Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cold comfort

Phil Lawler at the estimable CatholicCulture.org tries to reassure us that we needn't worry about Pope Francis' reputation for off-the-cuff remarks that cause a stir.
I understand the concerns about off-the-cuff papal remarks. Remarks by the Holy Father could easily be misunderstood, for several reasons:
  • because he does not have a cadre of speechwriters screening each sentence for potential trouble;
  • because he is usually speaking in Italian, and although he is fluent in that language it is not his mother tongue, so he may not be aware of every nuance; and
  • because his remarks are reported and interpreted to the world by journalists who do not have a fundamental understanding of the Catholic faith.
I really hope he's right. But when I re-read his assurances, I just get more worried. Look at what is admitted:

  • that the Pope often speaks without careful preparation; 
  • that by doing so in Italian, he compounds the problem and risks saying things that aren't even what he means; 
  • and that these unprepared, unintended remarks will be pounced upon by ignorant or even hostile journalists who will spread even more confusion among the faithful, a fact that Pope Francis could hardly be unaware of.
But we're told not to worry. Why?
Should we be worried, then, about the possibility of some terrible papal gaffe? I don’t think so. Pope Francis is a very intelligent man, and he was chosen by his fellow cardinals to be Roman Pontiff because they recognized his sound pastoral judgment.
 So we're not to worry because Pope Francis is very intelligent, and his fellow cardinals think he has sound pastoral judgment. Well, I'm sure he's smart. But I think it would be easy to make a case that his very carelessness on the three points Mr. Lawler presents is evidence of poor pastoral judgment. I'd even venture to say that such behavior would get any CEO in the world fired. And the CEO's of the world only deal in money; the Pope is responsible for souls. Lots of them.

So I pray hard for this Pope, and for Mr. Lawler too, in hopes that he will end up being right, and that he'll be more convincing next time.