Newspapers are not where the Church deepens doctrine or changes disciplines.

Here is a screenshot from Drudge:

Today someone wrote:

Three links on the Drudge Report referencing “comments” made by the Pope and/or “THE VATICAN” regarding atheists and papal celibacy. Is this more MSM nonsense? Benedict and the condom kerfluffle part deaux?

I’m surprised not to see any comments from Catholic media regarding this stuff. I’m interested in your thoughts.

There might not be a lot of commentary because headlines like these are too stupid for explanations. Then again… I am getting all sort of panicky email, so I’ll do this again.

This will have to be a little messy, but it should be sufficient to get the job done.

Preamble: Newspapers are not where the Church deepens doctrine nor changes the Church’s disciplines.  Not even when the papers are El Universal or La Repubblica.  It we can be clear about that point from the onset, we are 90% there.

First, what did Parolin really say about celibacy compared to that idiotic headline on Drudge?

Archbishop Pietro Parolin, whom Pope Francis named as the Vatican’s new Secretary of State on Aug. 31, are raising eyebrows today, with some wondering if they herald looming changes in Catholic teaching and practice.
In truth, Parolin’s comments represent what might be termed the standard moderate Catholic line – priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, and can therefore be revised, but it nonetheless has value, and the church is not a democracy but it can and should be more collegial.

Those points have been made many times by many different voices, and they don’t necessarily point to any specific policy decisions. If anything, Parolin seems to want to temper expectations that Francis will turn the church on its ear, stressing the theme of continuity.

In other words, what the interview confirms is not so much a spirit of revolution on Francis’s watch, but rather the generally pragmatic and moderate stamp of his papacy.

The Secretary of State, Archbishop Piero Parolin gave an interview to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. (First mistake.) The interviewer deftly set him up for a cross-court blast with a question about dogmas v. man-made rules. Parolin runs after the ball. The the interviewer sends this one in: “Celibacy is not –[PAROLIN:] It is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition.” Then he ramble a bit about the first millennium and Trent. The interviewer rushes the net: “Speaking of celibacy — [PAROLIN responds:]

The work the church did to institute ecclesiastical celibacy must be considered. We cannot simply say that it is part of the past. It is a great challenge for the pope, because he is the one with the ministry of unity and all of those decisions must be made thinking of the unity of the church and not to divide it. Therefore we can talk, reflect, and deepen on these subjects that are not definite, and we can think of some modifications, but always with consideration of unity, and all according to the will of God. It is not about what I would like but what God wants for His church. … It has always been said that the church is not a democracy. But it would be good during these times that there could be a more democratic spirit, in the sense of listening carefully, and I believe the pope has made of this one of his pontificate’s objectives. A collegial movement of the church, where all the issues can be brought up, and afterward he can make a decision.

In short, there is nothing here that hasn’t already been said a zillion times. But the MSM got some headlines, didn’t they!

Next, what did the Pope really say about conscience compared to the doofy headlines?

Pope Francis wrote a an open letter as a response to questions posed by Eugenio Scalfari, the editor of the lefty Italian daily La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari.  ZENIT has a translation.  It is no surprise that I have not seen one yet from the Holy See.  Gosh!  Who would think we needed one, given headlines flashing across the English speaking world that the Pope says you don’t have to believe in God?  Who would think that we would need a translation that didn’t include the howler: “Egregious Doctor Scalfari, I thus conclude my reflections, …”.  While I echo the letter of the sentiment, I also know that “egregio Signore” in Italian is a commonplace in correspondence and that it means “Dear Sir”.  This is the trap of “false friends” when translating.  Italian “egregio” and English “egregious” are both from Latin egregius, “outstanding”, “not mediocre”, “distinguished”, “uncommon”.  The idea is that you stand away from (ex) the herd (grex).  In Italian, the character of outstanding is positive.  In English the character of outstanding is negative, and strongly so: extraordinary in some bad way as in “an egregious mistake of translation”. Yes, you can find examples in English which are positive, but they will be archaic.

In any event, Francis wrote to Scalfari that “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

Okay.  Nothing new here.  When people violate what they know to be true, they are making against God, who is Truth.  Pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful, sincerely and honest pursuit of the Truth is always, in some way – though incomplete and flawed, a pursuit of God.  It can’t be otherwise for an image of God.  So, Francis could write

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

The Pope did not say that Truth is subjective for each person:

This doesn’t mean that truth is variable or subjective, quite the opposite.

As far as non-believers, atheists, agnostics being able to go to heaven is concerned, Francis didn’t write about that.  He did write:

The Christian faith believes this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open to all the way of love. Because of this you are right, egregious Doctor Scalfari, when you see in the Incarnation of the Son of God the foundation of the Christian faith. Tertullian already wrote “caro cardo salutis,” the flesh (of Christ) is the foundation of salvation. Because the Incarnation, namely, the fact that the Son of God came in our flesh and shared our joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats of our existence, to the cry of the cross, living everything in love and fidelity to Abba, attests to the incredible love that God has for every man, the inestimable value that he gives him. Because of this, each one of us is called to make his own the look and the choice of love of Jesus, to enter into his way of being, of thinking and acting.

Not my way of putting it, but… hey!  He didn’t ask me.

There is nothing in what the Pope wrote to this socialist unbeliever in his open letter that deviates from what the Church teaches.  Furthermore, this letter is not likely to appear in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (nor will any of the little daily fervorini which get people all worked up… nor with the pithy and yet ambiguous one-liners the press so likes to obsess about).  This letter changes not one tittle or jot of Catholic teaching.  It doesn’t not advance and shift Catholic teaching.  It is a grand public relations gesture simultaneously stemming from, I am sure, a sincere desire to reach out to a man with great influence over public opinion and to meet him on his own turf.

When the Pope wants to shift or deepen what the Church teaches on some point of the faith or morals, he knows how to do it and he has the proper means so that we will recognize what he is up to.  La Repubblica is where that sort of thing takes place.

This sort of time consumer is, by the way, why I have long been against highly placed prelates giving lots of interviews to the secular press and why I am against Popes doing interviews and … yes… even writing books (not that I didn’t benefit from Benedict’s books about the Lord).

That said, no one can deny that everyone, even the Church’s enemies, are hanging on Francis’ every word.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Biased Media Coverage, Francis, Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Priam1184 says:

    Thank you Father. I was confused this morning. I thought that these articles were media hit jobs but it is nice to hear someone with a bit more authority say so.

  2. thickmick says:

    Ok…we won’t panic yet…but you let us know when….cause its getting a little crazy round here…God Bless the Holy Father and Holy Mother Church.

  3. “This sort of time consumer is, by the way, why I have long been against highly placed prelates giving lots of interviews to the secular press and why I am against Popes doing interviews”

    Yes there is a way that comes readily to mind, for highly place prelates to avoid sensationalist headlines about imprudent off-hand remarks and interviews. Let them, at least, have to base their sensationalist headlines on carefully prepared statements that are prudent and thoughtful.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. Fr AJ says:

    Pope Francis is just creating a little “holy lio” as he spoke about at WYD.


  5. McCall1981 says:

    Thank you very much for this post Fr. Z.
    It looks like what we have here, yet again, is Francis saying something that is technically correct, but said in such a way that it communicates something damaging. I can’t help but feel that he is doing so much damage to the Church through these kinds of comments. I can’t understand why he keeps doing these things, or how he could possibly think this is good for the Church.

    [Then I recommend that you study hard and prayerfully so that you are ready to response well when people bring this up.]

  6. racjax says:

    I am still holding with my “2”.

  7. Louis Tully says:

    Someone is copying and pasting someone else here:

  8. Frank_Bearer says:

    Once again the hierarchy sends us scurrying to say “Well, what the Holy Father REALLY meant was…”

  9. mamajen says:

    I lost respect for Drudge lonnnnggg ago. Still use his site, but it’s pretty obvious the way he plays with headlines to stoke pageviews. Sometimes there is a complete disconnect between his headline and what the story actually says. He loves sensationalism. However, I have also been complaining since JPII’s pontificate about the lack of media savvy in the Vatican. They regularly hand the media the rope with which to hang the Church. The media is going to twist things no matter what, but at least try!

  10. tcreek says:

    “Celibacy is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition.”

    Celibacy IS church dogma for the 50% of LAY Catholics who have been divorced, many through no fault of their own. They “take up their cross” of celibacy and their faith lives are enhanced for that. I am one and know of others. Do popes or bishops consider those people when they seem open to discussing changing the church tradition on celibacy for priests and allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion?

    “Take up your cross” seems never to be the advice of bishops today. They cheat the Faithful.

  11. Robbie says:

    This is a difficult situation. At their core, none of the comments made by Francis since his election have contradicted Church teaching. Yet, his comments have caused great confusion and frustration among many people. Does it really serve the Church well when each comment made by Francis requires some sort of clean up or reinterpretation? Should the Vatican open an office entitled “WDTP(ope)RS”?

    Maybe many of these comments just suggest a Pope who is still learning how to be Pope. After all, he was a little known Cardinal from the other side of the world who never had to worry about people hanging on his every word. Having said that, I see something else at work. I think Francis knows just what he’s doing and he’s making these statements as a way to prepare the Church for big changes down the road. He’s certainly captured the hearts of the liberals with his desire for austerity.

    As for these comments, we’re willing to dig into them and we can see that Francis is not saying anything new, but what about those who are “casual Catholics” or headline readers? Almost certainly, they see something very different. After “Pope on a plane”, one friend called and said he was glad to know the new Pope was pro-gay. And just this morning, another called and excitedly said he was happy to see the Catholic Church was finally entering the modern age on priestly celibacy.

    Maybe I’m totally wrong, but I think this is strategy and not lio. I think he’s playing the long game and is speaking to the disaffected Catholics, the lapsed Catholics, and the cafeteria Catholics through these statements. In other words, he’s not saying anything new, but the intent of all these comments combined gives the impression big things are on the way.

  12. Andkaras says:

    Never fear. Holy Father Francis is simply tossing the ball to us. There is an excellent book out there ,published by Ignatious Press ,by a certain Fr Christian Cochini S.J,( the Pope probably knows him),called ” The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy”.It contains therein everything you could possibly wish to know or point out to others who politely inquire as to the new Secretary of State ,Parolin’s comments and meaning. It has scads of commentary from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church,council and synod citations , and is chock full of footnotes ,if you like that sort of thing (I do ).With all these devices out there all of these things are available at the click of a button.My goodness ,I’ll never understand why so many Catholics fret and suffer as to what to say when confronted by these things, we are in the Church after all and everything is written down some place after all …trailing many resources…trailing off…

  13. Bosco says:

    Well, I believe whatever was said and however it was communicated and subsequently reported is certainly a distraction (at best) in this Year of Evangelization.

    Lumen Gentium 16 (below) says:

    “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–those too may achieve eternal salvation.
    Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.
    Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.
    But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions.

    It’s no immediate business of mine, of course, but I find the manner and method by which Pope Francis communicates to be extraordinarily difficult to follow. Pious Shibboleths.

  14. asperges says:

    I was about to write what Mr Edwards has already expressed better than I. The Press is a dangerous beast to flirt with and when it suits them, they will turn and attack,

    Good or bad reporting, these oft-repeating incidents cause harm both to the Church and hurt to the faithful who need stability not constant upset, which could be easily avoided with a little more care and discretion.

  15. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Between your post, Pater, and Henry Edwards’ comment, I probably didn’t to do mine, but, heck, it was already up, so:

  16. Captain Peabody says:

    This is a great opportunity. Pope Francis is engaging with, and getting the attention of, many non-Catholics for perhaps the first time. Those who have no interest in truth, it is true, will simply use Francis to support themselves and then run for the hills–but those who are interested in the truth will become curious and ask questions, and they will ask questions of us who are Catholics. It is our job to use this as a means to teach others about the Truth, and the Faith. We will perhaps never get such opportunities again.

    I have definitely seen this in my own life. I have gotten many questions from my non-Catholic friends about Pope Francis’ comments–and he has significantly shifted the tone of many friends’ engagement with the Catholic Church, moving them from being hostile and closed off to being positive and curious. This has given me many opportunities to explain the Faith and talk about it, and it has given me a means to do so that is neither combative nor defensive. People are being drawn to the Faith that would not have done so otherwise. Yes, sometimes I have to correct misconceptions occasioned by Francis’ remarks (or, rather, by the reporting on them in the media)–but that’s our job. We should not expect Pope Francis to catechize the non-Catholic world through newspaper articles and interviews. His job is to teach us our faith, and at the same time to reach out to non-Catholics in terms they can understand. It’s our job to act on this opportunity, and bring people to the Faith.

    Yes, things are a bit up in the air right now, but as long as we work with God and his Church, we have nothing to fear.

  17. wolfeken says:

    I’m sorry, but when a leader — any leader — walks into a room and moves every chair and table and turns every painting upside down, we should not be shocked (!!!) that the mainstream media goes with the trend of radical reform and even stretches it. Can we really and truly blame them? I can’t. Are they misquoting anyone?

    We’ll see if Catholic indicators change as a result of polyester vestments, used cars and daily off-the-cuff remarks. More baptisms? More conversions? Higher Mass attendance? More priests and religious?

    In the meantime, hopefully everyone (myself included) will speak fewer and smarter words as scrutiny and spin continue to increase.

  18. Sonshine135 says:

    Semi-small spittle-flecked nutty on:

    I understand what the Pope is saying and most knowledgeable Catholics do as well. The problem is that 90% of the world are not knowledgeable Catholics. Heck, let’s be real, 90% of the Church are not knowledgeable Catholics. More Catholics listen to CNN then their Priest which is why many are listening to CNN and then thinking that when they come to church, it is okay because Pope Francis says it is okay based on what I heard on CNN (fill in the blank with your favorite “it”).

    There is a point where omission or lack of correction becomes a sin as well. It is the whole” lay down with dogs and catch fleas” scenario. It is not hard to see why some church hardliners are beginning to question Pope Francis. A lack of response to reports like this then lead to a large number of people thinking “it” is just fine. Errors trickle into doctrine and dogma, and before you know it- Gay Clown Mass!!!

    Semi-small spittle-flecked nutty off.

    In the meantime, I will continue to pray for Pope Francis and I will certainly pray for his staff and for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide him. If this demonstrates anything, it is that it is not easy being Pope, especially in this day and age. Amen.

  19. Bosco says:


    “I understand what the Pope is saying and most knowledgeable Catholics do as well. ”

    What is the source of your understanding? Have you read the entire letter in question in translation or otherwise and if so could you direct me to where I might find it?

  20. McCall1981 says:

    @ Bosco
    Here is the letter:

    I totally agree. I saw this quote in Archbishop Parolin’s interview (the same one where he mentioned celibacy):

    “Archbishop Parolin also referred to the question of homosexuality, saying that when Pope Francis said, “If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to criticize him?” what he was saying is that “the doctrine of the Church is very clear about this moral point.”
    Jesus, he explained, “asks us to grow and to adapt ourselves to the image he has of us. God alone judges the conduct of each one, and the Pope has said this.”

    It’s not much, but it at least addresses/corrects the “who am I to judge” comment a little.

  21. Jim R says:

    I am rather aghast at many of the posts above and in the conservative Catholic blogosphere over this issue. Everything the Pope has said is well within Catholic doctrine. When you read what he’s actually said, it could come out of Trent (and in a few instances actually seems to have come out of Trent)! Does anyone really expect anything he says to be given an honest interpretation by the MSM when even Catholics don’t seem to able to do that??

    Let me get this straight, because what he says is twisted he’s not supposed to say it? Sorry, but even carefully vetted published documents from the Church are routinely misconstrued. Have those so torqued up by his statement not noticed that? The only way to avoid being spun by the spin doctors is to not say anything at all – and even that will get spun in time.

    Are people concerned because he speaks to and about atheists? What do people think Evangelism really is about? Here’s a hint: it’s not about preaching to the choir, folks. How else does he reach atheists in a de-Christianized Europe and the world? Oh dear, a few months back he has said “Christ died for everyone.” How is that an issue? Horrors, he has also said we can meet atheists by doing good works together. Egads!!! I couldn’t believe some of the comments I heard after that stunner.

    Now he says, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.” Well, do we not believe God’s mercy has no limits? I certainly hope and pray it has no limits for very real personal reasons. I distinctly remember the Pastor Auxiliary Bishop (Archdiocesan Tribunal president, canon law specialist and one-time president of the American Canon Law Society) of the church where I grew up saying it was “a sin to deny the uncovenanted mercies of God…” Perhaps this was an anti-Feeneyite statement, but it sure struck me as eminently reasonable. I really like that the Church considers things like that.

    I say THANK GOD for Pope Francis who forthrightly preaches to the unchurched; who preaches Catholic doctrine as truly as Pope Benedict. If he’s having his words twisted, let’s get off our duffs and support him. His words are going to be twisted anyway. Maybe we all can learn from this. Maybe some of the hand wringers can learn to say, “GREAT! Here’s an opportunity to explain the faith.”

    I’m really stunned and dismayed that too many Catholics are disturbed that the Pope actually preaches the faith. The prodigal son returned on his own in the Gospel after realizing his degradation; perhaps those many real prodigals out there need a bit of a reminder of their Father’s love from our Pope…and us.

    C’mon folks, let’s rally round and not carp.

  22. Long-Skirts says:

    What is everyone upset about? None of this stands up to the very recent sacrilege in Rio at WYD where the Most Precious Body & Blood of Our Lord was handled by hands not Ordained and passed around in paper/plastic cups. Our Holy Father was there, our Holy Father saw it, our Holy Father knows…


    All the world’s
    A beach
    And all the men and women
    Merely players…

    For volley-ball
    Flash mob call
    Swaying hands
    In the stands

    Picnic up
    Party down
    Plastic people –
    Molded town –

    This plastic mold,
    Hollow containers
    Are humbly bold

    And to choreographer
    Their eyes looked up …
    But where was Jesus —

  23. anna 6 says:

    Capt. Peabody :
    “This is a great opportunity. Pope Francis is engaging with, and getting the attention of, many non-Catholics for perhaps the first time.”

    But I much preferred Benedict XVI’s “Court of the Gentiles” initiative, where conversations were held at a very high level and with less confusing language. Reread Benedict’s talks in Paris, Berlin and even Regensburg.

    Tim Stanley has some good advise:
    He says:
    “I’m getting tired of the media’s constant reinterpretation of the Pope’s words, usually with the spin that he’s “liberalising” the Church. They used to do something similar to Benedict, although in his case they said that he was turning back the clock and was one encyclical away from burning a witch. But maybe the problem isn’t helped by Francis’s constant, hyper-energetic desire to speak to anyone and everyone about everything. For his own good, and the good of all his Church, the Pope needs to let his pen rest for a few days.”

  24. Sonshine135 says:

    @Bosco- My understanding comes based on what the Pope is saying as it compares to what other Popes have said, and I do not see anything explicitly wrong with what he is saying. I have not read his entire letter, and I apologize, because I likely could not translate the entire letter. I also believe we should look at what our Pope is writing charitably. This prevents misunderstanding at a base level, which was the entire point of my previous post.

    For example the Pope said:

    “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

    Compared to Lumen Gentium 16 para. 128:

    Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.

    There is no problem with what he is saying. What is obvious is that media is taking every bit it gets and twisting it to its own agenda.

  25. Robbie says:

    I think many would be less concerned about some of the comments made by Francis over the last few months if some of them tended towards the traditional/conservative point of view. Unfortunately, his comments have given hope, almost exclusively, to the liberal side of the Church.

    Washing the feet of woman during Holy Thursday Mass, eschewing Papal pomp, “who am I to judge”, atheists can go to Heaven, and the actions against the FFI have all given hope to the progressives and modernists while causing heartburn for the conservatives. Even Archbishop Chaput said as much to John Allen in a late July interview.

    We’ll just have to pray.

  26. happyCatholic says:

    “Newspapers are not where the Church deepen doctrines or changes discpilines” — I am committing that phrase to memory.

  27. happyCatholic says:

    *disciplines…thought I had fixed that typo.

  28. Bosco says:


    Many thanks for the link! I’ll have a good read of it.

  29. Thomas G. says:

    I do not see how to reconcile the Pope’s assertion that atheists, who reject God and heaven itself, can get to heaven by following their conscience. This does indeed seem to be a new teaching, even an abrupt break with tradition.

  30. McCall1981 says:

    I agree with you, and it is a cause of concern for me too. On the other hand, on the positive side, he has: encouraged confession, talked about the devil and sin, upheld the LCWR reform, and his Lumen Fidei was perfectly fine (I know Benedict basically wrote it, but he still signed off on it). His episcopal appointments so far have also seemed to be fine (though if Marini is appointed over the Liturgy, it would be horrible).

    Maybe I’m clutching at straws here, but I maybe, sort of, kind of, see pattern of him making liberal comments, while his actions are more moderate. I hope so anyway.

  31. Captain Peabody says:

    anna 6,

    Yes, I found that more to my taste as well. But I am (Deo non parcente) an intellectual, as are most of the people on this website. Most people are not; and most intellectuals are not particularly intellectual when it comes to the Catholic Faith. The reaction to the Regensberg address alone should show that.

    Benedict’s strategy achieved many successes, and I would never reject it. But the Church needs to evangelize everyone, which is why we need both the “Benedict” strategy and the “Francis” strategy at work at the same time; which, frankly, was what Benedict did and tried to do in his reign anyway. Francis is hardly as revolutionary as most people seem to think he is; as far as I can tell, he seems to be following pretty directly from Benedict’s program for the New Evangelization, albeit with some stylistic differences. Happily, however, Francis is not speaking or acting in a vacuum; he is speaking in the context provided by Benedict and JPII, and in the context of the worldwide Church, including all of us. We are called to be and to provide the context of Francis’ remarks for our friends and neighbors; and that is what I intend to do.

  32. frodo says:

    Thanks father for responding to my email. It’s one of those things that you see in passing, realize that a vast majority of people are going to see that and think…”Gee wilakers! Bout time the catholic church joined the 21st century. They sure picked a progressive and forward thinking pope this time. Now if they just take care of that women’s ordination thing…”. I’m not sure if Francis is playing the MSM to draw attention to these issues realizing that he’ll be misquoted and hoping that the rest of us will carry the torch of correcting the masses, or if he’s just not nimble in the communication theater. It’s getting difficult to know which way to pivot on this stuff (and maybe that is the Devil’s plan all along).

    Thanks again Father.

  33. Thomas G. says:

    Sonshine135 – Lumen Gentium 16 says God provides “helps necessary to salvation”, but not salvation itself, to atheists who strive to live a good life. The Pope seems to go further: conscientious atheists will be saved. LG does not seem to say this.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    We all know how rabid the secular and even some so-called Catholic media persons are. We know the secular media hates the one, truly, Catholic and apostolic Church. We know that 50 years of non-catechesis has left two generations bereft of even basic knowledge of the Faith, although they now have many opportunities to find it.

    Despite good intentions, which I do not doubt, the media is just picking up the bones tossed to them by these Vatican news items, and letters and so on. Why not? Sells papers and pumps up circulation numbers on line. But, the problem is this.

    Most Catholics cannot sort out the real deal. They have not read the Doctors of the Church on the differences between natural and supernatural virtues, or the merits of the Catholic Church, nor have they a clue about the history of celibacy in the Roman Rite.

    The vast majority of Catholics and the non-Catholics only want their own agenda acclaimed and personified in this Pope. I have been answering good people all day about all these comments and the questions are real and painful.

    Things were better before the spotlight of the world’s media was on one man, the Pope. Time for him to say less and time for Vatican controls on leaks and private letters.

    None of this, despite staying in the tradition of the Church, has been helpful at all.

    We have had a series of scholars for popes who knew how to say something without the confusing media hype left behind like the crumbs of Hansel and Gretel to be snatched up by crows.

    If this good pope were more careful, none of the many, many bloggers would not have had to do what you did today, Fr. Z and what I and others did, which was to clarify the real teaching of the Church. This should not be necessary after every leak or letter or plane interview.

    The only good which has come out of many of these media hypes has been that it gives us a chance to talk about real Catholic teaching. But, if this pope is going to be truly effective in this day of massive electronic attention, good or bad, he must be overly careful.

  35. govmatt says:

    Don’t underestimate the Holy Father’s media savvy. The fact that he can preach openly without changing the message of the Church and be well-received is certainly not closing hearts to Christ.

    Examples: a crafted (genuine, but tailored) image from mozetta-less day 1, Fiats and Focii, Sermon on the Plane, One-liners that keeps Holiness in the media, WYD and Ministering to the Millions, The Wrecked Boats, and let’s not forget the Vigil for Peace which had worldwide trending on Twitter (and, by Providence we have seemingly, hopefully, stumbled into the start of a peaceful solution in Syria)…

    Likewise, Our Holy Father has retained Msgr. Marini, clearly understanding the factions at work in the Church.

    Dear friends, I’m pretty sure the Pope knows the media and knows how to keep opening hearts to the Church (and that’s not wishy washy liberal doubletalk… bringing people back to the fold and, like a good shepherd, instructing and guarding the flock).

    As an aside this Op/Ed is terrific when juxtaposed with Putin’s Op/Ed getting so much traction.

  36. MikeM says:

    I don’t hold it against Pope Francis when his remarks about women, homosexuality, etc., are misconstrued. The media would do that no matter what he said… and if he said nothing, they’d find ways to put words into his mouth. He and Pope Benedict can say the same thing, almost verbatim, and the media will have turned Pope Benedict’s comment into a reactionary diatribe and Pope Francis’ into a call for the Church to give up all moral claims.

    I wish, however, that he’d be more careful when talking about how men are saved. It’s one thing to let the media sell their papers or get their page views with outlandish speculation about when Pope Francis is going to officiate at the wedding of two lesbian wymyn-bishops. It’s something decidedly worse when he, even accidentally, lets himself be used to lead people to believe that they save themselves by their own righteousness.

    I don’t want to be overly hard on the man… I’m glad I don’t have to be the Pope and can just criticize semi-anonymously in the comments section of blogs. But, I DO wish that, however he wants to play it with the media when it comes to “the social issues,” he’d be more careful when discussing the core matters of the faith.

  37. Bruce Wayne says:

    The anti-Catholic press will never correctly recount what any pope or bishop says. It does not matter how well-prepared are the remarks. The two options twill still be to spin what was said to serve their agenda . . . or to not write the story and give the quotes at all.

    If you agree with that assessment above then why get bent out of shape over these articles?

    No pope is going to successfully convert the world or educate the faithful by means of the secular media, no matter how many carefully prepared and absolutely “foolproof” statements they make.

    Here is a counterpoint . . . the last time that Pope Francis made a remark the press interpreted as “atheists can go to Heaven” a longtime fallen away and non-practicing Catholic asked me if I had seen the story. I proceeded to explain to him as best I could: 1) what the pope actually said; 2) what the Church teaches and why he said nothing different than that; and 3) how the secular media worked in this and many such instances. He already shared a general bias against the media and so expressed sympathy for the pope as regards being clearly misconstrued in an ignorant fashion. Who knows but that this discussion could be a seed of his return to the practice of the faith?

    Another example. A msm outlet ran a story on how Pope Benedict was opposed to IVF and a non-denominational mainline Protestant I worked with, knowing I was Catholic, decided to ask me about it and clearly started out with an adversarial stance to the Church’s stance. Over the course of a several day conversation I (after doing some extra research as well) was able to successfully enough explain the Church’s reasoning as regards sexual ethics and reproductive methods that he came to understand and respect the Church’s position, and very well may have let it sink in to the extent that he has adopted the same view. In fact, while we were discussing the Church’s reasoning a very standard secularly-raised post-modern young 20-somethings man who overheard much of it came up to me and said that he had found the discussion of the Church’s views on reproductive ethics fascinating.

    The moral of the story is that evangelization often amounts to simple apologetics. And with media and elites so determined to undermine the Church and to spin for their own agenda anything a pope may say then the if you are known as a Catholic you can very well find yourself with plenty of opportunities to explain your faith or truth in ethics. So the best option available is not to bemoan it on the grand scale or idly chastise but to be prepared to respond apologetically when the occasion arises.

  38. jhayes says:

    Lumen Gentium 16 says God provides “helps necessary to salvation”, but not salvation itself, to atheists who strive to live a good life.

    It doesn’t say that, having provided the “helps necessary to salvation”, God then does not provide salvation to atheists who strive to live a good life.

    Therefore, I don’t see any contradiction in Francis’s “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

    LG 16 reads (in part – after discussing the Jewish people)
    “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.”

  39. Supertradmum says:

    Bruce Wayne, that is all well and good and I alluded to using these things as teaching moments as well.

    But, you forget two big things. There are liberals, including priests, bishops, and cardinals in the Church who actually believe in universal salvation and who have lost faith in the real, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. You forget their are people who want to bring down the faith from within. I have met some of these types.

    Two-you forget that the vast majority of people will not ask questions but jump up and down with glee that they can continue in darkness as they have been because just maybe they will get into heaven.

    I am also and have been concerned about this, which no one talks about. Pagans,heathen, infidels, whatever you want to call them, are saved by the merits of the Catholic Church. Hey folks, there is not a lot of merit being won at this time. Only suffering, penances, prayers, holiness gains merit.

    Who is doing that?

    Matthew 7:22-23. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

    Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

    And from the Catholic Encyclopedia-” …(a) In order to be meritorious a work must be morally good, morally free, done with the assistance of actual grace, and inspired by a supernatural motive….(Matthew 19:21): “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”….and…..”of the influence of actual grace, is clear from the fact that every act meriting heaven must evidently be supernatural just as heaven itself is supernatural, and that consequently it cannot be performed without the help of prevenient and assisting grace, which is necessary even for the just. The strictly supernatural destiny of the Beatific Vision, for which the Christian must strive, necessitates ways and means which lie altogether beyond what is purely natural ”

    Only those in the state of grace can gain merit…

  40. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I can think of one simple way of avoiding this scandal:
    Newly installed Secretaries of State could google ‘Venezuela’.
    Popes could google ‘La Repubblica’ – or even refuse to ‘do interviews’.
    I attribute my own peace of mind to the fact that I never talk to the press.

    ‘Writing books’ has at least the virtue that the writer thinks about his choice of words…

  41. The Masked Chicken says:

    I do not like the, “make lemonade out of lemons,” approach that some commentators have suggested. Apologetics should not have to begin with an apology. Clarity of formulation is essential in any sort of scientific discourse, especially with beginners, and by science, I mean a well and sincere search for knowledge of the Truth.

    This sentence (admittedly taken out of context):

    “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

    is a logical nightmare. God has no limits on his mercy if you go to him (something an atheists will not do) with a sincere and contrite heart (what exactly is contrition to an atheists?). It seems as though Pope Francis is stating the ideal case for Christians, first, and then giving an alternative for those who do not believe in God. That is all well and good, since St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) once remarked: “Those who are seeking the Truth are seeking God, whether they know it or not,” but here’s the thing, simply obeying one’s conscience may not, actually, lead one to Truth.

    Article Six of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is all about conscience and its moral implications. In fact, to tell the unbeliever to simply follow his conscience can be a prescription for disaster. Section IV says:

    “IV. Erroneous Judgment

    1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

    1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

    1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

    1793 If – on the contrary – the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

    1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.”60

    The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61”

    To tell people that they should obey their conscience is misleading. I speak of unbelievers, since the conscience of the believer must be informed by the Church. A flaw so many priests made in the contraception scandal was in not making sure their penitents understood this – it is not enough to simply listen to their conscience – heck, Sister Joan listens to her conscience that tells her that their ought to be women priests.

    An unbeliever may not even recognize his conscience. Certainly, to think that one may have an abortion as an act of a clear conscience, as so many young women do, today, is to prove that one cannot tell the world what their conscience is. They must be shown. Such people, who have such an erroneous conscience (in many cases, not due to invincible ignorance) are, nevertheless, culpable for their sins. To tell the unbeliever to follow his conscience without telling him where it may be found and what it sounds like, is to leave the unbeliever in a sort of fairy land of the mind.

    Given the large number of sources of competing, “truths,” these days, unless one clearly states the rational basis for conscience, one does the unbeliever a disservice. The world has been psychologized to equate conscience with feelings, in the worst sort of Post Modern parody. They trust these blind guides and so, they do not understand the term, “conscience,” in the same way that Pope Francis does.

    This is what I mean by clarity of formulation and why I find the way that Pope Francis speaks to be so dangerous. In a world of multiple truths, one does not make pronouncements about truth that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Oh, there is a Catholic interpretation to what he says, but it is naive to think that those in the world, who hear a multitude of voices, will easily find it.

    In fact, doctrines and disciplines of the Church are not made in newspapers, but the doctrines and disciplines of men often are. Knowing this, the pope has a duty, it seems to me, to make sure that what he says is a girdle binding the Truth to men and not an unbuttoned shirt blowing in the breeze.

    The Chicken

  42. Vecchio di Londra says:

    PS – But whom I to judge…:-)

  43. anna 6 says:

    What Mike M said.

  44. Bosco says:

    @The Masked Chicken,
    Badda Bing! Well said and well supported!

    “For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people…” Isaiah 60:2

  45. lana says:

    Supertradmum, I think right now there are a lot of Catholics in the Middle East and Africa that are earning lots and lots of merits and even martyrdom. Also note how popular the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is even in the US. And I daresay there are many more daily Mass-goers now than there used to be, but that is based on personal experience.

    Masked Chicken, I know what you are saying. BUT, there are many atheists who completely write the Catholic Church because they still think it teaches only Catholics can be saved. I personally know a few that still think that! And there are others who also write off the Church because their personal experience is that atheists act better, and Christians not only are more objectively evil but hypocritical to boot. (Fr.William Most had an interesting explanation for this phenomenon.) Anyways, a God/religion that would save the latter and not the former seems unjust. At least now, there is a chance they will look into it, and inform their consciences.

    I think Pope Francis’ statements, even if some wrong assumptions are made, convey the truth far better than the assumptions previously held by many atheists about Catholic teaching.

    I don’t think we should second-guess the Holy Spirit too much.

  46. lana says:

    oops, ‘who completely writethe Catholic Church OFF’

  47. egregious Doctor Scalfari !!!

    Thanks, Father, that’s the hardest I have laughed in months. I needed that!

  48. CatholicMD says:

    Now I’m just thankful for every morning I wake up and Piero Marini has not been named head of the CDW…

  49. Bruce Wayne says:


    I have not actually forgotten the wolves within the Church. I know that Rahner seemed to push towards universal salvation and many ecumenicists fall into Irenicism.

    However, the point of view I expressed above starts with a premise of full-scale pessimism about the secular press.

    Since I do not think you will get accurate reporting or interviewing from an anti-Catholic media then what I am not going along with is the negative reaction that I find too strong towards these bishops who get misrepresented.

    Fr. Z frequently posts about terrible opinion piece hatchet jobs on blog posts, or lectures given by orthodox priests, or even cardinals (like that crazy nun on the LCWR talk). I fully grant that the difference is those priests are not speaking directly to the secular press. I have no problem with the suggestion by many here to just not talk to them and only make use of one’s own media, find your own ways to get the message out. But that bishops and popes keep trying to be available to secular media (they keep trying to get the message out and through these means) then I am never surprised at the results.

    So why do they continue to do it? That is an interesting question. I think that the 24-7 presence of the secular media makes retreat and “hunkering down” to focus on nurturing the orthodox remnant Church a very difficult thing for a bishop to do.

  50. Bruce Wayne says:

    Masked Chicken,

    I like what you wrote a lot. But since you are couching it as partly a critique of my make lemonade approach I do want to quibble on one thing. The examples I mentioned from my own recent experiences did not involve starting apologetics with an apology.

    When or if the press accurately reports a pope/bishop actually saying something heterodox then, ok, yes any conversation it starts would involve having to call that prelate out. But I do not think that your example, even if not carefully formulated in a precise scholastic manner, actually rises to the level of Pope Francis having gotten doctrine wrong. Maybe that is where our disagreement lies.

  51. McCall1981 says:

    Ha! I feel the same thing, everyday.

  52. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    You say, “Only suffering, penances, prayers, holiness gains merit.” But, instructing the ignorant is, I believe, considered in the Church’s tradition to be a “work of mercy.” Can it not then gain merit? What Bruce Wayne says of interactions he has had with persons who know him to be Catholic and therefore ask him about things that are reported about Pope Francis may well be instructing the ignorant and thus be a work of mercy. I pray that God may reward him (and you also, for the many wise things you post).

  53. Southern Catholic says:

    So after reading these comments, should we just lose hope and throw the Pope under the bus?

  54. Traductora says:

    Unless the Pope is going to sit locked in a tower and emerge once a year to wave to the crowd (which would number about five people by then) and then lock himself away again for a year, there will be misunderstandings. How soon we have forgotten Pope Benedict, who weighed every word he said and whose carefully formulated talks were seized upon by the media and made unrecognizable in about 30 seconds. Remember the hysteria over his scholarly (and correct) Regensburg address?

    Pope Francis has said nothing that is not established Catholic doctrine. The problem is that he – and all of us – are having to speak from under a vast mountain of misunderstanding. Part of this is the result of years of letting the anti-Christian world define us; part of it is because of a sort of priggish, withholding self-righteousness among the more correct of us; another part is because of the plunge in the collective intellect of Catholics, particularly the clergy, since Vatican II; and part of it is because of the unfortunate influence of Protestantism, which is much more rigid than Catholicism and simply doesn’t want a Christ they cannot control. They don’t understand eternity, the Trinity, sacraments, the Mystical Body, the cloud of witnesses – it’s all lost on them. But that’s the environment we’re living in, and no matter what the Pope says, he is going to be misunderstood, sometimes willfully and sometimes not. And maybe at least some of them – and some of us -will now start to ask questions, which is the point at which the human being opens up and conversion even becomes possible.

  55. jm says:

    M CHICKEN NAILS IT. The Pope is simply giving voice to the rather more liberal interpretation of Vatican II. The conciliar chicken is coming home to roost. DeLubac and Co. may have been well intentioned, as Francis doubtless is. But none are infallible, and these little engagements are hardly clear teaching moments. They are actually disturbing. We still seem afraid to offend, and ironically, the wilder the world gets, the more we seem to want to stay on happy terms with it. Like us, please! We seem to say. We all want the same things. There are no, or very few, bad people. Just be good. Seems like a truncated Gospel.

  56. zag4christ says:

    Someone whom I can’t remember has previously counseled that we members of the Body of Christ should not try to glean what our Holy Father’s are truly teaching by reading it in or hearing it on a secular media outlet. It may have been Father Z, or Father Barron, or Archbishop Chaput or one of the other shepherds who are walking with us, leading us, and/or pushing with all their holy determination from the behind. But, I think it is very good advice.
    Peace and God bless

  57. maryh says:

    I agree with @Bruce Wayne. I’m very negative about the press. I tend to think that if the Pope makes sure his statement can’t possibly be misinterpreted, the press will either find a way to twist it anyway, or they won’t report what the Pope is saying at all. And the effect of “not reporting it at all” is that most people don’t change their erroneous beliefs. With the “twisting”, at least people are listening.

    If they don’t bother to seek out more information, then their erroneous beliefs stand – and they’re no worse off. If they do bother to seek, or even just run into other people talking about it, then they actually have a chance to hear something true when they are receptive. Any marketing or salesperson will tell you that getting a chance to talk to a receptive rather than a hostile or indifferent audience is pure gold.

    @Masked Chicken – no, we don’t have to start the apologetics with an apology. In every media spin, the media is getting something right, so that’s how we begin. For the atheist comment, the thing that the media got right is that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that all atheists automatically go to hell. So I could start by agreeing, “Isn’t that great? The Catholic Church teaches that atheists don’t automatically go to hell – it’s nice that the media has finally picked up on it.” And then, now that I have someone actually ready to listen, I can talk about what “following your conscience” really means.

    I like what Pope Francis is doing. He keeps talking to people and the media keeps reporting on him. And thanks to the internet, we can always find out what he really said, and we have access to real Church documents. So we can answer people’s questions. In fact, we can even start conversations, about the latest thing the Pope said.

    I’m not talking about making lemonade from lemons. I’m talking about evangelizing – using the opportunities Pope Francis keeps giving us and the tools the internet gives us. As @Andkaras says Never fear. Holy Father Francis is simply tossing the ball to us.

    Let’s not drop the ball.

  58. Bruce Wayne says:

    The reference to the Regensburg Address is apropos.

    That was a brilliant and scholarly talk Benedict gave to an academic audience. But the reporting of it instigated riots by Muslims! Ironically, the rioting proved what Benedict had said about the irrationalism of Islam. Yet, Islam was not as much the whipping boy in that address as Protestantism (and modernity).

    Now, it well may be the case that Benedict gave less interviews and dealt with situations where the secular press would report what he was saying far less often than Francis. And I can listen to the argument that Benedict’s was a more prudent course.

    But I still insist that IF what a pope or bishop says is going to be reported on at all by the secular press than it will come with the journalists own agenda and thus will be distorted, whether the prelate is reading a carefully prepared statement or speaking spontaneously.

  59. Lori Pieper says:

    Hmmm. Forget about the Vatican Office, maybe Father should change the title of the blog to “What Did the Pope Really Say?” It’s getting to almost be that now!

  60. mike cliffson says:

    I remember – and NOT to reinforce the idea that it was in the church the paradise that’s painted – 1950s Catholic priests, from the pulpit, forcefully telling the faithful not merely not to trust, to not even read or listen to , noncatholic media on anything regarding the faith or the truth in general. Diabolic inspiration. Clear and forceful, that I do remember. “Occasion of sin ” may have been used on one occasion, for I remember after mass my parents discussing whether father had gone too far into literature and factual news.Reiterations, “I shouldn’t have to tell you..”.
    It wasn’t for want of telling.

  61. jacobi says:

    Given the efficiency and universality of communications today it is vital for any bishop to think and weigh carefully, before saying anything. The days of casual remarks which hopefully will not be misunderstood are long since gone, if they ever existed.

    It is a sad fact that there are many just waiting for an opportunity to twist what is said to their beliefs, or worse, to totally misrepresent what is said, to the detriment of the Church.

    The language used, competence in that language, and the exactness of translation, are all vital, particularly for those speaking in their non-native language

    We need fewer but more considered statements. Above all, in the Catholic Church, we need Truth and clarity

  62. Lin says:

    This is so disappointing! Pope Francis must be aware of how his statements are being used by the MSM. It is very difficult for me to see how this is converting or bringing anyone back into the Church. Progressives see this as all we need is love to get into heaven. Who cares about sin? It does not matter anymore whether you believe or go to mass every Sunday. If you are a good person you go to heaven. No problem especially if the Catholic Church is teaching it! I was very fortunate in that in my youth I had a very good Catholic education in the faith by very holy sisters and as an adult have gone on many pilgrimages to Europe, read many books on the saints, etc. But nothing motivated me more to learn even more about my faith than the progressive pastor we inherited about a year ago. However, what has been a blessing to me has had a negative impact on many in the parish. He tickles the ears of those who are lukewarm!

  63. Phil_NL says:

    I think the ‘observation of the day’ in this case comes from – of all places – a Belgian bishop, who remarked “This is not about priests marrying, but about married men becoming priests”. (and he followed that with a lot of lines indicating that one shouldn’t expect one iota to change anyway)

    In that small sentence, he illustrates exactly how the media miss the point (since, even if there would be a relaxation of discipline in terms of celibacy along the lines partcied by our brethren of the eastern rites, it would only mean that married men can be ordained, not that current priests can go out and find wives), and how the ensuing mayhem is utterly misplaced as well, since the only thing the left would get worked up about is indeed allowing current priests to marry, since that undercuts the choices already made. Only that would be a proper revolucion.

    Should this issue go anywhere – which seems highly unlikely anyway – the left will fall over His Holiness in even harsher terms when they discover that the left’s wishes aren’t actually on the table at all.

    Which doesn’t negate the fact it might be wiser for curial officials to give fewer interviews.

  64. SimonR says:

    When I read letter by Pope Francis, what immediately jumped out was the point he made about conscience. It struck me as very worrying that the Pope had said that and clearly many have expressed concerns over his words about conscience.

    Did the Nazis not follow their conscience in World War II?

    Pope Francis obviously is receiving much credit for his enthusiastic personality when he is out and about with crowds and for his phone calls etc. In that sense, he reminds me of an enthusiastic parish priest. Here’s a suggestion. Perhaps Pope Francis is a bit out of his depth in terms of how we expect a Pope to to teach the Faith? At best, he is sowing confusion? I would appreciate your comments.

    Blessed John Paul II was both an outstanding philosopher and theologian.

    Pope Benedict XVI remains, I would suggest, one of the most impressive theologians of our day. He has given us the blessing of a magnificent body of theological work.

    So, we had for 35 years two outstanding intellectual (and saintly) people as Popes.

    But Pope Francis does not strike me as a theologian. And his homilies and speeches can often be hit-and-miss. Some are excellent, some are instantly forgettable.
    I think the teaching side of this Pontificate is weak?

    Your thoughts?

  65. Thomas G. says:

    SimonR, you express just what I was thinking. Teaching is not a strength of this Pope. The faithful are confused and the Church’s enemies exult. We’re in for a rough ride – fasten your seatbelt!

  66. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonR,

    Your thoughts?

    That was a temptation so don’t complain…

    First, Pope Francis seems to be literally right. That is a good thing to begin with. Which focus to set on people who won’t take the time to hear the full thing anyway, that is a thing which surely allows some different opinions. Yet, if for instance the dear @Supertradmum says, many people will jump up and down with glee that they can continue in darkness as they have been because just maybe they will get into heaven, my answer is: so be it, but it still happens to be so. Maybe (just maybe) they will get into Heaven. That is the truth (including the “maybe”s), and I’m convinced it won’t help evangelization (however difficult it is anyway) if we replace this correct statement by the other one that such as they are now they will go to Hell certainly. That will only lead to resentment, despair or a mixture of it. Even so, we should have to say it if it were the truth. But it is not; not in this absoluteness at any rate.

    Now there surely is culpable (though in some cases perhaps still venializing) ignorance around – which, let’s face it, consists in the failure to obey the command of conscience to get informed about objective truth and the norms for conscience.

    A classical example for this would be contraception or the failure to appear in Church on Sunday.

    Yet it seems rather odd to me that the two examples I remember mentioned in this combox are rather counter-examples. The dear @Chicken (in an, as usual, highly informative comment) mentioned young women who want to have an abortion in good conscience. And you, dear @SimonR, mentioned the Nazis.

    I doubt the majority or a significant minority of women who have abortions do so in good conscience however misinformed. I rather believe their conscience is crying out loud and they perhaps silence it. This is not conscience, not even misinformed conscience. It is classical sin, acting against conscience.

    As for the Nazis, we have historical proof that this they had bad conscience and actively suppressed it (as sentimentalism). This is vitally clear from speeches Himmler held in Posen among other things. Their conscience actually rebelled against their deeds.

  67. PA mom says:

    I continue to find in conversation that people are shocked into respect for this new Pope. He is so radically different in some ways that they can understand, and is getting such favorable press which is helping spread further the typical acts of compassion done by the Pope (kissing disabled, babies, etc) that they have a liking for him.
    It is good!

  68. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” But I do not think that your example, even if not carefully formulated in a precise scholastic manner, actually rises to the level of Pope Francis having gotten doctrine wrong.”

    He didn’t, but he could be the secondary cause of others getting the doctrine wrong.

    I, once, had a two hour long conversation with a group of street evangelists about salvation. They started by asking me if I were saved. The first thing I did was ask them what they meant by the term. They said, “If you died, tonight, would you be sure of going to Heaven.” I, then, explained to them the origin and true meaning of the word as it was understood by the Hebrews. Once done, we could, then, have a meaningful conversation.

    The point being that it does no good and a very great harm to tell people to follow their consciences if one is not clear to define what a conscience is. Pope Francis, far from being sneaky as some have proposed, seems to me to be very parochial in his comments, assuming a Catholic understanding of terms among his listeners. That, is a dangerous assumption. The word, “conscience,” simply no longer has a consistent understanding among many sections of society. It does no good to talk about people suppressing their consciences, say, in obtaining an abortion when, while the voice of God must, even in the smallest of cries, still be speaking within them, they, misidentify the voice for something else. Some modern philosophers and many psychologists have told them to look elsewhere for the authentic voice of their consciences and so, they mistake an elephant for a man, the voice of sentiment for the voice of God. They have been misinformed to identify a different voice as their conscience than the voice of reason.

    I suppose the anger that many abortion advocates display is the acting out of their deeply buried wounded true consciences, but how can you tell them that they are not really mad at the people telling them that abortion is murder, but, rather, they are, secretly, mad at themselves? Indeed, some psychologists will tell them that their anger is their conscience and to act on it.

    Any statement like, “Follow your conscience,” if it is to be a genuine act of charity instructing the ignorant, must, first of all, define or at least illustrate what the speaker means by the use of the term. This, Pope Francis fails to do, over and over again. He merely assumes, it seems to me, that everybody watching understands his actions from a Catholic point of view. I say this because he almost never stops to define his terms or give a rationale for his actions that properly situate them in an unequivocal context so that people watching who use the same terms in other ways might know how he is using the terms.

    This failure of definition is at the root of what is gnawing at most people and makes them feel uncomfortable with his communications. From within the Catholic system, his words are correct, but from outside of them, they become examples of equivocation capable of being spun into things contrary to their meaning – all of this because there is a definitional gap. Theology is a science and as a science it demands clarity of definitions, especially when the terms used have non-common usage.

    The world is drawn to reach false conclusions in what Pope Francis says because he is speaking to the world from within a system that has univocal terminology, but passing outside of that bubble aquires equivocal meanings. There are two worlds here and Pope Francis is speaking a local dialect to a country of many regions. It is like an East Indian in upper India trying to speak a dialect of Hindi to someone near the Pakistani border. The results can be confusion. It is like a police officer telling a mobster to kill the lights. The police officer means that the light switch should be turned off, but the mobster, knowing that there are lights in men’s eyes, pulls out his gun and shots everyone in the room. Same words, but different framing.

    While confusion can be a stepping stone to conversation, Pope Francis’s words should not make sinners feel comfortable in their sins and, yet, would he be the darling of the media unless that exact thing were not happening? I contend that all of this is because he has not shown a habit of making sure that his words are clear, not only to himself and not only to other Catholics, but to the people to whom he is actually addressing. In fact, he is not meeting them where they are at, but he is meeting them where he is at, but often, they can’t tell the difference.

    The Chicken

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  70. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Unlike JPII (who lived in Poland under Nazism and Communism) and B16 (who lived under Nazism and academic weirdness), this pope lived in a country where both left and right were raised Catholic and had certain cultural expectations. So he talks to people like they know this stuff. And in Italy, enough people still know this stuff that he expects the same.

    Heck, look at that one talk he did at Castel Gandolfo. He said to the crowd, “You all say your Rosary every day, don’t you?” and the crowd roared back, “YES!” He thought that was a total gimme statement, and he was right. Now granted, you have to be motivated to go to Castel Gandolfo, but it’s still a touristy thing that normal Italian people do, not just super-Catholics.

    Is there any bishop in the US who would say such a thing, to a random audience, in total expectation of a big YES? Or would he expect a few people to say yes, and most people to look embarrassed or confused?

  71. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Back to my point… Anyway, I think it’s nice that a pope can speak loosely and colloquially, in total expectation of being understood. I love the crazy but clear way he says things. I also like people making use of non-verbal signals during preaching.

    But I’m not his whole audience, and unfortunately those non-Catholics who never had any Catholization in their lives (or not enough) are hearing what they want to hear. Liberal Catholics are often doing the same, though most of them are just following whatever the Official Herd Mentality Makers tell them the pope said. (Why read actual quotes when you can filter them through the soothing moos of the herd?) Conservative Catholics in our neck of the woods aren’t used to hearing normal Catholic ideas expressed in a loose, colloquial way, so we fear the worst. And so on.

    So yeah, I don’t want to cramp Pope Francis’ style, but I guess he’ll have to find a happy medium somewhere.

  72. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It probably doesn’t help that the Pope is a guy from Argentina (which most of us don’t know) talking deliberately against Argentinean stereotypes of formal speech, as a member of an ethnic minority in Argentina, being from the Southern Hemisphere and not Europe, and then coming over to Italy to rule over people who are sorta kinda like him and his but sorta kinda not.

    If you took an Irish-Argentinian guy from Patagonia, whose family had been there for several generations but still spoke a little bit of Irish Gaelic from the Aran Islands, and you made him the new Catholic bishop in Belfast or Dublin, you would expect him to be doing things just a little bit weirdly.

  73. Charles E Flynn says:

    On Conscience, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

  74. Patrick-K says:

    It occurred to me that that is a pretty weird question to ask in the first place, so perhaps it’s not totally surprising the answer is a bit confusing. Atheists don’t believe that heaven exists. So there’s something a bit off about an atheist asking this question, “Can I get into Heaven?” Either the question isn’t sincere or he’s not a sincere atheist. He seems to want to have it both ways. It’s sort of like asking, “Can I eat cheeseburgers every day and still lose weight?” Strictly speaking, yes, that is possible, but very hard. If you really wanted to lose weight, then you wouldn’t eat cheeseburgers every day. Similarly, if you really wanted to get into heaven, you would acknowledge that God exists.

  75. Andrew_81 says:

    Ninja Chanticleer (“Masked Chicken”),

    The problem you note is spot on, but much broader than we would like to admit. It is not confined to His Holiness, but has been the general way the Church has gone since Pius XII.

    Traditionalists’ difficulty with much of Vatican II is not that they think doctrine or dogma was changed or denied, but because the documents produced were not well-defined and employ “pastoral” language rather than the more concrete theological terms. So there is a serious lack of univocality regarding very important terms. There is also a serious lack of consistency in how these terms properly interpreted, even at the highest levels of the Church.

    The “Hermeneutic of Continuity” is proof of this. There are divergent interpretations, and certain interpretations must be left aside as incorrect, because they presuppose a departure from Magisterial teaching on a particular matter.

    Archbishop Lefebvre wrote the “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”. Whatever you might think of him, the title was spot on. Good Catholics are seriously confused by the lack of consistency. And if good Catholics, then how much more the poorly catechized, and non-Catholics.

    From my standpoint, the greatest damage that Vatican II did was not in five areas groups like the SSPX question (Religious Liberty, Ecumenism, Collegiality, Constitution of the Church, Nature and Assent required of the Council). Those are serious questions that must be addressed. Rather it is that those who have “implemented” the Council, have very often adopted it’s language.

    Ever since the aggornimento the whole Church has suffered more from failing to make the needed distinctions, and from trying to be “nice”, rather than truly charitible.

    A very holy priest told me many years ago that today the world needs to hear, not of God’s Justice, but His Mercy, because we live in a world which has no Hope (natural or supernatural). We are useless fallen creatures, but God wants to transform us into His friends, and happily will do so if we just get self out of the way. But, the priest also warned me never to confuse being “nice” with communicating God’s Mercy — if we are vague or unclear to be “nice” rather than clear about what is sinful and what God expects of us, then we are kowtowing to human respect, and God is not found there. We are then communicating self, not God’s Mercy — and there is no hope for us.

  76. McCall1981 says:

    Archbishop Parolin’s interview and Card Wuerl’s EWTN interview today both stress “continuity” and that Pope Francis’ reforms are not going to revoutionize or change everything. I’m hoping that this might be a sign that the Vatican/Francis are starting to get the message about how his comments are being taken, and the confusion they are causing. It’s significant that the new Sec of State (who is in personal contact with Francis) and a Cardinal are saying these things, since Parolin in particular would be very privy to Francis’ thoughts and plans.

  77. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Patrick-K,

    now it becomes interesting, or doesn’t it.

    Of course a sincere atheist would not believe in Heaven, nor ask whether he can get there. But then, as the older sort of theologians remind us, a sincere atheist is a rare bird. “It is undeniable that there are atheist thought-systems”, but, following on the teachings of Jesus Sirach and St. Paul on the subject, “it has to be denied that a person can subjectively be convinced of atheism for an extended time period.” Ludwig Ott, paraphrase. This is, however, about atheism in the strict sense. The step to orthodox Catholicism is not that easy, given also that the maxime “I do not believe at once what someone tells me just because he tells me God says so” is primarily a healthy and legitimate one.

    Contemporary “atheists” generally seem to resort into a slightly pantheist, slightly “there is Some Thing Greater somewhere” and largely deliberately non-elaborate fabrication. Not to mention the genuinely pagan retrograde-steps we see not so much in the neo-pagans (they are, I guess, mostly acting believers and not believing), but in the grand-scale “esoterism” and “new age” movements which, strangely enough, do not seem to shape society as a whole and remain largely underground, being discussed by desperate housewives (if you forgive the allusion). Who love faith in God do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything (Chesterton).

    Still, those self-confessing as atheists, if they care about consistency, don’t actually usually ask whether they can get to Heaven. They do ask whether according to our doctrine they could get to Heaven. Answered either way, it gives them a pass to either accuse us of stubbornness, resent and bigotry (and whatever nice words we have) or otherwise say that why should they convert, then; they be better off by not believing and still coming to Heaven. (The latter is important also because our undecided semi-pantheists generally believe in an, of course better, afterlife at least in a “there might be” form, excepting the neo-pagans, sometimes called “revival of religiousness”, who seem to often hold reincarnation while forgetting the curse the Hindoos see in it.)

    It is here where I have long time thought that the key lies; we must have arguments why it is better for them to believe even supposing they do not need it for Heaven.

    Of course it is no question that the thinking “I rather do not inquire because ignorance may bring me in Heaven while knowledge might necessitate me to forsake what I presume the more comfortable life” (which is usually to some degrees subconscious) is culpable. Of course it is. We can only hope that it is still venializing ignorance. (We need not fear in that case that they actually do get the better off it. There’s something Purgatory is there for.)

    Saying them that that’s culpable will not make them raise their ears, though.

    And that other thing, It does seem counterproductive to me (forgive me) to put the thing in the way of “if you really wanted to get into heaven, you would acknowledge that God exists”. Is it a sort of “accomplishment” to acknowledge that God exists? Isn’t it just answering the question “Does God exist” with yes?

  78. Patrick-K says:

    Imrahil, very interesting comments, thank you. You ask, “Is it a sort of ‘accomplishment’ to acknowledge that God exists? Isn’t it just answering the question ‘Does God exist’ with yes?”

    It may or may not be depending on one’s circumstances and personality. For someone like (to take a very extreme example) Richard Dawkins, who has staked his whole career on atheism, I think, yes, it would be quite difficult and would require a lot of humility and psychological fortitude. And it would have a great deal of social fallout for them. Or for someone who is very accomplished, perhaps a world leader in their field, he might take a lot of pride in that. It would be difficult psychologically to accept that these accomplishments were really in the end only gifts from God. And I think this atheist newspaper editor could be in a similar situation. Once you accept that God exists, it follows pretty closely that you owe Him everything. But still, yes, for many people these choices are not so drastic.

  79. Imrahil says:

    (The Chesterton paraphrase is of course: “Who lose faith”, etc.)

  80. ocalatrad says:

    This is doctrinal immodesty, if I may use the phrase. Rather than clothe the precious doctrine of the Body of Christ in garments of sobriety, modesty and Prudence, the truths of the Church are being sold away cheaply to the moral perverts and enemies of Christ.

  81. Elizium23 says:

    The photo in your Drudge screenshot was artfully chosen. A stern Francis, actively pontificating. His words must be forceful and true coming from such a powerful man! (Last month he was a simple religious who rides the bus a lot and stays in a simple apartment.)

  82. joan ellen says:

    The Masked Chicken “…all of this because there is a definitional gap. Theology is a science and as a science it demands clarity of definitions, especially when the terms used have non-common usage.”

    “…he is not meeting them where they are at, but he is meeting them where he is at, but often, they can’t tell the difference.”

    Perhaps the Holy Father’s frame of reference would be more understood with definitions…and perhaps he and his audience would benefit if he thought in terms of the audience frame of reference.

    If when the Holy Father spoke he used words such as “By that I mean….” and “Are you thinking the same thing?” or “Do you see/hear what I am saying?” to determine if the audience frame of reference matched his when he is speaking. If not he could then correct what needed to be corrected in the misunderstanding. Easy to see how he could do this. Not so easy to do it.

  83. CatholicMD says:

    I spoke to a good priest friend tonight and he said several people have called and told him they are leaving RCIA because of what the pope said or at least what is being reported.

  84. Cathy says:

    Odd that the statement that atheists can sin turns into a headline that atheists can go to Heaven. Stranger than this is the declaration of Martin Luther that believers should sin boldly and that man’s conscience is the devil. The atheist does not have a “right” to commit murder because he declares that there is no God, no more than the believer has a “right” to commit murder because he trusts in God’s mercy. Both bear the marks of malice of forethought towards what is good, true and beautiful in the natural order. Sincere contrition in both cases, is God’s mercy. Can atheists turn to God at the hour of death, I sincerely pray and hope so, and more so do I pray that they turn and believe in their lifetime.

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