John Allen at Crux has some valuable insight into the controversy that exploded yesterday, and which Allen describes as “surreal”:
First, there’s basically zero plausibility that Francis actually said what Scalfari cites him as saying on Hell, at least as quoted, since Francis has a clear public record on the subject – he actually talks about Hell more frequently that any pope in recent memory, and he has never left any doubt that he regards it as a real possibility for one’s eternal destiny.
During one of his daily Masses in 2016, Francis told the story of going to catechism classes as a child and hearing a priest talk about Hell. The kids were incredulous, he said, thinking the priest was only trying to scare them.
The priest, he said, insisted, “No, it’s true! Because if you do not take care of your heart so that the Lord is with you, and you always live far from the Lord, perhaps there is this danger, the danger of continuing to be distanced from the Lord for all of eternity.”
It was clear the pope approved of the thought.
…Second, one has to wonder why, since the pope was quoted saying something that so clearly distorts a core matter of Catholic teaching, and that also seems blatantly at odds with his personal thinking, didn’t the Vatican issue a stronger denial?Yes, Burke’s communique says the quotes can’t be trusted, but nowhere does he explicitly come out and say, “The pope didn’t say that and doesn’t believe it.” Why not?
…There may be a personal dimension behind the soft approach.
I remember asking a cardinal close to Francis after the first Scalfari “interview” appeared in 2013, the big headline from which was Francis denying that God is Catholic, why the Vatican hadn’t come down harder.
The cardinal said he’d asked Pope Francis the very same question, and here was the pope’s answer: “You know, by now he [Scalfari] is quite old … we have to be gentle with him,” which is consistent with the pope’s repeated pleas to respect and cherish the elderly.
Francis’s Vatican team, sensing the pope’s preferences, may have gotten the message that when it comes to Scalfari, normally the gloves stay on.
Read on for the rest.