Romanticizing his reckless heterodox activism, Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to make a “mess” — an exhortation he himself observes almost weekly. “Mission accomplished,” quipped Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island in 2014.
This week’s papal messes began with reports that Eugenio Scalfari, the atheistic ex-Catholic journalist whom Francis treats as his Boswell, had been told by the pontiff that all adulterers are welcome at Communion.
Francis is so enamored with Scalfari as his Boswell that he had their disgraceful interview earlier in his papacy–in which the Holy Father flirted with moral and religious relativism by encouraging atheists to cleave to their “conception of the good” in order to attain a salvation they don’t even want — published in book form under the direction of the Vatican’s publishing house. If a future pope ever revives the Index of Forbidden Books, that book will appear on the list. Many of Francis’s answers to Scalfari’s self-indulgent questions aren’t worthy of a priest, much less a pope.
According to Scalfari’s most recent interview with Francis, the Holy Father pronounced that “all the divorced who ask will be admitted [to Communion].” Naturally, the Vatican press office responded to this latest embarrassment with Jesuitical obfuscation.
“Obviously the report of Mr. Scalfari is not correct,” said the pope’s slippery spokesman, the Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. The only thing obvious is that the report’s status is not obvious at all. For all we know, given the pope’s precedents with this reporter, such “obviously” incorrect quotes will turn up in a book later rolled out by the Vatican publishing house.
“As it already happened in the past, Scalfari attributes sometimes to the Pope precise words, with quotation marks, that the Pope has never pronounced, but are only his interpretation,” Lombardi continued. “[Scalfari] has publicly declared that he has never recorded the words of the persons that he has interviewed, and this is well known by the Italian press… Therefore the words of the article of Scalfari absolutely cannot be considered as the mind of the Pope.”
This arrangement has never concerned Pope Francis before. The last time Scalfari conducted one of these slipshod interviews Francis happily signed off on it. He was untroubled, if not flattered, by the quotes the aged leftist reporter had crafted for him. He breezily told Scalfari to go ahead with publication.
What’s the problem now? Nothing, except the exigency of having to head-fake credulous Catholics for a few months until the pope gets around to writing up his post-mortem on the Synod. Vatican officials don’t want the frogs to boil just yet.
So the Lombardis are turning the heat down a bit, knowing that the Catholic press, which covers Francis with about as much honesty as Pravda covered Soviet premiers, along with many in the Francis-friendly secular press, will blast out reports of the papal denial and browbeat Catholics who doubt it.
So that was mess number one. Mess number two this week was the Vatican arrest of two “hand-picked” Francis advisers who have been accused of leaking, in violation of Holy See laws, financial details to the Italian press. This too is an utterly self-inflicted papal scandal. One of the hand-picked advisers under arrest is Francesca Chaouqui, a 33-year-old Italian public relations pinhead dubbed “the pope’s lobbyist.”
Traditionalists had protested her appointment to a Vatican financial commission, pointing to her lewd Facebook selfies and idiotic tweets. Francis, in who-am-I-to-judge mode, ignored these complaints and Vatican officials extolled “her authoritative leadership based on strong relational and communicative endowments.”
You can always count on post-Vatican II liberals to bow down before the “professional qualifications,” and all the phony jargon that goes with them, of a worldly Catholic. After all, as Francis has said, the Church must not condemn the world but seek to understand it.
Previous popes weren’t so easily impressed by the “communicative endowments” of a prospective Vatican employee. They were more interested in orthodoxy. That is now the last, not the first, consideration at the Vatican.
The obvious consequence of a Vatican that pants after the approval and prestige of the world — a Vatican that will hire a radical egghead like Naomi Klein to push its climate change propaganda as easily as it hires a decadent PR executive like Francesca Chaouqui to “reform” its finances — is a Church mired in worldly scandals.
Pope Francis presents himself as the humble fisherman, but it is a pose that is harder and harder for him to sustain as the dirt of the world collects on his carefully selected Petrine loafers.