There are two stories getting traction in the secular and Catholic press today, both of which highlight the dangers inherent in a Catholic priest, Bishop or Pope giving an interview for publication.
The first danger is the danger of being misquoted by the interviewer himself. There is much in the faith that escapes the comprehension of many secular reporters of good faith, and of course there are many such persons who dislike the Church and seek to distort the words or meaning of the interviewee.
The second danger is the danger of the news cycle-- meaning that the press who publish articles and sound bites about the published interview will often write that a person said something that he never actually said, or which the context clearly proves means something other than the sensationally reported news item.
Present in both cases is the possibility that one's enemies can also be found in the bosom of the Church.
That brings us to two recent stories that put the Church in a bad light, both of which items had their origin in a published press interview. These two stories are in other respects divergent, with one being essentially a non-news item that has been twisted and misunderstood by the press, and the other being a sad and mystifying spectacle caused by the actions of the interviewee. I speak of the Holy Father's recent interview, published as "Light of the World", and of Bishop Williamson's latest legal development. I will deal with the first here, and save the second for another post.
You may have read (or soon will read) headlines along the lines of "Pope Approves Use of Condoms in the Fight against AIDS". Yahoo, for instance, has "Pope says condoms acceptable 'in certain cases'".
This type of headline certainly shocks. But sorry to say, this is untrue, and the Pope's words are taken out of context; moreover, his remarks show a subtlety of thought that I think is beyond most of the persons reporting on it. And the culprit here in many ways, as it has been in throughout this pontificate, is the official newspaper of the Holy See, L'Osservatore Romano, that is supposed to be an outlet for the Pope to get his message to the world, but which has seemingly operated against him from the beginning and undermined his agenda. Readers of this blog will not be surprised that there are many within the Church who wish to radically change the Church and destroy her divine mission. Pope St. Pius X warned of them in Pascendi, and they still reside in good numbers within the official Church, even in the Curia.
This paper leaked quotes from the Italian version before the book was published, and before any context or even the full text was available. This isn't the first time in the last five years that justifies it, but let me just say that heads should roll at L'Osservatore Romano.
I will post below a good discussion of the Pope's words, the context, and the willful misunderstanding of the press. This comes from Jimmy Akin in the NCRegister; it is good and no need for me to invent the wheel:
There you have it. If you insist on a very simple answer, "The Pope said no such thing" is a good one. A more nuanced one can be traced above, if you wish to have the discussions with family at Thanksgiving, or co-workers, who will no doubt gleefully taunt you with headline-baiting just to shove your self-righteous religious fanaticism down your throat. Or am I the only one who gets this?
The Church's prohibition against contraception--not that it could have been changed by private remarks in an interview-- remains untouched and unbesmirched by the Pope's comments.
Up next, the latest in the Williamson controversy.
And one more thing. Notice how there always seems to be a crisis, an embarrassment, a PR disaster, just when the Pope does anything friendly to Catholic tradition-- the motu proprio, the lifting of the SSPX excommunications, the elevation of Cardinals Burke and Ranjith. Now, I may be paranoid, but it makes me go hmmm...........