“What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.”

Elizabeth Scalia posted her idea at the blog of First Things.  Here is an excerpt.  You can read the rest over there:


Spinning and framing is what takes up most of the time of the mainstream press. That being so, some Catholics on social media are voicing concerns that Pope Francis is being “used” by the press in order to serve their own, gay-sympathetic agenda. Wrote one terribly irate man on Facebook: “Francis hasn’t broken through the media hostility to Catholicism—rather, they think (wrongly, I presume) that he’s an ally in their fight against Catholicism.”

Perhaps they do believe that; perhaps some of them really are “using” Francis. But how do they know he is not “using” them right back?

In Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, we read, “Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.”

Francis is doing precisely that. [Wellll… maybe he is.  Maybe he isn’t.] Unlike Pope Benedict XVI, who was already despised by the press as Cardinal Ratzinger, Francis is the surprising, not-quite-known entity with whom the press is still unfamiliar and thus only marginally prepared to counter. He keeps people on their toes. He declines interviews, then unexpectedly pops in for one, and then proclaims the reality of Church teachings through a subject the press cannot resist covering.


So, if I get this right, Pope Francis purposely makes statements “off-the-cuff”, about alluring topics, perhaps even just ambiguous enough to be controversial, so that the MSM can’t help but bite. That’s when the newsies fall into his trap. The stir that he causes is both a chance to change people’s impressions of the Church and also for the Church’s actual teachings to be brought out and clearly explained when people are paying attention.

Francis baits traps? Is Francis an adept of subtle war? What’s books were in the satchel he carried to Rio? Caesar? Capablanca? Sun Tzu?

Okay, I’m pushing a bit. Maybe Francis is just, I dunno… a crafty old Jesuit?

兵者,詭道也。故能而示之不能,用而示之不用,近而示之遠,遠而示之近,… All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. – Sun Tzu

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Lavrans says:

    I’m not buying it. If nothing else, because the Vatican has been the Vatican’t when it comes to the media. They are practically hopeless.

    Just be clear. Smile. Be clear. When pressed, hold up the Catechism.

  2. MarcAnthony says:

    I like it. Hope it’s true.

  3. “Smile. ” i don’t think this is going to work.

  4. Norah says:

    I no longer find it amusing reading or listening to well known Catholics twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to put an orthodox spin on Pope Francis’ off the cuff comments or doings.

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    Last night, on CNN, Erin Burnett used the word “horrific” to describe the Church’s position on some matters related to homosexuality, but, on the other hand, one of her guests was the director of communications for Opus Dei, who would be unlikely to be on the air if Pope Francis had merely read from the Catechism verbatim while aloft.

  6. McCall1981 says:

    I would love for this to be true, but I dont think it is. I think Pope Francis’ off the cuff remarks have done a lot of damage, and caused further confusion.

  7. vox borealis says:

    I love the Anchoress, and she’s working hard to make this look good. But it’s a tough sled.

  8. MarcAnthony says:

    “I no longer find it amusing reading or listening to well known Catholics twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to put an orthodox spin on Pope Francis’ off the cuff comments or doings.”

    I find it less amusing when people take his orthodox comments and twist them in a way that makes it look like he’s unorthodox.

    Frankly, I’m just going to say it. I don’t think his comments have done any damage, and at least not more than his comments help.

  9. MarcAnthony says:

    I may have to take a break from the comments section. Honestly, I’m tired of you guys. You all seem to be determined to be negative, especially about Pope Francis. Even when we point out that what he says is orthodox, you STILL criticize him, and for what? Not giving a pre-written speech formally approved by Pope Benedict every time he talks? He’s actually toed a very fine line between appeasing the liberal media and staying consistently orthodox.

    He’s given calls to action, and you all find excuses to dislike that. Every speech he makes, you need to find some telltale flaw that says he’s not running the Church exactly how YOU think it should be run. There’s a reason we’re all not the Pope here.

    Just…calm down. Relax. We have a holy, orthodox Pope. That’s great news! It’s not our job to nit-pick every single thing he does for what we consider telltale flaws. The fact is, the media twisted things he said to fit their narrative. Stop crucifying the Pope for this. It’s really disrespectful, honestly.

  10. now Pope Francis is no longer orthodox. He’s damaged the Church,stomped on Pope Emeritus Benedict, he has a fake simplicity.He’s naive. He’s clueless. He has no idea what the Catholic Church teaches. He’s going to toss Marini under the bus. He’s not reverent enough at Mass, he’s confused Catholics and has no inkling of the transcendent.He’s so terrible and stupid why doesn’t he just step down and we’ll have the Church elect a new Pontiff.( just getting warmed up too)

    His comments have done what damage? Other than give the media something to spin and some Catholics something to gripe about.
    If God doesn’t want him to be Pope i’m pretty sure God could arrange it. I’m willing to wait a few months and see what the next sensational story will be. Probably NOT Our Holy Father.

  11. I’m with you Marc Anthony. We should be attacking the MSM,not the Pope. The few comments i put up are representative of only a few things i’ve read. It’s downhill from there.
    Crazy is,as crazy does i guess. Stop in sometime. We’ve been posting info about Pope Francis,Pope Benedict and of course Blessed John Paul II. We need members and boy i hate to promote on Fr Z’s blog …but i stop here frequently anyway. Maybe things will calm down and ppl will take a deep breathe eventually.

  12. Priam1184 says:

    I believe that the Anchoress is overthinking this one. Sometimes what looks like a duck and talks like a duck is in fact… a pope who talks too much.

  13. Priam1184 says:

    @Marc Anthony Why is the Pope toeing lines? Especially when those lines involve “appeasing the liberal media?” This is not what he is in his position to do. His job is to shepherd the flock through this vale of tears and to preach the unvarnished Truth of the Gospel. I can’t speak for everyone else, but that is what makes me upset. And it is not just Francis, it is every Catholic prelate everywhere who kowtow to the world and its values and are always seeking first not to offend rather than preaching the Gospel in all of its beauty and its Truth as we have all been commanded to do. If you and boxerpaws1952 are offended by this then that is too bad.

  14. WesleyD says:

    I, too, would like to believe Elizabeth Scalia’s theory, but like Fr. Z I am skeptical about it.

    But let us suppose that Pope Francis really isn’t media-savvy and his words will be twisted by the media. Does it follow that he should avoid public statements about “controversial” issues?

    I agree with Phil Lawler’s answer to this question:

    The Pope … cannot avoid the discussion of homosexuality simply because reporters might misunderstand him.

    What does the Church say about homosexuality? That it is a disorder, and that homosexual acts are sinful? Yes, yes; definitely. We all know that. But there is another message for homosexuals: a message of mercy. The Church offers support for those who are battling homosexual tendencies, and forgiveness for those who have committed homosexual acts. That’s a core message of the Christian faith: the message of redemption.

    If the Pope didn’t deliver that message, for fear that someone might misinterpret him, wouldn’t he be failing to preach the Gospel in its fullness?

  15. thanks for putting it into perspective Wesley. Terrific!
    I’ve been around the internet .Read some positive feedback and some misinformed feedback.There are non Catholics commenting that the Church may eventually accept homosexuality(meaning the behavior).Pope Francis didn’t misinform them-they hardly know what the Church teaches anyway and would have misconstrued his interview no matter what he said. Most of the comments from Catholics understood perfectly well what Pope Francis was saying.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Fr Z., you probably did not have time, but I have reposted my post on a talk I went to by the Pope’s home press secretary, who has been with him in Rome as well. I highlighted this part of the talk. Remember, this priest worked for the Pope for years and knows him well. These quotations are from March this year.

    On the Pope’s obviously different way of relating as Pope, Fr. Marco said this, “Pope Francis presents himself as the Bishop of Rome. He does not use the title Pope as he wants to relate to the people of Rome.
    He is very deliberate in his actions. He does not act on his feelings.”

    “He thinks about what he does before acting.”

  17. pookiesmom says:

    Wow! I can’t believe all the negativity about Pope Francis on a number of blogs. Father Z, thank you for your voice of reason and sanity in all this and helping your readers wade through all the news about the Holy Father. Father Ray Blake has a wonderful piece about his take on the Holy Father–I think he nails it(it concerns World Youth Day and the plane interview and what Pope Francis is all about). All this criticism of the Holy Father–it just seems so un-Catholic!! How about just pray for him and his intentions instead of criticize.

  18. Johnsum says:

    What concerns this commenter is that the HF is pictured as a skillful politician who makes ambiguous statements to mislead presumably his enemies. John Allen remarks in a recent article that “after a while tone becomes substance.” I tend to think this also. So, those who see the HF as a skillful manipulator forget that not every one thinks that is an advantage. Catholics look at any Pope as the VICAR of CHRIST. I believe Jesus calls all of us the stand up for truth in season and out of season no matter what will be the consequence.

  19. Bosco says:

    “He who sups with the devil (media) should have a long spoon.”

  20. Peter in Canberra says:

    I’m not buying it. I don’t think he/we are getting an orthodox bounce out of it (as in anyone knowing more clearly what the Church teaches/offers). It all just seems so, random.

  21. PA mom says:

    This has been my thinking for a little bit now. I don’t know whether I think it started deliberately, but once they gave him a platform over and over, it is more a matter of keeping it going.
    To have te Church appear loving and sincere through our Pope is not a bad thing, it is very helpful. It has made some new family discussions possible. Thank you, God.

  22. Charles E Flynn says:

    Pope Francis in Context, by Ross Douthat, at the New York Times.

  23. Scott W. says:

    Pope Benedict taught Catholics to grow up and take responsibility for our own faith and gave us tools like the Sumorum. to do it. Pope Francis’ pontificate is the cue that it is time to start acting like grown ups.

    But, if you think it emboldens the dissidents just think of them like Kurgen in Highlander when he comes looking to kill Connor and Ramirez declares, “You’re too late! I’ve prepared him for you!”

  24. RJHighland says:

    I think Elizabeth may be onto something here. Scott W, love the Highlander reference and very true we must prepare ourselves to make a good defense or our faith, God requires us to. What I think Elizabeth is saying Pope Frances is doing is very probable and a position on homosexuality that we should not down play but learn to use in our everyday life. Cardinal Dolan even re-enforced it. You attack the proponents of homosexuality, who attack our beloved Church and faith on a daily basis with hate and slander, with love and compassion. They say we are homophobes and haters, which I am neither and would bet that the majority of faithful Catholics out there are not either, but we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin. We are called to evangelize to these folks with love but a call to conversion from sin. Our goal is to bring everyone to Christ even the homosexuals but not to the faux faith in Christ where God loves everyone and everyone is justified no matter what sin they may have in their life and there is no call to repentance. The battle is not with the sinner but with a society that does not believe sin exists except it is hateful and sinful to condemn any sinful behavior, homosexuality, contraception, fornication, promotion of a social services system that promotes single parent families, sloth, gluttony, dependence on government and not family and faith, and promiscuity. The media is going to have a very difficult time getting the populace to hate Pope Francis like they were able to turn the general population against Pope Benedict XVI but I pray this is Pope Francis’ strategy and I pray that it works. Love the sinner; call the sinner to repentance and conversion through an intellectual defense of Church teaching. With love teach why a sin is harmful to body and soul and everlasting happiness. It is a challenging road to go done and not be labeled a hater. Father I think your post on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Heart ordeal has had a profound impact on my approach to the faith and evangelization, thank you. One last thing the progressives always like to through the judge not least you be judged thing at you when you are condemning a sinful behavior. What I always like to point out is that Jesus called the woman, supposedly Mary Magdalene, to go forth and sin no more and that the men that were judging her were judging her to death. So I will say I am not judging you, for if I were I would gather a mob and take you out back and stone you, that is not what I am trying to do here, I am trying to profess the word of God and teach a wayward lamb to bring it back to the herd.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Norah,
    I on my turn do not find it amusing at all when Catholics do not know the difference between “unorthodox” and “orthodox but imprudent” or “orthodox but false focus” or “orthodox but in a matter free to opinions and I have a different one”, least of all when that leads to the accusation of the Holy Father himself as unorthodox.

    (I’m not saying here that the Holy Father’s actions are “orthodox but imprudent” or “orthodox but false focus” or even “orthodox but in a matter free to opinions and I have a different one”, but this is something that is a matter of opinion.)

    There’s no doubt that in all the comments we are talking about, there was not the slightest bit of actual unorthodoxy.

  26. Unwilling says:

    More than the Pope’s blurting out this sort of thing,
    what hurts is the easy way the media rub our noses in it.
    But it hurts, is painful to us. That’s a fact.

    Yet, if we know that the Church is
    One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
    and that She is protected by the infinite power of the Holy Spirit,
    then where/what is the tender spot inside us
    that allows such antics to cause pain?
    It is in our self-regard, our pride, our honour.

    To set things straight in the Church,
    the move will be away from what we call liberalism
    back to tradition.
    As that happens (it will happen),
    the liberals will feel the pain;
    it is already happening (since 1979),
    they feel it, they cry.

    Remember from the story of the prodigal son (Lc 15:20b)
    cum autem adhuc longe esset vidit illum pater… misericordia
    The Father was watching for his wayward son
    longe — from far off
    misericordia — with mercy
    He was not watching for the faithful elder son
    who had kept the faith and preserved the wealth.

    When we “do” the Stations of the Cross,
    besides the pain, do we feel the joy?

  27. Dennis Martin says:

    I think Elizabeth Scalia is right in many ways: Pope Francis is paying attention to style and is seeking to be a populist of sorts, shirtsleeves, evangelical.

    However media-savvy, not so much. And that’s not a criticism of him. Media-savviness is a difficult skill to acquire. As Bishop of Rome the pope needs a large enough skill set already. It would be wonderful if a pope also has the skill of media-savviness, but the other skills are more important, all things considered.

    Media-savviness consists above all in ability to have a vision, several moves ahead, of how each word one says will play in the media.

    If only he had added one word to his final off-the-cuff response. (And I agree with those who point out that he must have been physically very tired by that point and perhaps for that reason his ad hoc press conference, at least at the length it ended up, was imprudent. If only he had added “abstinence” or “continence” in the phrase about “heart seeking God.” it would have been clearer that he was not opening the way to the Church approving gay (meaning sexually active) priests or approving of same-sex activity.

    To him it’s a no brainer that a person with same-sex orientation whose heart is seeking after God would be sexually abstinent. To the media and the general culture, that is simply not a given. And to be media-savvy we have to realize that. For them “gay person” means a sexually active person. They cannot conceive of anything else. And they also now simply take for granted that unmarried heterosexuals are normally sexually active. To be media-savvy we have to see the wheels turning in their little heads and understand that what’s in our minds (a person devoutly seeking God will be chaste which means continent for the unmarried and for homosexuals) is not in their minds, cannot be in their minds without a total conversion of mind. They can’t read what’s in our minds, so we have to make it clear.

    As hard as it is for us to understand, for the hard-core sexual libertines (gay or straight), one can be devoutly seeking in one’s heart after God AND be sexually active in a “committed” relationship. (Fundamental option and all that.) Really, truly, they believe this. They cannot conceive how we think otherwise. The sexual revolution has gone that far.

    I am anything but media-savvy. In hindsight I can make this analysis of the tiny missing word in the pope’s statement, but I am incapable of doing this on my feet and off the cuff. Media-savviness includes the analysis but also the practical ability to, on the fly, do the analysis and choose the right words. I thank God for all the media-savvy priests and bishops and lay people out there engaging in the battles. It would be wonderful if the pope had this skill together with all his other skills, which are many. But I don’t think he does, at least not when he’s bone-fatigued.

    He left out one key word.

    But that doesn’t make him unorthodox. Shame on those who calumnize him.

  28. teomatteo says:

    I liked that the Holy Father did not give the interview before he landed because his statements would have taken away from his visit. And he said that he didn’t give interviews. A poverty of words sometimes is worthy. But he spoke and I think with charity I stand with his words. I found Cardinal Dolan who said something about a ‘change of tone’ to be more confusing.

  29. SimonDodd says:

    Norah says: “I no longer find it amusing reading or listening to well known Catholics twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to put an orthodox spin on Pope Francis’ off the cuff comments or doings.” Amen. boxerpaws1952 insists that “[w]e should be attacking the MSM, not the Pope,” but the thing is that the MSM is doing nothing more than printing the soundbites Francis feeds them. That is what they do. Is feeding misleading soundbites to the press what popes do? Francis doesn’t seem to grasp (and neither does Scalia) that these soundbites cause scandal. They are taken and plugged into a narrative by the media and by dissenting Catholics—and don’t tell me that they are “twisted,” because they aren’t. They aren’t being twisted. We read orthodoxy into them because we want to, and they read heterodoxy into them because they want to, and I’m pretty sure that I remember reading a piece a few months ago that could have predicted this insofar as it argued that this is precisely what Card. Bergoglio did in his last billet.

  30. David Zampino says:

    I greatly appreciate Father Z’s thoughtful and insightful commentary. I also greatly appreciate Marc Antony’s remarks. Thank you both for your voices of reason.

  31. Chrysologus says:

    MarcAnthony said it well. The conservative backlash against the pope (who could have imagined it!) has become quite the ugly spectacle, while the attempts to spin him into what he obviously is not (the First Things post about the 5 myths was a notable example) are pathetic.

  32. Dennis Martin says:

    Simon Dodd. No. Soundbites are produced in a mutual, not one-way, operation. The MSM edits what people say. Editing can TOTALLY reverse the substance. There is no such thing as feeding the media soundbites. One can say things in such a way as to make distortion harder but no one can totally control how the MSM presents something. The George Zimmerman case is an example. Based on evilly fraudulent editing an inderadicable myth has been created, that Zimmermann had racist intent. (He did not identify the race of Trayvon Martin until specifically asked to do so by a non-police dispatcher.)

    Now, apply this to the pope’s “press conference.” Above I have argued that he might have inserted one word into “seeking after the Lord” to make distortion more difficult.

    But the way his comments were reported by much of the MSM bears little relationship to what he actually said.

    You may not morally accuse him of feeding to the press the soundbites that (some, most) of the MSM “plugged into” their reports to the world. They left off key words in some phrases. That is, some of the soundbites he did craft, they distorted, literally (that is, letter-by-letter). They left out his clear restatement of the Church’s teaching on the immorality of homosexual act.

    That the most widesspread meme (Francis is different from Benedict, opens the way to change in doctrine) WAS NOT FED TO THE PRESS by the Holy Father is clear from the isolated media outlets who DID report that he affirmed traditional teaching on the wrongness of the acts while they also tried to claim that he was somehow different from Benedict. (I think that would be a fair characterization of at least one report on the BBC that I saw.)

    Whatever failings and flaws Pope Francis has, misleading people and misrepresenting the Catholic faith in soundbites he FED to the media is not one of them. It is wrong to accuse him of that.

    Fault him for imprudence, yes. For lack of consummate skill, yes. But placing the blame for media memes entirely on him (and that’s what your comment does) is as misleading and distorting and false as you accuse him of being. Sort of a splinter and beam moment, I dare say.

  33. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Dennis Martin,
    To him it’s a no brainer that a person with same-sex orientation whose heart is seeking after God would be sexually abstinent.

    I doubt that this is the Holy Father’s opinion, and it is not mine. To the Holy Father it is a no-brainer that a person with ssa whose heart is seeking after God (just as one whose heart isn’t, though he then would have to change that in the first place) is obliged to be sexually abstinent… but certainly the Holy Father does know that there is sin around even in believers and God-seekers. Nevertheless the believers and God-seekers are believers and God-seekers even if they are sinners.

    As hard as it is for us to understand, for the hard-core sexual libertines (gay or straight), one can be devoutly seeking in one’s heart after God AND be sexually active in a “committed” relationship.

    Because one, er, can. Men’s hearts are complicated.

    If one is (and if the committed relationship is not marriage of course), one is quite mis-informed, or consciously sinning against the same God one is seeking, or possibly both.

    But still that does not mean that one is not seeking God.

    Though I bet that the sentence “They are obliged to abstinence” was a no-brainer to the Pope, which he left out because he thought the matter clear and not in need of endless repetition. Which, perhaps, deserves your “he left out a key word” analysis.

  34. “Spinning and framing is what takes up most of the time of the mainstream press.”

    And of traditional and conservative Catholics as well?

  35. Scarltherr says:

    I deal with this issue all the time in my university classes. The Holy Father said what needed to be said. It would have been nice if he had phrased it differently. Here’s what I wish he had said:
    “Homosexuals who do not act on their disordered inclination should not be judged, anymore than we can judge with the knowledge God has of any person’s soul. The church strives to show mercy and compassion to all people, because we are all fallen and sinful in some way.” That is what his message was, I think.

  36. SimonDodd says:

    Dennis, I reject that. While it is true that editing can change and indeed reverse the substance, you have only to look to Allen’s transcript—unless, that is, you are charging Allen with distortion. Francis fed the media a soundbite. They interpreted it through their lens (cf. Jeff Tucker’s excellent piece here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/#6946942151857258918 ), and I am certainly not going to claim that no outlet distorted it, but the soundbite standing alone, reported faithfully, as Allen appears to have done is scandalous in itself. And this is far from the first time that this has happened; this pope cannot seem to stop babbling no matter how many times his words fan the flames of scandal. I do fault him for imprudence, yes; a pope cannot stop the press from distorting his words, as Benedict knew, but you can make it harder and less likely by (1) speaking in complete sentences and (2) ensuring that there is always a transcript or recording that can be referenced. Who among you would speak to a reporter without recording the conversation? Not one, I trust. (If you would: Congratulations on never having spoken to a reporter before, and good luck.) And you are not the pope!

  37. Robbie says:

    I’m very skeptical of Elizabeth Scalia’s view. In fact, I don’t buy it. Francis is who he is and I think it would be best if we not contort ourselves to make him into something he’s not. His priorities, his style, and his tone are simply different from Benedict. And in some cases, so is the message.

  38. BLB Oregon says:

    Pope Francis and his predecessor have this in common: while they both know how to be discreet (a man does not become a cardinal without that), they both speak the way they speak. I don’t think either one has any guile in him, nor does either one speak with the idea that someone may add an interpretation that implies dissent with the truth. They do not think like politicians, and they don’t talk like politicians, or at least not like secular politicians. I realize there is politics anywhere there are human beings put in charge of others; this cannot be helped–but I do not mean the kind of politics that operate in a seminary or a religious order. I mean modern politics, and especially post-Nixon politics. Unlike Bl. John Paul II, the last two Popes did not have professional backgrounds that would give them an awareness of the inescapable work of stagecraft that comes with being Pope, the unparalleled enormity of it, whether the Pope likes it or not.

    There was a time when a Pope did not have to conduct himself as if he were always on a stage, but those days are gone. It reminds me of someone who asked Reagan about how on earth he could be President with a background as an actor. His reply was that he could not imagine how previous Presidents had ever done their jobs without it.

  39. P says:

    Father, something between what you said, “Crafty old Jesuit,” and what Elizabeth Scalia says, seems to me to be right on the mark. Trained by crafty old Jesuits–they’d be 100 years old if any of them were still alive–who still faithful Catholics I know one when I see one. So, in fact, I think you are right, entirely, after all.

    Most of all, I am writing to thank you for your wise counsel to your blog readers after this news and the decision about the OF re the friars.

    God bless.

  40. unavoceman says:

    “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near”

    I don’t know if this is the Pope’s MO. It has occurred to me. I know it’s a strategy that worked famously for Muhammad Ali. And for a guy named Lincoln.

    Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Maybe he’s the rope-a-dope Pope. First you get them drunk, then you mug them. I’m still thinking this guy makes Obama even more nervous than he makes us. Someone with that much influence over young people? What if he suddenly decides to turn them out in the streets against O’s dearly beloved abortion clinics? Could happen. Francis may be questionable to some people (right and left) but he is still not the media lovable Catholic ala Sebelius and Biden. He is not showing all his cards. They have already played their hand.

    And who cares what the media says about anything? Is there any institution in our society that is more beyond redemption than the main stream media? I’ve worked in plenty of newsrooms. I’ve seen how the sausage is made. The story that most typifies the media in our day is the reporting of the SF station on the names of the airplane crew of the recent crash…(“sum ting wong” etc.). The process by which that “information” made it through an entire newsroom staff is emblematic of how they process “the truth”, and of the general level of intellect you will find in a given newsroom.
    Don’t get so bent out of shape by the pronouncements by over rated, mildly educated people. Every reaction by the press to everything that happens is totally predictable and telegraphed like a punch thrown by a tottering drunk in a bar fight. I’m betting that Francis knows this. Rope-a-dope Pope. Let’s hope.

  41. Gretchen says:

    May I comment as a relatively recent convert (2008)?

    I have noticed a tendency on the part of some Catholics to indeed twist themselves into pretzels in an attempt to “make right” what a cleric has said or done. This seems to be a tendency that is more pronounced among traditional Catholics, who I think feel more angst and pain when a cleric says or does something that is not orthodox, at least according to their own understanding of orthodox Catholicism.

    Living in the trenches of the world, so to speak, we laity sometimes bear the brunt of what a cleric or “The Church” has said/done to a family member, friend, or co-worker. We are sometimes the ones on the ground who have to explain what was said/done; hence Elizabeth Scalia’s explanation. It’s how she’s wrapping her head around the situation. I happen to think she’s quite wrong, but I understand the deep-seated desire to make sense of it all. I feel her pain, so to speak.

    I found myself doing the same thing for awhile. But one day it just hit me, and hit me hard: Stop trying to fix things you can’t fix! People in authority say the wrong things in the wrong way all the time. When they say the right thing in the right way, the press will surely twist it out of context to suit their own agenda. I think in some ways, the attempt to “fix” or explain what a pope or a bishop or a deacon said is more our own inner battle with faith. How do I walk the tight rope of what I know to be true (assuming you are correct), with what Pope Francis just said, or Cardinal Dolan just did?

    We must simply accept that these things happen. They cause damage and harm peoples’ faith in God and the Church. I hate it. I hate accepting it, but you can drive yourself crazy and lose your own faith if you are always trying to square what is said/done as opposed to what is true and right. If our worst imaginings about Pope Francis are true (and I will let you decide what that would be), then what is our recourse? Always, it is to go to the foot of the Cross and ask for succor. The art of war belongs to the LORD (to paraphrase Scripture).

  42. Ben Kenobi says:

    Tools are reliable – they cut where you want them to cut and only where you want them to cut. The MSM is slippery and unreliable.

  43. Faith says:

    I don’t know if the pope consciously has a strategy of not. Remember our God turns bad into good. I think the “sound bites” the media highlight, get people’s attention. Then they read and hopefully read more, and I pray, eventually will let the Holy Spirit work.

    IOW, anything that gets people to read what the pope says has merit.

  44. maryh says:

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that Pope Francis has a strategy of baiting the media. But I do agree with Elizabeth Scalia that he knows exactly what he’s doing. And by the way, when we argue in comboxes that Pope Francis might actually have said something unorthodox when he HASN’T (not so much here, but I’ve seen it elsewhere), we’re just buying into the MSM’s spin and ADDING to it. That’s what they WANT everyone to think.

    Reminds me of an exchange with my husband lately (paraphrased).
    Him: So did you hear the Pope’s changing the teaching on homosexuality now?
    Me: Yeah right. [sarcasm] He just said hate the sin, love the sinner.
    Him: I knew they didn’t have it right.

    I keep hearing people say how “confusing” Pope Francis is. How? Because he keeps the Church’s ORTHODOX teaching in front of the media? Of COURSE the MSM is going to spin it to look unorthodox. That’s what they DO. That’s what they did to dear Papa emeritus Benedict, and continue to do to him. In his case, the UNORTHODOX spin was that the Church hates sinners. It’s so heart-breaking to hear them laud Pope Francis for saying some of the exact same things (sometimes even with the exact same words) that Pope Benedict did. And I loved his reference to Pope Benedict as a humble man.

    Did the spin the MSM put on Pope Francis convince anyone who didn’t already think it could, that the Church was changing its teaching on homosexuality? I doubt it. As @boxerpaws1952 said Pope Francis didn’t misinform them-they hardly know what the Church teaches anyway and would have misconstrued his interview no matter what he said.

    But it did bring up the subject for conversation, and there were some MSM sources who got it right. It gets people start talking about what the church says, and then WE have the chance to point out what the Pope really said – to coworkers and family, as @PA mom said, who are now actually interested in listening to us. One great combox commenter simply pointed out in his comment that he too was very happy about Pope Francis said about gay people – including the fact the homosexual actions were wrong – and linked to what Pope Francis actually said.

    And in the meantime, the MSM has made it blazingly clear that Pope Francis does NOT hate homosexuals. He’s turning the whole “if you think homosexual actions are wrong, you must be a homophobe who hates homosexuals” upside down.

    I think the MSM doesn’t quite understand the paradigm shift of the internet yet. They just don’t have a corner on information anymore. It’s too easy, even for the ignorant and uneducated, to check them out. Or to talk to some who has checked them out. But I think Pope Francis understands it quite well.

  45. SimonDodd says:

    Mary, the word “unorthodox” appears in comments on this post eight times at time of writing. Of those eight times, eight involve people faulting other commenters for accusing Pope Francis of unorthodox comments. Zero involve other commenters accusing Pope Francis of unorthodox comments.

  46. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The best transcript I’ve seen is the one that the Curt Jester linked, from El Pais. It’s in Spanish, but it actually publishes the questions and answers pretty darned completely.


    It also features the Pope’s horrible pun and the first use I’ve seen in years of the 2nd person plural (now rare in the Spanish-speaking world except in Argentina, but we learned it in my Spanish class!).

    So the Pope says that it’s about the dinner hour. “Are y’all hungry?”

    And the reporter says, “No. Are you (Usted) tired (cansado)?”

    “No, I’m not married (casado). I’m single.”

  47. maryh says:


    Hmmm. I suppose this is mainly a response to “Catholics twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to put an orthodox spin on Pope Francis’ off the cuff comments or doings.” @Nora doesn’t directly say the Pope’s comments were unorthodox, though.

    Maybe I’m reacting more to what I’ve seen elsewhere – the main criticism here seems not so much that the Pope said something that was actually unorthodox so much as that he said something that was too easy to spin to sound unorthodox.

  48. SimonDodd says:

    Faith says: “IOW, anything that gets people to read what the pope says has merit.” Do you think that the average person reads the “who am I to judge” soundbite and goes back to read what the Pope says? Or do you think it’s more likely that they file it away and bludgeon Catholics over the head with it later on? I think Gretchen’s remark preempts this, and it’s well-taken: “I have noticed a tendency on the part of some Catholics to indeed twist themselves into pretzels in an attempt to ‘make right’ what a cleric has said or done. … Living in the trenches of the world, so to speak, we laity sometimes bear the brunt of what a cleric or ‘The Church’ has said/done to a family member, friend, or co-worker. We are sometimes the ones on the ground who have to explain what was said/done; hence Elizabeth Scalia’s explanation. It’s how she’s wrapping her head around the situation. I happen to think she’s quite wrong, but I understand the deep-seated desire to make sense of it all.”

  49. SimonDodd says:

    Mary, it seems to me that what those of us who are critical of Francis are accusing him of is fecklessness and scandal. A perfectly orthodox statement can be phrased in such a way that it causes scandal, and that is precisely what Francis has done, over and over again. He throws out a soundbite—often in untranscribed homilies or unrecorded interviews, which makes it far worse—that, when one really thinks about it, actually conforms precisely with what the Church teaches, but it’s phrased in a way that’s inapt or jarring and then the world uses it to beat Benedict over the head, or to beat Catholics over the head. Just look at the rapturous response of the world to “who am I to judge”; the idea that this is subtly using the press to convey Catholic truth is beyond naive. He fed them the soundbite, and all they had to do was amplify it. They didn’t even have to twist it.

  50. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonDodd,

    the dear @Norah said: … “Catholics twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to put an orthodox spin” etc. (And you concurred with that.)

    It is a rhetorical trick to make much of the curious incidence that the word “unorthodox” perhaps did not appear in comments accusing the Pope of unorthodoxy (I believe you so far), but this coincidence does not add to the substance in facts.

  51. P says:

    It is not, to my knowledge, the place of the laity to judge the Pope for orthodoxy, much less to be “critical” of him. In fact, Canon Law, easily available on line, forbids such stuff in public, which is why I no longer darken the door of Rorate, a hothouse of that. Opinion may be free, but it is not Catholic to broadcast it as a first response.

  52. McCall1981 says:

    Simon Dodd,
    I came in to write a comment but you said it better than I would have. Perfetly explained, thank you.

  53. StJude says:

    Pope Francis is playing 3 dimensional chess?
    Yeah.. I don’t think so.. I think he hasn’t figured out yet that the press is not his friend. They will ignore what he says that they don’t like and make wild headlines about what they want to hear.
    The whole world has a gay agenda right now.. certainly he can see that. The press has turned what he said into making it sound like the Pope is pro sodomy. geesh.

  54. smmclaug says:

    Or it could simply be that Francis is a conspicuously clumsy and inarticulate communicator, particularly when speaking in English, and is much more comfortable making extravagant but painfully shallow gestures, the kind beloved of South American proletarians who despise men of power.

    The idea that he is some master manipulator of the media is just ludicrous. It is more or less exactly the same thing that was said about George Bush by his defenders for years. The much simpler explanation–that he really did just say a lot of stupid things, or at least that he said a lot of things stupidly–was plainly correct from the beginning. So it is with Pope Francis. I wish it was otherwise, but these desperate attempts to paint him as a crafty layer of crafty traps, because he’s so brilliant and crafty, are truly pathetic. We should admit our situation.

  55. Imrahil says:

    Dear @P,

    that’s, imho, not true either. At least I do not know of such a rule of Canon Law, nor did brief looking through canons 204-231, 1371-1373 show me there was one.

    What is true is that theologians have to keep due obedience to authority (which is stated in the context of their general freedom of expression), can 218. Arguably that can be extended by appeal to the mind of the legislator to the general laity… but: obedience is certainly compatible with being critical. It could even be made sort of a definition of obedience to obey to such orders one is at the same time critizing. “I protest, respectfully”, as Captain Brittles said to Major Allshard.

  56. P says:

    Yes, you should admit your situation, that you have given no reason for anybody to believe your grotesque non-argument, not least because there is no such reason: “The much simpler explanation–that he really did just say a lot of stupid things, or at least that he [President George Bush] said a lot of things stupidly–was plainly correct from the beginning. So it is with Pope Francis.”

  57. racjax says:

    I voted a ‘2’when this all started and still stand by that, now even more so than then.

  58. P says:

    @ Imrahil: Thanks for your reply. I get what you mean. But I don’t assume that “critical” means the hothouse venting and ignoramus rantings such as are standard online, necessarily making public what is at best opinion. No way on heaven or earth Canon Law foresees such stuff as true obedience.

  59. NBW says:

    1. Why are so many people getting their news about the Pope from the secular MSM???

    2. I find that many of the things the Pope has said hit me the wrong way the first time; then after reading some good, solid orthodox commentaries on blogs, I begin to see things differently. He might appear to say things that seem out there, but remember the Holy Spirit is driving.

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  61. McCall1981 says:

    I agree with you and have found the same thing, that when you read solid orthodox blogs and really think about it, his comments are actually orthodox. But that is exactly the problem. We shouldn;t have to read solid orthodox blogs and REALLY think about it in order to see the orthodoxy. His statements should be clear and orthodox on their own. The media will of course exploit this, and also the vast majority of Catholics and non-Catholics wil NOT read up on solid orthodox blogs and will NOT really think about it, and thus they come away mislead. The Pope’s comments about atheists going to heaven and about homosexuals were technically orthodox, but the message the world received is that everyone goes to heaven and gay is ok. And this message that is received by the world is what really matters, not whether knowledgable Catholics can research enough to eventually find the orthodoxy.

  62. StJude says:

    @NBW… my concern is not for faithful Catholics who will diligently make sure they understand correctly.
    Its the great unwashed masses out there who hear a soundbite and believe something totally different about the Catholic church.. those people aren’t going to research a thing.

    Satan uses confusion to keep people away from the one true church.

  63. SimonDodd says:

    Imrahil, I don’t read Norah’s comment as accusing Francis of unorthodoxy, I read it as accusing Scalia et al of attempting to put a deliberately-orthodox spin on his comment. They are trying to rationalize a comment that was stupid, not one that was heterodox; they are trying to make it seem as though Francis knows what he’s doing, that he’s deliberately running a con on the media by stuffing an orthodox comment into a tasty treat, when in fact it’s far more likely that he did precisely what Dennis Martin said above: He made a comment without thinking about it and without understanding how it would be perceived. Francis, says Dennis, takes for franted that “a person with same-sex orientation whose heart is seeking after God would be sexually abstinent. To the media and the general culture, [however,] that is simply not a given. And to be media-savvy we have to realize that. For them ‘gay person’ means a sexually active person. They cannot conceive of anything else.” Dennis thinks “that’s not a criticism of him”; it is. It’s a brutal and utterly trenchant criticism of him. For a pope to have so complete a failure of empathy and media savvy that he can’t understand how “who am I to judge” will play is a very serious criticism.

  64. Traductora says:

    @suburbanbanshee y todo el mundo

    For those who may not know, the Pope spoke almost entirely in Italian. He’s from Argentina and in fact from an Italian immigrant family (there are many Italians in Argentina, and for many Spanish-speakers, the Buenos Aires accent is so Italian that it sounds like another language).

    Conversely, I can understand it easily, because I have a passive knowledge of Italian – which means a reading and listening knowledge, but not being able to respond very well – and because Argentinian Italian is Spanish-accented Italian.

    He spoke some beautiful words, especially these, regarding the ordination of women:
    “En cuanto a la ordenación de las mujeres, la Iglesia ha hablado y dice no. Lo dijo Juan Pablo II, pero con una formulación definitiva. Esa puerta está cerrada. Pero sobre esto quiero decirles algo: la Virgen María era más importante que los apóstoles y que los obispos y que los diáconos y los sacerdotes. La mujer en la Iglesia es más importante que los obispos y que los curas. ¿Cómo? Esto es lo que debemos tratar de explicitar mejor. Creo que falta una explicitación teológica sobre esto.”

    This is probably available in English somewhere, but I haven’t found it. The most important thing, after he says that the door is closed to women’s ordination and that JPII had already said this definitively, is this: “The Virgin Mary was more important than the Apostles and bishops and the priests and the deacons. Woman in the church is more important than bishops and priests. Why? That’s something that we have got to explain better. I think we need a theological explanation of this.”

    And everything that he said about homosexuals was perfectly orthodox, too, and wouldn’t have raised eyebrows if good old Fr. McGillicudy had said it back in anybody’s home parish in wherever. Love the sinner, hate the sin, and don’t let the sin take on an identity of its own (the gay lobby) and invade the Church.

  65. Traductora says:


    I forgot to say thank you for posting that link! There were a few videos there of selected parts of his talk, which I didn’t realize when I saw the first El Pais article and only found through your link!

    For those who don’t know, El Pais is the Spanish equivalent of the New York Times and I believe is now even owned by the NYT company.

  66. Cathy says:

    I honestly think we lose focus when we think of the “gay lobby” as simply those who are homosexual who want to change Church teaching on homosexuality. To be honest, I think it is simply a part of a larger lobby that wants the Church to say there is no such thing as sexual sin. A mortal sin encompasses both full knowledge and consent of the will. I find it interesting, a priest who consistently preaches about helping the poor will be lauded for his preaching-good. A priest who even mentions that abortion, birth control, fornication and sodomy are sinful, will find himself in the midst of protest – one has to ask, are those who respond in protest “sincere” in seeking Christ? In an age where pew polls increasingly show large numbers of Catholics in support of so-called gay marriage, abortion, co-habitation and artificial birth control, how critical is it that we hear the truth of Catholic teaching in regards to these matters?

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  68. McCall1981 says:

    Simon Dodd, you said:
    “For a pope to have so complete a failure of empathy and media savvy that he can’t understand how “who am I to judge” will play is a very serious criticism.”
    This is exactly the point I go back and forth on. It seems that Pope Francis is either, A) trying to send a fully orthodox message, but isn’t good at dealing with the media, slips up and unfortunately offers them some easy to distort quotes, or B) that he is sending exactly the message he intends to send. Now I agree that we should try to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he has good motives behind these things he has said, but I have not yet been able to totally convince myself of this. Reading that interview where he says his position on homosexuality is “that of the Church” and that he is a “son of the Church” is somewhat reassuring in this regard. But it seems that a lot of us orthodox/conservative/trad Catholics can’t figure out if these scandalous comments are mistakes or are intentional.

  69. SimonDodd says:

    Incidentally, in full disclosure, I should say that the supposedly “terribly irate” person quoted by Scalia was me. I wasn’t irate at all, but it’s interesting that that’s the tone that she reads into comments that are critical of Francis’ critics.

  70. Renaissance77 says:

    And this message that is received by the world is what really matters, not whether knowledgeable Catholics can research enough to eventually find the orthodoxy.

    If the person who is lost is out there hears something non-orthodox from the mass media, and it gets them to think that the Church is worth looking into, to me that’s more important than someone twisting words around. You can’t control the twisting. It will happen no matter what. In business, when something like this happens, you either confront it head on, but often you just make the realization that any coverage is advertising you didn’t have to pay for.

    Remember the story of the prodigal son? We shouldn’t worry so much about orthodoxy at the expense of not welcoming a brother or sister home.

  71. JPMedico says:

    Do you all realize the amount of despair and hopelessness in the world right now?
    I’m a physician. I see it every day. Constantly. You would not believe the number of people on antidepressant medications (unfortunately the meds are just a “patch”, the real problem is likely a spiritual malaise). The Pope sees it too, I’m sure (hence his comments about staying positive). What the world needs right now is hope. I submit to you that bashing barely catechized nominal Catholics over the head with “hard doctrine” won’t do anything to bring them back and will only push them away even further. They can struggle with the “hard sayings” later after they’re hooked. What they need to hear now is love. To paraphrase the Catholic mommy-blogger Simcha Fisher: He’s not talking to you when he says these things. He’s talking to the down trodden and the ones mired in hopelessness. Different people need to hear different things at different times. You may thing he’s saying the wrong things… too much… not enough… the wrong way… whatever… But that’s only because you don’t need to hear it right now, but someone else is also hearing it and it’s exactly what he needs to hear to start him on the road back to the fold.

  72. James C says:

    It’s painful to see Cardinal Dolan and others try to clarify things to the MSM. They can’t say “nothing new here, just move along”, because obviously Francis’s use of the phrase “being gay” and “who am I to judge?” and seeming openness to admittance of sincere “gay people” to holy orders, etc. are certainly something new from a Pope. The Holy Father’s explainers seem to have had to settle on variations of “Church doctrine hasn’t changed, but there has been a ‘change of tone’.” (Cardinal Dolan’s phrase).

    Now what pains me about the “change of tone” line is the (inevitable) implication that the tone *needed* to be changed, that somehow the Pope Emeritus’s tone regarding homosexuals, by contrast, was harsh and unloving.

    The effect is that Benedict is once again the villain, unfavourably compared to his holy, loving, humble, Christ-like successor.

    I really wish the present Holy Father would make some gestures to emphasise that he is in continuity with his predecessor, even at the risk of upsetting the lovefest he’s currently getting from the MSM.

  73. McCall1981 says:

    Well said, I certainly see the wisdom in your point, and yes, we should never lose sight of that side of the equation. But hasn’t the world been hearing the “love” without the “hard teachings” for the past five decades? I mean, the plan you mention here seems to be exactly what the Church has been doing non-stop, 24/7 since Vat II? I could turn the point around and say, when (in the last 50 years) has the world NOT been hearing “love” at the expense of “Truth”? Francis didn’t invent it, it’s all the Church does any way (for the most part), and it has had terrible results. In my opinion, that kind of plan is what got the Church into such a bad situation in the first place, so continuing on with it, or amplifying it, hardly seems to be the solution.

  74. James C says:

    My brother is an out-and-proud practicing homosexual and a hardened atheist. He says he loves Pope Francis. But he loves him because he thinks the Holy Father has loosened up the Church’s “oppressive” teachings on homosexuality. He gets that impression from the MSM’s poor coverage, but also from Francis’s reticence to forthrightly explain the Church’s teaching against homosexual acts and to speak out against the campaigns for “same-sex marriage” (many of whose campaigners in Western countries are Catholics).

    Is not my brother only going to be bitterly disappointed when he learns that the Pope and the Church have not, after all, come around to his side? Is this current ambiguity likely to bring him closer to conversion once he sees the truth?

  75. could we recall one Pope Pius XII that to this day anti Catholics keep the story going that he turned his back on the Jewish people and the Catholic Church itself turned a blind eye to the Holocaust.
    I’ve even read accusations that Hitler was a Catholic and i mean practicing Catholic-and that Catholics as much as aided the Nazi’s.
    I would blame a lot of that on the media of his day.
    NBW said,

    “NBW says 1. Why are so many people getting their news about the Pope from the secular MSM??? ” exactly.
    They doctored the Zimmerman sound bytes leaving out parts so they could deliberately make him look like a racist.They put up photos of Martin so they could give the impression he was a youngster-a child. And someone else commented(I can’t find it now) “Who cares what the media says?!” Amen!
    Someone else believed you could read orthodox or unorthodox into what he said depending on your pov. Sorry.Not buying that. He’s either orthodox or he’s not.No pov is going to change that.
    That the media has an agenda and can twist what people say is the bottom line here. They’ve been doing it for years.
    They can make you look brilliant and they can make you look stupid and they can do it so well people will actually vote for someone as diabolical as Obama.
    Here’s a comment that really stood out to me and is exactly what i am saying here,

    ” It is more or less exactly the same thing that was said about George Bush by his defenders for years. The much simpler explanation–that he really did just say a lot of stupid things, or at least that he said a lot of things stupidly–was plainly correct from the beginning.:”

    Plainly correct to who? I never though Pres Bush was an Einstein but he was never as stupid as the media deliberately made him out to be.Nor did i think Obama was the wonder worker that they deliberately made him out to be.
    So much for the media. I have gotten to the point i could care less what they put out there anymore.PERIOD.I am not going to commit calumny against Pope Francis for one second until there is proof positive he is unorthodox and it won’t be from the media.
    Pope Francis or media.I pick Pope Francis.

  76. maryh says:

    Imho, Pope Francis’ comment on “Who am I to judge?” made zero impact on most cafeteria Catholics about the Church’s teaching. But what it did do was bring up the subject.

    Yup, we’ll get hit over the head with it. That’s the point! When they say “the Pope said not to judge” we now have an invitation to answer with what the Pope said in context. We get to answer, “Yes he did. Isn’t that wonderful? He confirmed that homosexual acts are sinful, but that we should not judge someone on account of his or her homosexual inclination.”

    And now when we get called “haters” for thinking homosexual activity is wrong we can say, “What about Pope Francis? Do you think he’s a hater? He quotes the Catechism!”

    Pope Francis isn’t saying anything outrageous, or even scandalous. Cafeteria Catholics are really hurting. It hurts when you act like the Church’s teaching is optional. For a lot of people, I think one of the reasons they stay away is because they think the Church’s alternative will hurt even more.

    Forty years ago most Catholics didn’t have much experience with what it meant to ignore the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Now they do. So now our good news is that just because you have homosexual inclinations, it doesn’t mean you have to live a homosexual lifestyle. It is possible to stay married. You don’t have to pollute your body with contraceptives if you’re a woman. There’s an alternative to the hook-up culture. And so on.

    Sometimes I think some of you people buy into the MSM picture that “sexual liberation” is fun, and that the Church teachings are true, but basically a drag.

    Sure, it’s tough to live chastely. For everyone. But it’s much more painful NOT to live chastely.

  77. Renaissance77 says:

    If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

    If the Church [… The Church… pretty big concept…] has been really practicing true love since VCII, I didn’t get the memo. [?!?] I mean you definitely find healthy pockets of it. But do we all strive to seek out the lost, the despairing, and welcome them home? I know I’m guilty of being a “mostly on Sundays” Catholic. I need a healthy does of what Francis is saying.

    To be fair to your point somewhat, I love my kids and would die for them, but I’ll never give them everything they want. I protect them from themselves, as a father should. To me, that’s what the Church should strive for. I think Benedict and Francis play this role equally well, even if their style and emphasis seem different.

  78. capebretoner says:

    I’m with Gretchen here; not one of us has any control over these types of things. In my humble opinion, the best thing anyone can do is to know the Faith, study that Catechism and be ready for when things like this inevitably happen. I was born the year Vatican II closed and had little to no instruction in the Faith, tradition or what a “Magisterium of the Church” even is or means. I have learned that the best way to deal with troublesome or scandalous events is to know your faith so you can counter the foolishness. And when people say to you “well the Pope said blah blah”, ask for the citation and be ready to counter what they THINK (or were told) the Pope said with the truth.

  79. Priam wrote,

    ” to preach the unvarnished Truth of the Gospel.

    it is every Catholic prelate everywhere who kowtow to the world and its values and are always seeking first not to offend rather than preaching the Gospel ”
    and at the end said if his comments offended me..well,too bad.
    What offended me is that you think that Pope Francis was NOT preaching the unvarnished Truth of the Gospel and insinuated that our Holy Father was kowtowing to the world. Where did Pope Francis do this?

  80. now i get the feeling we’re not only attacking the Pope we’re going after each other. :(

  81. PA mom says:

    Maryh-Yes, yes, yes.
    JPmedico-Right on target!
    Pope Francis is always talking about Christians being people of great joy. Are we being people of great joy here? I am a bit surprised at the negativity. And the inferences that he is Insufficiently media savy or clever.
    Is he causing discussion/ work for ordinary Catholics? Great! Sometimes I feel like religion is the one subject I am not allowed to speak freely to anyone about. It is an almost physical relief to hav an opening to convey my appreciation for our current pope, to repeat his most recent message of compassion and warmth and to carefully, as well as I am able, explain misunderstandings.
    If all of us were doing this joyfully, wouldn’t it seem like a group others would be curious about?

  82. Gretchen and “Cape” said,

    “not one of us has any control over these types of things. In my humble opinion, the best thing anyone can do is to know the Faith, study that Catechism and be ready for when things like this inevitably happen”

    great point.Let’s keep in mind :)

  83. The Masked Chicken says:

    Maryh wrote:

    “So now our good news is that just because you have homosexual inclinations, it doesn’t mean you have to live a homosexual lifestyle. It is possible to stay married. You don’t have to pollute your body with contraceptives if you’re a woman. There’s an alternative to the hook-up culture. And so on.”

    Well said, but there has to be a reason behind it. Why would any one give up their little life of hedonism in the belief that doing so is, “Good News?” What caused the prostitutes in First-Century Israel to give up their life of easy living? It was because they, “heard the words of the Son and His words are true,” to quote a line from an old Star Trek episode. Until a man is convinced that God’s words are true, they will have no real reason to give up their lifestyle. Look at AIDS. Did this disease cause the homosexual population to, suddenly, become celibate? No, they waited for a treatment to come along so they could go merrily on their way. Just so, until a man becomes convinced of the Truth, they will never turn away from their sin.

    The problem I foresee is that Pope Francis’s plane talk will not have the effect of turning anyone away from their sin. In s sense, one can use it as a moment to explain what the Church actually teaches, but what one cannot do is use it to bring a man to the Truth, at least, not easily. To say, “This is what the Church actually teaches,” will, probably, illicit a ,”Ho, hum,” from your listener, but to convince him that this is the Truth, the whole, truth, and nothing but the Truth, to leave them no uncertainty as to what the Church says is the truth is to force them to make a decision and THAT is an act of profound mercy. We are so busy being tolerant and nice with sinners that we, sometimes, forget to make them choose. Simeon said that Christ will be a sign that is opposed so that the hearts of many will be laid bear. This plane talk does not expose the hearts of many, but, rather, allows them to quietly go back to sleep or maybe nod, drowsily. In the end, it will not really challenge many people to try to discover the truth. That is sad, because once discovering the truth, they would find in it, Good News.

    The Chicken

  84. JPMedico says:

    If the traditionalist movement fails, it will be due to lack of joy.
    I agree that the last 50 years have been nothing but a vague message of “God is love” and “love your neighbor”, and that’s all true of course, what’s missing is that there has to be something else of substance after that. Instead there’s been nothing consistent at all, I suppose due to the collapse of catechesis and spread of heresies, among other reasons, but that’s not due to a failure of the “love” approach. The Pope’s approach will get them to ask the first questions, we all have to take over the catechesis after that, and that’s exactly what’s finally happening.

    If anything, the old “tiara bashing” approach has proven itself to be more of a failure. 1000 year of tiara bashing the Orthodox (has it worked?, now, with a different approach, for the 1st time in 1000 years a Patriarch came to the Pope’s inaugural Mass – that is huge – maybe a sign of the conversion of Russia? – I don’t know), 500 years of tiara bashing the Protestants (has it worked? – now, with a different approach, the Anglicans are returning, among others). And some of you won’t like this, but I blame tiara bashing for setting up the fallout after VII. VII was just an excuse. I’m sorry, but as I see it Bl JXXIII opened the window to let in some air and the whole place blew over like a house of cards. VII didn’t do that. The rot was there long before VII for the whole thing to fall apart in less than 5 years. If people were truely joyful and well catechized in the first place I’m convinced none of the disaster would have happened.

    As to the business about falsely leading people to believe that things are changing and then disappointing then when they find out the Church isn’t conforming to them, well, honestly, no approach of the pope is going to change that. If someone isn’t open to reevaluating his position nothing will change it except prayer, fasting, and the Grace of God. To stick to my medical theme, you can’t help an alcoholic, a smoker, or a drug addict until he’s ready to admit he has a problem.

  85. Norah says:


    How many “I went to Catholic school and a Jesuit university, I was on that bus or the NC Register is my Catholic paper of choice ” Catholics know the difference between all of those orthodoxies you so carefully parsed? How many non-Catholics reading Reuters reports or the NY Times for example would even know what the word orthodox in a Catholic context means?

    I think that it is imperative that someone help Pope Francis to nuance his public off the cuff comments to take into account all of the above possible hearers or readers of said comments. The corrections which a Fr Z for example issues would not reach one tenth of the people who now misunderstand what the pope said on the aeroplane.

    To paraphrase – A misunderstanding flies around the world whilst truth is putting on its pants.

    Simon Dodd – you seem to understand the points I was trying to make but you expressed my thoughts much better than I could. Thank you.

  86. Norah says:

    Oops that should read NC Reporter, not NC Register!

    Note to self: proof read is my friend.

  87. Minnesotan from Florida says:


    I first heard of Elizabeth Scalia a few weeks ago when I read a reissue of a work of Sigrid Undset first published in 1934 or 1935, for which reissue Elizabeth Scalia had written an introduction. Many here seem to know her. Some, it seems, refer to her as “the Anchoress.” Could someone give some basic information about her, or a reference to where such information could be obtained? In particular, is she related to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia?


    Someone has indicated that it would be imprudent to speak to news reporters if no transcript or recording was being made, and implied that Pope Francis was imprudent in this way in his remarks on the homeward plane. But, surely, a transcript or recording of these remarks WAS being made. How else was it possible for the wonderful document to which Father Zuhlsdorf has given us a link to exist? – all neatly on Vatican letterhead, with Italian and Spanish and Italian translation of what was Spanish, and I believe one question in Portuguese, also with Italian translation, to which I believe the Holy Father gave his answer in Italian. (Also, contrary to what I think one contributor has implied, it seems that the Holy Father gave no remarks in English.)

  88. am i wrong or is one of the problems Pope Francis has in communication is his limitation on his knowledge of languages not his own? Wondered. He doesn’t seem to grasp other languages-especially English-very well. (And most of us don’t speak his.) His 2 predecessors Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict were gifted in languages. Pope Francis,not so much.

  89. P says:

    You are wrong, boxer paws. Francis is bilingual, at least.

    maryh is right.

  90. smmclaug says:

    “If the traditionalist movement fails, it will be due to lack of joy.”

    I think this wildly overstates the case. Lack of joy is not helpful to traditionalists, but the problems that the traditionalist movement are a reaction to had nothing to do with joy on the part of a movement that did not yet exist. In short, if it fails, the major reason will be the inveterate ideological hostility of practically the whole Church leadership, which is working to see it fail and wants very urgently for it to fail. Lack of joy is a symptom of that miserable state of affairs, not a cause of it.

  91. jaykay says:

    What in the name of the living God is “tiara bashing”? If I discern the basic point, it seems to be that prior to the wonders of VII the Church was some sort of oppressive, hyper-critical, loveless force relentlessly criticising other faiths for their failings? Yeah, right. And that was all a one-way street, was it? So, this was the same Church that somehow managed to evangelise entire continents, bringing millons to the Faith, not to mention improving their basic conditions and prospects, while producing hundreds of Saints and legions of Priests and Religious? Is it the Church that people were prepared to suffer severe disadvantage for, even to die for, rather than apostatise (I’m thinking particularly of the experience of my own country, Ireland, but there were of course many others)? Wow, well, if that’s the result of “tiara-bashing” then you can count me in for it.

    And no, the “whole place” did NOT “blow over like a house of cards” after 1965. (What is “the whole place” anyway?) What actually happened, and I’m old enough to remember, was that change was an incremental process. However the deliberate, and successful, attempts to undermine traditional catechesis over time produced a younger generation who were not taught properly, as is only too evident to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. So in the end what has been blown away are the many unfortunate Catholics who were badly taught and formed.

    As for “If the traditionalist movement fails, it will be due to lack of joy”: well, extrapolating peoples’ valid concerns over recent events (not saying I share all of them, but they are valid concerns) to tar the “traditionalist movement” as joyless just doesn’t wash.

  92. maryh says:

    May I just point out that among all the trauma caused by Pope Francis “blurting out” the horribly twisted statement by the MSM about “who am I to judge?” that will supposedly cause so many people to believe that the Church is okay with gay, we have a columnist in a popular liberal newspaper covering catholic affairs [see Father Z’s post: Wherein Fr. Z offers kudos to Jamie Manson and shares her pain] who had no trouble interpreting him.

    Elsewhere, I’ve read a gay activist, who excoriates Pope Francis for giving out such hope with “who am I to judge?” but then takes it all back when he says it’s not the orientation that’s the problem and goes on to quote the horribly homophobic, mean, nasty and just plain not nice Catechism.

    The BBC got it right, except for the seemingly obligatory jab at Pope emeritus Benedict. The National Catholic Register got it right. One of my networks on LinkedIn is getting it out. The word about what Pope Francis is really saying is being spread by both the liberals and the conservatives. And even, in some places, by the MSM. There seem to be an awful lot of people who have no trouble at all understanding what he meant.

    Pope Francis brought up several points; most of the MSM went to town twisting one of them and ignoring the others, which made it possible for us to talk about what he really said instead of just ignoring him.

    Now we, personally, have the chance to use our channels, whatever they are, to joyfully get the word out, to answer questions with sincere joy, sharing what really is good news. Guess what, world? Just like the women who thought they had no options and got abortions, there’s hope for people with ssa. You’re not stuck between silent loneliness and the homosexualist lifestyle. You can live a full life with your brothers and sisters in the Catholic church. Loneliness is the problem, lack of love is the problem.

    It’s very similar to women who get abortions. They think abortion is going to solve their problems, but it doesn’t. When a person with ssa is sexually active, they think they’re going to solve their problems of loneliness and needing love with mutual sexual stimulation. They can’t. It doesn’t work. And in the meantime lots of other bad things happen.

    We have GOOD NEWS! Let’s follow Pope Francis’ lead. When someone asks, we should be happy to quote “Who am I to judge?” and agree that it’s wonderful that Pope Francis has such a heart for the homosexual and the marginalized. Then explain the way out, by explaining what the Pope meant by referencing the Catechism.

  93. McCall1981 says:

    I genrally try to avoid the MSM becasue I find it very upsetting, but when something like these comments happen I check in a little to see “how big of a deal is it?” and “How are they spinning it?”. I was honestly shocked at how well they seemed to understand and even explain the nuance of it. All the MSM articles I saw essentially said, “he’s using a new, conciliatory tone, but isn’t changing the teaching”. Then they threw in a shot at Benedict. Given how they usually cover things, I would have thought it would be much worse, along the lines of “Francis approves of homosexuality”. Sure it was far from perfect and clearly had an agenda, but I was very surprised that it was better than I thought it would be.

  94. JPMedico says:

    My point, which was apparently lost, is basically that if you want to bring people around to your point of view (in this case the Catholic point of view) that it is wisest to start with what you have in common and what is positive, and avoid the differences and the sticking-points until later after a rapport is established. This is what I think the pope is doing. He is addressing himself to a non-Catholic population, and also a poorly catechized Catholic population, and trying to stay positive so that a conversation can be started. What do you think would be gained by him immediately blurting out that sodomy is a sin? His target audience would tune him out just as fast, and the media would call him a homophobe or some other such name. Instead, the way he did it, people are actually talking about it. I don’t think he has any secret plan, btw. I think he’s just being himself, and I happen to think that it’s going to work (eventually). At this moment, at least, the world just doesn’t respond to an anathema or a king the way it would have in the past.

    As to the joy issue, I realize it’s my opinion, but I see it as a major problem for the traditionalist movement as a whole. A perusal of the comments on any traditionalist-bent blog makes my point, I think. As stated above, the hierarchy is largely against it, therefore it has to be a grassroots effort. But if the “grassroots” are in bunker mentality all the time, it’s hard to win people over. My experience on blogs, at indults, at FSSP churches, at SSPX churches, at SSPV churches, at traditionalist independent churches, on and on, is that… well… most people are grumpy. Yes bad things have happened, I get that. But that’s always been the case in the world. Bad things are always happening. I’m younger, so maybe it’s easier for me since I don’t have all the baggage of having all the tradition taken from me. But what I see over the last 20 years is a progressive (painfully slow unfortunately) improvement in the position of tradition as a whole. I see lots of reasons to be joyful, but most of the traditionalists I meet seem to be hung up on what was, or what hasn’t happened yet, or what could have been, etc… That won’t attract anyone to the cause. And that is why I sometimes hesitate to bring someone new to my FSSP parish. I’m afraid the new-comer will see that attitude. (And no, I’m not directing this comment at anyone in particular on this blog.)

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