Francis: The Good, the Baffling, and the Unclear | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
Recent comments by the Holy Father, especially in interviews, are lacking in three important things
"Nonetheless, Lombardi stopped short of saying that every line was literally as pronounced by the pope, suggesting instead that it represents a new genre of papal speech that’s deliberately informal and not concerned with precision." — John Allen, Jr., reporting today that journalist Eugenio Scalfari's Oct. 2nd interview with Pope Francis was not recorded, but was the product of "an after-the-fact reconstruction".
The 19th-century controversialist William G. Ward, a convert from Anglicanism and a vigorous defender of all things Catholic, once exclaimed, "I should like a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast." Since weekly papal interviews were not yet a common occurrence in the 1860s, it's not clear if Ward, were he among us today, would accept papal interviews in lieu of the somewhat more authoritative papal bulls.
A sense of humor and a sense of perspective are both helpful when pondering the recent interviews given by Pope Francis. For those who might be ready to jump off the edge of their Catechism of the Catholic Church into the cold darkness of either cynicism or despair, just consider how turbulent things would have been if the internet had been around during the Avignon papacy. Even worse, imagine if Twitter, Facebook, and Andrew Sullivan had been around during that infamous (but little discussed) period sometimes called "the Pornocracy"—a stretch of six decades or so in the tenth century that witnessed about as much mortal sin, nepotism, and abuse of power as the papacy could handle.
If that seems like an overly extreme historical reference, you may have missed how some are saying, with obvious glee, that Francis is unlike any previous pontiff and is set to remake the papacy and the Catholic Church in ways that eyes have not seen and ears have not heard before. You may have also missed how others are saying, with obvious distress, that Francis is unlike any previous pontiff and is set to remake the papacy and the Catholic Church in ways—well, you get the picture. There are also those who are, with the best of intentions, insisting that nearly all of the hysteria, furor, and meta-narratives are completely missing that Francis is both a surprising breath of fresh air and an often misunderstood man who desires nothing more than a Church radically committed to Jesus Christ and living the Gospel with a profound spirit of evangelical fervor. The oft-expressed hope that the Pope can unite and bring all men of good will together is apparently being realized, albeit in a unity based in countless arguments over what Francis really says, means, and intends.
For my part (and I'm hardly alone here, I'm certain), I reject the first two options and agree in part with the third, with some important qualifiers. Let's begin with the Good: