Some Advice on Reading and Interpreting Pope Francis’ Interview

  1. Read the entire interview.
  2. Read the Pope’s answers in context, relative to other parts and the whole interview.
  3. Reread the part on “discernment.”
  4. Resist your prejudices.
  5. Don’t rip a quote out of context.
  6. Take a breath and relax.
  7. Just make sure you have really read (think reading comprehension) the interview before you comment.
  8. Read the entire interview, then reread it (in addition to following the advice in # 3).

33 thoughts on “Some Advice on Reading and Interpreting Pope Francis’ Interview

  1. This Papacy has been so profoundly scary and confusing I can not understand Father how you can twist reality into such pretzel in order to be able to put a good spin on every word the Pope says. Some things are just as they are…..odd and regrettable. We love the Holy Father. We pray daily for the Holy Father. If a Pope says things that are odd or come off wrong we are not bound to pretend that this reality didn’t happen or continually twist reality for him. Modernists and sedevacantists share an error (I am not suggesting you are either Father). Both hold an exaggerated and erroneous view of the papacy. The cult of the person of Blessed John Paul II has really damaged Catholics. What this Papacy may do for the Church is break this modernist and sedevacantist view of the papacy. Perhaps if Pope Frances keeps talking Catholics will wake up to the reality of how they have been duped into treating every word the Pope says as if it is of the Faith. Newsflash IT ISN’T! Frankly I don’t care what Pope Frances says on a plane or in an interview anymore than I should care if he had mayo instead of mustard on his sandwich for lunch. When he speaks like this no Catholic has any duty at all to hang on his every word and to do so is a mistake in the spirit of cult of Blessed John Paul II.

  2. Miss Cat,

    I agree with much you say about personality cults. But I believe more fundamental than the tendency to hero worship is the temptation to use the words of someone with doctrinal authority to promote a predetermined agenda. I think this problem is more universal and it cuts evenly across the divide. Witness the way Pope Benedict is recast as the arch-conservative and played off Pope Francis. The worshippers hear what they want to hear and ignore what they don’t.

    Both sides also tend to cherry pick magisterial and non-magisterial statements according to their predeliction. And yes, probably most in the pew who do this don’t know any better. They are just following the example of those who do, or ought to.

    You need to be more specific about what reality I am “twisting into a pretzel.” I have argued on this blog along the lines of Pope Francis for a long time. We need dynamic discernment to apply the principles of the faith to the actual circumstances in which we find ourselves. The modern magisterium has been saying this for fifty years. Pope Francis is just carrying on.

    But isn’t that precisely your problem?

  3. (Re: Anna Cat) There is a difference between Personality Cult and Ordinary Magisterium. What Pope Francis says in a published, officially approved interview is frankly not at all of the same (un)importance as whether he has mayo or mustard on his sandwich for lunch. (The same is true of what Pope John Paul II said in addresses, homilies, etc. Just saying…)
    (Re: Marian) Great article!

  4. Father many matters are at play here, The biggest one I see is the infusing of the false left right paradigm into the Church which comes to us from the demonic french revolution. Popes are neither liberals or conservatives. They are Catholic lord willing. Jonathan you prove my point thank you. You are wrong by the way but I prefer mustard myself but if the Pope prefers mayo on the plane or in a magazine over his chatter about sodomy and child murder that is just wonderful but it is not de fide. Tone has not been dogmatized. Many erroneously think Vatican II dogmatized tone and language. This is not so. Arguments to the pastoral authority only go so far. If I prefer to call protestants well…. protestants instead of the term coming from Vatican II “separated brethren” Which comes off a bit Orwellian to me if they were really brethren they wouldn’t be separated would they be? Whatever the case tone is not dogma or doctrine. Tone is subjective and situational I think it is a matter of prudence. Let’s face it even EWTN knows something is odd here watch from about 20 minutes in: I guess my comment about twisting reality has to do with your constant need to defend the indefensible. Popes makes mistakes. This blog comes off as if you think the Popes are impeccable. I am sure you know better but it comes off that way. That is scary frankly.

    To your question: But isn’t that precisely your problem? That is raw meat and it is Friday. I don’t eat meat on Friday. But what is the modern magisterium of the fifty years anyway?

  5. Cat,

    I guess the answer to my question is “yes,” which explains a lot.

    You are right the pope is neither liberal nor conservative, nor is the faith. But progressives do believe in the liberal utopia of the future and traditionalists are by definition conservative in their denial of living tradition.

    Tone has little to do with this, in my opinion. Robert Royal in the interview you linked to, criticizes the Holy Father for tone—not for what Pope Francis said, but for the way he said it and the context in which he said it. But I suspect your objections to what Pope Francis and Vatican II had to say are not primarily about tone.

    Again, I ask you to be specific, what am I defending that is indefensible, and how do I imply that the Holy Father is impeccable?

    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  6. What do you mean by “living tradition”? What is the modern magisterium of the last fifty years anyway? Serious question. You speak about it often and you say the SSPX rejects it often. What are you talking about? So it sounds you think the place to be during this crisis is between the progressives and the traditionalists. If that is so that sounds like the false left right paradigm trick. The false left right paradigm is masonic and therefore is anti Catholic. As I see it Catholicism and it’s relation to the false left right paradigm are clear Catholicism is either 1)above the false left right paradigm 2)is trapped and manipulated in the false left right paradigm 3)below the false left right paradigm and not even allowed to have a seat at the table of ideas.

    To answer your question: What am I defending that is indefensible? In this post take the 8 points you offer as advice as an example.It seems you think that reading the Pope’s comments through the prism of your 8 points changes the substance of the bad part as if these 8 points will change the objective reality of bad parts of the comments or somehow lessen their harm, My mind can not impose itself on reality and therefore change it. Just because some Catholics lack a mental defense to this kind of spin that doesn’t mean we all lack that mental defense. This post is pure spin. What a sad commentary on our age. A Priest has to leap into spin mode for the Pope in a manner that reminds me more of the politics of Washington DC than the Faith of Rome.

    We would do better to deal in reality taking both the good and the bad on it’s face than to make a false reality out of this crisis. The Church is becoming more and more Orwellian. We have to start dealing in reality. I see this video: Which is clearly outrageous liturgical abuse at world youth day and think (What can we do to make it better) Most establishment Catholic media outlets ignore the horror completely and if you point this out to Catholics on line you get attacked as if you the spawn of Satan. Others go into spin and defend mode. Why?

    Because of the internet age questions are asked due to video’s like this one: When the Pope still then Cardinal then was honoring a Jewish Rabbi he reads a note that said “I await inside the Cathedral to continue spreading the fraternity as I did all my life” Hold on what fraternity? Some translations of the video say brotherhood. So what fraternity or brotherhood is being discussed here? Clearly this is not being baptized into Christ and the fraternity of the communion of saints. So what is going on in this video? The fraternity of Adam? The fraternity of man? He calls a Jew who died while still rejecting Christ a brother and a father! This is outrageous! Some of his comments in the magazine are confusing and outrageous, Yet I find spin from you why?

    All this is taking place with the ON GOING sex abuse crisis. We have had 8 new homosexual priest abuse cases worldwide in the past 5 days! One of these new horrors was in my diocese! The Priest was caught in public naked with a 15 year old male! And yet the Pope says on September 16, 2013 in Rome “I dare say that the Church has never been so well as it is today. The Church does not collapse: I am sure of it, I am sure of it!”

    2+2=4: 124 pictures don’t lie!
    2+2=5: “I dare say that the Church has never been so well as it is today. The Church does not collapse: I am sure of it, I am sure of it!” Pope Frances

  7. My brethren in Christ, let say something about what I think of this interview. I think the problem with that interview is the way of Pope Francis speaks, his personal style of speech. Just the beginning of his pontificate, his has been trying to break down what we could call a frozen court or a palace of ice (uma corte de gelo). He has been trying to destroy bureaucratic structures in the Church and transform the Church into a Church more spontaneous and free from “burocracy.” One the ways he has been trying to do this is using a very direct style of speech. But Pope Francis is not a philosopher and he uses to shift to different issues suddenly. (Ele muda de um assunto para o outro sem fazer uma ponte/ligação lógica). He changes from one issue to other one without a logical conection. So that spontaneous or excessivaly emocional style of speak has been mispresented. But Pope Francis is agaisnt abortion and homossexuality.

  8. Cat @ September 28, 2013 at 12:51 am,

    Look, you know exactly what I am talking about so let’s cut to the chase. Either Vatican II and the fifty years of postconciliar magisterium represent an organic development of doctrine and practice, or they do not. I say organic, because the Church, as well as Tradition, is living. It grows and develops remaining wholly itself without becoming something else. The Church does not evolve, nor is can it be the product of revolution.

    Both progressives and traditionalists are guilty of private judgment—not the fiducial faith of the Protestants, but a choice of a rule of faith by which is every other choice is determined. In this case, it is the choice to play the remembered past or imagined future off the living magisterium. It do not think either one is a legitimate Catholic choice. And yes, you are right, it is pretty much like Freemasonry. Incidentally, the Perennialists who are fairly broadminded when it comes occult traditions are far more sympathetic to traditionalism than they are to progressivism.

    The “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary jurisdiction of the pope” (Vatican I), extends to matters both doctrinal and pastoral. Nevertheless, concerning the former matters the infallibility of the pope is circumscribed narrowly according to specific conditions; concerning the latter, there is simply no guarantee whatsoever. My critique of traditionalism is not a rejection of the right of the faithful to seek clarity or to question in matters of conscience pertaining to non-infallible papal acts that seem to them irreconcilable with the previous magisterium. My critique is of a habit of mind that raises contingent theological arguments to the level of Church doctrine, and which usurps the right to be the ultimate judge in such matters.

    You still have not answered my question as to what I defend that is indefensible. You are the only one who brought up the idea that an observational prism can change objective reality. I simply suggested that an objective, dispassionate and humble approach lends itself better to seeing clearly objective reality.

    The problems within the Church are not the whole story. They are not even the most important part of the story.

  9. Alex,
    Someone recently pointed out to me that Pope Francis’ sanguine temperament is the reason for his jumping from one topic to another. He is a ‘people person’, extroverted, at least more than most popes. As you said, he has a different style. I think he will be the pope who reveals the message of the gospels by his prayers, words, and his deeds. A mercy pope!

  10. Marie, thank your for your endorsement to my point of view! I’m sure that all these mispresentation of his speech is due to his sanguine temperament. I know many people who are like him. I personaly would rather he would be more cautious. But the first pope, St. Peter was also a impulsive person (passionate person).

    This afternoon I found an interesting article about this confusion or trouble caused by Pope Francis’ style. Perhaps it can bring some light.

    Scholar calls for discomfort with Francis to spark reflection

    Besides that, It was expected that the current papacy would be more “progressist” or audacious. Actually life is this way: sometime it goes forward and sometimes reatrets/goes back. (Algumas vezes avança, outras vezes recua). In the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the Church retreats a little and now, in the papacy of Pope Francis, it has advanced.

    Let us pray for Pope Francis be more cautious.

  11. Guess I should have read the article first. Good link.
    Alex, didn’t the Sanhedrin have a problem with what Jesus said? Weren’t they the ones who wanted to remain in the ‘status quo’?
    We can’t imitate them.

  12. Alex,
    Let us pray for our Holy Father, and for all priests and religious, to be as holy as the Good Lord intended them to be!
    I’m looking forward to seeing beautiful changes within the Church.

  13. Marie, I think Pope Francis must be cautious about what he says after all the mess he made due to words spoken without reflexion, words spoken in the enthusiasm of the chat (palavras ditas no calor da conversa). I suspicious to speak about Pope Francis cause I am a great admire of Pope Benedict XVI. But I believe Pope Francis has a misson to carry out on the Church. I just like he would more prudent and didn’t try to change everything so fast. I didn’t think about his personal safety, but, in his last trip to Brazil he put his safety in dangerous in the first day of the visit when a crowd swarmed around his car.

  14. Father you said “Look, you know exactly what I am talking about so let’s cut to the chase.” No Father I do not know what you are talking about. I understand what you mean when you say “Vatican II and the fifty years of postconciliar magisterium represent an organic development of doctrine and practice, or they do not” What is not clear at all is what statements,documents and doctrines from Vatican II till now that you are talking about. As I understand it papal infallibility has not been used nearly as often as many assume in the last 40-50 years. The last clear binding language that I can see from a Pope was when John Paul II spoke on women in the priesthood.

    The term organic development is often used in relation to the liturgy not the magisterium. So what statements,documents and doctrines are you asking me if I see as an organic development in? What is it that you hold that the SSPX does not. I really don’t know.

    Oh and what work of the magisterium are you using for your definition traditionalism? Can you link to the documents? When we are speaking about modernism we have clarity about what it is. Traditionalism is a buzz word like ecumenism that is lacking any real binding definition or meaning. To me these days traditionalism is as meaningless a word as the term anti semitism is in the wider culture. What is traditionalism? Is it another religion to you?

    Yes I did answer your question as to what it is that you defend that is indefensible you just didn’t like my answer putting a positive spin on the crisis and the mistakes of Pope Frances is to defend what is indefensible. Many times it is by omission. If a Pope or other churchmen takes part in the celebration of a false religion like say……. Hanukkah: Your silence or good spin on these things lends to the normalization of these horrors. That is the problem. Somethings are just bad.

    You said “Both progressives and traditionalists are guilty of private judgment” True but why? The shepherds have left the sheep and in many cases encouraged the sheep to act and think this way by their example. Progressives and traditionalists can only be said to truly usurp if the shepherds are being shepherds. If a child of a drug addict mother or father starts taking up the duties of the parents because they are out running around the child does not usurp the authority of the parents but is the victim of the bad parents and looks and the other hungry children and “thinks someone has to cook” So the child (Michael Voris and others) start cooking, cleaning and rebuking the out of control siblings. When the children ask “Where is mom and dad?” the Child says “They are praying with the Jews again you know golfing with the boyfriend & the cable news interview thing again” It is about survival not usurpation.

    • Cat,

      The merry-go-round stops here.

      The SSPX’s disagreements with Vatican II are a matter of a vast public record (e.g., most recently), of which you and I are both aware, on matters such as religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality, the relationship of scripture and tradition, the nature of the Church and the liturgy.

      You are the one who brought of the challenge, not I. At least the SSPX is willing to be clear and specific about its rejection of the Council. I do not have problem with either the Council nor Pope Francis, but apparently you do, and you still will not specify what you actually find indefensible about Pope Francis’ interview.

      I did not apply the term “organic” to the magisterium but the development of doctrine and practice, concerning which, the magisterium has a determinative role. Such a use of the word is precise.

      Traditionalism is not a buzz word, though traditionalists are sometimes as hard to pin down as modernists, precisely because they do everything within their power to operate free of magisterial oversight on the pretext of living as real Catholics. This is precisely what you argue for when you rationalize your “right” to sit in judgment on the pope. You do a very good job at illustrating precisely what I mean by traditionalism.

  15. Alex Benedictus on September 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm said:

    “Marie, I think Pope Francis must be cautious about what he says after all the mess he made due to words spoken without reflexion, words spoken in the enthusiasm of the chat (palavras ditas no calor da conversa). I suspicious to speak about Pope Francis cause I am a great admire of Pope Benedict XVI. But I believe Pope Francis has a misson to carry out on the Church. I just like he would more prudent and didn’t try to change everything so fast. I didn’t think about his personal safety, but, in his last trip to Brazil he put his safety in dangerous in the first day of the visit when a crowd swarmed around his car.”
    Sorry to copy/paste, but Cat’s dialog box was so long I couldn’t remember what you wrote.
    I have to admit that I was a bit alarmed at some of the comments he has made. But nothing he has said, or done, has been sinful. He’s different than we expected. And, perhaps, that is our problem. It’s as if the world, and members of the Church, especially, are trying to ‘pigeonhole’ this pope into our ideals, and not the ideals of the Holy Spirit.

    I’ll give you an example: When I heard that he washed the feet of women, Muslims, I was agast. How could he break with ‘tradition’? What the world wasn’t seeing, and I didn’t see at first, is that he was being merciful. He took his actions to the hightest level; a supernatural level, a level the world is not accustomed to viewing, or practicing. He practiced mercy. Alex, you, who claim to be a devotee of the Divine Mercy, and St Faustina, should have read that God’s greatest attribute is mercy. So, let us pray that Pope Francis always remain under the mantle of Mary where he will be safe. Let us pray that his actions, and words, inspire many souls to return to the folds of Holy Mother Church, and to help others convert their hearts to God.

    Do you remember the media calling Pope Benedict ‘Rotweiller Ratzinger’? They were proven wrong by his gentle demeaner. I think they will be proven wrong once again.

    May Christ’s peace be with you.

  16. I don’t want to criticize Pope Francis. But I can’t hide I feel much more attached to Benedict XVI style! Pope Benedict XVI is for me a high model of humanity and santicty. Of course he is just a mere man, but he is a great man and a really holy man, a man of God, really humble person who made great things at the expenses of being misunderstood. Pope Benedict was everything for the tradicionalist – and for all the catholics else – but specially for the tradicionalist! And what they did? They simply spinned around insincere disputations by their part, because they didn’t really want to accept the II Vatican Council and now they have what they deserve, cause Pope Francis is correcting them! I feel said Could I say frustated with that stupidity of the tradicionalist. The arrogance of the tradicionalist threw the beautiful Benedict XVI work into a trash, or simply flushing it. If they had accept the 2 Vatican Council, Pope Benedict still in the head of the Church, I guess, and the actual liturgy would be in a better way. Now the reform started by Pope Francis has been reversed. You can’t imagine how poor is the liturgy in Brazil. I would like to attempt to a zelous liturgy, even a solemn liturgy. Of course it has anything about sumptuosity, rather with a great zeal and spirit of adoration and reverence towards God throught the liturgy. Perhaps I’m in bad mood… I think the mission of the Pontificate of Pope Francis has the mission to reform the Church, speacially the clergy. That is good, but I think his tactics are ingenous, excessively optmist…

  17. Marie, I didn’t see your previous comment before posting my last comment. I’m sorry. That’s why I need more time to write my comments in English. Now it is late here. Tomorrow I hope write with more clarity.

  18. I can sense your great fondness for Pope Benedict. He is a great man, indeed.
    Alex, Pope Francis is not undoing all, or any part, of what Pope Benedict did during his Pontificate. Please pray for patience. All will be well. You must trust in God’s plan. Pope Benedict did. That is why he retired; he felt it was God’s will.
    Correspond to the graces you receive at Holy Mass and go out into the world bringing Christ with you. Be a model of the Immaculate. Meditate on the first two Joyful Mysteries. You will sanctify yourself, and those around you. And that is what will be most pleasing to God. Offer up your disappointments of a poor liturgy to Him, who is the Word.
    (we’re all bond to fall into a bad mood sometimes.) 🙂

  19. Marie:
    The Pope’s actions of washing the feet of a Muslim woman is not so much a problem of “breaking with tradition” as you put it as much as it is a problem of Heteropraxis or Heteropraxy. If a Pope comes out and says Muslims are in Church and can save their souls without Christ or his Church while willingly and knowing rejecting Christ that would be an open heresy. See the problem comes in when the Popes don’t do that but they kiss Korans wash Muslims feet and praise apostates.

    They was the feet of Muslims which looks like they are saying something. The churchmen don’t say they think all religions are equal but they call apostate Buddhists “Your holiness” seen here: This is a title Catholics always used for the Pope. So you see actions speak louder than words and that is the problem. Did John Paul II commit apostasy by kissing the Koran? No but it looks like he did. Did France when he washed the Muslims feet? No but it looks like he did. Learn the meaning of the terms Heteropraxis or Heteropraxy. They matter.

  20. Anna,
    I’m afraid I am ill equipped to ‘spar’ with you since I know nothing of pope’s kissing a Koran. I can only reply with this…people should stop judging, lest they be judged.
    Christ’s peace be upon you, Anna Cat.

  21. Anna,
    Thank you.
    I watched the first two minutes of the video you linked to. This is not my place, nor anyone else’s to become a pundit, and second guess the Pope. I read his article. I read it more than once in its entirety. Then I read it with the eyes of Christ. There is nothing wrong with his interview. It’s an interview, not an encyclical. Quite honestly, I agree with his ascertain that we are obsessed with the topics of abortion, homosexuality, ….. no, I do not condone them….I think, rather, the populus has lost sight of the higher calling to be Catholic; it’s “to love one another as I have loved you.

    As a homeschooling mother I have always taught my children to read first hand information on a topic, if it is available, not second hand. I don’t need to read someone’s regurgitation of what they think the Pope meant. I can analyze his message for myself, as we all should.
    The media is looking for a perfect man. There is only one Christ. Those who criticize/analyse the Pope may as well identify themselves as members of the Sanhedrin.
    May the Immaculate shower you with abundant graces.
    Ave Maria!

  22. Anna,
    I choose not to be a ‘Monday night quarterback’ in regards to what the Holy Father says, or does. Before God created anything He knew that Pope Francis would be chosen for this time in salvific history. I am content with that. God’s will be done.
    I watched six minutes of the Dalai Lama interview you linked to. and, if I were to have the pleasure of meeting him, I would address him with the same due respect that the Cardinal addressed him with, “Your holiness”. Catholics do not have a monoply on that title.
    You are right, popes are not impeccable. They have their faults. But I think it a great sign of pride to sit back and criticize/analyze the Pontiff. I am sure that the Bible not only says, “judge not lest ye be judged”, but it also says, “every word will be accounted for”, and ‘Fear of the the Lord is the first sign of wisdom”.
    Thanks be to God that the world is not sitting in the Judgement Seat of this, or any, Holy Father. He’d never make it into heaven.
    Happy feast day of the Archangels to you!

  23. Ave Maria!
    I believe that our Catholic culture needs to take a real hard look at our arrogant, defiant, disgraceful dealings with our Supreme Pontiff. Honestly, who do we think we are? Have we been given the grace from God, over and above the one chosen, the ONLY one granted the assurance of infallibility regarding faith and morals to lead the Church/world forward? If we are to learn from the saints then lets take a lesson in humility, love, papal fidelity, grace, obedience from St. Padre Pio regarding Christ’s Vicar. From a letter to Pope Paul the VI from St. Padre Pio “Availing myself of Your Holiness’ meeting with the Capitular Fathers, I unite myself in spirit with my Brothers, and in a spirit of faith, love and obedience to the greatness of Him whom you represent on earth, offer my respectful homage to Your August Person, humbly kneeling at Your feet.The Capuchin Order has always been among the first in their love, fidelity and reverence for the Holy See. I pray the Lord that its members remain ever thus, continuing their tradition of seriousness and religious asceticism evangelical poverty, faithful observance of the Rule and Constitutions, renewing themselves in vigorous living and deep interior spirit—always ready, at the least gesture from Your Holiness, to go forward at once to assist the Church in her needs…” I think Miss Cat and all those who wish to disparage, criticize, condemn our popes for not doing ( XYZ) or not saying ( XYZ) the way WE think they should need to reconsider what OUR role, in the Church, actually is ( to be always ready, at the least gesture from His Holiness, to go forward at once to assist the Church in her needs ) and what our role is NOT ( informing the Pope on how this or that should be done). The entire letter can be found here:

  24. Pingback: Evangelii Gaudium and the Culture War | Mary Victrix

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