Another trip, another presser, another post.
A priest friend wrote to me:
I’m writing a new prayer for all of us … a “Nine Hour Pope Plane Ride Novena.”
I will write now what I have written before.
Again, when I am elected Pope, We shall take the name of Pius X-II (“Pius Decimus Secondus” – or maybe “Clement Ganganelli”), We shall not give interviews or press conferences. We shall forbid the Lord Cardinals from speaking to the press without permission. We shall disappear into the Apostolic Palace for lengths of time so long that the press will begin to speculate that We may have died. Our encyclicals will be limited to five pages in Latin. And Our first act as Supreme Pontiff will be to suppress the Jesuits.
Now … gulp… to this presser. And these remarks aren’t intended to reveal everything I think about it.
First, I read the transcript. I posted the link above.
Next, and this is important, I remind everyone that the Roman Pontiff doesn’t teach doctrine on faith and morals through off-hand comments to journalists ON AN AIRPLANE RIDE! So, relax about the contraception comment. It was meaningless. Moreover, I am pretty sure that that anecdote about Paul VI giving permission to African nuns to use contraceptives is an urban legend. We had a discussion about that in the COL Forum, which I ran for a long time. One of the former staffers is now working to dig up the files on that. More later, I hope.
As far as weighing into the issue of the American Presidential campaign and Donald Trump, after having celebrated Mass virtually on top one of the most politicized lines in the world, the US/Mexican border, I found his assertion that, as Pope, he doesn’t get into politics (“[I]l Papa è per tutti, e non può mettersi nella politica concreta, interna di un Paese: questo non è il ruolo del Papa.) fairly amusing. Moreover, his quip about building walls not being Christian is odd, considering that right outside the door of Santa Marta, where His Holiness lives, is a Big Damn Wall™ that encircles the Vatican City State and that after Francis’ election the Holy See had to buy an entire street from the City of Rome that runs alongside that BDW near to Santa Marta in order to create a secure No Man’s Land.
In any event, I don’t believe for an instant that the Holy Father understands anything about the positions of the any of the candidates in this presidential election cycle in any comprehensive way. He seems to have been reacting only to what the journalist included in his question about Trump. So his answer… meh. Unfortunately we are now going to have to hear incessant commentary on it.
And he really doesn’t know the 2003 CDF document on “Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Status To Unions Between Homosexual Persons”? Okay. Maybe he doesn’t. Who cares? WE know it! And it is online right HERE.
That 2003 CDF document, especially addressed to politicians, says:
10. If it is true that all [ALL] Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, [!] in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided. This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.
11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Now that this document has come up again, people will look at it again. That’s a good thing that came from this presser. So, maybe Francis doesn’t recall immediately the content of the 2003 document, but he did affirm that Catholic politicians have to vote according to their conscience, and that their consciences have to be properly formed. ”
[U]n parlamentare cattolico deve votare secondo la propria coscienza ben formata: questo, direi soltanto questo. Credo che sia sufficiente. E dico “ben formata”, perché non è la coscienza del “quello che mi pare. … A Catholic member of parliament must vote according to his own well-formed conscience. That’s it. I would say only that. I think that’s enough. And I say ‘well-formed’, because it isn’t the conscience of ‘whatever I like'”.
Right. Well-formed according to the mind the Church. And the mind of the Church on homosexual unions and our obligation to resist any of that business is certainly and clearly spelled out in the 2003 CDF document. NO! to homosexual unions.
Also, Francis did a pretty good job with the response about civilly remarried people receiving Communion. He said, among all the verbiage, “No”.
And he couldn’t have been clearer about what he thinks about abortion.
In sum, the Pope went to Mexico and he emphasized a few things which he thought were important to communicate there. Fine. However, those things will now be buried in the news cycle because of his off-the-cuff quips. The sliver of the MSM news cycle that includes the Pope will now obsess mostly about things that the Pope probably didn’t want to emphasize with his Mexico trip.
The moderation queue is ON. I will cull comments severely. Don’t even bother if you simply want to bash the Pope.
I’ve deleted a lot of comments. Some of them were not bad, but I knew they would just stoke a fire I don’t want burning. The others… some of you lost my respect.
In a comment (not passed) one person wrote:
“Yes, there will be fallout and damage from this, but it is superficial.”
You can determine whether or not this is “damage”, but this gave Mr. Trump the news cycle for a couple more days very close to the South Carolina primary.
Amen Fr. Z. It’s a shame that a few casual words spoken in a casual context always obscure the important stuff and lead to obsession and anxiety. Sometimes it’s best to forget about it, have a drink or two, fire off a few rounds and spend time with family and friends. Not (necessarily) in that order.
I would say that Pope Francis has ensured Donald Trump’s victory in South Carolina, in case there was any doubt before.
When You suppress the Jesuits, could you do it in Latin, with a secret code so that those Jesuits who read Latin AND your blog could have maybe a skill-testing question to survive?
Father, your priest friend just made my day XD I needed a laugh after hearing about all of this on the radio…
The Catholic News Agency has a transcript of the interview:
Regarding Trump and border walls, his answer was effectively “I don’t know what you’re talking about, so here’s a couple very general thoughts about walls.” Nowhere did he categorically exclude the possibility of building walls for just purposes – such as for better managing immigration in by far the most immigration-friendly nation in the world (source) – emphasis mine:
Regarding the Zika virus, the Pope left absolutely no doubt where he stood on the suggestion that the Zika virus might justify abortion:
As far as contraception, Pope Francis did not use the phrase “lesser of two evils.” He said that unlike killing it is not an absolute evil, but he did seem to refer to it as evil. He did not say “contraception could be condoned in the Zika crisis” (So Nicole Winfield, who wrote the Associated Press article my local paper published, lied about the Pope’s words):
My own commentary: This actually isn’t quite clear, because Pope Francis switched between talking about contraception and avoiding pregnancy, which are not quite the same topic. If we want to know how to interpret the Pope when he makes an unclear statement, we have two choices:
1.) We assume the Pope attempted to change Church teaching, despite professing to teach what the Church teaches and despite him giving no indication he intended to change Church teaching.
2.) We assume the Pope intended his statements to be understood within the context of existing Church teaching, and we interpret them in that context.
The Church teaching on avoiding pregnancy is that openness to procreation is an integral part of the act of mutual self-giving love between two spouses. Therefore, the conjugal act itself must never be deliberately deprived of both elements: openness to life and mutual giving of self.
I am only familiar in passing with the mentioned policy of Paul VI and was not aware that it might be an urban legend. What was explained to me is that a progestin/estradiol pill is not the part that is evil, but using it to deprive sex of openness to life is the evil. Therefore, in the special circumstance of the ongoing mass rapes in certain places in Africa, it was acceptable in the face of the extreme dangers they faced to take the pill to prevent ovulation only because there was no intent to have sex in the first place, so there was not really an intent to deprive sex of its essential elements, but there was potential for a significant life long obligation to be placed on the women by someone else’s intentional act.
That very limited allowance can do absolutely nothing to justify contraceptives when sexual intercourse is intended, so the alleged exception can not be construed as an endorsement of contraception in such case.
Instead, we should interpret him as suggesting that, “avoiding pregnancy” by practicing natural family planning out of genuine concern that conceiving while at risk of infection could saddle the child with severe handicaps, as opposed to with a “contraceptive mentality” could be justified.
Let’s all agree, when our Holy Father says something “inarticulate” while 30,000 feet in the air we will just smile and move on . No need to worry, obsess or lose sleepover these comments. They are meaningless banter , no different then what normally occurs every Sunday in a novis ordo Mass.
Thank you, Father Z, for your succinct and most appropriate commentary/response. I have shared it with others.
I, too, was listening to Rush Limbaugh today when I heard all this. Tempted to have a spittle-flecked you-know-what while at a stoplight, I instead pulled out my phone and began Googling “pope francis contraception” as I continued driving along, to try and get the real story on “What Did the Pope Really Say?” Then tonight I made a brief stop at church and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament about this and other issues. At the end of the day, Jesus Christ is in control. He is full of mercy, but is also full of Truth. They are inseparable.
It’s not meaningless and it’s not funny. Pope Francis is doing great damage to the Church. Indeed, he’s currently doing more damage to the Church than any man now alive.
Father Z: Cowardice is still cowardice even when it wears a facade of charity. And at a certain point, silence or obfuscation equals collaboration. Please think about this whether you delete this comment or not. God is watching, and His is the only opinion you should care about.
1) The reporting on the issue has been unnecessarily inflammatory and divisive by both the liberal networks and the conservative outlets. (I saw the interview of Fr. Robert Sirico by Sean Hannity and thought Mr. Hannity’s behavior was shameful). [I agree entirely with your assessment of Hannity. He demonstrated that unbeatable combination of ignorance and arrogance. Perhaps he was showing off for the Baptist.]
2) Few people have looked at the actual questions posed to Pope Francis. He was asked “Are you a pawn of the Mexican government, as Mr. Trump suggests” to which he responded, “You decide” THEN Pope Francis made his first comment about Mr. Trump “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian”. Is it possible the Pope was speaking metaphorically?—-YES. Could the American media be taking the comment out of context to fabricate a narrative?—YES. Another question was asked outright, “Would you support Mr. Trump” to which he responded “I’m not going to weigh in on that. It’s not my place.” Francis was then asked about the border wall proposal to which he said “I’ll only say that this man is not Christian if he says this. We have to see if he said these things, and … I give the benefit of the doubt.”
3)So in the final comment Pope Francis is calling into question the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity as exercised by Mr. Trump. Perfectly Legitimate. The Pope seems to think this public policy (not subject to infallibility) is not the best exercise, but also notes at the end that he COULD BE WRONG.
4)The real problem is believing the media. Don’t push the PANIC button just because it is flashing. The coolest heads always prevail.
I’ll offer a prayer that Greg Burke reads the paragraph which begins, “In sum, the Pope went to Mexico and he emphasized a few things…”. Spot on, prescient analysis.
Father, the rumor is true. When a civil war erupted in an African country where I was working as a doctor, the bishop [“bishop”… not “the Pope”] gave the younger nuns permission to use the pill because there was a very real danger of rape (I was sent home instead). That was not a contraceptive reason, but common sense. Many nuns were raped during the civil war in the Congo in the 1960’s and at least six became pregnant.
Personally I think a gun would have been a better answer, but that’s just me. You see, 25 missionaries were killed in that country the year I was sent home.
As for the Trump kerfuffle that is now getting headlines: this was a set up by reuters to snare the Pope to make an Anti Trump remark. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/18/pope-francis-tiff-won-donald-trump-free-publicity-but-may-lose-catholics
The Pope is a sitting duck for these reporters.
Remember gentle readers, (like Yogi Berra), Francis didn’t say everything he said.
To be honest, I am often times frustrated with these “off the cuff” remarks. They are imprecise and cause great confusion. They are also in addition reported upon in a way which furthers even more imprecision and confusion. This in turn creates an atmosphere which encourages reactions and overreactions. If I were the Pope ( don’t worry, I never will be), I would have said I do not comment on a particular candidate whom I do not know from a country which is not mine. I then would have quoted what is in the catechism regarding the interplay between the right of individuals and families to find safety and fulfillment in other countries and their obligation to follow and respect the laws and customs of their new home. Wealthier nations have an obligation to assist and welcome those fleeing hardship and persecution to the extent that is possible in light of their obligation to their own people. In welcoming the “stranger” to the extent that is possible, it is the right and duty of the host nation to make such welcome ordered and according to a legal process. I won’t comment on the “contraception” portion of the Holy Father’s remarks nor his analogous linking of abortion with the “Mafia”. This has all been discussed before. I would hope to hear further clarification regarding this from the Holy See. One thing for certain, the Holy Father is keeping us simple parish priests on our toes.
I do think that our Pontiff’s comments are indicative of the fact he is a strongly social justice Pope. In all fairness to him though, did he not invite several refugee families into the Vatican back in September? His understanding of the Trump proposal is likely superficial. While everyone hears his statement about “the big beautiful wall”, few also hear that he advocates that a door will be placed into the wall to allow people to enter properly. How is this any different from what the Pope himself did? Indeed, off the cuff comments are irritating.
I would posit that if anyone wanted to display proof that the MSM only broadcasts about the things that coincide with or advances their agenda, that yesterday would be a good case study.
We talk about “Cafeteria Catholics” – we definitely have a “Cafeteria Media”. They delight in picking and choosing what they want to hear and then broadcast as gospel to an audience that takes no time to dig deeply and lives on the 15 second sound byte.
And Father, when you’re elected to the Papacy, since I don’t know Latin, can I be one of the first to get a decoder ring?
Thank you for helping me see the truth through the fog of rhetoric. The simple and oh so true statement you made ” Next, and this is important, I remind everyone that the Roman Pontiff doesn’t teach doctrine on faith and morals through off-hand comments to journalists ON AN AIRPLANE RIDE! ” said it all for me. Keeping this important fact in mind will help me deal with the most rabid parishioner (in the past I had the audacity to actually preach don’t go to communion if you are using artificial birth control for the principle reason to prevent more children and am still hearing about it) who wants me to preach the Vatican II Church, to the confused adolescent. We still have a glorious Church even if we are at times not so much. Again, thank you for the clear-headedness. Let us pray for each other as we trudge the road of happy destiny.
Again we find ourselves performing acrobatics on the papal monkey bars attempting to make sense of the senselessness. This bespeaks a situation that is entirely out of control. The lack of judgement, the imprudence is simply mindboggling. It is heartbreaking to witness our Church in the custody of a legion of individuals who are either unwilling or unable to comport themselves in a manner that illuminates the Truth.
Ahhh…another perfect opportunity for us to do our homework and evangelize!
I thought his answer to the question about Communion for the “divorced/remarried” was interesting. It is “injurious” for a person/couple in that situation to receive Communion. That sounds just a little bit like saying it would be sacrilegious. As for the abortion/contraception question, I can’t see any connection between the (alleged) Congo nuns situation and the zika virus or any other disease.
It is quite strange and pleasant, for I find myself unable to care about this now. As you said, Father, it is just an airplane ride, and the Holy Father can be legitimately ignored for most if not all of what he does and says. As you also said, Father, this papacy, and all papacies, are nothing but a parenthesis. [They are all parentheses… not “nothing but parentheses”.] It might not happen in our lifetimes, but the Church will live on no matter what happens now. If people try to bring this up to me, then I’ll just tell them to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” We are in the middle of Lent. Let us instead look to our own souls.
Thank you Father Z. for your reasoned and charitable take on this matter.
Like you, I am relatively undisturbed by this, for all of the reasons you have already outlined so well.
However, two thoughts do continue to nag at me:
1) It is unusual, I believe, for anyone in our Church to be so…dare I say it…dogmatic about what beliefs and policies might disqualify one from being an authentic Christian. We have the scandalous spectacle in this country of supposedly Catholic politicians supporting child sacrifice and yet still being admitted to communion. Same with homosexual marriage and a whole host of theological errors and novelties. On some level, I suppose it is good to know that it is at least *possible* for the head of the Church to pronounce certain beliefs and policies anathema. I do, however, wish that he could muster the same clarity and passion when it comes to sins that cry out to heaven.
2) You alluded to this already, but this incident serves to underscore how dangerous it is for a Pope (or any official of the Church) to deal directly with the secular media. The media thrives on controversy, novelty, and “man bites dog” stories and is not above inventing these things when necessary. There is also an inherent “lese majeste” involved in any contact with the media which undermines the sense of apostolic authority. Journalists are accustomed to interrogating politicians. But our pontiff is not a politician, he is a kind of king, is he not? It is not proper for a king to be badgered by the fourth estate. Kings should not speak off the cuff lest they descend into being mere politicans.
I would say that Pope Francis has ensured Donald Trump’s victory in South Carolina, in case there was any doubt before.
Even if this is not true, it is a statement that I wish the Holy Father would have relayed to him. If the Holy Father wishes to wade into U.S. politics, so be it; but his comments suggest he thinks he did not, when, with all respect, he did.
Everybody’s perceptions about who a pope is are being distorted by access to him in this age where media has colonized more and more of our lives. Popes have never before had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of millions of people via television, radio, papers and the internet. So far, they’re not getting it right. They’re imitating what they see worldly leaders do. Certainly, they see it as an opportunity to get their message out, often speaking off the cuff. That’s not easy, and to a certain extent you’re born with the gift or not. But until they can discipline themselves to stick to boring talking points about the Gospel, they need to develop the self-restraint to flee from a microphone as if it were a very devil.
I am building a wall to keep out news reports about the Church.
“Father Merrin: Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that – do not listen.“
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Concerning the news cycle this is giving Trump so close to the South Carolina primaries, I had a bit of a surprise today. I expected my students to come to class saying, “Pope Francis said contraception is okay.” Not a single student has said this. The only students who have asked me about Francis’s words have asked about his comments concerning Trump. For all the misleading press concerning avoiding pregnancy and the Zika virus, Trump is getting more.
The problem is the perception of the rank and file in the pews. It is not enough for those “in the know” to understand that this is not magisterial teaching. So far, in interviews similar to this, we’ve had “Who am I to judge,” seeming to open the door to the gay union initiative, the “no Catholic heaven” business, seeming to confirm even atheists in their unbelief, the bunny rabbit allusion which, taken together with this gem from the other day will doubtless play to the selective perceptions of hordes of the (un)faithful, and where will it end? Real damage is being done here.
If St Paul was able to legitimately correct the pope of his day, it seems high time for today’s successors to the apostles, and faithful priests in a phalanx behind them, to do the same. In a word, to quote a faithful Cardinal, it’s time for “resistance.”
I think that, when the MSM have spotted a character who will provide them with convenient bite-sized comments, they circle like hyaenas waiting for each extempore remark. Which they then deprive of any context it may have and circulate it as click-bait. (We have had the same problem on a secular level over here with our very own Duke of Edinburgh.) The Holy Father has been dealing with the press for many years as he has filled various senior positions in the Church, mostly in South America; surely he must know by now what they are like? I can appreciate that he might feel the urge to speak to the public directly, rather than through the official Press Office, but surely by now he can see the dangers? Or doesn’t he use the internet or watch TV?
I haven’t laughed quite so much for a very long time at ”
Again, when I am elected Pope, We shall take the name of Pius X-II (“Pius Decimus Secondus” – or maybe “Clement Ganganelli”), We shall not give interviews or press conferences. We shall forbid the Lord Cardinals from speaking to the press without permission. We shall disappear into the Apostolic Palace for lengths of time so long that the press will begin to speculate that We may have died. Our encyclicals will be limited to five pages in Latin. And Our first act as Supreme Pontiff will be to suppress the Jesuits.”. Thank you, Father.
We lose our peace if and when we permit ourselves the idolatry of news-worship.
When a pope wants to teach me in simplicity and paternal solicitude, he will address me as one of his 1.25 billion children through the usual channels that popes have established as conventional for addressing their children in Christ. He will not do it in cunning artifice lest I understand.
Jerome said of the evangelical precept that we ought to be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves,
“That through wisdom they should avoid traps, that through simplicity they should not do evil. The shrewdness of the serpent is posed as an example: because it hides its head in all its body, and protects that in which is its life. So also we should guard our head, which is Christ, with all risk to our body. The simplicity of doves is shown from the appearance of the holy Spirit. When also the Apostle says: Be little ones in regard to malice (1 Cor. 14.20).”
“Ut per prudentiam devitent insidias, per simplicitatem non faciant malum. Serpentis astutia ponitur in exemplum: quia toto corpore occultat caput, [Col.0064D] et illud in quo vita est, protegit. Ita et nos toto periculo corporis caput nostrum, qui Christus est, custodiamus. Simplicitas columbarum ex Spiritus sancti specie demonstratur. Unde dicit et Apostolus: Malitia parvuli estote (I Cor. XIV, 20).”
Sorry—citation for Jerome quoted above: Comm. in Ev. Matt. 10.17–18, PL edition (column cited).
But the Vatican just clarified (Fr Lombardi speaking to Vatican Radio yesterday) that the Pope was indeed referring to artificial contraception, not NFP, so that dodge won’t work.
“…I’ve deleted a lot of comments. Some of them were not bad, but I knew they would just stoke a fire I don’t want burning. The others… some of you lost my respect.”
Your concerns are understandable, Father, but it is critical that we all remember that respect is something that can be lost up the chain as well as down. Those voices that still command respect are held to an ever higher standard of intellectual honesty. It is only that latter offering that maintains the thread of true respect when said thread becomes so strained as to snap.
Floating the pretense that things do not matter when they absolutely do to the folks on the ground is to strain the load even more so. Please, Catholics need credible, honest, and that too infrequently seen acknowledgement of a real %$#@!
Otherwise all respect is lost. Tune out.
About the question regarding the divorced and remarried receiving Communion – the question being why does the Church forgive murderers but not the divorced and remarried: I don’t know why the Holy Father didn’t just state the obvious. The Church forgives murderers when they repent. The Church also forgives adulterers when they repent. The problem at hand is that some people want to be admitted to Communion without repentance.