Eugenio Scalfari, who made this sensational claim, cannot be treated as a reliable witness. He is an atheist, a Marxist, not a Christian. Although he has interviewed Pope Francis several times, he has not recorded the sessions or taken notes. He boasts of the ability to reconstruct conversations from memory: a technique that would be inappropriate for any responsible journalist, let alone one of Scalfari's advanced age (95).
Still Scalfari is no fool. He is a veteran Italian journalist, the founder and still the editor of La Repubblica, and one of the Pope's favorite interlocutors. And Scalfari does not merely summarize what he takes as the Pope's belief. He gives the Pope's response to that summary — putting the Pontiff's words inside quotation marks, as if to dare a direct denial. Why would he go out of his way to announce that the Roman Pontiff rejects a central doctrine of Christianity?
I can see several possible explanations for Scalfari's extraordinary statement.
- Pope Francis actually said what Scalfari reports he said. In that case the Pope has embraced heresy. That seems highly unlikely, but even the remote possibility is so unsettling that the faithful should have 100% certainty that it is not the case. Regrettably the Vatican's “clarification” does not provide that certainty. (More on that subject below.)
- Pope Francis did not say what Scalfari reports he said, but what he did say was confusing enough so that Scalfari innocently drew the wrong conclusion. In that case the Pope is an ineffective teacher of fundamental Christian doctrine.
- Pope Francis gave an accurate presentation of Catholic doctrine, but Scalfari is either incapable of grasping essential points, or malicious in his determination to distort the Pope's statements. In that case, the Pope is culpably imprudent for granting repeated interviews to Scalfari, who has used those interviews again and again as occasions for stories that were sensational, unsettling to the faithful, and — we hope! — inaccurate.
After each such story, the Vatican has issued clarifications and disclaimers, telling the world that Scalfari's interviews cannot be considered accurate. That line of defense is no longer plausible. If Scalfari is not reliable, why is he granted interviews? More important, if Scalfari's stories “cannot be considered as a faithful account,” why can't the Vatican furnish something that could be considered a faithful account? What did the Pope say?
In this latest case, why couldn't the Vatican announce, in clear contradiction of Scalfari's claim, that of course the Holy Father holds and teaches what the Church has always held and taught? The stakes are far too high to accept another bout of uncertainty; the confusion is far too widely spread. The faithful need unequivocal assurance that the Bishop of Rome accepts the Nicene Creed.
Published with permission from CatholicCulture.org.