Thursday, September 19, 2013

"A Big Heart Open to God" - Pope Francis: The Interview

Pope Francis: The Interview

  • A Big Heart Open to God The Exclusive interview with Pope Francis. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. America 09/30/13:
    This interview with Pope Francis took place over the course of three meetings during August 2013 in Rome. The interview was conducted in person by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. Father Spadaro conducted the interview on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica, America and several other major Jesuit journals around the world. The editorial teams at each of the journals prepared questions and sent them to Father Spadaro, who then consolidated and organized them. The interview was conducted in Italian. After the Italian text was officially approved, America commissioned a team of five independent experts to translate it into English. America is solely responsible for the accuracy of this translation.
  • The Story Behind the Story, by Matt Malone, S.J. America 09/24/13. We were talking generally about our editorial approach to the new papacy when Father Martin said, “Why don’t we try to interview the pope?” I gave it three seconds of thought and said, “Yes, why not?”
  • Fr. James Martin on The Big Interview: “We both had the same thought: ‘You know, this could be kind of a dud.’ Background on the origins and distribution of the interview to the press, courtesy of Fr. James Martin and Deacon Greg Kandra. 9/24/13.

The Pope's Words In Context

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

... and with reference to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Let us return, therefore, to the subject of "God". The words of St Ignatius spring to mind: "The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power (Epistula ad Romanos 3, 3). We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

Source: Conclusion of the Meeting of the Holy Father with the Bishops of Switzerland 11/09/2006.

What the MSM ("Mainstream Media") took from it

The Rude -- if somewhat comical -- Awakening:

  • A day after telling Catholics not to obsess with abortion, the Pope encourages doctors NOT to perform abortions Associated Press. 09/20/13. "Pope Francis encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform abortions today in a bizarre U-turn on comments yesterday that condemned the church's obsession with such 'small-minded things'."
  • Pope condemns abortion as product of 'throwaway culture' Catholic News Service 09/20/13:
    In his strongest public words to date on the subject of abortion, Pope Francis affirmed the sacredness of unborn human life and linked its defense to the pursuit of social justice.

    "Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and - I spoke of the child, let us also speak of the elderly, another point! And each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the "culture of waste" proposes! They cannot be discarded!" [Translation via Rorate Caeli]

  • Melbourne Priest Greg Reynolds Defrocked And Excommunicated By The Vatican International Business Times 9/23/13:
    Melbourne priest Greg Reynolds has not only been defrocked, but also excommunicated by the Catholic Church over his support for women priests and homosexuals [editorial note: support of same-sex marriage per se]. The order came directly from Vatican under the authority of Pope Francis, who just recently said that the Church focuses too much on gays and abortion....

    "In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such truth and respect," he was quoted by The Age as saying.

    "I've come to this position because I've followed my conscience on women's ordination and gay marriage.

Further Reactions and Commentary

  • Papa Frankie and “the interview”… () 09/30/13:
    Even while researching for this post, I came across comments that “this pope” really “gets the [contemporary] culture” and that he is finally moving along with the whole Church in the right direction, towards the lost. In case you didn’t know, such sentiments are just code words for how Protestants and non-believers praise a less strict, less articulate, less Catholic Pope.

    Paul VI most certainly “got the culture” when he pegged it in Humanae Vitae. The broad cultural response? Not praise, not relief, but brief outrage and then a sustained stopping of the ears.

    Pope John Paul II most certainly “got the culture” when he pegged it as a “culture of death.” The cultural response? Not praise, not relief, but rage and disdain. (Moreover, contrary to the idea that an emphasis on moral truth joepardizes the Gospel’s alluring radiance, note that John Paul II advanced the cause of the Divine Mercy just as much as he opposed the culture of death.)

    Benedict XVI most certainly “got the culture” when he diagnosed it as being enslaved to the dictatorship of relativism. The response? Outrage and mockery, not glad-handed spin.

    Yet only now is the Pope being heralded as someone who “gets it”, and precisely when he utters ill advised words about the very things that cripple our culture from being receptive to the “simple,” “radiant” Gospel message. It may be spin, but so far Francis has an almost gleeful knack for giving ample grist for the spin mill.

  • Germaine Grisez (via The Moynihan Letters) 09/29/13:
    “… [W]hat is the point of saying that the Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a ‘disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently’? Making this assertion suggests, unfortunately, a caricature of the teachings of recent pontificates. I assume Pope Francis would reject that reading. But where, then, is the state of affairs that needs to be overcome?

    “Proclamation in a missionary style does focus on essentials. But the new evangelization cannot proceed as if the Gospel has not been already preached, and either understood or not, but in either case, rejected. Still, I agree that what is central needs to be presented more clearly and forcefully than has generally been the case. Unless people believe that Christ has risen and will come again and gather into his kingdom all who are ready to enter, and unless they hope to be among those ready to enter, there is no use trying to instruct them about what they need to do in order to be ready to enter.

    “But what is meant by ‘moral edifice of the Church’? Many people mistakenly think that the moral truth the Church teaches is a code she has constructed and could change. If that were so, it could collapse like a house of cards. Perhaps Pope Francis means that the moral teachings, though they are truths that pertain to revelation, will collapse for the individual who lacks hope in the kingdom to come. But who knows what he means? The phrase is impressive. It reverberates in one’s depths. But if it was suggested by a spirit, it was not the Holy Spirit, for it is bound to confuse and mislead.

    “I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity. For a long time he has been thinking these things. Now he can say them to the whole world — and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.”

  • The phoney war in the Church: five linguistic thoughts on THAT interview The Sensible Bond 09/27/13. "[S]ince language is war, let me state some of my difficulties with the interview in terms of its language."

  • Are We Obsessed?", by Dr. Janet Smith. First Things "On The Square" 09/25/13:
    Pope Francis finds the homily a proper place to teach moral truths but thinks priests have gotten the order wrong. Where is he hearing these homilies that hammer on moral truths at the expense of preaching the gospel? For some time now I have been trying to help seminarians and priests preach on the difficult moral truths. One reason it is difficult is that virtually none of us have heard it done! We have heard a homily on abortion—perhaps at most once a year—while homilies on contraception and homosexual acts are so rare as to cause astonishment and generally earn the pastor an influx of hate mail. Some people have proposed that the Holy Father is speaking out of his experience of a Latin American culture. I don’t know if priests in Latin American incessantly give moralistic homilies without reference to the good news of Christ, but clearly that is the scenario that Pope Francis has in mind.
  • Five Reasons to Think Differently about Pope Francis, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture 9/24/13:
    I’ve been surprised and even angered by the criticism of Pope Francis in the wake of his famous interview, but I’ve been forced to admit that a significant number of serious Catholics found his words upsetting. That’s not something that should be dismissed lightly. It could, of course, all be a misunderstanding, and I think there is some of that. But there is perhaps a deeper question. If there is some fault involved, should we be looking for that fault primarily in the pope or in those who seem so reluctant to receive his message?
  • Reading the Natural Signs, by Hadley Arkes. The Catholic Thing 09/24/13:
    What came as quite astonishing then in that recent, bizarre interview, was that a man so fully aware of himself as a teacher could have been so casual, so heedless of how his words would be misunderstood. At first I thought that he had fallen into the mistake of speaking off the cuff again in his folksy way. But then it turned out that he had added material to the interview, and that the transcript had been reviewed carefully as it was translated and prepared for publication. This was no inadvertent sally.

    It was all the more curious then that when he turned to the most central and burning moral issues of abortion and the taking of life, or sexuality and marriage, he would not say anything that marked the place of these issues in the fuller sweep of the concerns and teaching of the Church. He would say merely that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” – as if the Church had ever insisted only on them.

  • Yet another Vatican PR debacle, by Phil Lawler. Catholic Culture. 09/23/13:
    Whether you think The Interview was a coup or a disaster—or something in between—we should all be able to agree that the Vatican’s handling of the Pope’s blockbuster was another public-relations debacle.

    Ironically, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was meeting in Rome when the news broke. Greg Erlandson, the publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, who was at the meeting, observes that Church leaders had no warning about the interview. Secular media outlets received advance copies of the text under embargo. Bishops and their spokesmen didn’t. Then the story broke ...

  • Pope Francis the Troublemaker, by Michael Gerson. The Washington Post 09/23/13:
    There is a good Catholic theological term for this: the “hierarchy of truths.” Not every true thing has equal weight or urgency.

    But this does not adequately capture Francis’s deeper insight: the priority of the person. This personalism is among the most radical implications of Christian faith. In every way that matters to God, human beings are completely equal and completely loved. They can’t be reduced to ethical object lessons. Their dignity runs deeper than their failures. They matter more than any cause; they are the cause.

    So Francis observed: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”

  • On The Whole Interview Thing...., by Kevin Tierney. Common Sense Catholicism 09/23/13:
    ... maybe, just maybe, I should listen to the Pope. I don't have to do everything how he does it, but there's a chance that maybe some of it could help me be a better witness to the Gospel. I really wish people would do that rather than jump out with "what the Pope REALLY means is X" or "the Pope is just naive and doesn't understand the reality on the ground, etc."

  • Pope Francis and His Critics, by Scott P. Richert. Crisis 09/23/13.

  • Francis, Our Jesuit Pope, by R.R. Reno. First Things "On The Square" 09/23/13:
    By my reading, Pope Francis was being a bit naïve and undisciplined in parts of this interview, which although reviewed by him before publication has an impromptu quality I imagine he wished to retain. This encourages a distorted reading of what he has in mind for the Church. This is a problem related, perhaps, to his Jesuit identity. ...

  • Pope Francis' Beautiful Mind, by Dr. Edward Mulholland. Zenit. 09/20/13:
    No mother whose son has fallen into drugs says “My son the drug addict.” Drug addiction is not some abstract issue to be confronted, nor is it her son’s identity. It is something that has stolen him from her and which prevents him from being the fullness of himself, from living out the full truth of who he is. It is an obstacle to his ultimate fulfillment and happiness. That is how Francis addresses moral issues. And it is very important.

    At the beginning of the interview, he spoke of why he didn’t want to live in the Apostolic Palace. It was a narrow door with a big space. He says, “like an inverted funnel.” He likes open doors and narrow spaces.

    That is Francis, and that is the dynamic he wants to start establishing in the Church. We must start with a proclamation of Christ, of what He has done in our lives. Catechesis and moral doctrine come after that. In our Faith, a “no” is always in service of a yes. We can’t teach people “no” until they understand the yes. God didn’t give the Commandments until after He saved them from Pharaoah.

    It is not a question of wanting the world to say “Ok, you’re right, abortion is wrong.” With that we win an argument. It is about healing souls. He calls the Church a “field hospital.” Academic debates about disease are not prevalent in field hospitals. It’s triage and saving lives. And it's not because those deabtes are not relevant, it's a matter of urgency and emphasis.

  • Pope Francis on How to Talk About Abortion, Gay Marriage, and Contraception, by Matthew Schmitz. First Things "First Thoughts" 09/20/13.
    "The Pope’s approach is one familiar to any reader of the gospels. Pharisees try to discredit the gospel by trapping its teacher; the teacher refuses the terms of their question and raises the spiritual stakes. The point here is not to compromise on or back away from truth, but rather to reject its caricature. This is good practical guidance. If it’s what he meant in his broader remarks, then those remarks offer wise advice well worth taking."

  • Prophet Pope, by Nathaniel Peters. First Things "On the Square" 09/20/13:
    “I am a sinner.” That is the key for understanding Pope Francis. He tells us so at the very beginning of his interview with Antonio Spadaro, S.J., for Jesuit publications worldwide. “This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” He is also, he says, “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” and upon whom the Lord has had mercy. Sin and mercy are two of the key words emerging from the interview which, at over ten thousand words, offers us the best picture yet of the pope and provides a broader context for the words and gestures of his pontificate.

    God’s mercy on sinners is the key in which Francis exercises the Petrine ministry. This represents no great change from the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who spoke frequently of the mercy of God and the reality of sin and, in the case of the former, wrote an entire encyclical on the divine mercy. The papacy is not a presidency in which new leaders offer new policies and rebrand their party’s message. But each pope has a different way of living out the charism entrusted to him. He refracts the truth of Jesus Christ into different harmonies of color. John Paul reminded us that Jesus Christ reveals the truth about God and about the human person to all. Benedict taught us that the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, with whom we enter into a relationship of love. Francis tells us that we are sinners who have found mercy. The same melody, in different keys.

  • The Present Pope, by Scott Carson. The Examined Life:
    So since the Church is not going to be ordaining women, marrying homosexuals, or sending money to Planned Parenthood just what, precisely, is this "change of emphasis" supposed to consist in that is so different from what Those Other Gloomy Popes were up to with all of their reactionary skulduggery? Benedict XVI, in particular, has said precisely the same things about welcoming homosexuals that Francis is now being praised for, so there is no change of emphasis there. John Paul II, rather famously, said precisely the same sorts of things about having a preferential option for the poor that Francis is now being praised for saying, so there is no change of emphasis there either. And the world itself --in the form of scientific studies--has said precisely the same sorts of things about HIV, contraception, and other such issues, as Benedict XVI has said, so if there is change of emphasis here it is in a direction away from both the traditional teaching and modern science, so congratulations: if it is a change of emphasis, it's a stupid one.

    But is it really even a change of emphasis? This, unfortunately, is a question that has two aspects. On the one hand, there is the question of whether it is, in fact, a change of emphasis; on the other hand, there is the question of whether Francis believes that it is a change of emphasis. I say this double aspect is "unfortunate" because the fact of the matter is clear: it is not. Which means that if Francis really believes that it is, he is mistaken. But that's OK--although popes are protected from error in faith and morals, nobody said their methodological orientations were always spot-on. So Francis thinks this is all new--well, welcome aboard, Holy Father, but we've been on this train for quite some time already; glad you could join us.

  • Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage?. DarwinCatholic:
    Perhaps because the interview itself is long and wide ranging, a disturbing number of people, even ones who should know better, have taken the reporting of the NY Times and other biased sources at face value, and this is too bad because not only is the message these sources are giving untrue, but it obscures a very, very important point about the faith that Pope Francis actually is making. ...
  • New Pope, Good Interview, Old Story, by Carl Olson. Catholic World Report 09/20/13. Secular journalists and progressive Catholics try to make hay to feed their obsessions.

  • First thoughts about the Francis Interview | Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality in the Big Interview, by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. Reading Francis Through Benedict 09/19/13.

  • The Pope’s interview is a challenge to everyone—including me!, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture.

  • Old, Good News, by Stephen White. CatholicVote.com. 09/19/13. "Usually, when Huffington Post, The New York Times, and The Daily Beast are giddy with excitement over something the Pope said about abortion, gay-marriage, or contraception, there’s either been a serious misunderstanding or the eschaton is near."

  • Thoughts on the Pope's Latest Comments, by Jeffrey Tucker. New Liturgical Movement. 09/19/13:
    Nothing in the Pope's words undo any Catholic teaching. What's more, he intends no change whatsoever. What he is bringing to these hot-button issues is a humane clarity that reflects an aspect of Catholicism that is frequently overlooked in the world at large. It is the most common perception in the world today that Catholicism is nothing more than a strict set of life rules and the Church herself operates as the more judge and inquisitor not only over its members but over the society at large. This is the perception of the whole import of Catholic teaching. And because of the perception, the scandals of the last ten years have been particularly damaging to the reputation of Catholicism, simply because it permits the accusation of hypocrisy to stick.

  • Papal quote of the day Rorate Caeli:
    With so much attention stemming from Pope Francis' interview released today, we thought we would share 12 of the 12,000 words in it:

    "When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood."

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