Press review: Roman rumblings

Filed under From Rome, News

On October 9, 2013, two Italian Catholic intellectuals, Alessandro Gnocchi and Mario Palmaro, co-signed in Il Foglio an article entitled “We don’t like this Pope”.  Two days later, on October 11, they learned that the management of Radio Maria—which had been broadcasting their work for about a decade—no longer desired their services.  Alessandro Gnocchi, a specialist in literature, hosted the program “Men and Literature in the Light of the Gospel”;  Mario Palmaro, a professor of bioethics, directed the program “Encounters with Bioethics”.  In their defense, both men point out that their critiques of Pope Francis are in no way contrary to Catholic doctrine, and they are astonished at being sanctioned in this way.

In their article they denounce the “normalists”, in other words, “those Catholics who try pathetically to convince their neighbor, and even more pathetically to convince themselves, that nothing has changed.  Everything is normal, and as usual it is the newspapers’ fault, since they deliberately distort the pope’s words, whereas he is just saying in a different way the same truths as those taught by his predecessors.”

By way of example they return to the October 1 interview granted by the Supreme Pontiff to Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica:  “When Pope Francis says to Scalfari that ‘proselytism is downright nonsense,’ the ‘normalist’ immediately explains that this is about the aggressive proselytism of the sects in South America.  Unfortunately, in the interview Bergoglio says to Scalfari:  “I have no intention of [converting you].”  It follows that, for an authentic interpretation, when someone describes proselytism as “downright nonsense”, one means thereby the work done by the Church to convert souls to Catholicism.  It would be difficult to interpret the concept in any other way than in light of the wedding between the Gospel and the world that Francis blesses in his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica [published in English in America Magazine], in which he declares:

Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture. Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. 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.

Gnocchi and Palmaro comment:  “No longer is the world reformed in the light of the Gospel;  instead the Gospel is distorted in the light of the world and contemporary culture.  And who knows how many times that will have to be done, with each cultural change, calling into question each time the previous reading:  this is nothing but the theory of the permanent Council proposed by the Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini.”

If they were an isolated phenomenon, these critiques would go unnoticed, but they are repeated by other intellectuals, chiefly in Italy.  The titles of the articles alone are quite revealing:  “The informal papacy of Francis” (Andrea Gagliarducci,, October 6);  “A ‘fluid’ message” (Pietro De Marco, Espresso, October 7), “Francis’ tack”, “Encyclicals have a new format:  the interview”, “Martini as pope:  the dream come true” (Sandro Magister, in Espresso, October 3, 7 and 15);  “The flock before doctrine?  There’s a danger of losing both” (Rino Cammilleri, Il Giornale, October 10);  “Francis is founding a new religion opposed to the Catholic Magisterium” (Mattia Rossi, Il Foglio, October 11);  “How can you criticize the pope without being a heretic?” (Tommaso Scandroglio, Il Foglio, October 17), etc.

These critiques are most often penned by Vaticanists and Italian university professors who cite Pope Benedict XVI and the Second Vatican Council according to “the hermeneutic of continuity”.  This makes their analysis of the causes rather short, despite a vigorous tone that is rather unusual in being not at all shrill.  The reader may form his own opinion based on this excerpt from an article by Antonio Margheriti Mastino that was posted on the website Qelsi on October 1, the day when the pope’s interview was published in La Repubblica:

It is getting to be high time now to stop being the piacione [someone who tries to please everyone] every day in the newspapers;  it is time to measure words, to say fewer of them and to work a little more—and in silence.  Before he [Francis] becomes totally indefensible—and God knows how much gall we swallow each day so as not to be tempted to lose patience—because the confusion that he is creating among Catholics is becoming evident:  one day he says one thing, the next day something else, always oblique half-sentences tossed out imprecisely, with deliberate ambiguity and, besides, the only thing that remains clear is Scalfari’s hermeneutic.  I say it bluntly:  I do not take the popes as my guide, but rather doctrine;  nevertheless I realize that the popes could undo all my efforts.  The confusion is there among Catholics, and I feel its repercussions myself, and I am a militant Catholic, at least I try to be one….  I have tried to conduct an apostolate on behalf of what seemed to me to be, as they told me in Rome, the “truth”.  Even ecclesiological truth.  Now I have doubts, and every time the pope speaks, these doubts multiply, but not my certitude which, for its part, is even growing weaker.  It is good to leave the ninety-nine sheep, as Jesus did, to go after the stray, who in this case is Scalfari, but to play hide-and-seek all day with Scalfari, while letting the flock wander off—I think that that is too much.

We cannot read La Repubblica every morning to find out whether we are in God’s grace, or worse:  whether we are Catholics or not.  We do not want to die as “Repubblicans” but as Catholics!  It is time for Bergoglio to stop talking for five minutes.  Enough free-wheeling!

Someone may minimize the importance of these critiques by saying that these are only newspaper articles;  however we should not underestimate the role of the Vaticanists and especially the role of the Roman prelates who discreetly inform them, while asking them to influence public opinion, in one direction or another.  The Vaticanists transmit the information but also the message of their informants.  After six months of this pontificate, this message reflects a growing disarray.

(Sources : Giornale/Il Foglio/ DICI no. 284 dated November 8, 2013)


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