24 April 2014

Quick Survey of Thoughts on the Telephone Game

You may already be aware of the unfortunate telephone conversation between Pope Francis and a divorced and (civilly-) remarried woman (recent reports say the husband was the divorced one) wherein she claims the Pope told her that she could present herself for Holy Communion, and further that the whole issue was up for discussion at the Vatican.

Initially, I didn't post because I hoped (rather than expected) that the Vatican would issue a denial of the substance of the conversation.  It has not; rather it has confirmed the existence of the conversation but dismisses it as a private matter.  

So now this very public matter-- the same kind of practical public relations nightmare as "Who am I to judge?"-gate-- is open for discussion among Catholics.  Predictably, the paid shills of the status quo are shucking and jiving, spinning plates and dancing for nickels.  The award for most comical attempt to diffuse the situation goes to Jimmy Akin, who laughably suggests radical-sanation-by-phone: "for decree of nullity, press 3; for radical sanation, press 9; if you would like to speak to a Roman Pontiff at anytime, please press 0".

More to the point is this post from Fr. Ray Blake, who describes the problem quite well by using the rhetorical device of describing what the situation must be in order for there not to be a problem.  A good read-- but read carefully.

The best summary and analysis I've read, though, comes from Steve Skojec.  I will excerpt it below.  You might recall that I have in the past found fault with those bloggers who always want to point out how the Pope's words and actions are being misinterpreted.  I think that regardless of intent, he knows exactly what he is doing by these "random" "casual" comments etc.  If he didn't the first time, or three times, he does by now.

Skojec says what needs to be said about the current fracas:


So, the phone call happened.
Pope Francis called an Argentine woman married to a divorced man and reportedly told her that she could receive the sacrament of Communion, according to the woman’s husband, in an apparent contradiction of Catholic law.
Julio Sabetta, from San Lorenzo in the Pope’s home country, said his wife, Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona, spoke with Francis on Monday.
Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona wrote to the pontiff in September to ask for clarification on the Communion issue, according to her husband, who said his divorced status had prevented her from receiving the sacrament.
“She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong,” Sabetta told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate.
A Vatican spokesman confirmed the telephone call but would not comment on the conversation’s content.
“It’s between the Pope and the woman,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.
Rosica said that any comments made by the Pope should not be construed as a change in church doctrine. “The magisterium of the church is not defined by personal phone calls.”
Is anyone else getting really, really tired of this game?

Pope Francis consistently says things that cause serious concern among Catholics who know what the Church teaches. No sooner have the words left his mouth (and of course, been reported on far and wide) than the spin machine goes into high gear – powered in large part by Catholic bloggers who make a living promoting the status quo within the Church (no conflict of interest there!) — telling us why we should not worry about the obviously controversial thing because of one of the following reasons:
  1. It’s a translation issue
  2. It’s a contextual issue
  3. When he said “X” it’s clear that he probably meant “Y”
  4. The source is unreliable
  5. The information is not first-hand
  6. We must look at the issue through the Argentinian cultural lens
  7. The media is misrepresenting what he said
  8. He contradicted himself in another thing that he said during a homily last week
  9. Fr. Lombardi says it ain’t true
Take your pick. There are probably others. I imagine the Catholic apologists in the tank for this nonsense have a sort of flow chart they pass around every time they add a new option. “Did the Pope speak in Italian? –> IF YES, it’s not his native language. Lost in Translation. IF NO…”

You’ll have to excuse my sarcasm. I’m starting to find this all incredibly offensive, and insulting to the collective intelligence of Catholics who see what is really going on.
The Holy Father is, for all intents and purposes, shooting a rail gun into the heart of the faith. He is undeniably causing mass division and confusion, which are not signs of God’s work, and these things are particularly afflicting the faithful Catholics who are in the tiny minority among the world’s self-professed Catholics.

You can’t simply look at each incident as an isolated issue. You have to look at the problem comprehensively. All this build up about divorce and remarriage and communion. The endless goings on about pastoral concerns trumping rubrics. The condemnations of triumphalism and neo-pelagianism. The public praising of Kasper’s dangerous speech on the topic, and of him as a theologian. The constant shaking up of the way things are done and the obvious disregard for the way things are supposed be. The false humility which masks the absolutely unilateral power with which tradition is dispensed with. The insistence on collegiality and delegating papal authority to local bishops, only for the pope to go directly to people and make these kinds of phone calls.


The pope has been made personally aware of the way people receive his comments (with “big eyes” no less.) He has responded directly (by phone!) to some of his critics, thanking them for their criticism (isn’t he MAGNANIMOUS?!). Still, he has not become sensitive to the fallout or changed his approach. He has not, in a word, become responsible.
So this phone call happens. It is reported that the pope tells this woman something that is clearly in contradiction with Church teaching. The Vatican press office is asked about it — and the story is confirmed — thus making the inner circle aware that people want to know, especially leading up to the synod in October, which will address this issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.

And yet, we receive no clarification. We get vagueries from Fr. Lombardi, which some are choosing to interpret as a polite way of saying that lies are being spread[...]

Why would this woman lie if she got the answer she wanted? Why make something up?
And if she didn’t get the answer she wanted and did lie about it, only the Pope himself can say, “Yes, I spoke to her, but this is not what was said.” Since he knows this is becoming a big story, it behooves him to do this if he cares about preserving doctrinal clarity and avoiding unnecessarily scandalizing the faithful. If he doesn’t want to speak to it directly, the statement that needs to be made by the press office, with his authorization, is astonishingly simple:
“The Holy Father cannot comment on the contents of a personal phone call, but suffice to say that in his discussion he did, in fact, reaffirm the Church’s longstanding teaching on divorce and remarriage, and the conditions for the reception of communion.”

That kills the noise. Instead, this continues to get bigger and spread and affect people’s perceptions of what is really going on. The pope understands by now how fast the media machine works. He should be pretty used to creating controversy at this point, and a man in his position with his obligation to safeguard the sensus fidei would, one would assume, care a great deal about setting the record straight.

And yet…nothing.



Long-Skirts said...

“It’s between the Pope and the woman,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office."

...kinda like between a woman and her Doctor or the woman and the serpent...


Took away the bells
Took away the art
Took away the songs
Inspiring our heart.

Took away the missals
Took away the veil
Took away our right to kneel
At Communion rail.

Scourged us with indifference
Whipped with Worship, weak
Crowned us with their humble words,
“It's just a phone call, geek!”

Now with untuned strings you dance
Pass us on The Way
Carrying our crosses on the path
Of “long defeat”, we stay.

Try to kill us softly
With bashful, blushing, babble
Condescending degrader dogs
Then slap us as we scrabble.

The Way, the Truth and our life
“Is crux of all sedition.”
But we are merely branches
Rooted in Tradition.

Branches weak and branches strong
Branches propagate
Branches full of Sacred Sap
From Vine proliferate.

A branch can bend, a branch can break
Become dead wood to toss
But He Who makes all things new
Made dead wood save…the Cross.

So take away the bells
Take away the art
Take away our Catholic name
Written in His Heart.

For “What is in a name?”
Our Catholicity you cheat
But “By any other name”
Our Christian souls… still sweet!

St. Corbinian's Bear said...

Two words: Tipping. Point.

When the Vatican Press Office hangs the Pope out to dry, more than some poor old Bear in the middle of the woods is concerned. The Bear almost feels sorry for the volunteer Swiss Militia of the blogosphere who are being made to look like fools by the Pope.

Christophe said...

The pope called me and said I didn't have to go to Mass anymore.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that this is dangerously confusing (and will probably get run every bit as far as the "Who am I to judge?" comment), but why do you dismiss Mr. Akin's argument as "comical"? Is it possible the lady wrote something in her original letter to the Pope that allowed him to, as the supreme legislator of the Church, determine her first union to be invalid? Even Paul, for example, allowed Christians to break a union with an unbaptized spouse.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Steve said...

Thanks for the link. These are frustrating times, but God is active amongst the faithful. We must reach a tipping point soon...

Long-Skirts said...


The Pope
Is the Pope
In cope
Ya dope

But never
Was there
Such a Pope
To cope

I hope
This Pope
Won't have
To grope

When he
Finally comes
To his

The Pope
Has a head
Of argentine

But never
Was there
Such a Pope
Oh nope

No trope
Of hope
He makes
Me mope

But he's
And not

The Pope
Is the Pope
Not soap

But never
Was there
Such a Pope
To lope

His passive
Pride will
Make you

But he's
I must

The Pope
Throws a rope

Oh nope
The Pope

With Christ
From this Pope’s

And pray
For this
My friend!

Long-Skirts said...

Bryan Kirchoff said:

"but why do you dismiss Mr. Akin's argument as "comical"?"

“…more alarming is Akin’s subtle linguistic “escape hatch.” If you look closely, he repeatedly refers to the Church’s disallowing Holy Communion to those in a state of adultery as a “discipline” or a “practice.” So, although Akin is presently ready to fight tooth and nail to demonstrate there has been no official change, IF there should be a change later on, it would simply be a change to Church discipline or practice and not doctrine.
This is patently untrue. Christ’s own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is absolute as is St. Paul’s teaching that it is a sacrilege to receive Communion in a state of mortal sin.” Chris Jackson http://tinyurl.com/lmwq7vn

Anonymous said...

Agreed, but Mr. Akin's argument appears to be that the Pope found some grounds of invalidity with her first marriage and simply validated her current situation as the Church's supreme legislator. What I am asking is, how do we know that situation did not happen?


thetimman said...

Bryan, an excellent effort. I agree, we do not know that this didn't happen. Another good question might be how does Akin know it did?

I mean, really, how do we know that St. Peter himself didn't appear and dictate the outcome? Or he could have sent a talking badger who worked signs.

We're talking probabilities. Scandal.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Folks,

One must turn over every stone to be sure the pastoral conversation wasn't an example of a canon law nicety which would allow a re-married person to present themselves to communion. It' called "Internal Forum."

If you don't know what it is put on some fresh underwear and look it up.

The gist of internal forum is that irregularly situated Catholics living together who cannot separate for the sake of the children may take sacraments by being celebate and chaste and basically putting themselves under the close range spiritual command of their parish priest.

It is used.

This is probably not such an example but for completion's sake somebody should find out.

St. Guy