What Does the Pope Really Mean?

The pope is a pastor more than a thinker. We cannot expect the intellectual rigor of either of his two most recent predecessors. But am I the only one who feels like this “two steps forward, two steps back” is a little confusing?

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
—Walt Whitman

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his famous essay “Self-Reliance” that a “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” How the Catholic Churc... Thomas E. Woods Best Price: $8.00 Buy New $9.06 (as of 05:30 UTC - Details)

I suspect that the Holy Father would not like the full implications of the remark, but I wonder that he doesn’t realize that some people might see in his many different interventions in the broad stream of social commentary similar disregard for said hobgoblin.

In his 60 Minutes interview with Norah O’Donnell, he seemed to rule out the morality of surrogate motherhood. When O’Donnell said that sometimes this was the only hope a couple might have, the pope said,

I would say that in each case the situation should be clearly considered medically and then morally. I believe in these cases there is a general rule, but you have to go into each case in particular to assess the situation, as long as the moral principle is not skirted. 

If the moral principle is that surrogacy is not moral, then why this insistence on “the situation”? The ghost of Joseph Fletcher seemed to flash by briefly. Didn’t it sound as though he was giving Ms. O’Donnell reason to believe there might be exceptions? He then concluded congratulating the interviewer for her compassion for people contemplating surrogacy. That was, he seemed to be saying, a credit to her sympathy to others’ suffering. It is very charming to compliment opponents to teach about the altruism behind their equivocation, but isn’t it a little confusing.

The pastoral strategy behind personal warmth is very obvious. However, it can lead to a kind of collective cognitive dissonance on the part of those who listen to the message. Isn’t it disingenuous to understand Fiducia Supplicans as no more than a separate blessing of individuals? A priest friend of mine whom I asked about it said he blesses everyone at the end of Mass, “come one and come all,” and that should be enough. The Church and the Mar... Woods Jr., Thomas E. Best Price: $32.10 Buy New $34.08 (as of 04:20 UTC - Details)

Another instance is when the pope used a derogatory word about homosexuals in a meeting with Italian bishops. He was seen to be draconian about “faggots” and “faggotry” in seminaries and in priestly ministry. His press office then said that he intended no offense to anyone in the expressions in the remarks he was “reported” to have said. This implied almost that he had not said those expressions.

Then he replies to a man rejected from the seminary because of his sexual orientation in very warm words and encourages him to “follow his vocation.” No one asks, did you say what was reported, did your language reflect your version of Italian or what vocation is the young man to continue pursuing? Only President Biden would be given such a pass by mainstream media for similar inconsistency in America.

Soon after that tornado in the news cycle, the pope spoke to some priests and again used the “faggotry” word. His remarks almost sounded like he is trying to appeal to macho sentiment, because he then admitted (not for the first time) that said evil was present in the bureaucracy of the Vatican. Throwing some of his staff under the wheels of his popemobile is nothing new, and some conservative voices in the U.S. rejoiced in the language of the successor of St. Peter. But, as usual, it was too soon.

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