John Westen

Fallout continues from misinterpretations of Pope Francis interviews

John Westen
John Westen
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ROME, October 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis has the heart of a liberal, and I’m not speaking here of "liberal" in the pejorative sense, but in the positive sense - a generous and child-like heart.  With this heart and his mandate to care for souls, Pope Francis can perform miracles, even the miracle of halting the downward spiral of the Catholic Church in the West.  It will take radical action to achieve that miracle, and it is just such a heart that is needed to take such radical action. 

In addition to having the heart for action, realistic perception is required, to see the needs of the Church all over the world. Those who advise the Pope on the status of the situation globally aid in this monumental task.  The role is principally, but not exclusively taken up by clergy from all parts of the globe who have regular meetings with the Pope to advise him.

However, it seems that he has had some very questionable advice.  This can be seen very clearly in his remarks from his interview on the return flight from World Youth Day in Rio. 

The official Vatican transcript of the interview records a reporter asking him: “You did not speak about abortion, about same-sex marriage.  In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex.  Why did you not speak about this?”

Pope Francis replied, “The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this.  It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!” 

When the reporter pressed again saying, “But the young are interested in this,” Pope Francis said, “Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people.  Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.”

As many of the activists in the trenches of the culture wars in North America and Europe have remarked, the youth of today do not know what the Church teaches on these matters. They have misperceptions of the Church’s teachings, viewing them as a big ‘no’ to all things fun, but have no clue about the truth, beauty and depth of the Church’s teaching. Moreover, as speakers on these controversial topics will readily attest, the youth are hungry for such discussion, especially from those who, like Pope Francis, are willing and able to speak freely and from the heart about these issues.

Polling

Recent polling shows that Pope Francis has a higher approval rating, at 89% favorable or very favorable, among American Catholics than both of his predecessors. The same poll asked Catholics: “As you may know, Pope Francis recently remarked that the church has become too focused on issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives. Do you agree or disagree?” Sixty-eight percent agreed. 

The same poll that found a majority of Catholics approving of Pope Francis and agreeing with his supposed belief that the church is too focused on abortion, etc., also showed that Catholic Americans approved of same-sex “marriage” at a higher rate than the average American.  The poll found 56% of all Americans approving of same-sex "marrige," but among Catholics it’s 60%. Even among Catholics who attend Mass every week, the poll notes a majority (53%) support homosexual "marriage." 

Similarly, questions on legal abortion found Catholic Americans only very slightly less approving than the average American. A majority of Catholics - 52% - were found to support legal abortion in all or most cases, with the American average at 54%. 

While it is undoubtedly a good thing that Pope Francis is able to reach a wide and diverse audience through his popularity, there are troubling questions about whether this popularity is based more upon an authentic encounter with the real Pope Francis and everything he stands for, or with a fabricated Pope that has been created by media-driven misinterpretations of some of the more ambiguous statements in his recent interviews.

There is a considerable body of evidence to indicate that many of the Pope’s more unlikely fans are more enamored with a pope of their own imagination than the real thing, and that at some point there is going to be a necessary correction in the public square, as many of these fans recognize that he will not, contrary to their hopes, change any Church teachings on their pet moral issues. 

Media using Pope’s remarks to attack Catholic activists

Since the off-the-cuff papal interviews began, it has become commonplace for media pundits to use selective quotes from Pope Francis to berate Catholic activists in the life and family arena. A few of the many examples will illustrate the trend.

On September 20, CNN host Chris Cuomo used Pope Francis’ remarks to attack the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, a stalwart defender of the Church and her teachings on life and family matters.  “You just heard what the Pope said. Why wouldn’t you try to move past this parsing rhetoric and try to be what your Church is supposed to be about?” And again, cutting off Donohue, Cuomo quipped, “The Pope has given you a different message. He’s saying don’t make these statements about the homosexuals, don’t make these statements about the Jews, get back to what your Church is about. Jesus wasn’t about what you’re doing right now. Are you going to hear that message or not? Because it doesn’t sound like it.” 

On Fox News Detroit’s Let It Rip program of September 29, the hosts spoke with homosexual ‘marriage’ promoter John Corvino about a Catholic college’s decision to disinvite him from speaking on campus, and representing the Catholic position was Fr. Paul Nicholson, a priest known for his rock-solid evangelization efforts.  

On the show, not only Corvino, but also the hosts, repeatedly pushed Fr. Nicholson over their misreading of Pope Francis’ remarks. Speaking of the Pope, one of the hosts said, “He’s not endorsing the gay lifestyle but he’s saying we have to be more accepting of it.” Then again, answering the priest’s explanation that the Pope did not change Church teaching on the matter, the host said, “No, but he is saying, didn’t you think that he did say, that we need to be more accepting of gay people and not focus on the negatives of these peoples’ private lifestyles?”

An October 6th New York Times article covered a Catholic University voting on whether or not to remove coverage for elective abortion from the staff health care plan.  Writer Ian Lovett began his piece this way: “Not three weeks have passed since Pope Francis said the church had grown ‘obsessed’ with abortion, declaring, 'We have to find a new balance.' But on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, overlooking this city’s west side, a fight over abortion now threatens to rip the school asunder.”

Political Catholics

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, known as the leading promoter of abortion and homosexuality in Congress while simultaneously proclaiming herself to be a devout Catholic, was interviewed on CNN about the Pope’s remarks.  Like President Obama, who recently said he was “hugely impressed” with the Pope’s pronouncements, Pelosi was ecstatic. “(He’s) starting to sound like a nun. The Pope is starting to sound like the nuns,” Pelosi began, in an apprent reference to the liberal reputation of many of the older religious orders in the United States, many of which were recently investigated by the Vatican and promoting views contrary to the faith. 

“I was there for his inauguration. And I, being Catholic, believed that he was chosen Pope by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, so I pay attention to what he says,” she said. “And I can tell you that there is great joy among Catholics and friends of Catholics … It’s really quite remarkable. It’s a source of joy to us all.”

When the host noted that the comments were not a source of joy for all Catholics and that conservative Catholics had expressed some reservations, Pelosi responded: “I don’t know about them because certainly when it was another Pope who had something else to say, they wanted to hold us all to it.”

Pro-abortion New York Congressman Charles Rangel wrote in the New York Times that the Pope’s remarks were “a much-needed call for the clergy to move beyond the threats of excommunication or denying communion to pro-choice politicians.”

“As a former altar boy who has never shied away from pleading with the Church to broaden its focus beyond gays, abortion and birth control, I thank Pope Francis for urging the Church to refocus on its fundamental teachings of love and compassion,” he said.

Leaders of Catholic institutions

The new President of a Minnesota Catholic college used her reading of Pope Francis’ remarks on homosexuality to justify allowing practicing homosexuals to be professors at the college.  In her opening speech at convocation, Julie Sullivan, President of the University of St. Thomas, announced, “It pains me to think that a gay student, staff or faculty member would ever feel unwelcome or a need to ‘hide’ at St. Thomas. As Pope Francis reminds us, we are not called to judge. We are called to love and support everyone in our community regardless of their sexual orientation. And, I might add, regardless of the gender of their spouse.”

At a Catholic school board meeting in Ottawa, Ontario in late September, a Catholic trustee invoked Pope Francis to question a delegation of parents who were concerned over the board’s promotion of a pro-abortion group.  The parents suggested replacing problematic partners with those who “refuse to participate in any immoral activities.” After the presentation, a trustee demanded to know if the parent-presenter had “listened [to] or heard the Pope’s latest statement and clarification.”

Dissident Catholics

Initial euphoric reactions from liberal Catholics were trumpeted in mainstream media all over the world.

Catholics for a Free Choice, in their press release on the day of the publication of the Jesuit interview, said, “We welcome what Pope Francis said today when he called for the Catholic church to be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine and limited views on moral teachings.”  The pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ group’s President, Jon O’Brien, added, “We hope he takes steps to ensure that his more open view of how the church should deal with people trickles down to his brother bishops around the world.”

The press release from the homosexuality promoting ‘Catholic’ group Dignity USA stated: “We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the Pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with love rather than condemnation.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke added: “LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits.” She concluded, “The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people.”

Sister Jeanine Gramick, who heads up the pro-homosexual group New Ways Ministry, which has already been publicly sanctioned by Church leadership, was on MSNBC television with a glowing reaction to the Papal interview. ”I cried when I first began to read it,” she said.  She repeatedly said the Pope is saying that these “these hot button issues” are “not essential.”

Communists

Paul Kengor, a convert to Catholicism who was drawn, as he says, “to the Church initially in large part because of its stalwart anti-communism across centuries,” was dismayed to report that he found praise for Pope Francis in the pages of the radical communist publication People’s World.

Writing in the American Spectator, Kengor notes, “After decades of slandering, attacking, denigrating, and even trying to kill various popes in the Roman Catholic Church — from Pope Pius XII to Pope John Paul II — communists are suddenly embracing a pope.”

Commenting on the Jesuit magazine interview with Pope Francis, the Communist publication argued that “the most important point the Pope made regarded the narrow focus of some Catholics on a few controversial issues of sexual morality.”

Author Henry Millstein explained: “Why should this matter to progressives? Because Catholic (and other) right-wingers, including, lamentably, some bishops, have latched on to this narrow set of issues to promote a broader right-wing agenda. If the essence of being Catholic is to oppose abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, then faithful Catholics (and some other Christians) can easily be hoodwinked into supporting rightist candidates who line up with this agenda, disregarding flagrant violations of other aspects of Catholic teaching. Pope Francis knocked the legs out from under this ploy…”

From the Pews

Some of the first reaction from Catholics in the pews to be publicly revealed came in the column of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.   Describing responses he received to the Pope’s Jesuit magazine interview, Archbishop Chaput wrote:

Some people grasped at the interview like a lifeline — or a vindication. One person praised the Holy Father for stressing that the “Church must focus on compassion and mercy, not on enforcing small-minded rules.” She added that “we’re at last free from the chains of hatred that have ruled the Catholic Church for so many years and led to my unease in bringing my own children into that Church.”

More common though were emails from catechists, parents, and everyday Catholics who felt confused by media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.

I heard from a mother of four children – one adopted, another disabled from birth — who’d spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics. She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices.

A priest said the Pope “has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded,” and that “[if you’re a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.” Another priest wrote that “the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church.”

LifeSiteNews co-founder Steve Jalsevac described another perception in his recent blog post on Pope Francis’ interviews. He related that his priest gave a homily on angels and demons with a strong pro-life emphasis and later there was a pro-life announcement that generated applause from the people. Afterward in the parking lot a “disgruntled older couple” was overheard “complaining about all the abortion talk during the Mass.”  One of them said, “Don’t they know what Pope Francis just said?"

A parish group in Ontario, Canada which has participated in a yearly fundraiser for the pro-life cause, has let the pro-life group in question know that “because of what the Holy Father has said,” they will no longer be participating in the fundraiser.

Catholics have also found a new need to defend against charges that the Pope is no longer pro-life. At a LifeChain on Sunday in Valparaiso, Indiana, Dr. Richard Stith reports, “we held our annual peaceful, prayerful Life Chain protest against abortion. A  Mennonite protester asked a Catholic, "What do you think of your Pope coming out pro-abortion?"

Priests

Priests have not been immune from misinterpretations of Pope Francis’ remarks. 

A Rhode Island newspaper did interviews with a number of local priests in response to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” remark concerning homosexuality.

Father David Thurber, ordained in 2008, told the newspaper he saw in Pope Francis’ remarks a justification for refusing to deny communion to couples living together without being married. “I am not in the business of denying Communion,” he said. “As Pope Francis said, it’s not fair to judge. I preach the Gospel, and whoever hears it, hears it.”

Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery, one of the five Irish priests censured by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and threatened with excommunication over his stand on women priests and contraception, has also lauded the Pope’s interview.

He told the Irish Independent: “What the Pope said seems to amount to a fairly substantial critique of the way in which the Curia and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith have been operating.”

The Pope said that in some cases, when Vatican Congregations are not functioning well, "they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship". The paper says the Pope’s call for local bishops’ conferences to handle such matters could potentially be "good news" for Fr. Flannery and the other censured Irish priests.

Fr Flannery added: “It changes the rules of the game in the sense that it appears that the Curia has largely been taken out of the business of dealing with disciplinary matters and it has been handed back to the local church to deal with it.”

He also said there was "no question" that the Pope was criticizing the "thought police" who spent their time reporting people to Rome.

Conclusion

Let us pray for Pope Francis and his collaborators that they may have the strength, courage and wisdom to direct the Church in Her mission to save souls. As Pope Leo XIII remarked in an 1899 encyclical letter to the then-Archbishop of Baltimore, some contend that “it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them.” However, he said, the Church has already visited such suggestions and has determined, “Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ.”

Concluding his point, Pope Leo said that there was nothing closer to his heart “than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it.”  He added, however, “but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ.”


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Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

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By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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