Pope Francis Talks.... and talks... and talks
September 19, 2013 9:46 AM   Subscribe

The setting is simple, austere. The workspace occupied by the desk is small. I am impressed not only by the simplicity of the furniture, but also by the objects in the room. There are only a few.

In an incredibly exhaustive (12,000 word) interview, Pope Francis covers a huge range of topics; from in-depth liturgical issues to the role of women in the church.

Some fascinating quotes from Francis:

"Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person."

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies."

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
posted by lattiboy (76 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Somebody's going to do a Pope Francis biographical movie in the future and I guarantee there's going to be a scene with him talking and taking and talking like this and a bunch of stuffy cardinals off to the side saying 'shut up, shut up, shut up.'
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now we know why he's called Frank.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


P.S. I really don't seem to want him to shut up. Which is quite a papal difference for me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I swear, if anybody takes a shot at this guy, he'll insist on making sure the shooter is okay before he goes to the hospital. And then he'll stand in line behind a kid with a tummyache. He's Pope Mary Sue.
posted by Etrigan at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's almost like he believes the teachings of Christ actually apply to Christianity or something. Good on him.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:52 AM on September 19, 2013 [62 favorites]


As I said earlier today on tweeters, I still don't agree with him, but I'd be down with playing some pickup soccer with this Pope. I bet he cheats a little, slide-tackles hard, but I doubt he's a flopper.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:53 AM on September 19, 2013


Then the pope whispers in Latin...

Damn this is such a baller move. I need to step up my whispering in dead languages game.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


This Pope?

I like him.
posted by General Tonic at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quite impressed by the unequivocal assertion that Vatican II was good and correct.
posted by PMdixon at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pope Frankie... kinda like that one councilman here whose politics I dislike but actual has an ok sense of humor and is polite and honest and earnest.
posted by edgeways at 10:10 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brings to mind something a Catholic friend said to me a long time ago. Something along the lines of, the amazing thing about the Pope is that he really is closer to God than anyone else on earth. So he could suddenly just show up at work one day and tell everybody, "Okay, here's the deal. God spoke to me last night and it's now official. Condoms are cool, abortion's okay as long as it's done right, women can now be priests, there's nothing wrong with being gay, and oh yeah, all that lucre we've been hoarding over the centuries, we're liquidating it, giving everything to the poor."

Not that certain vested interests wouldn't promptly arrange for an accident or mysterious illness ... but one man could still do a lot of damage.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Finding out that people call him Frank has now lodged this in my mind. Now I have to go find my rosary.

(And holy SHIT, the lyrics are weirdly appropriate. )
posted by maudlin at 10:22 AM on September 19, 2013


I literally started crying as I was reading the interview.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:23 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've been reading the interview for a while now and don't seem to be getting near the bottom yet. This is one looooong interview.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:46 AM on September 19, 2013


“Religious men and women are prophets,” says the pope. “They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity. In this sense, the vows cannot end up being caricatures; otherwise, for example, community life becomes hell, and chastity becomes a way of life for unfruitful bachelors. The vow of chastity must be a vow of fruitfulness. In the church, the religious are called to be prophets in particular by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophecy. This does not mean opposing the hierarchical part of the church, although the prophetic function and the hierarchical structure do not coincide. I am talking about a proposal that is always positive, but it should not cause timidity. Let us think about what so many great saints, monks and religious men and women have done, from St. Anthony the Abbot onward. Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it.... Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.”
The amount of "HOLY CRAP!" in this interview may not be totally clear to non-Catholics or people not well-versed in theology, but seriously, over and over, throughout the entire interview, it's just like, "HOLY CRAP!"

I once heard someone compare Catholic theology to a wave, where there's all this motion under the surface for a long time that you can't see, everything seems placid and unchanging, and then suddenly it rises up to meet the shore, seeming to come out of nowhere, and its power is overwhelming. That's what this feels like.
“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2013 [25 favorites]


You can skip a lot of the stuff about internal Jesuit politics probably.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2013


" The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong."

Holy Crap indeed!
posted by KathrynT at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
This is just a giant slap in the face to Dolan and the rest of the American hierarchy. I love it.
posted by PMdixon at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Although I'm no longer Catholic, I was taught by Jesuits, and this sort of goodness and thoughtfulness seems so characteristic of the order. I was pleased when this pope was elected and continue to be pleased.
posted by gaspode at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


“If [someone] is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies."

Why is the Pope talking about the current Republican party?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:34 AM on September 19, 2013


Jesuits are so badass.

My father is also having an unusual reaction to Pope Francis because apparently he bears a striking resemblance to his own Polish grandfather, so dad's own gut-level response to seeing Pope Francis is "hey, it's dziadzie!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If he does as he speaks (and they let him do it), it's going to be an interesting decade, to in all likelihood grossly understate it. Says this agnostic materialist.
posted by Iosephus at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I still haven't finished reading this but more and more I'm changing my view on his choice of nom de pape. Originally I thought it was deeply arrogant and blinkered, verging on an incredibly dark joke.

But as an actual statement of intent, well. That's bad ass.1

1: As Bad Ass as the elected monarch of a 2000 year old inherently reactionary organization can be, anyway.
posted by PMdixon at 11:45 AM on September 19, 2013


If he does as he speaks (and they let him do it)...

Yes, I think so, too, but I fear that not only are there too many skeletons in the closets of the cardinals and their minions, but also that the machinery of the authoritarian Church may run so deep that his efforts will be blocked at every turn.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:47 AM on September 19, 2013


"Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow."

That is a beautiful thought. This whole thing is full of them. That is a real inspirational quote, not the treacle you see on bumper stickers, Facebook, and Joel Osteen garbage. He has many of the same qualities that have made the 14th Dalai Lama so loved.

This article is also rich with political messaging; both about the Curia and democratic governments. Mental Whip is right, that amazing thought could apply to so many reactionary and backwards political movements. It cuts straight to the core of modern conservatism: Looking fondly at a time that never existed.
posted by lattiboy at 11:47 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone else think he looks like Jonathan Pryce?

I like him. He's a huge step up from Pope Palpatine who was and is just fucking creepy and dickish.
posted by quin at 11:56 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


12,000 words? That's a novelette.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:58 AM on September 19, 2013


I'm enjoying reading the conservatives who like to complain on the basketball message boards about how liberal the college I attended has become (it hasn't - its probably one of the most socially conservative top tier academic schools in the country). They are attempting to parse the interview in a way that isn't counter to their worldview.

I half expect to see retranslations from the original Italian.
posted by JPD at 12:14 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cached version of the interview as the original seems down to me.
posted by Freen at 12:19 PM on September 19, 2013


Mental Wimp: "Yes, I think so, too, but I fear that not only are there too many skeletons in the closets of the cardinals and their minions, but also that the machinery of the authoritarian Church may run so deep that his efforts will be blocked at every turn."

I have a terrible head cold so I do not feel very coherent/articulate, but some of these things are genies that don't get put back in bottles now that he's said them out loud. For example, a lot of the specific terms and phrasings he uses refer to specific theological movements within the Catholic Church that have existed for a long time and have significant support. There's ... a sort of semi-official tension within the Church (I'm just going to say "the Church" from here on out when I mean "the Catholic Church" which is not ecumenical of me but I am tired) between the official hierarchy which is responsible for preserving the faith and theologians who are responsible for pushing it forward. (Of course every Catholic is supposed to be both preserving and progressing, but this is a useful way to think about it for right here.) There's been a long reactionary backlash against the prophetic movement of Vatican II within the hierarchy, resulting in attempts to control and restrict theologians and what they can think about and what they can say. Now, on the one hand, whenever the Church says, "Discussion on that topic is closed," that's a signal to expect imminent change on that topic. (And by imminent I mean, like, five decades-ish? Like slow-imminent.) So first the Church debates birth control, then it comes to a firm theological declaration in the 30s and takes up persuasion. Then it starts losing the battle, and when it can no longer defend its arguments, it declares, "Discussion on that topic is closed." That means counter-arguments have become so persuasive and widespread within the Church that it's making the hierarchy nervous. That's where we are now on birth control (and women priests). Then comes the change -- which you can already see where the Church has said condoms may be allowable to prevent disease. NFP is allowable to time pregnancies.

When the Pope makes the long statement about prophecy that I quoted above, saying, "This does not mean opposing the hierarchical part of the church, although the prophetic function and the hierarchical structure do not coincide," he's saying out loud that the debates between theologians and the hierarchy are real, and he's legitimizing the role of theologians/prophets in questioning Church teachings. And when he says, "Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel," he's saying he sides with the prophets.

Everybody engaged in the intellectual work of the Catholic Church agrees on ground rules, I guess, where we all say certain things are authoritative and other things aren't and so on. So if you want to argue from a CATHOLIC perspective, make an argument to the Catholic Church, from now on you're required to take into account everything this Pope has said in this interview (not as infallible, but as important). If you are (let us say) a conservative and want to discount this Pope's statements, throw them out, then your liberal opponent gets to throw out Papal statements from the past that YOU'RE relying on. One of the "rules" of Catholic discourse is that you have to stay within the bounds of "Tradition," which is much larger than the literalist sola Scriptura of fundamentalist Christianity, but has a bit of the same idea.

So a lot of Francis's phrasing is about locating these statements within the traditional teachings of the Church. Don't get me wrong, I believe these are deeply-held and sincere beliefs (and moreover I think they're squarely theologically correct in most cases), but he is also firing salvos at Church conservatives and giving ammunition to Church liberals in very specific ways that frame a very specific conversation, opening certain paths of debate and closing off others. Even if he drops dead tomorrow, that framing of the debate has to persist because of the "rules" of the in-house debating society of Catholic theology. Honestly if he dropped dead tomorrow and his successor attempted to close this window that Francis just opened, the result would probably (eventually) be schism.

I think the result may eventually be schism anyway. He's also, in this interview, giving conservatives within the Church a certain amount of theological cover to change directions and join the forward-moving Body of the Church without having to abandon their pet issues entirely. But I think he's also signalling that in this great debate about the Church in the modern world*, the Church of Rome, the Bishop of Rome, is standing over here, and conservatives are over there, and definitionally the guys who aren't in communion with the Bishop of Rome are the schismatics. So he's saying, "If we're going to have a schism over this, the 'real' Church is going to be on this side, and you're going to have to quit us." Which for Catholics, who the quitter officially is is important. The hope is that enough Catholics are persuaded over time that the schismatic group is a tiny rump, like the Hutton Gibson (Mel's father) strain of Sedevacantists.

Anyway, the authoritarian strain of Church governance may very well defeat Francis's attempts at governance reforms and theological progressivism, but the debate has suddenly and entirely changed, and that genie does not go back in the bottle.

*And look, I'm doing it too, by saying the phrase "the Church in the modern world" I'm identifying myself with Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, and Vatican II's reforms. We all speak in theology-code, all the time. :P So much signalling!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:29 PM on September 19, 2013 [57 favorites]


The site doesn't appear to be loading from here, but there are some excerpts at the New York Times.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:35 PM on September 19, 2013


It's also not an accident that this interview was released in the U.S. through "America," a prominent American Catholic magazine run by the Jesuits, based in D.C., whose last editor (Thomas Reese) came under pressure from Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for publishing editorials (edit: and op-eds) that ran contrary to Church doctrine on the ordination of women, the celibacy of priests, use of condoms to prevent AIDS, and other issues. He was forced to resign and "America" was almost put under control of Church censors. So releasing this interview through "America" is in itself a pretty bold statement, a palm leaf to those who were scrutinized under Ratzinger's CDF, and possibly a jab at Ratzinger and/or Ratzinger's remaining allies in the Vatican bureaucracy. (I'm not up enough on the politics of the Vatican currently to know about that last bit for sure.)

Yes, "America" is run by Jesuits and, yes, it's probably the most prominent publication in English for serious theology for laypeople, but there's also a political message in the choice of outlet for his first major interview about his personal theology as Pope.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also, from the Reverend James Martin, who works at America: New interview shows why the pope is so beloved (though I prefer the title in the URL: "What does the Pope Interview mean?"
posted by Going To Maine at 12:55 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pope Francis lightened up.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


If America's site is taking a bit of a battering at the moment , the English version is also available as a PDF from their British equivalent, Thinking Faith.
posted by bebrogued at 1:15 PM on September 19, 2013


I haven't read the full interview yet (that's pretty long, and I'm not a Catholic), but after reading the NYT excerpts linked above, I do have a question for people who know more about Church culture... Doesn't having a living former pope who was much, much more traditional and conservative complicate things? I remember reading commentary when this pope was selected that the cardinals were going to keep towing the conservative line (as they did with Rattzinger), and that Francis wasn't a huge shift.

I can't even imagine what would happen if the former pope commented on, or contradicted this... that's typically what causes a schism with a pope / anti-pope, right? I'm going to assume that it won't happen, but it's interesting to think about.
posted by codacorolla at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lissen up, Frankie, howsabout you wise up, or we sick the German shepherd on ya, know wat I mean?
posted by No Robots at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, the authoritarian strain of Church governance may very well defeat Francis's attempts at governance reforms and theological progressivism, but the debate has suddenly and entirely changed, and that genie does not go back in the bottle.

For the sake of the world, I hope you're right. I really don't care all that much about the Church per se, but I do care about the people who are swayed by its dogma and who are affected by its implementation. So many policies flowing from the conservative church dogma have done great harm and alienated so many people that it's time the Church changed.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:48 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked this recent tweet from Pope Francis: Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy.
posted by chavenet at 1:56 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sullivan (I know, I know) has a very detailed reaction to a lot of this interview point by point.

I lack even a scintilla of the knowledge Eyebrows McGee has on these matters, but I nonetheless find it fascinating.
posted by lattiboy at 2:08 PM on September 19, 2013


Same here -- and I'll give another public shout out for Eyebrows McGee's insights. The interview was super intriguing to me, and I'm glad to hear why others with a more vested interest would agree.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:11 PM on September 19, 2013


Go well, Pope Francis.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2013




Also, thank you, Eyebrows McGee. Your insight is deeply appreciated.
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


General Tonic: "This Pope?

I like him.
"

Personally, I'm more a fan of Pope Guilty
posted by symbioid at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2013


A lot of Catholics have been acting like defrocked monks about gays, women priests and abortion. They reject them, but then spend their lives obsessing over them, like an ex-monk spending his life denouncing the Church.

As for the translation, "We should also talk about the cinema" makes Francis sound like a pretentious grad student, when in the original he's just using an everyday Italian word in a completely ordinary way.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2013


there's going to be a scene with him talking and taking and talking like this and a bunch of stuffy cardinals off to the side saying 'shut up, shut up, shut up.'

You know why their hats are so tall? Because those cardinals' hair catches fire every time this pope gives an interview!

I so appreciated this:
But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.
Fascinating. What an interesting time (and what an interesting man!) for the Church.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:55 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm an atheist, but I respect this Pope. It's really quite amazing to me that I'm not viewing the Catholic Church as something that will necessarily be a retrograde force in the modern world. Benedict just tended to fill me with foreboding.
posted by jaduncan at 5:06 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


That Rod Dreher has the sads gives me yet more faith in my interpretation of this interview.
posted by PMdixon at 5:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used an obscenity elsewhere to express my opinion of the Catholic church. I feel I'm thoroughly entitled to this opinion as one who was raised Catholic. This pope says some very good things, things that I hope happen within the church and which would raise my opinion somewhat.

Given the entrenched opinions of those below him, I'm not holding my breath.
If he does as he speaks (and they let him do it)... This.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:51 PM on September 19, 2013


I'm not Christian (not just because I'm irreligious, which I am, but from my family history), but I was Jesuit educated. The university I went to houses the old folks home for Jesuits in North America, and when Liberation Theology raged was where priests who got sanctioned were sent. These guys taught classes kind of like adjuncts where they focused on their pet projects and taught just for fun. My respect for these men is as high as it can be for religious when I'm not.

When Pope Francis was elected I was shocked because the general belief was that a conservative, non-Western pope would get the papal seat due to the church aligning towards conservatism. Pope Francis has all my respect. Even if he's a blip, he's one that (if Christianity is even anything other than a relict) will be historically important.

It's weird to have a dude who reminds me of one of the guys I used to eat pizza with and talk about Maimonides with be pope.
posted by syncope at 5:52 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If he does as he speaks (and they let him do it)

Serious question as someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of Catholic Political Intrigue: why did they elect him? Was there something different about the guys that made this call than the guys who made the call for Ratzinger?
posted by jason_steakums at 6:18 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man! That conservative priest whom Douthat quotes favorably:

Words fail. If this keeps up, everything is going to be much harder. I can’t say it surprises me; the man gave an eighty minute press conference to the assembled press corps on an airplane. But it’s terribly naive, in a time when people graduate from Catholic elementary and high schools, college, and don’t know the most fundamental things about the Faith, not to realize how selectively people will pounce on this kind of thing. I feel sorry for the people in the Church who are working hard on Christian education and formation, trying to repair the damage of forty-five years. The legs are being chopped out from under them.

The damage of forty-five years! Ick ick ick ick ick.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:20 PM on September 19, 2013


I am not a Christian but I find some Christian faith, like Francis', moving and inspiring. I hope he can teach all of us for a long time.
posted by shothotbot at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


jason_steakums: "Serious question as someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of Catholic Political Intrigue: why did they elect him? Was there something different about the guys that made this call than the guys who made the call for Ratzinger?"

Take this with some salt since I didn't think Bergoglio was papabile before he was elected (shows what I know), but the curia (the Vatican bureaucracy), which was stroppy and sloppy under JPII but mostly under the radar, got OUT OF CONTROL under Benedict. The need to reform the curia has been an open issue in the Church since probably 1980, and JPII took some steps towards it (submitting the curia to its first-ever audit, for example, done by PriceWaterhouse, which found that some curial departments did not have bank accounts and were operating in the 1990s with medieval strongboxes full of cash in a variety of currencies from around the world, just whatever people happened to donate, and some of them, when they dug down to the bottom, reportedly had money from countries that hadn't existed for 300 years at the bottom), but his approach wasn't terribly systematic and he governed around them a lot. Benedict was old, ill, tired, and is a better theologian than manager. Anyway, Vatileaks happened. Wikipedia on Vatileaks.

I think the anti-curia reformers who couldn't put together a majority eight(ish?) years ago when Benedict was elected were able to put together a majority this time, and I think that was at the front of the cardinals' minds.

The other thing is, we talk about Catholic leadership as being conservative or liberal, but those labels exist in a very different set of dimensions than they do in secular politics (especially American politics), and while the College of Cardinals is accurately labeled conservative and both JPII and Benedict appointed primarily theological conservatives to the College, it is a body of men with widely different life experiences from all over the globe, who have a huge variety of constituencies and concerns. And of course the Vatican isn't like Washington; it's more a government of persuasion (and appointment powers of bishops) than of laws and regulations. So it's always facile to say "the cardinals are looking for a conservative" or whatever ... it is more like the U.N. and trying to reconcile all those widely varying viewpoints and needs than like a national government, so sometimes the outcomes are a little surprising. I also do think that most of the cardinals, for all of their individual and sometimes collective errors, are men who love the Church and truly take their responsibility seriously in selecting the next Pope (in contrast to some medieval elections, for example), and some of them definitely say, "I don't agree with this guy's theology but he is obviously the man who has come into the kingdom for just such a time as this." (That is, the right man at the right time for the job at hand.)

That and, you know, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church and whatnot. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:56 PM on September 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


Eyebrows: Do you have a source for that audit story? I couldn't find it through a quick google but it is amazing and I want to tell everyone about it
posted by dismas at 7:10 PM on September 19, 2013


Awesome, thanks for the explanation! I'm kind of fascinated - because this is high-level world stage politics, even if it's a different kind of politics - that there are people at the top who still have the awareness and humility to say, as you say, "I don't agree with this guy's theology but he is obviously the man who has come into the kingdom for just such a time as this." That's just an unthinkable position for a person in power pretty much anywhere else in modern Western politics.

And yeah, that audit story is great!
posted by jason_steakums at 7:18 PM on September 19, 2013


dismas: "Eyebrows: Do you have a source for that audit story? I couldn't find it through a quick google but it is amazing and I want to tell everyone about it"

I could have sworn it was in "Inside the Vatican" by Thomas Reese (SJ), but a quick scan of the relevant chapter only talks about physical gold holdings and John Paul II handing around a lot of cash and making the Peter's Pence office crazy. (SUPER-interesting book, btw, about the ins and outs of how the Vatican works. A little out-of-date now but very interesting.) I will poke around my other Vatican-y books and see if I can find it. (Interestingly, the same audit sets the "value" of St. Peter's (the building) and of all the Vatican's artworks at a nominal 1 lira each, because the Vatican believes such art can't be sold but must be kept, maintained, and exhibited as part of their moral and cultural responsibility to the world. The next time someone says, "Why doesn't the Vatican just sell all that art????" well, now you know. There's a great quote in there from a Vatican financial official about how it's really hard to get any procedures changed at the Vatican because it's so old and people are centuries worth of set in their ways, but if you DO manage to change anything, nobody will mess with it for 400 years.)

If it's in a book I'll eventually find it, but if it was in an article I read for a class in 1998, I probably won't. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:50 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


His love for Dostoevsky probably counts for something here.
posted by destrius at 11:15 PM on September 19, 2013


50 years after John Paul 23, it's good to see humanity at the top again.
posted by Twang at 5:57 AM on September 20, 2013


Just saw this New York Times article linked from the NPR coverage: The Pope Gets on the Line, and Everyone Is Talking. Not interview-related, but still.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:01 AM on September 20, 2013


PMdixon: "Quite impressed by the unequivocal assertion that Vatican II was good and correct."

I'm not sure that the full quote is totally unequivocal. He called Benedict's pushback against some of the Vatican II reforms "prudent"
Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”
That being said, "prudent" is fairly faint praise. On the other hand, Pope Francis could take more of a stand here. I'm sure that much of it has to do with his personality, but most of the opinions that he offered in the interview seemed thoughtful but noncommittal. It certainly seems like an unusual rhetorical tactic for a pope to take.
posted by schmod at 6:49 AM on September 20, 2013


Man! That conservative priest whom Douthat quotes favorably:

Heh.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:54 AM on September 20, 2013


Mary E. Hunt: "I found three things in the interview that I could affirm warmly, and three that left me cold. Each one invites far more reflection than a 'day after' commentary is capable of, but I offer them to add different dynamics to the global discussion unleashed by this interview."
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:28 PM on September 20, 2013


Speaking of Thomas Reese... "A Jesuit reflects on the Jesuit pope's interview by Jesuits."
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:22 PM on September 20, 2013


Apropos of nothing, here is my uncle's joke:

A Benedictine and a Jesuit were arguing about the seniority of their respective orders. At last they agreed to gather in a chapel that evening and pray for heavenly guidance. As they prayed, the room was filled with a heavenly light and a humble-looking man in a fisherman's smock appeared. "I am Saint Peter," he said, "and as a reward for thy devotion I have been sent to deliver this message." With that he handed them a slip of paper and disappeared.

The two clerics unrolled the note, which said:
My beloved children.
All of you are equal in my eyes,
there is none of you who should take precedence over any other,
because each of you is holy, and each of you has a place in the Church.
Sincerely,
Jesus Christ
S.J.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 AM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Francis speaks again, this time to La Repubblica. Pretty interesting stuff.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:44 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, as we said, Jesus told us that love for one's neighbor is equal to what we have for ourselves. So what many call narcissism is recognized as valid, positive, to the same extent as the other. We've talked a lot about this aspect.
"I don't like the word narcissism", the Pope said, "it indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this - which is actually a kind of mental disorder - are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists".

Many church leaders have been.
"You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."
2N2222n, it's astonishing.
posted by jaduncan at 11:03 PM on October 1, 2013


Can anyone here tell me whether this sort of language is common in Catholic theology? From 2N2222n's link:
From my point of view, God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us. In the letter I wrote to you, you will remember I said that our species will end but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will all be in everyone. [...] Transcendence remains because that light, all in everything, transcends the universe and the species it inhabits at that stage.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:24 AM on October 2, 2013


Hey Joe:

This is mysticism, which is usually regarded with hostility by religious authorities. You might want to look into Meister Eckhardt, the learned, who came close to being burnèd.
posted by No Robots at 9:57 AM on October 2, 2013


Indeed it is mysticism, and Francis is now also on record as liking that. My new theory is that he is planning to kill off the conservative side of the curia via high blood pressure.
posted by jaduncan at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh. The weird thing is that that paragraph could have been slipped, unaltered, into a work of Jewish mysticism and nobody would have batted an eyelid. I wouldn't be at all surprised if similar passages could be found in other mystic traditions too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2013


A roundup of recent posts about Pope Francis.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:34 AM on October 5, 2013


Roughcoat • 2 days ago
Oh, heck, I'll just say it. The pope come across as sappy and unmanly--a wimp. He expresses sentiments that are intellectually shallow, desperately platitudinous, and altogether cringe-worthy. Some are literally nonsensical. He's the kind of priest that drives men from the pews. Not like J2P2, a real mensch. This guy ain't a mensch. You think that's a trivial concern? Then you don't value the presence of men in the Catholic Church.
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stoney Roughcoat • 18 hours ago −
He's a jebbie trained in the rot of the seminaries of the time. Whadda expect?
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...apparently one shouldn't read Catholic comment sections either.
posted by jaduncan at 2:31 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even the Vatican Makes Typos

Little-known fact: if the Pontiff had worn this medallion publicly the Vatican would have had to recall and correct over three billion Bibles.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2013


Oh, heck, I'll just say it. The pope come across as sappy and unmanly--a wimp.

Worship my manly Jesus penis!!!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:36 AM on October 14, 2013


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