MILAN, Italy, November 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A best-selling Italian writer has broken his silence on the current papacy to voice concerns over Pope Francis’ attitude toward doctrine.
Vittorio Messori, 76, is best-known in the English-speaking world for his book-length interviews with then-Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report (1987) and with Pope John Paul II in Threshold of Hope. The journalist has now published an essay in an Italian Catholic magazine, Il Timore, outlining his fears that Pope Francis is turning the Catholic Church into a kind of “liquid society” in which the only certainty is uncertainty and the only constant is change.
The article, which is not available online, was first brought to the attention of the English-speaking world by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register.
In his essay, Messori draws on the work of Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017), the Jewish-Polish philosopher who introduced the concept of “liquid modernity” to sociology. “Liquid modernity” represents a change from what Bauman called “solid modernity.” Bauman wrote that the “liquid” modern man values individualism over social ties. He “flows through his own life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values and even sexual orientation and gender.”
Bauman observed that such a man excludes himself from traditional networks of support, freeing himself from their restrictions or requirements. This extreme individualism has created societies in which, Messori writes, “everything is unstable and changeable.” Today it is acceptable to believe that change is “the only permanent thing” and that uncertainty is the “only certainty.”
Messori is troubled that these ideas have begun to influence religious faith. He writes that believers are becoming “disturbed by the fact that even the Catholic Church — which was an age-old example of stability — seems to want to become ‘liquid’ as well.”
As evidence, Messori cites a recent interview with the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal. In conversation with journalist Giuseppe Rusconi, Sosa said that because Jesus’ words were not recorded on tape or disk, “we don’t know exactly what he said.” Because of this “uncertainty,” Sosa believes that Christians need to “discern” the true meaning of Scripture with reference to their current circumstances.
“Doctrine is a word that I don’t like very much, it brings with it the image of the hardness of stone,” Sosa told Rusconi. “Human reality is much more nuanced, it is never black or white, it is in continual development.”
Messori criticizes Pope Francis for being susceptible to the same attitude:
“But another Jesuit, also a South American, no one less than the Pope himself, in one of the many interviews he gives to the most diverse people, in the most diverse places — by plane, in St. Peter's Square, on the street — has repeated what is one of the (pillars) of his strategy of teaching and government: ’the Catholic temptation that must be overcome is the uniformity of rules, their rigidity, while on the contrary we must judge and act on a case by case basis.’”
Messori distinguishes between the original meaning of “discernment” as used in classic Jesuit spirituality and the way it is now used — to “freely interpret even dogma, depending on the situation, as has happened in some official documents containing his signature, which have aroused perplexity (to use a euphemism) in some cardinals,” he writes.
The Italian journalist says this approach seemed to him “wrong and damaging to the Church and the faith;” “in a ‘liquid world’ where everything becomes uncertain, precarious, provisional, it is precisely the stability and firmness of the Catholic Church that all humanity needs, and not only believers.”
“Those rocks of dogma, to which the superior general of the Society of Jesus is allergic, could and should become firm ground in a society that flatters itself and tends towards mushy chaos,” Messori continues.
He observes that one of the symbols of the Catholic Church is a “robust oak, held firmly to the ground by strong roots.” He asks if it is “really helpful to replace the oak with a rod that folds in any direction, with any breath of air, every human desire or fashion?”
As a help in returning certainty to the Church, Messori recommends a new appreciation and re-appropriation of the “ancient and beautiful” motto of the Carthusians: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis (the Cross is steady while the world turns).