.
Lastly, when you look towards the end of this interview, what strikes one is the utter banality of his final tour de force (ou de faiblesse, tiens?) wherein he tries to sum up the fruits of his dialogue with the journalist in the following words:
"We have made a step forward in our dialogue. We have observed that in society and the world in which we live selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself."
Crikey, I think to myself. Is that it? Have we got no further here than we might have got by listening to John Lennon's Imagine? I apologise in advance but I just have to say it. This is such patently flaky sentimentalism that it borders unintentionally on the satirical. The pope likes to call the traditionally minded Pelagians but I cannot help detecting a current of Pelagianism myself in this uber-optimistic appraisal of what men can do if they just love each other. You know the game is up when in fact something has gone beyond satire.
It's now gone past 12.30am and I'm losing the will to live, so let me sum up. As much as this interview is a ridiculous exercise, it risks, nevertheless, provoking dangerous fallout. Francis has started to put out the signals - wittingly or unwittingly, I know not - and like wildebeests bellowing out in reply across the savannas of the Church, the liberals are already answering the code. Timothy Radcliffe O.P has broken cover in America magazine to call for communion for the divorced and remarried. I fully expect there to be more interventions of this kind in the next few days.
A second reaction I expect from this interview is that some will continue to strain the limits of interpretation on Francis's chaotic and incoherent pronouncements, so as to ensure that these are reconciled with orthodox belief. It is very well intentioned, and I applaud the sentiment, but I believe it is ultimately unhelpful. Of course we must be attentive to the duties which our piety towards the office of pope imposes. But we cannot be ignorant of history. We cannot just ignore the appalling implications of his words. This tactic is called nailing your trousers to the masts, as fans of Sir Humphrey Appleby know. Of course, the trouble with nailing your trousers to the mast (as opposed to your colours) is that it becomes rather difficult to climb down again. I mention this in a monitory fashion to those of that persuasion.
And lastly, don't expect to see an open reaction from hierarchs who think Francis is out of control. Nobody will break ranks openly. But neither should we underestimate what could be happening behind the scenes. I'm not joking: this interview is utterly frightful in its implications, and nobody with a mitre and a conscience can afford to ignore the most frightful of its implications.
So, that's me done. What on earth is he going to do next? Who knows? Probably another bloody interview!
Let us pray for the Holy Father of course!
Now, how about a lullaby to see us to bed? I thought so ...