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.