What Fr. Z really said when interviewed by Adam Shaw of Fox News

Recently, Adam Shaw of FNC published quotes from me in a piece online about the dynamics that are developing in the Church during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

I am now getting email asking me about this.

The interview Adam Shaw conducted with me was a written format.  He sent me questions, as an interview, and I answered them on 12 November.

Here is what I was asked and what I responded.

I include [QUESTION] to make it clearer for you to see the breaks.

[QUESTION] 1. Is there a backlash forming from so-called “conservative” Catholics in the US upset with Pope Francis?

Backlash is too strong a word. Let’s avoid hype. There is concern in some quarters around two main issues: His Holiness’s view of capitalism and his view of sexual morality. The latter concerns were largely generated around the Synod, though they began earlier with his comments on the flight from Rio. On neither of these issues has Francis completely lost conservative Catholics in the US Church … yet. Rank-and-file Catholics of all stripes remain extraordinarily devoted to him. However, conservative Catholic “opinion-shapers” now voice concerns in increasingly urgent tones. Nevertheless, this cannot be characterized as a backlash. That would require action that openly resists the Pope. While there have been some calls for that (cf Douthat), nothing is happening on the ground.

If there is backlash, however, we should look in the other direction. The liberal fringe of theologians and powers-that-be are vocal and virtually omnipresent in the media. At the Synod, a wide spectrum of Fathers stood up to the brazen manipulation of the debate. It could be that the divide is not so much between conservatives and progressives but between those who stick with Christ’s clear will and those who seek ways around it.

[QUESTION] 2. If so, is this growing or has it always been there since he was elected? How about since the Synod?

Whichever way one wants to characterize concerns about His Holiness from conservative quarters in these USA, they have certainly grown wider and louder since he was elected. They were not widespread at the beginning of the pontificate. The Synod contributed to a perceivable change in the feeling about His Holiness among conservatives. You might say that the Synod was a turning point for conservatives, the end of the honeymoon.

That said, it is no surprise that Catholics disagree on matters of prudential judgment (e.g. economics, style). The problem, as shown at the Synod, is more with those who claim that everything they say is in tune with the vision of Francis.

[QUESTION] 3. Is there is opposition, what is causing this do you think?

See # 1.

[QUESTION] 4. Card. Burke and Chaput have been saying some slightly rougher things about Francis in recent days ñ is this significant, and also is this usual or unusual with popes and bishops?

It important to separate Chaput from Burke a bit. Chaput maintains that he didn’t criticize His Holiness. Instead, His Excellency warned that the media’s reflection on the Synod was creating confusion. He said that Catholics may be confused by false reports that Church teaching in certain areas was changing.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-chaput-rejects-false-media-reports-on-synod-comments-78869/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/10/chaput-on-the-synod

http://articles.philly.com/2014-10-24/news/55364337_1_chaput-synod-divorced-and-remarried-catholics

Card. Burke is another kettle of fish. It seems to me that what he said to Vida Nueva (i.e, the Church is “rudderless” or “without a compass”, whatever it was he said) could be stretched into an implied criticism of His Holiness.

As to significance, yes, it is significant. Why? Pope Francis explicitly called for open, frank, honest debate on the issues among the bishops during the Synod. Because Synod ’14 is only the first of two sessions on these issues, the interim year is also part of the conversation. Pope Francis wants honest, frank debate. As a matter of fact, it seems as if he really can’t get enough of it. It is hard to imagine that he would want his closest collaborators to be “yes men”.

Again about Card. Burke, review his own words and take them at face value.

“Certain media simply want to keep portraying me as living my life as an opponent to Pope Francis,” he said. “I am not at all. I’ve been serving him in the Apostolic Signatura and in other ways I continue to serve him.”

“I wasn’t saying that the Holy Father’s idea is this,” he explained, “but I’ve seen other people using his words to justify a kind of “accommodation” of the faith to the culture which can never be so.”

[QUESTION] 5. What can Francis do to tame some of this opposition, and do you think he will do it?

What can he do? I suppose he could resign or die. I’m not being flippant, either. Death or resignation are when Popes stop being oppossed! To be Pope means to have opposition. There is always someone against you. That’s why we have Popes: to strengthen the brethren in the face of the attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil.

At the Synod, Pope Francis reaffirmed a basic truth of the Church’s ecclesiology. The Successor of Peter is the guarantor of the fidelity of the Church to Christ’s teaching. In his concluding speech he recalled forcefully his role as Supreme Pontiff. I am sure he will act on his words. I am not sure how, but I am sure he will.

While I am hardly in the position of telling or even suggesting what the Pope should do, it seems to me that he will state what Christ and 20 centuries of Apostolic faith have expressed, what is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church has no intention of pleasing the world when what is on the table is contrary to the truth about man and about God.

The concern is not so much about Pope Francis. Every Pope is different in style, appeal, personality. I think the concern must be fixed on the nostaligc ideologues who are stuck in the 1970s and who are desperately trying to revive their heydays after 30 years under St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Honest Catholics should avoid a situation where a faction tried to force the hand of Peter in 1968 about contraception and then, when Humanae vitae was promulgated, they revolted against Pope Paul once he did the only thing any Pope could do: reaffirm clear teaching. We must avoid bulding up groundless expectations, which will lead, on the part of those who have sided with the world, to revolt against the Roman Pontiff and all that he stands for in the Church. Those who repeatedly say “Francis! Francis!” today just might ditch him when they can no longer instrumentalize him. That’s what they did with Paul VI. That’ll be the true backlash you asked about.

You may remember Mr. Shaw’s other opinion piece about Pope Francis.  I wrote about it Fox News opinion piece BLASTS Pope Francis as “the Catholic Church’s Obama”

Anyway, I understand that the article online is being adjusted.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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16 Responses to What Fr. Z really said when interviewed by Adam Shaw of Fox News

  1. Kathleen10 says:

    All that good stuff got condensed down to one sentence, the sound bite regarding the honeymoon. Oh, and you said “yes and yes”. It was a fair article though, which was pleasant considering this is the secular media.

  2. Unwilling says:

    I am glad Fox (and you?) removed the “Yes” the sheep are scattered. It made me depressed. Let the people say: Baa baa!

  3. marcelus says:

    ” What can Francis do to tame some of this opposition, and do you think he will do it?

    What can he do? I suppose he could resign or die.”

    The interviewer is talking about conservative opposition here. Not a good answer I’m sorry Fr. [Wrong. It is the perfect answer and the only answer. You conveniently left out the rest of what I said.]

  4. stephen c says:

    Well said, Father Z, in every respect. I continue to pray with gratitude in my heart for Pope Francis – pro-life like me, a happy Catholic like me, and one of my favorite Popes ever, and who will, almost certainly (of course I wish I could say “certainly” without the “almost” but I can’t), guard the essential faithfulness, to use your phrase, of our beloved Church to Christ. I am convinced that your assessment is basically correct, and so I think maybe I should transfer more of my prayer time to the young men of various ages, somewhere right now in some obscure Catholic parishes, who are unaware that in some difficult future time they will, whether they want it or not, have the job Pope Francis currently has …

  5. SaintJude6 says:

    Marcelus,
    It is only a bad answer if you choose to ignore what was said after it. Very few thoughtful responses are going to be considered by anyone who wants to skim or jump to the end.

  6. marcelus says:

    marcelus says:
    20 November 2014 at 9:24 pm
    ” What can Francis do to tame some of this opposition, and do you think he will do it?

    What can he do? I suppose he could resign or die.”

    The interviewer is talking about conservative opposition here. Not a good answer I’m sorry Fr. [Wrong. It is the perfect answer and the only answer. You conveniently left out the rest of what I said.

    SaintJude6 says:
    20 November 2014 at 10:26 pm
    Marcelus,
    It is only a bad answer if you choose to ignore what was said after it. Very few thoughtful responses are going to be considered by anyone who wants to skim or jump to the end.

    No offense Fr.I know,.I know, I get the meaning and I DID READ all of it. And I did not PICK and left the rest out.

    What I meant, if we are constantly talking or writting about interpretations going about here and there and ,as with the handling of the Burke interviews, there is a need to somehow be carefull with the choice of words for they do have an efffect, particularly coming from such a relevant figure as Fr. John. His words do have an impact-

    Maybe it is me and I’m sorry , but I do care how this gets out to the world and how the tradidionalists opinion is seen worldwide.

    It will not be long since for instance papers, will reflect something in the line of ” Famous traditionlist priests states the Pope should die or quit”

    Add to that the constant clarification needed for the opinions of Crdkl Burke in terms of not opposing the Pope, and other Bishops, such as Chaput, Tolbin and George and on we go.

    Again maybe it is silly of me to worry about this or maybe it just does not matter.

    But I live in the foreign and what gets published here is not good at all for trads believe me.

    Meant no offense by it. Sorry

  7. Unwilling says:

    Marcelus, read Fr’s first sentence “What can he do?” as compassionate, rather than “What can he do?” which is a bit shocking without reading further.

    But, you are right that Fr is making a more general point about criticism than the interviewer wanted. In this case, it is better not to have given the interviewer what he wanted, for he was in the mindset that the only opposition to the Pope is “conservative”. Just yesterday(?), some young women in St Peters went topless to protest against the Pope. From the liberals… that is where the truly shocking stuff comes from.

  8. Marissa says:

    Has Pope Francis said anything different about capitalism that wasn’t already condemned in Rerum Novarum or Quadragesimo Anno? I only wish he’d also condemn the kind of socialism that seems to run rampant in South America.

  9. Joel says:

    I wish Adam or Fox News would have paid a little more attention to your second sentence. “Lets avoid hype.” It was a frustrating to see the article as the lead yesterday with that divissive headline. I may need to re-read and reflect some more, but the article I read yestrday did not do the Catholic Church any good in the eyes of the world.
    On the other hand, I admit to being prideful and can hardly stand it when our Church is spoken ill of, or made to look foolish, or in this case divided. It is discouraging, as most things are in the news world, to see real life situations or complex thoughts reduced to one liners and over simplified statements of partial facts. It always seems like such a disservice to both the subject and the audience.
    I am appreciative that you have provided your complete answers Father, as “the rest of the story”, if you will.

  10. marcelus says:

    yeah , In the near future, a notary may have to be part of an interview I guess.

  11. marcelus says:

    Cause otherwise, we will end up doing exactly what we are critical of: issuing one clarification after another. That is w
    That is what I meant

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Would the posted article have been “adjusted” if you did not have a copy of your answers? I ask because, though it is troublesome to do, I now accept questions for print interviews only in writing, and I keep my own copy of everything. The days of letting reporters call me at their convenience, keep me on the phone for an hour (or more), use maybe two sentences crammed together from four others, are, as far as I am concerned, long, long gone.

  13. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    This is, amusingly, the mirror image of what happened when Cardinal Kasper denied he has a said what was reported about the African bishops. That time, it was the reporter who had the true copy. The moral is that both parties should have a record and stick to it. If I were feeling catty tonight, I would make some remark about giving unrecorded interviews to old Italian communist editors.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent Father Z., “fair and balanced”….we need to defuse situations now and pray like heck.

    The media want a fight and are looking for one…no matter which media.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent Father Z., “fair and balanced”….we need to defuse situations now and pray like heck.

    The media want a fight and are looking for one…no matter which media.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    I had a cause I headed up recently, an historic building we were working to save from demolition. Our local media contacted me a few times and I learned, I can say all I want and the reporter will listen, then print exactly one sentence of all that I said. Having discovered that, I will now parse out one sentence that best captures my sentiment. My prior comments were often incorrect or distorted by the newspaper anyway. Many people can now only handle sound bites. 140 characters and after that they stop reading or listening.
    We are never going to satisfy the haters by being uber-cautious with our words. We are only going to end up saying exactly nothing.
    For what it’s worth I thought your comments were fine, Fr. Z.