Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hapless doublethink

Elliot Bougis, in "A follow-up on the Ecclesiology of Doublethink…" (July 16, 2014), wrote:
Hapless is the word of the hour.

When the first Scalfari interview hit the press, there was a rush among Catholics to gainsay it as inaccurate and biased. When, however, it came to light that the interview was by and large a faithful reporting of what Francis said to Scalfari (“the overall ‘trustworthiness’ of the Scalfari interview”), given further credibility by being published both in L’Osservatore Romano and on the Vatican website amongst Francis’s papal magisterium, the strategy morphed into defending, by any means necessary, the pope’s reported comments as technically (and even “deeply”) orthodox.

As always, however, facts get in the way of good intentions. If it feels like a disinformation campaign, ladies and gents, it probably is. Eugenio Scalfari submitted the text of the first La Repubblica interview to Pope Francis for review. This has been attested by Fr. Rosica and John Allen, and it has never been denied by the pope himself. (As we’ll see presently, all we have on that front is one Italian journalist’s hearsay against Scalfari’s own claim to the contrary, and, unlike Scalfari, that journalist has not been welcomed three times for a papal interview.) Fr. Lombardi has also stated that the interview was by and large faithful to the pope’s thoughts and words, yet, crucially, Lombardi could only know this is true if he consulted Pope Francis on the matter (or, as is the case, if he knew that Pope Francis had approved the text before it was published). As John Allen wrote on 5 October 2013:
Pressed by reporters on the reliability of the direct quotations, Lombardi said during an Oct. 2 briefing that the text accurately captured the “sense” of what the pope had said, and that if Francis felt his thought had been “gravely misrepresented,” he would have said so.
. . .

In any case, the crucial question is this: if we are to attribute the removal of the interview from the Vatican website to Francis’s misgivings after it was published, then why are we not to attribute its sudden republication on the website to him as well?
[Hat tip to JM]

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