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:
- It’s a translation issue
- It’s a contextual issue
- When he said “X” it’s clear that he probably meant “Y”
- The source is unreliable
- The information is not first-hand
- We must look at the issue through the Argentinian cultural lens
- The media is misrepresenting what he said
- He contradicted himself in another thing that he said during a homily last week
- Fr. Lombardi says it ain’t true
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.