Friday, February 19, 2016


The damage done—again—by the Pope's interview

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 18, 2016

How damaging was the latest papal interview? Let me count the ways.

Tomorrow, no doubt, the Vatican press office will go into its now-familiar “clarification” mode. Loyal Catholic defenders of Pope Francis will argue that the Holy Father’s words were taken out of context. But this time, the problem cannot be attributed to sensationalistic reporting; the Pontiff definitely conveyed the impression that he was ready to discuss the morality of contraception in the context of the Zika epidemic. The Pope’s own words are—at best—confusing.

Questioned as to whether contraception is the “lesser of two evils” when the Zika threatens birth defects, the Pope replied, in part: “On the lesser evil, avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of a conflict between the 5th and 6th Commandments.” What conflict? Does he mean to suggest that in some cases, adhering to one of God’s laws might entail violating another?

In the next sentence, the Pope refers to the decision by Pope Paul VI, authorizing nuns in (what was then) the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives when they were threatened with rape. But that decision does not apply to the situation created by the Zika epidemic. Contraception is immoral because it violates the integrity of the marital act. In the Congo, the use of contraceptives was justified as a means of thwarting an act of violence. In Latin America today, some officials argue that, because of the Zika problem, contraceptives should be used to thwart an act of marital love.

No doubt the Pope’s defenders will argue—in fact some already have argued-- that the Pope did not actually say that contraception could be justified. True enough. What he said was that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.” But in context, what other message were reporters likely to draw from his statement? If you ask me whether it is justifiable to rob a bank, and I reply that bank robbery is not an absolute evil, haven’t I indicated that I am open to a discussion about whether bank robbery is licit in certain circumstances? Certainly I have not given the impression that I think bank robbery is always immoral.

Yet the Church teaches that artificial contraception, when used to frustrate the purpose of the marital act, is always immoral. UN officials are now suggesting that artificial contraception should be practiced by married couples routinely because of the Zika epidemic. Nothing in the Pope’s statement suggested that there is an inherent moral problem with that approach. I have seen defenders of the Pope remark that secular reporters generally don’t understand the Church’s teaching on contraception. That’s true; and nothing that the Pope said would further their education.

Moreover, in answering the reporter’s question about Zika, the Pope failed to point out the flaw in the major premise of the argument for routine contraception. That argument is based on the assumption that the Zika virus is responsible for microcephaly. But there is very little scientific evidence to support that assumption: a fact that the Pope’s own representative highlighted in a presentation this week to the UN. Proponents of contraception and abortion have been exploiting the Zika epidemic as a means of advancing their cause. The Pope had an opportunity to remind the world that the effects of Zika are not well understood, and to suggest that research should be concentrated on killing the disease rather than its victims. He missed it.

And speaking of missed opportunities, if Pope Francis had not made those remarks about contraception (and his provocative remarks about Donald Trump) the headline stories about his airborne press conference might have centered on a few other statements, which would have gladdened the hearts of shock-shelled Catholics. For example:

The Pope said that Pope Benedict XVI deserves applause for his handling of the sex-abuse crisis, particularly in the time before his election to the papacy. “He was the brave one who helped so many open this door.”
When pressed about his forthcoming post-synodal document on the family, and specifically whether divorced-and-remarried Catholics should be admitted to the Eucharist, the Pope said: “Integrating in the Church doesn’t mean receiving communion.”

But these statements, and other important comments by the Pope about his visit to Mexico and his meeting with Patriarch Kirill, will be barely noticed—drowned out by the noise about his comments on Trump and Zika.

The Pope’s frequent public interviews, and his unhappy record of maladroit responses, have become a predictable source of confusion, frustration, and even embarrassment for the faithful. In the distant past, then-Cardinal Bergoglio admitted: “Interviews are not my forte.” Thoughtful Catholic leaders should use their influence to persuade the Holy Father that he was right then, and is wrong now to use interviews as a regular facet of his public ministry.


Anonymous said...

"Contraception is immoral because it violates the integrity of the marital act."

I would add that the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives today is primarily due to their ability to inhibit implantation after life is conceived (thus an additional reason it is immoral). This is in contrast to earlier versions which primarily prohibited conception but caused significant long-term health consequences.

"In the Congo, the use of contraceptives was justified as a means of thwarting an act of violence."

In order for the use of contraceptives to actually thwart violence, it seems the definition of "act of violence" would need to be extended to conception and implantation after an act of rape. We need to pause and consider the ramifications of such an extension.


Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed the "taken out of context" routine is not only old but just quite boring and to be expected by the Vatican the next day. Look this man is on the verge of HERESY yes I indeed said that, as has many many Roman Catholics even non-Catholics are saying the same thing if they see it as well for Gods sake there is something wrong with this man. We must and have a duty to call out this pope, Rubio, Bush, Kasich all Catholics said to question Donald Trumps Christianity is wrong and he should stay out of our politics. Look, let's all be honest and open, this pope NEVER teaches the Roman Catholic Faith, if anything he apologizes at every turn for the Catholic Churches "crimes" of the past! I have not said anything rude, mean or any untruths about Francis, these are sad cold facts and have to be addressed, he is an Argentine, Jesuit, and yes if I may say a Marxist-Leninist I hope Father let's this post go though so we can have all points of view as to what is going on in Rome and with this pope. Let's talk it out folks please?

John Nolan said...

Interviews are not his forte. But he gives them nonetheless and sows massive confusion. Administration is not his forte (well, we all knew this from his record in BA). Learning is not his forte; his own academic record is undistinguished and he has said that he doesn't want men of intellect as bishops.

What on earth led the cardinals to elect this man? And pious ultramontanes can leave the Holy Ghost out of it. Basil Hume said after the first conclave of 1978 that he was convinced that Albino Luciani was 'God's choice'. It would appear that God had other ideas.

Murray said...

Father, let me help you and Mr Lawler out: the pope may claim that interviews are not his forte, but he clearly loves doing them. It's clear from his demeanor that he's having the time of his life, holding forth to the world on whatever catches his fancy.

Nor is it credible, after the umpteenth such interview, to excuse the Holy Father by conjecturing that he must be unaware of the confusion he's causing. We could excuse one or two such occasions (as with Pope Benedict and condoms), but now? No, he knows exactly what he's doing. And what does this tell us? Were this any other public figure, we would instantly draw the obvious conclusions.

Likewise, I note that the pope's repeated claims of ignorance of basic Catholic teaching (on Lutherans receiving communion, for instance, or on politicians voting for same-sex marriage in this case) send a very clear message: This stuff may be fun debating material for expert theologians, but you don't need to worry about it. Heck, I'm the pope, and even I don't know much about it.

Remember when there was great dignity attached to the Petrine Office, even by those who disagreed? That's gone now, and probably for the foreseeable future. Even if the next pope is a unambiguously orthodox man of great discretion, he will be treated by the world as just another political figure, his words of no more import than those of Bono or Hillary Clinton.

Mark Thomas said...

Phil Lawler said..."Tomorrow, no doubt, the Vatican press office will go into its now-familiar “clarification” mode. Loyal Catholic defenders of Pope Francis will argue that the Holy Father’s words were taken out of context. But this time, the problem cannot be attributed to sensationalistic reporting...And speaking of missed opportunities, if Pope Francis had not made those remarks about contraception (and his provocative remarks about Donald Trump)..."

In fairness to His Holiness Pope Francis, the secular and, sadly, even Catholic news media, distorted the Holy Father's comments about Donald Trump. The Papal press conference transcript proves that Pope Francis did not say that Donald Trump is not a Christian.

Donald Trump last night on CNN declared that the news media had distorted the Pope's remarks about his (Donald Trump) not being a Christian. Donald Trump had softened his tone considerably about Pope Francis.

Donald Trump stated last night on CNN that the Pope's remarks in question were "nicer" and "softer' than what the news media had reported earlier that day. The fact is that countless news media outlets misrepresented the Pope's remarks.

That said, and in particular regard to the Pope's contraception-related remarks, we experienced another Papal press conference that resulted in disaster for the Church.

The ranks of the news media are filled with devious anti-Catholics who are determined to distort such issues as contraception, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality as related to the Church's teachings.

Many news media outlets have misrepresented repeatedly Pope Francis' stance on said issues. They are determined to present the Pope as being "soft" on those issues to pretend that the Church is open to changing Her teachings on those and additional issues.

Unfortunately, time and again, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he will not curtail his dealings with the news media. He even conducts interviews with an atheist who does not take notes during said interviews.

The bottom line is that unless he has a sudden change of mind in regard to his dealings with the news media, we can expect more exhaustion and chaos to flow from Pope Francis' meetings with reporters.

It is unbelievable.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

I have to wonder about the following:

By his admission, Pope Francis is out of touch virtually with the modern means of social communication. He is going on 26 years of having last watched television. I don't know whether he listens to the radio...such as radio news/talk shows. He isn't Internet savvy. He says that there is only one newspaper that he reads daily...and that is for just 15 minutes per day.

It is incredible that Pope Francis is so out of touch with the modern means of social communication. That is even more incredible as he presents himself as a man of Vatican II. In turn, Vatican II produced a decree on the means of Social Communication.

Incredibly, the one form of "modern" social communication that he utilizes is the one that is antiquated and dying: newspapers...or more accurately, a newspaper, as he reads just one newspaper (for just 15 minutes) daily.

Give all of the above, does Pope fact, is it possible for Pope Francis to...have a strong sense of the chaos and controversy within and without the Church that, time and again, followed his dealings with the news media?

I have to question as to whether Pope Francis has been aware acutely of the devastating effect that his press conferences and interviews have often had upon the Church.

It is simply unbelievable.


Mark Thomas

Jusadbellum said...

I never understood the "Congo nuns using the pill to "protect" themselves from rape" thing.

How does becoming infertile protect you from violent rape? if the issue is protect from unwanted pregnancy (by rape or consensual sex) then and only then does it make sense.

But wait, if the threat is so dire that nuns are being raped in the Congo and you are willing to airdrop them enough contraceptives to "save them" why not drop them some guns to keep themselves from being raped to begin with?

Where were the MEN of the Congo - their brothers, nephews, cousins, fathers, uncles? If my sister or daughter was a nun and in real threat of being raped, I'd make cross bows and sharp sticks and stand watch outside their convent if guns were nowhere to be found....

Seriously.... we were to sit back and watch our women being raped and NOT put down the would-be rapists because.....?

Mark Thomas said...

Okay...probably like everybody else, I'm exhausted from the negatives that have flowed from the Pope's latest press conference. Father Lombardi has attempted to stem the damage, via a clarification, that followed from Pope Francis' press conference.

Father McDonald, please consider a post dedicated to some of the solid things, such as his strong condemnation of abortion, that Pope Francis offered during his press conference. Then, each of us must do our best to spread the word about the positives in question. We have to come to Holy Mother Church's aid.

Call into talk radio show...write a letter to the editor...tell somebody about the solidly Catholic things that Pope Francis discussed during the press conference.

Let us spread the word as to Pope Francis' strong defense of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI's handling of the Church's sex abuse scandal. The secular news media, and even certain people within the Church, would have us believe that Pope Benedict XVI aided and abetted those priests who abused children sexually. Pope Francis said otherwise yesterday. We can help to broadcast that message.

Let us begin to repair the damage that has been inflicted during the past 24 hours upon Holy Mother Church.


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

Mark Thomas, you can listen to Pope Francis's interview on several sites - the New York Times has it. When interviewed he clearly says those who build a wall are non Christian. I can't see how that has been distorted. His statement about contraception being the lesser of two evils has been widely reported, and yet the Church clearly teaches that the ends do not justify the means. In other words that we can choose the lesser of two evils. I am scandalised that a pope should make such a statement. As others have said time and again the Church is being subjected to untold damage by this papacy. Only liberals can uphold this papacy.

Gene said...

This is just a great opportunity for the Pope to loosen another plank in the structure of Catholic dogma. If one can use birth control for one purpose, then why not another. So, he is diluting the teachings on homosexuality, marriage, and birth control, as well as on sin and judgement while attacking the laws and sovereignty of the United States with his dog and pony show on the border.

Rood Screen said...

Remember how everyone always misunderstood the statements by Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict on faith and morals? Neither do I.

gob said...

If one can use capital punishment for one purpose, then why not another? (Some might enjoy listening to a country song...Tom T Hall....called "Hang 'Em All".)

Gene said...

Hey Gob, We need more judges like this:

The following is a verbatim sentence imposed upon a defendant convicted of murder in the Federal District Court of the Territory of New Mexico many years ago by a United States Judge, sitting at Taos in an adobe stable used as a temporary courtroom.


"Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, in a few short weeks, it will be spring. The snows of winter will flee away, the ice will vanish, and the annual miracle of the years will awaken and come to pass, but you won't be there.

"The rivulet will run its course to the sea, the timid desert flowers will put forth their tender shoots, the glorious valleys of this imperial domain will blossom as the rose. Still, you won't be there to see.

"From every treetop some wild woods songster will carol his mating song, butterflies will sport in the sunshine, the busy bee will hum happy as it pursues its accustomed vocation. The gentle breeze will tease the tassels of the wild grasses, and all nature, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, will be glad, but you.

"You won't be there to enjoy it because I command the sheriff, or some officers of the country, to lead you out to some remote spot, swing you by the neck from a knotting bough of a sturdy oak, and let you hang until you are dead.

"And then, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, I further command that such officer or officers retire quickly from your dangling corpse, that vultures may descend from the heavens upon your filthy body until nothing shall remain but the bare bleached bones of a cold-blooded, blood-thirsty, throat-cutting, murdering son-of-a-bitch."


United States of America v. Gonzales (1881)
United States District Court, New Mexico Territory sessions

Mark Thomas said...

"As others have said time and again the Church is being subjected to untold damage by this papacy. Only liberals can uphold this papacy."

Jan, I stated that the Pope's latest press conference spread chaos within and without the Church. I share the dread that many Catholics experience each time news breaks about a press conference or interview granted by His Holiness Pope Francis. Based upon his track record during press conferences and interviews, what Catholic wouldn't dread said events?

That said, I don't know what you mean by "only liberals can uphold this papacy".


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Jan said..."Mark Thomas, you can listen to Pope Francis's interview on several sites - the New York Times has it. When interviewed he clearly says those who build a wall are non Christian. I can't see how that has been distorted."

Donald Trump last night on CNN declared that the news media had distorted the Pope's comments about him (Donald Trump). Donald Trump said that the Pope's comments in question were "nicer" and "much softer" than the news media had reported.

Pope Francis was "very much misinterpreted", according to Donald Trump. Donald Trump added he likes Pope Francis' "personality; I like what he represents." Mister Trump called the Pope a "wonderful guy".

Jan, Donald Trump disagrees with you. Donald Trump has insisted that Pope Francis' comments in question were distorted.


Mark Thomas

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jan- You ate simply wrong about the lesser of two evils. St Thomas Aquinas describes the circumstances under which one MAY choose the lesser evil over the greater evil. See.

Gene said...

A letter from a Catholic Priest to his parishioners. It has been redacted to protect the Priest:

My Dear Faithful,
Please be advised that the media is widely reporting the recent remarks Pope Francis and Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi regarding the possible liceity of the use of oral contraceptives and male prophylactics to prevent pregnancy.

As your pastor, I remind you that the the ordinary, universal Magisterium of the Church has forever taught that such things are gravely immoral and contrary to the Natural Law. If, indeed, the Holy Father is truly suggesting such things are permissible in some cases, than he is speaking erroneously in a matter of Faith and Morals and he should be studiously ignored on these points.

I include below a few excerpts from papal encyclicals for your study.

Further questions can be directed to me in person or if need by by telephone. No emails please.

Let us continue to pray daily for the Holy Father and the Bishops in these most trying of times.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Fr. ____ __________

Anonymous said...

It has been redacted because the priest knows that he may well be wrong. And he is.

To reveal further his lack of conviction, he adds, "No emails please." Of course not. This would leave a traceable trail. And we can't have that....

Gene said...

No, that is not why it was redacted. He is right on the money.