Re Translating Francis’ Interview with Eugenio Scalfari – UPDATED

Pope Francis called Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist editor of La Repubblica, and said, “how about an interview” and Scalfari, no fool, took him up on it. Reading the first English translation found online this morning, I cursed my poor Italian and kept thinking, “this must be a sloppy translation — some of this isn’t even making sense.”

Well, “Nunblogger” Sister Anne Flanagan, a Daughter of Saint Paul, saw issues too, and since she reads Italian well, she has become a piecemeal translation that offers clarity:

If “everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them,” is the Pope saying that there is no such thing as objective truth, or objective right or wrong? This is where it is really, really helpful to know Italian: “Ciascuno di noi ha una sua visione del Bene e anche del Male. Noi dobbiamo incitarlo a procedere verso quello che lui pensa sia il Bene” is more literally (and helpfully?) translated as “Each one of us has his/her own vision of the Good or even of Evil. We must encourage him/her to move toward that which he/she sees as the Good.” The Pope is not leveling the difference between truth and untruth, right and wrong: he is saying that we all have a duty to encourage people to pursue the Good, knowing that the true Good will not fail to manifest himself, even if “through a glass darkly.”

I will stop here for a second, because someone has already complained to me that this translation is still not enough — that people need more explicit instruction as to what defines good and evil, but I disagree, and I think Aquinas would, too. If Francis seems to be trusting the Holy Spirit to lead people Christ-ward once he encourages them to walk toward the good, it is likely because he knows the sacraments — especially baptism — orient us toward being able to find our way (even if we have been detoured) toward the good, and then toward the light of All Goodness. I do understand the concern that people will take this incorrectly, and call evil good or slip into relativism. But again and again we’re seeing a stripping down to fundamentals in what Francis is saying.

Pope Francis says he is no mystic, but I think he is, and people have to come to grips with mystics. Mystics think this way. They walk and live this way. We get the pope we need. Benedict, bless him, was a catechist when we needed a catechist. Now, as the world seems to make less and less sense and the veils seem to be thinning, perhaps we are in need of a mystic. Mystics have an economic way of teaching; they jump right to the soul, when the soul is willing.

It bears repeating: this Pontiff is continuing a lesson in trust that was begun the moment his predecessor announced his resignation. There is a sense that both Benedict XVI, and now Francis, are quite comfortable tossing everything into the path of the Holy Spirit — and seemingly taking great risks with their words or their actions — and trusting that the Holy Spirit will see it all to rights.

That we need these lessons modeled for us so starkly suggests to me that we are being made fit for something. Perhaps they are only trying to teach us to trust even in what can seem like a benign day-to-day, but I wonder if we are not being prepared for a time when we will, as Catholic Christians, have to run on trust, alone.

These weekly meltdowns people are having over every word Francis utters, seem to me to be the product of having spent too much time (these past couple of decades) giving primacy to our emotions over ordinary reasoning and feelings over a little critical thinking. We’ve become a culture unable to really hear, really listen — our feelings are churning always, and much to the fore, and we’re trained to honor those feelings and let them out, let them out, let them out and then wallow in them. It’s not good for us. It keeps us forever reacting instead of responding. It keeps us easily diverted, unfocused, constantly looking for consolation, reassurance and parenting when in fact it may be time for us to climb out of the abyss of suffocating sentiment and gird our loins a bit. Our spiritual big boy and big girl pants may need putting on.

It is important — in fact necessary — to be confident that the Holy Father is representing our faith and teaching it well. We should be looking at what he is saying. But there is scrutiny and then there is scrupulousness, and sometimes it seems to me that people are bordering on scupulousness, unwilling to allow the movement of the Holy Spirit to speak to and pierce any soul whose understanding is not their own.

Perhaps we need to examine ourselves in all of our reactions. Perhaps we’re supposed to be discerning just how woeful we are in trust — how little we actually do trust the Holy Spirit — and how much we depend upon others to be the church (and define the church) to the world on our behalf — when in the end that responsibility may rest upon our shoulders (or may be about to fall onto our shoulders) in ways we cannot even imagine right now.

Suppose all communication is wiped out due to grid failures and solar blips — or because tyranny has descended upon us with a jackboot of suppression (or at least severe marginalization) — then you and I may have nothing to go on but faith in God, and in his Savior and in the Advocate, and in each other. We’ll do a lousy job of things if we have no developed interior habit of trust, or if we cannot let go of all the ideas that have kept us cocooned and comfortable in our Catholicism.

Ponder it. Ponder Will Duquettes words about being made fit to bear fruit. We are being made fit for something. Here is more from Sister Anne:

Here’s another whopper: “The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood.” Um, the Son of God did not become incarnate in souls. He became incarnate in human nature, in his own human flesh and blood. The Italian is “Il Figlio di Dio si è incarnato per infondere nell’anima degli uomini il sentimento della fratellanza”: “The Son of God became incarnate to infuse into the soul of men [could say "the human soul"] the feeling of brotherhood.”

Sister Anne suggests taking the rest of the interview with a grain of salt before a better translation is available. I concur.

Thankfully, there is another translation — a “work in progress” — coming together over at In Caelo et in Terra blog, where Mark de Vries is putting a good Dutch translation from Father Roderick into English.

One of the first complaints I read this morning was echoed by, among others, the Crescat, taking exception to the idea that young people out of work and the lonely elderly were the greatest evils:

. . .that right there leaves me speechless. Unemployed young people and lonely elderly are the worst most serious evil that afflict the world?!“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not be lonely and have a job.” [Narcissus 3:16]: “young people out of work and lonely elderly? THAT’S the greatest evil?

Here is’ Mark’s take on it. It’s quite a bit more nuanced:

“Young people without work, one of the evil of the world”

Mark’s translation: Pope Francis tells me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the worst is that they don’t even look for them any more. They are being crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live when you are being crushed by the present? Without a memory of the past and without the will to go forward into the future to build something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

What the Pope is describing here is such a terrible isolation as to be almost dehumanizing. And the root of all sin is that it dehumanizes us. And so yes, he is right, these are among our great evils. At some level, the Thingification of Human Beings is the root of all sin. The evil is of a piece.

Your Holiness, people will say that this is largely a political and economic problem for states, governments, political parties and trade unions.

“Of course, you are right, but it also concerns the Church, in fact, particularly the Church because this situation does not hurt only bodies but also souls. The Church must feel responsible for both souls and bodies.”

I would suggest you check back at this site for more translation, and with Sister Anne, too.

Think about this, please: these are conversations, not encyclicals, not ex cathedra pronouncements. We’re being essentially allowed to listen in on a conversation between a pope and an atheist. He’s getting a secular paper to give us a primer on evangelization and ummm…yes, he’s proselytizing. I think portions of the conversation that seem like worrisome Pelagianism or “hippie talk” to some, is the pope trying to demonstrate that he hears Scalfari, has been exposed to those ideas and therefore understands what has formed him.

That’s a first step to being an effective evangelist. Be with people where they are. John Paul II said as much when he told his priests, “you have to deal with the world as it is.” Or, as Mary Eberstadt put it:

He’s suggesting that believers work with the facts on the ground and find creative ways of planting the same eternal seeds in damaged soil.

Every word in a conversation is not meant to be parsed for perfection; if you are sitting at a table and listening, you get it. And we’re watching a man get atheist newsfolk to give us a primer on how to talk to atheists. Have a little patience with the pope and with the Holy Spirit. We deserve excellent translations, yes, but sometimes those are slow coming. They deserve a little patience from us.

And everyone. . .calm the heck down, already. It must be exhausting to have to find energy every day to be enraged, concerned, anxious or offended. As my Auntie Lillie, a taciturn vulgarian who nevertheless got a lot of it right, would say: Lighten up. You’ll be dead a long time. Even longer if you’re going to be a perpetual pisspot while you’re here.

Please check out our Catholic Channel landing page,
where many of the bloggers are writing about this latest interview, and some are not happy, and some are. Several of them have written several posts, so that tells you just how energized everyone is! This pope is killing me. :-)

Dr. Gerard Nadal,
who is pretty darned conservative, speaks up for Peter and also asks for deep breaths:

For many traditionalists, it is the frightful spectre of a Jesuit pope ascending the throne of Peter just in time to undo all of the damage control and growth wrought by John Paul and Benedict in the wake of Vatican II. Now, many fear, we stand to lose all that has been set aright. In this, many speak openly and disparigingly of the new pope, contempt dripping in a manner not unlike the leftists in their assessment of John Paul and Benedict.

Right or left, orthodox or progressive, it is all a manifestation of the same underlying spiritual illness…


Are we only to submit to papal authority when the mood, or mode suits us? Do we place stylistic predilection over our duty to respect and obedience to legitimate episcopal and papal authority? Is our faith on the orthodox side of the aisle so fragile that we get a case of the vapors at the least departure from our preferred norm? To be certain, this pope is dangerous. His style is that of…


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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Tom

    I don’t really think of Francis as a mystic, myself. In the interview, he says that he hasn’t had many mystical experiences, and his writing and speaking style doesn’t seem that mystical. John Paul II seemed far more like a mystic, and those who knew said that when he prayed, it seemed as though he was communing with God Himself.

    Francis’ style seems to favor easily-understood aphorisms, as opposed to John Paul’s mystical ruminations and Benedict’s theologically and philosophically precise statements. Of course, these quotes, while easily understood and affecting, can have the unfortunate habit of showing weaknesses under closer examination.

  • MeanLizzie

    You don’t have to be a visionary or be experiencing ecstasies to be a mystic. I’m mystic and I’ve never had them. Merton was a mystic. So was John O Connor. You see mysticism in Francis in the depths of his words, the way they strip right down to love, in a way Therese of Lisieux or Elizabeth of the Trinity would certainly understand.

  • Tom

    I hadn’t thought of mystics that way. I don’t know that much about Thomas Merton or you or Cardinal O’Connor (although I know someone who does), but how do you figure them as mystics and not Pope Benedict?

    You do mean Cardinal O’Connor from New York there, by the way?

  • Elizabeth K.

    “That we need these lessons modeled for us so starkly suggests to me that we are being made fit for something.” Oh yes, to this especially. I have been thinking the same thing. When Pope Francis said in his first interview that the church is a field hospital, I thought immediately of the vision of Pope Leo XIII’s vision of a hundred year attack on the Church. If that is what we’ve just lived through, then indeed, the church is now a field hospital.

    I wonder, as many do, what is really happening in these strange times: a Pope Emeritus, who listened to the Holy Spirit and stepped aside, and a new Pope who seems to be cutting to the chase, gathering in as many as he can, while he can. At least that’s what I see. So yes, I think we are being prepared.

    I also thought the focus on the old and the young was delightfully strange and unexpected, and that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Isolation, yes; but perhaps also a serious danger posed to a world that devalues age and where the young have no purpose? I don’t think he was just talking about employment; I thought he was talking about meaningful purpose. “Crushed by the present”–his language here sounds apocalyptic to me.

    Strange days.

  • Gordis85

    Another fine call to conversion, dear Elizabeth! Many thanks! I understand many of us may not understand all of what our Holy Father is trying to tell us but that does not mean one has to be harsh, bitter, or disrespectful towards him.

    It is clear he is disliked by many of these same people so it may be possible that they will not budge, one iota, due to their precious self-righteous pride and “holier-than-the-pope” attitude. The more I see that attitude online, the more I remember the bible passage in the New Testament, where our Lord has instructed his disciples to:
    Luke 10:10-11
    “10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.”

    I still think, amid all this clamor, of our brothers and sisters who are being murdered and persecuted for the faith, while we, in the comfort of our cozy homes, sit in front of our computers, moaning, complaining, gnashing our teeth, wringing our hands, and all because our Holy Father does not “behave the way we think he should be behaving or saying what we think he should be saying.”

    The devil has succeeded in distracting God’s people. How much energy has been spent on the scandalized? The offended? The self-righteous? How much time has been spent in silence, in contemplation, in sacrifice? What about self-reflection of the most honest kind? Too painful to engage the Lord with such truths? Sad.

    In the meantime, churches are burned, people are starving or killed and many go unprayed for. We will have much to answer for…I know I do.

    October is the month of the Rosary and while Papa Francis lives (and for good reason) under the mantle of the Holy Virgin…I will seek to do the same.

    Thank you again for your tremendous patience and your charity, Elizabeth.

  • Ordo Antiquus


    I understand that you are trying to defend Pope Francis here, but in one crucial point the defense is not based on what he actually says. This is on the point of the most serious evil in the world.

    Even in the corrected translation this is still what the Pope says: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old … This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

    In the subsequent paragraph you summarize this as the Pope saying that these things are “…among our great evils. At some level, the Thingification of Human Beings is the root of all sin.”

    But that is not what the Pope says. He clearly says that youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old are “the most serious”, not that they are “among the most serious”. There is no qualification like what you try to produce. And there is no sign that he is discussing the “thingification” of human beings.

  • Manny

    I will wait for a good translation. I did skim the supposed bad translation and was shocked on the moral relativism. I hope it’s a bad translation. And to say the biggest problem in the world is teenage unemployment is silly.

  • perpper

    The part about good/evil reminded me immediately of that time when Papa Bene said that in a hypothetical situation of a gay man using a condom to avoid spreading disease, that would be a movement toward good. In other words, we need to start where people are and encourage them to move toward the better. Francis keeps saying this over and over.

  • CT Catholic Corner

    He thinks the “worse evil” in the world today is… unemployment and loneliness? Really? Not abortion, euthanasia, mortal sin- any of them at all? Nope, just the job rates and lonely people?
    I am sure Obama and Nancy Pelosi will be thrilled to hear it. :(

  • MeanLizzie

    Really? You really did not get the whole context of what he said? You didn’t understand the isolation and strandedness he extrapolated that remark into? He is describing a devastating evil akin to all the others. ““The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the worst is that they don’t even look for them any more. They are being crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live when you are being crushed by the present? Without a memory of the past and without the will to go forward into the future to build something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.””

  • MeanLizzie

    It’s not what he said. Read his whole remark, in context. Let it sink in.

  • MeanLizzie

    I’m not “defending” the pope. He doesn’t need my defending. I’m seriously disturbed that so many people are flying around on emotions. Again, this is a conversation. Approach it like that and you will understand it better and not need to wring your hands over every word or a missing qualifier. Read that statement again in context and if you don’t understand the chilling evil he is describing, which is of a piece with all the other evils…then I’d ask you to pray about it and ask God about it. We should always ask the Holy Spirit to inform our understanding, no? “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the worst is that they don’t even look for them any more. They are being crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live when you are being crushed by the present? Without a memory of the past and without the will to go forward into the future to build something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

  • MeanLizzie
  • MeanLizzie
  • FW Ken

    The poor translation still has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, he doesn’t say that truth is relative, but that each had his own vision of good. That happens to be true. It may also be true that this may be the only point aft which our unbelief can touch their unbelief. It’s not all there is, but it’s something the Holy Spirit can work with.

  • Manny

    Too late for tonight. I’ll try tomorow. Thanks.

  • Augustine

    I wonder if the apologetics fad of the last few years, which immensely benefited me, has brought us to proof-texting pontifical words.

    People seem more bothered parsing every iota of this interview while missing the elephant in the room: the Pope called on Scalfari twice on his fairy-tale beliefs. In writing. In public.

    How’s that for new evangelization?

  • Augustine

    Obviously, many seem unable to read figures of speech and cannot spot hyperbole, either out of ignorance or out of malice.

  • Augustine

    I did not read the translation in English, only the original in Italian. Even then the interview is filled with nuanced statements by the Holy Father. Nothing that can’t be found in accord with Church Teaching, but also prone to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

  • Katherine

    I cannot thank you enough for this piece — I’ve been defending Pope Francis up and down but this latest interview DID make me nervous… and I didn’t want to be – I knew I didn’t have to be. Then you come along with such a large dose of sanity and peace has been restored in my soul. Boy am I glad that there are people in the world who are wiser than myself. It is so nice not to have to go at this alone with my young brain.

  • Anna

    In context, he’s not talking about our “first world problems” view of unemployment. Not that first world unemployment isn’t a huge trial for those in such circumstances, but he’s talking about the vast numbers of people in the world who have no trajectory to life. Here, we think of the arc of ordinary life as “be a kid, get educated, get a job, get married and have a family, send kids out on their own, grow old in relative comfort, die taken care of by others.” For much of the world, there’s no trajectory, only trying to get enough food each day from begging or digging through garbage to survive for one more day. To have no way to care for your aging parents and no way to even think of starting one’s own family and giving life to the next generation is to be living in despair and existential ruin – thus leading to hosts of other evils. He is speaking of people living without hope of any kind and without any connectedness to others, hence the “greatest evil” language because we are made for communion.

  • Elizabeth K.

    That’s such a great point. I loved it when Scalfari went into his whole philosophy, and the Pope said something like “gosh, that was really not interesting.”

  • lweisenthal

    Excellent commentary. But the Pope certainly did not intend for this to be a private conversation. His Holiness requested the interview after seeing how much worldwide attention his earlier letter to this secular journalist received. I have seen nothing at all in the allegedly improved translations to suggest that there was anything of substance mistranslated in the initial translation provided by the publication. The part about becoming incarnate in the souls of man was completely clear in context. Trying to use that as a “gotcha” to discredit the initial translation is unfair.

    I have not liked it — regarding the previous Papal pronouncments — when people who were not pleased with what they were reading felt obliged to provide their own translation — from English to English — in an attempt to alter the Pope’s clear and simple words to be compatible with their own views of Catholic theology.

    Read and listen to what he says. Receive with an open heart. Ponder. I think he is telling the world of his intention to make a course adjustment. Not to change doctrines but to change priorities. But that’s my own spin. Read his words and decide for yourself.

    Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  • Frank

    I wonder how bad this pope-bashing is going to get. If Pope Francis keeps acting this way, will it get to the point where faithful Catholics — as they think of themselves — will have to decide whether to become liberals (just like the Pope) or resign themselves to being constantly grumpy about this pope as conservatives?

    MeanLizzie, I think you’d make a great liberal.

    And if you ask me (I know you didn’t, but I’ll say it anyway), we’re in for a rediscovery of a lot of the positive aspects of the Catholic liberalism of the 60s and 70s that got overshadowed and ignored because of all the political fights over authority that have so damaged the Church. I don’t mean liberalism (or conservatism) as a defined set of doctrines, just as a general attitude, an approach to being Christian. In this sense Pope Francis really does seem to be a liberal. And that makes me glad.

  • Dillon T. McCameron

    My concern is that this along with the previous interview will be wielded, however wrongfully, against us, so that we’ll be caught between, “See? The Pope says to shut up about contraception/abortion/homosexuality!” and, “See? The biggest problems in the world are economic/sociological! So shut up about contraception/abortion/homosexuality!”

    They’re twisting the Holy Father’s words, sure, but that won’t keep them from beating me over the head with them.

    …Still, I’m glad so many people that otherwise hat the Church like him. I hope they never stop liking him, and that many more people are drawn to the Church because of him.

  • Rebecca Duncan


  • Brian English

    Perhaps Francis should save his clever word play, which apparently only a select few can understand, for encyclicals. Us common folk usually take what is stated in an interview at face value. Certainly, regardless of whether they understand the deeper meaning, the seamless garment crowd is thrilled by these kinds of statements.

  • Brian English

    Francis really is bringing out the best in people.

  • Brian English

    “I still think, amid all this clamor, of our brothers and sisters who are being murdered and persecuted for the faith, while we, in the comfort of our cozy homes, sit in front of our computers, moaning, complaining, gnashing our teeth, wringing our hands, and all because our Holy Father does not “behave the way we think he should be behaving or saying what we think he should be saying.”
    Did Francis mention this at all in either of his recent mega-interviews? Because when asked to comment on the greatest evil facing the Church, I think I would have led with that. But I guess that is why I am not a mystic pope.

  • Manny

    LOL, who keeps giving me these down arrows? Did I really say anything that bad?

  • Manny

    Very good point. However, our Holy Father keeps stepping on his message.

  • mary370

    Last week we were told by this Pope in a morning homily not to gossip and the hurt words cause. I am supposed to think that his labeling of his colleagues as “narcissists” is supposed to be “loving”?

    We are assured by this Pope that he wants to be more collegial and yet he acts on his own initiative with autocracy.

    We are told by the world that he is humble. He reassures us that he is humble. I have yet to see any humble act by this Pope. He lives in the hotel because he wants to be around people – “he wants”. He calls to set up his own interviews. He has ambition. He told us this. And, his ambition is by his own admission is not focused on bringing Christ to others but to dialogue. I don’t see that Christ was really into dialogue. Christ brought God to man and man to God. God is love, but God is a demanding lover.

  • Andy

    Just an idea or perhaps an explanation – Francis is challenging us to be more than one issue people. He challenges those on the left by saying that it is not enough to merely say the words it is time to live the words. Many on the left, myself included, have said this is what we need to do and then threw some money at it and walked away. He challenges us to be the face that meets those in pain and those who are lost. To the right he says focusing only on abortion, contraception and homosexuality is not enough – they must embrace all of the message of Jesus and be the face of Jesus to all who are hurt and lost.
    His comments about politics seem most fitting – both the left and the right have let politics guide their interactions and have eschewed all to often the words of Jesus.

  • Adam Frey

    It’s times like these where I like to reflect on the Tower of Babel story (or alternatively, that “King of the Hill” episode where Peggy is convinced that her Spanish-speaking employer is trying to seduce her). Regardless of the story’s historicity, it’s a powerful reflection on the fact that human speech is “confused” and the nuance of what we say gets lost in translation all too often.
    In other words, give the Pope a break and ask the Holy Spirit to guide the speaker, the translator, and your own poor ears.

  • lweisenthal

    Robert Royal translates English to English in telling us what Pope Francis is saying, rather than allowing the Pope’s clear words speak for themselves. The parts of the interview that Royal doesn’t like, he dismisses as idle conversation. He cherry picks nuggets that he does like and proceeds to interpret them for us. His Holiness is not Jesus speaking in parables across 2,000 years in time. Please allow him to speak for himself.

  • Allison McChain

    That’s why people have abortions and kill themselves — there is no point in living or letting anyone else live. It’s the root of the actions we all decry.

  • RodTreat

    I’ve had it with the intellectual contortions engaged in by so many to explain that the Holy Father’s often bizarre words must always be contextualized and recontextualized, interpreted and reinterpreted, and that they must not be taken at face value, the implication being of course that everyone who is disturbed or alarmed by the clear meaning of the pope’s words is just too obtuse to understand what he’s trying to communicate. Subjectivism is always subjectivism, whether one is conversing with an atheist or a person of faith. And I don’t care how one spins his praise of Cardinal Martini, the pope chose deliberately to do so twice in this interview and by doing so he clearly intended to send a message that he has much in common with Martini…a frightening thought indeed.

  • RodTreat

    Yes, any disagreement with the clear meaning of the pope’s words could only be rooted in ignorance or malice. If only the rest of us were as brilliant and preceptive as you.

  • echarles1

    Leaving aside the quality of the translations, thinking only in the most immediate sense, it is well to remember that in some countries of Europe the youth unemployment is at historic, horrific, depression levels. From America we may not see this for the tragedy that it is. From the Vatican it is clearer. Worst? Maybe not, but it may be destroy a generation.

  • Chris-2-4

    I guess I don’t understand what’s wrong with pointing out that he said some sort of boneheaded things in the “conversation/interview”. Okay, so it was a conversation and it’s not an encyclical. Fine. Would context about “what he was really saying” or “this is the way it is better translated” be beneficial? Yes. But did he say the boneheaded thing? Yeah. Is the bad translation out there and certain to be used for ill purposes? Yes. I don’t see the problem in pointing that out, just like it was always pointed out when Benedict made a bad PR move. Pope or not, he needs to learn not to say the boneheaded thing when giving interviews to people who may misrepresent them.

  • Chris-2-4

    Beyond that, I really, dislike the sort of defense that tries to tease out the deeper meaning to “what he was REALLY saying” which tries to lay some profound meaning to the words. He should say what he means in the depth he intends and not have to rely on others to tease this out. One gets the sense that he could come to the table and say, “I’m hungry” and people would claim that he was making some profound statement about how “all men are seeking God and can not fill the hunger with anything else”. True, but what he was really saying was “pass the frijoles!”

  • AquinasMan

    I don’t think the big picture has much to do with proof-texting pontifical words (for some it is, perhaps). The big picture, I submit, has to do with what philosophy influences a person to declare that there is no Catholic God, urge people to run with whatever they think is good (if it feels good, do it?), deify the conscience, point-blank declare no desire for converting atheists to belief in Christ, and wax nostalgic on the finer points of the shared heritage of Catholic social teaching and the indisputable evil of communism. Assuming that Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II were not anti-popes and were led by the Holy Spirit, what leads Francis to present the notion that FINALLY, someones as “humble” as him is going to do something about modernity? It’s not crazy for practicing Catholic to say, “wait, what?”

    I think the question is not, “what is Pope Francis thinking?” The question is, “Who is he?” That, I submit, is the real source of agitation. Francis is drawing a picture of who he is and where his values are, and it’s troubling to many. Maybe that’s an irrational emotional reaction, but I’m not a lukewarm kinda guy, as if investing our hearts in the words of the Holy Father — and reacting to a sense of discord — is something to be chastised.

    Appreciate your thoughts…

  • Leticia Ochoa Adams

    As a convert, all the meltdowns by Catholics over the words of love spoken by this Pope is seriously disturbing to me. It’s as if the mask has come off and all the “good” Catholics are now screaming and tearing their robes just like the “bad” Catholics did anytime Pope Benedict spoke about abortion or gay marriage. It’s so sad to me to see that some many people do not really understand who Jesus is and what the point of His life, death and resurrection is. And we are the ones fighting for the unborn under the premise of their inherent dignity as human persons? Just look how we talk about our Papa in a combox. Sad, it’s just sad. We sure have made an gold calf made out of our feelings and emotions haven’t we? Pope John Paul II please pray for us.

  • Lisa Schmidt

    Love it! >> “This pope is killing me.” Hey, he’s keeping you and the terrific bloggers here at Patheos in business, too. :) Keep up the great work, Elizabeth. Really enjoy reading your wise perspective on Pope Francis.

  • Augustine

    I understand what seems to be your consternation. However, allow me to point some things out in what you said.

    “… there
    is no Catholic God”

    The God of Abraham is both Jewish and Catholic, therefore neither and not Abraham’s. I mean, God is beyond such adjectives in his essence. Surely, we can say “Catholic God” as a figure of speech to mean God as understood in the fullness of Truth found in the Catholic Church, but in no way does the Church have a monopoly on God, as our elder brothers in Judaism show.

    “urge people to run with whatever they think is good
    (if it feels good, do it?), deify the conscience”

    But the Church teaches that men must follow their consciences and even non-believers commit a sin if they go against their malformed consciences. Surely, the Church’s mission is to properly form the consciences of her flock, but when dialoging with a non-believer it’s reasonable to state just the former.

    “point-blank declare
    no desire for converting atheists to belief in Christ”

    The Holy Father disowned proselytism, which is akin to recruiting. Yes, the Church used to use this term in her mission to evangelize all nations, but this term acquired a new, derogatory meaning to illustrate a heavy-handed form of persuasion. Evidently the Holy Father’s goal was not to convert Scalfari there and then or to have a cup of coffee with him, but I’m sure that he hoped that the fruit of this dialog would be attracting him to Christianity, the preferred means of conversion through the ages.

    “wax nostalgic
    on the finer points of the shared heritage of Catholic social teaching
    and the indisputable evil of communism.”

    The Pope was impressed by the concern for the neighbor that some communists have. I myself knew one who would choose to teach in the worst schools in order to make education have a greater impact in the lives of those on the fringes of society. Surely there are some Catholics who do the same, but it’s still impressive to witness charitable love even in a non-believer. That such charity was motivated by faith in a deranged philosophy is surprising, but it doesn’t mean that the Pope condones the millions of death that resulted from this faith.

    At least that’s how I read Francis. Perhaps I’m just too well-willed towards him, as my shepherd and spiritual father and, though I wish that he’d be able to say the truth in a better way, he’s not Jesus. As someone else said (v. ), only Jesus could teach the truth with love and love with truth at the same time; with regards to popes, we can only expect either truth with love (BXVI) or love with truth (F).

  • Augustine

    I agree. To me the only inexcusable part of this interview to me was the Pope praising Card. Martini. Try to contextualize this!

  • Augustine

    I’m sorry is your reaction is sarcasm, but what else to think when someone interprets that the Pope literally means unemployment to be the worse evil, above abortion that he himself fought valiantly and successfully head on with the Argentine government? For the record, he didn’t fight cronic unemployment in Argentina nearly as fiercely.

  • Romulus

    I have read the interview. The pope has some fairy tale beliefs of his own. I am not talking about emphasis or spin. I am talking about factual assertions that do not belong in Christian mouths.

  • Elizabeth K.

    Yes, and the generation it destroys should be the carrier of Western culture and civilization forward into the next century; this kind of thing is a breeding ground for profound evil (witness Egypt).

  • Elizabeth K.

    And I think, too, that he’s speaking as an Argentine (Argentinian?): I have many friend from that country who love the place itself, but who came here because you literally cannot work there.