So, I was thinking the other day about Pope Francis and his relationship with that old Italian atheist reporter who doesn’t take notes during the interviews. It occurred to me that a possible explanation for his continuing this seemingly imprudent relationship is that Francis (who believes the Shepherd should smell like the sheep) is demonstrating his personal love and pastoral concern for the man by staying in his life and not abandoning him even though he risks alienating many others of his flock. By many others I mean 99, as in the 99 sheep the Shepherd leaves when he goes in search of the one sheep that is lost.
This thought made me wonder if the Christianists in our Church would join the angels in rejoicing over this man’s return to God (assuming Francis is able to accompany him all the way home). I suspect they wouldn’t, but isn’t the point of that parable to point out how far the Shepherd is willing to go, how much he’s willing to risk, for the sake of one person? It seems to me that a charge of imprudence could be leveled at the Shepherd in the parable as well, but he knows that the 99 aren’t really at risk (or at least wouldn’t be if they stayed in the pasture where the Shepherd left them and didn’t follow him where the weren’t supposed to). If that reporter has a deathbed conversion, wouldn’t that make all this drama about Francis’ foolishness worth it? I mean really? If the price of saving ONE person made in God’s image and likeness was being globally misunderstood by those who should be your closest supporters do you think Jesus would hesitate to pay it? I don’t and I think Pope Francis wouldn’t hesitate either. Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t bring myself to believe the Holy Father is as wicked as so many make him out to be. I’ve known too many Italian grandmas and “messy” Latin “lovers” (like all of my mom’s sisters; I’m half-Puerto Rican) who lead with the heart and work out the details later, to not interpret the Pope through that lens. Sometimes, I think of Francis like Roberto Begnini wanting to “make-a love to-a everybody!” after he won his Oscar for Life is Beautiful.
End of musings. Thanks.
Your recent stuff on the Amazon Synod is some of your best. Keep keeping the Faith, my friend.
That’s more or less how I look at it. If you begin with the fact that the Pope is all about evangelization, all the mystery of his relationship with Scalfari (and of his general messiness) seems to me to vanish into thin air. Why does he talk to him? Because they are friends and this is an atheist who wants to talk about the gospel with the Pope. For Reactionaries, that is huge scandal just as Jesus dining with prostitutes and tax collectors was a scandal. But for people interested in the mission of the Church and unafraid that contact with unbelievers will give you cooties–as Francis clearly is–an atheist who wants to talk about Jesus with the Pope is a huge win.
I remember much the same thing a few years back when Elton John remarked that he respected Francis and would like to talk with him. For Reactionaries, this was a damning indictment of his pontificate. For people who take the mission of evangelism seriously, it was an immense achievement that a man who had just a few years prior been calling for the worldwide destruction of the Catholic Church now wanted to meet the Heir of Peter.
It all comes back, yet again, to one’s conception of the Church. Is it Fortress Kat0licus, a desperate band of refugees fighting a losing rear-guard battle to save the last dregs of the Faith from evil apostates who now number even the Pope in their ranks? Or is it the confident Church whom Jesus Christ assured he would be with till the end of the age, the one founded on Peter and told that the gates of hell (which are defensive, not offensive structures) shall not prevail against it?
Francis clearly believes in the latter. His enemies clearly believe in the former. And so he doesn’t worry overmuch when Scalfari misquotes him because he is confident that the truth will win the day. It is, by the way, the same reason he does not spend any time defending himself against the far more malignant lies told about him by Vigano and the perpetrators of the “Francis is an Idolator” campaign during the Amazon Synod. Like Christ, who “opened not his mouth” Francis does not defend himself. He trusts the Holy Spirit to do that and keeps going. I have huge respect for that.
Thanks for your thoughtful letter!