He is lowering the “rating” of his interview with Scalfari. Rectifying his judgments on Vatican Council II. Distancing himself from the progressive currents that have applauded him until now. But the media are silent on this change of pace
by Sandro Magister
ROME, November 22, 2013 – In the span of a few days Pope Francis has corrected or brought about the correction of a few significant features of his public image. At least three of them.
The first concerns the conversation that he had with Eugenio Scalfari, set down in writing by this champion of atheistic thought in “la Repubblica” of October 1.
The transcript of the conversation had in effect generated widespread dismay, because of some of the statements from the mouth of Francis that sounded more congenial to the dominant secular thinking than to Catholic doctrine. Like the following:
“Each one has his idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight the evil as he understands them.”
At the same time, however, the interview was immediately confirmed by Fr. Federico Lombardi as “faithful to the thought“ of the pope and “reliable in its general sense.”
Not only that. A few hours after it was published in “la Repubblica,” the interview was reproduced in its entirety both in “L’Osservatore Romano” and on the official website of the Holy See, on a par with the other discourses and documents of the Pope.
This gave birth to the idea that Jorge Mario Bergoglio had intentionally chosen the conversational form of expression, on this as on other occasions, as a new form of his magisterium, capable of reaching the general public more effectively.
But in the following weeks the pope must also have become aware of the risk that this form entails. The risk that the magisterium of the Church might fall to the level of a mere opinion contributed to the free exchange of ideas.
This in fact led to the decision, on November 15, to remove from the website of the Holy See the text of the conversation with Scalfari.
“It was removed,” Fr. Lombardi explained, “to clarify the nature of that text. There were some misunderstandings and disagreements about its value.”
On November 21, interviewed at the Roman headquarters of the foreign press, Scalfari nonetheless revealed more details of the matter.
He said that the pope, at the end of the conversation, had consented that it should be made public. And to Scalfari’s proposal that he send him the text beforehand, he had replied: “It seems like a waste of time to me, I trust you.”
In effect, the founder of “la Repubblica” sent the text to the pope, accompanied by a letter in which he wrote among other things:
“Keep in mind that I did not include some of the things that you said to me. And that some of the things that I attribute to you you did not say. But I put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.”
Two days later – again according to what Scalfari claims – the pope’s second secretary, Alfred Xuereb, telephoned to give the go-ahead for publication. Which took place the following day.
Scalfari commented: “I am perfectly willing to think that some of the things that I wrote and attributed to him are not shared by the pope, but I also believe that he maintains that, said by a nonbeliever, they are important for him and for the activity he is carrying out.”
But even the calibrated and thoroughly studied interview with Pope Francis in “La Civiltà Cattolica” – published on September 19 by sixteen magazines of the Society of Jesus in eleven languages – has in recent days been taken into the shop of things to be corrected.
On a key point: the interpretation of Vatican Council II.
This has been made clear by a passage of the letter written by Francis himself to Archbishop Agostino Marchetto on the occasion of the presentation on November 12 of a volume in his honor, against the solemn background of the Campidoglio. A letter that the pope wanted to be read in public.
The passage is the following:
“You have demonstrated this love [of the Church] in many ways, including by correcting an error or imprecision on my part – and for this I thank you from my heart – but above all it has been manifested in all its purity in your studies of Vatican Council II. I have said this to you once, dear Archbishop Marchetto, and I want to repeat it today, that I consider you the best hermeneut of Vatican Council II.”
The definition of Marchetto as “the best hermeneut” of the Council is striking in itself. Marchetto has in fact always been the most implacable critic of that “school of Bologna” – founded by Giuseppe Dossetti and Giuseppe Alberigo and today directed by Professor Alberto Melloni – which has the worldwide monopoly on the interpretation of Vatican II, in a progressive vein.
The hermeneutic of the Council upheld by Marchetto is the same as that of Benedict XVI: not of “rupture” and “new beginning,” but of “reform in the continuity of the one subject Church.” And it is this hermeneutic that Pope Francis has wanted to signify that he shares, in bestowing such high appreciation on Marchetto.
But if one rereads the succinct passage that Francis dedicates to Vatican II in the interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica,” one gets a different impression. “Yes, there are hermeneutical lines of continuity and of discontinuity,” the pope concedes. “Nonetheless,” he adds, “one thing is clear”: Vatican II was “a service to the people” consisting in “a reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”
In the few lines of the interview dedicated to the Council, Bergoglio defines its essence this way three times, also applying it to the reform of the liturgy.
Such a judgment of the grandiose conciliar event immediately appeared so summary to many that even the pope’s interviewer, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica” Antonio Spadaro, confessed his amazement in transcribing it from the pope’s spoken words.
Meanwhile, however, this judgment has continued to garner widespread consensus.
For example, in receiving Pope Francis at the Quirinale on a visit on November 4, the president of the Italian republic, Giorgio Napolitano, thanked him precisely for making “resonate the spirit of Vatican Council II as a ‘reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture,’” citing his exact words.
And praise for these same words of the pope has come – for example – from the foremost of the Italian liturgists, Andrea Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm, according to whom Francis has finally inaugurated the true and definitive “hermeneutic” of the Council, after having “immediately put in second place that diatribe over ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ which had long prejudiced – and often completely paralyzed – any effective hermeneutic of Vatican II.”
In effect, it is no mystery that “service to the people” and a reinterpretation of the Gospel “brought up to date” are concepts dear to the progressive interpretations of the Council and in particular to the “school of Bologna,” which has repeatedly declared itself to be an enthusiast of this pope.
But evidently there is someone who has personally pointed out to pope Bergoglio that reducing the Council to such concepts is at the least “imprecise,” if not “mistaken.”
And it was precisely Marchetto who took this step. There has always been great trust between him and Bergoglio, with mutual esteem. Marchetto lives in Rome at the residence for clergy on Via della Scrofa, in room 204, next to room 203 where the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires stayed during his trips to Rome.
Pope Francis not only listened to the criticisms of his friend, he welcomed them. To the point of thanking him, in the letter he had read on November 12, for having helped him in “correcting an error or imprecision on my part.”
It is to be presumed that in the future Francis will express himself on the Council in a way different from that of the interview in “La Civiltà Cattolica.” More in line with the hermeneutic of Benedict XVI. And to the great disappointment of the “school of Bologna.”
The third correction is consistent with the two previous ones. It concerns the “progressive” tone that Pope Francis has seen stamped upon the the first three months of his pontificate.
One month ago, on October 17, Bergoglio seemed to have confirmed this profile of his once again when in the morning homily at Santa Marta he directed stinging words against Christians who turn the faith into a “moralistic ideology,” entirely made up of “prescriptions without goodness.”
But one month later, on November 18, in another morning homily the pope played a completely different tune.
He used the revolt of the Maccabees against the dominant powers of the age as the point of departure for a tremendous tongue-lashing of that “adolescent progressivism,” Catholic as well, which is disposed to submit to the “hegemonic uniformity” of the “one form of thought that is the fruit of worldliness.”
It is not true, Francis said, that “in the face of any choice whatsoever it is right to move forward regardless, rather than remain faithful to one’s traditions.” The result of negotiating over everything is that values are so emptied of meaning as to end up merely “nominal values, not real.” Even more, one ends up negotiating precisely over “the thing essential to one’s very being, fidelity to the Lord.”
The one form of thought that dominates the world – the pope continues – legalizes even “death sentences,” even “human sacrifices.” “But you,” he asked, “do you think that there are no human sacrifices today? There are so many, so many! And there are laws to protect them.”
It is difficult not to see in this pained cry of Pope Francis the countless human lives mown down before birth with abortion, or cut off with euthanasia.
In deploring the advance of “this spirit of worldliness that leads to apostasy,” the pope cited a “prophetic” novel from the early 20th century that is among his preferred reading: “Lord of the World” by Robert H. Benson, an Anglican priest, son of an archbishop of Canterbury, who converted to Catholicism.
With the exception of a few Catholic outlets, the media of the entire world ignored this homily of Pope Francis, which in effect starkly contradicts the progressive or even revolutionary framework within which he is generally described.
But now it is part of the record. And there it remains.
One curious coincidence: at the Mass during which Francis gave this homily, one of the participants was the new secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, on his first official day of service in the Roman curia.
Eugenio Scalfari’s interview with Pope Francis, which was removed from the Vatican website:
> The Pope to Scalfari: This Is How I Will Change the Church
The interview with the pope in”La Civiltà Cattolica”:
> A Big Heart Open to God
The passage from the interview with the pope in “La Civiltà Cattolica” relative to the Council:
“What did the Second Vatican Council accomplish?” I ask. “What does it mean?” In light of his previous affirmations, I imagine that he will deliver a long and articulate response. Instead I get the impression that the pope simply considers the council an event that is not up for debate and that, as if to stress its fundamental importance, is not worth discussing at too great a length.
“Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture,” says the pope. “Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”
(Pope Francis has also corrected his aim on the question touched upon in these last lines. Receiving Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos on October 31, he assured him that he has “no problems with the extraordinary Roman rite and with those who follow it, according to the spirit indicated in the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of Benedict XVI).
The letter from Pope Francis to Archbishop Agostino Marchetto:
Caro Mons. Marchetto,
Con queste righe desidero farmi a Lei vicino e unirmi all’atto di presentazione del libro: “Primato pontificio ed episcopato. Dal primo millennio al Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II”. Le chiedo che mi senta spiritualmente presente.
La tematica del libro è un omaggio all’amore che Ella porta alla Chiesa, un amore leale e al tempo stesso poetico. La lealtà e la poesia non sono oggetto di commercio: non si comprano né si vendono, sono semplicemente virtù radicate in un cuore di figlio che sente la Chiesa come Madre; o per essere più preciso, e dirlo con ”aria” ignaziana di famiglia, come “la Santa Madre Chiesa gerarchica”.
Questo amore Lei lo ha manifestato in molti modi, incluso correggendo un errore o imprecisione da parte mia, – e di ciò La ringrazio di cuore –, ma soprattutto si é manifestato in tutta la sua purezza negli studi fatti sul Concilio Vaticano II.
Una volta Le ho detto, caro Mons. Marchetto, e oggi desidero ripeterlo, che La considero il migliore ermeneuta del Concilio Vaticano II. So che é un dono di Dio, ma so anche che Ella lo ha fatto fruttificare.
Le sono grato per tutto il bene che Lei ci fa con la sua testimonianza di amore alla Chiesa e chiedo al Signore che ne sia ricompensato abbondantemente.
Le chiedo per favore che non si dimentichi di pregare per me.?Che Gesù La benedica e la Vergine Santa La protegga.
Vaticano 7 Ottobre 2013
The enthusiastic commentary of the liturgist Andrea Grillo on Pope Francis’s judgments on the Council, in the interview in “La Civiltà Cattolica”:
> All’inizio del Concilio, la liturgia
Among the authors of the “History of Vatican Council II” promoted by the “school of Bologna” and highly criticized by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto – whom Pope Francis has called the “best hermeneut” of the Council – is also a leading figure of the worldwide Catholic hierarchy, Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle.
Tagle was in fact the author, as an ordinary priest, of a key chapter of the fourth volume published in 1999, the one entitled “The storm of November: the ‘black week.'” A chapter that Marchetto, in a book that blasted the Bolognese historiography (“Vatican Council II. Counterpoint for its history,” published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana in 2005), defined as “a rich and even comprehensive study, but unbalanced,” written in “journalistic language” and here and there “lacking in the objectivity required of the true historian.”
Marchetto’s criticisms nonetheless did not prevent Tagle, bishop of Imus since 2001, from becoming first archbishop of Manila in 2011 and now cardinal.
The pope’s homily of November 18 at Santa Marta in the account from “L’Osservatore Romano:
> La fedeltà a Dio non si negozia
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.