On Monday evening of this week, on a plane flight from Chicago to Philadelphia, I sat, amidst the poor lighting and the turbulence, transfixed, pouring over the pages of the Holy Father’s recently published interview, about which several on this page, and thousands elsewhere, have opined. So, I was not reading it with fresh eyes, but rather through the prism of not only the New York Times, but also by way of the assessments of several writers whose opinions I respect and from whom I have learned much, includingRoyal, Wiegel,Scalia, Wehner, Reno, Lopez, Dreher, and Garnett, to name just a few.Like some of them, I found myself not entirely pleased with the language that Pope Francis employed. Some of his words, including those that rightly suggest that our moral theology will appear disjointed if wrenched from the anthropological and soteriological contexts they naturally reside, were later, ironically, wrenched out of the ecclesiastical context in which Papa Francesco is asking us to understand his prescriptions for the global Church.
That, it seems to me, is precisely what happened with the account in the New York Times, and among the reports offered by some Catholic and non-Catholic believers who saw in the de-contextualized words of Francis a glimmer of hope that the barque of Peter would begin to transition to its proper role as a dinghy on the cultural Titanic of liberal progressivism. Apparently, if John McEnroe were to become the Times’ religion reporter we would soon see the headline, “Tennis Mentioned in Bible,” since, after all, the Book of Genesis does say that “Joseph served in Pharoah’s court.” (Gen. 41:46).