Francis, a Pope Who Says One Thing and the Opposite(Which pope is he?)
As the days go by, the controversy ignited by the indictment of former nuncio to the United States Carlo Maria Viganò against Pope Francis on account of the scandal of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is becoming ever more lively. And it has seen a further flare-up with the explosion of the case of Kim Davis, the Christian county official in Kentucky who was imprisoned for a week in the summer of 2015 for having refused - for reasons of freedom of conscience and of religion - to grant a marriage license to homosexual couples, and was received by Francis on September 24 of that same year at the Vatican nunciature in Washington.
On the Kim Davis case there are at least two more elements to be brought into focus, until now overlooked by the commentators. And both of them shed light on the “mystery” of Francis’s personality.
The first is the answer the pope gave to Terry Moran of ABC News, on the flight back from the United States to Rome, when as yet the meeting he had had with Kim Davis a few days before had not become public knowledge.
The journalist does not mention Davis by name. But he alludes to her unmistakably. Such that Francis has her in mind when he replies.
Here is the official transcript of the question-and-answer between the journalist and the pope:
Q: Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples? Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?
A: I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying 'this right that has merit, this one does not.' It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chanson de Roland, when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font – the baptismal font or the sword. And, they had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.
Q: Would that include government officials as well?
A: It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.
News of the meeting between Francis and Kim Davis did not come out until after the pope’s return to Rome.
“The pope spoke in English,” Davis recounted afterward. “There was no interpreter. ‘Thank you for your courage,’ Pope Francis said to me. I said, ‘Thank you, Holy Father.’… It was an extraordinary moment. ‘Stay strong,’ he said to me… I broke into tears. I was deeply moved.”
A few days later, however, on October 2, 2015, as the controversy raged, then-director of the Vatican press office Federico Lombardi released a statement in which it was maintained:
- that the meeting with Kim Davis was only one among the “several dozen” courtesy greetings that the pope had given that same day to a great number of persons;
- that the meeting “must not be considered as support for her position in all its particular and complex implications”;
- that “the only ‘audience’ granted by the pope at the nunciature [of Washington] was to one of his old students, with his family.”
Apart from the fact that this “family” received in audience was made up of one of Bergoglio’s old Argentine friends, Yayo Grassi, and his Indonesian partner, Iwan Bagus, what is most striking about this statement - which was certainly approved by the pope - is that it contradicts or in any case downplays what Francis himself said on the plane in defense of Kim Davis and her right to conscientious objection.
But there’s more. Last August 28, three years later, the “New York Times” reported on a conversation between Francis and Juan Carlos Cruz, the best-known victim of sexual abuse in Chile, according to whom the pope said about the meeting with Kim Davis:
"I did not know who the woman was and he [Msgr. Viganò] snuck her in to say hello to me – and of course they made a whole publicity out of it. And I was horrified and I fired that nuncio.”
Viganò replied to these words attributed to the pope on August 30, with a detailed reconstruction of the lead-up to that meeting, to show that Francis “knew very well who Davis was” and that “he and his close associates had approved the audience.”
In his memorandum, Viganò does not cite the words that Francis said on the plane, presented above.
But these would be enough to demonstrate the extent to which the pope was fully apprised of the question, so much so as to reiterate, in his response to the journalist from ABC News, some of the passages of the written report that Viganò had delivered to him just before the meeting with Davis and that he has now made public.
Viganò however, at the end of his memorandum, goes so far as to present an aut-aut: “One of the two is lying: Cruz, or the pope?”
But it is plausible that things are not so cut and dried. And it is here that there emerges the second element to be brought into focus, which concerns more closely the personality of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
He is a pope, Bergoglio, who personifies contradictions. Of which the Kim Davis case is an example, but not the only one.
The contradiction between what Francis said on the plane on September 28, 2015 and what he had Fr. Lombardi say the following October 2 has already been covered here.
But then there is the contradiction - according to Viganò’s memorandum - between the alarming words of secretary of state Pietro Parolin in urgently calling the then-nuncio to the United States back to Rome: “You must come to Rome immediately, because the pope is infuriated with you,” and the “affectionate and fatherly” manner, full of “constant praise” with which Francis instead spoke to
Viganò upon receiving him in audience on October 9.
And then again the contradiction with what Francis had reported to Juan Carlos Cruz: of having seen himself tricked by Viganò and abruptly firing him as a result.
Last September 2 Fr. Lombardi gave a feeble counter-reply - together with Fr. Thomas Rosica, at the time the English-language spokesman for the Vatican press office - to Viganò’s memorandum, in an attempt to defend the statement of three years before.
But the simplest and most likely explanation is that Pope Francis serenely acted on his own all the parts of the drama, no matter if one was in contrast with the other: the words on the plane, the statement of October 2, the anti-Viganò tantrum with Cardinal Parolin, the subsequent kindly audience with Viganò himself, the new anti-Viganò tantrum with the Chilean Cruz…
This is the way Bergoglio is. To each his own. Or better, to each that which the pope maintains it is opportune to give and say in that given moment, according to his personal calculations.
The pope behaves like this very often, above all on the most controversial questions. Another glaring example of this is what happened last winter concerning China. While on the one hand, receiving in audience Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun and the secretary “De Propaganda Fide” at the time, Savio Hon Taifai, he said to both of them, expressing surprise, that he had not been informed about what the Vatican diplomates were doing on behalf of the Chinese regime and to the detriment of the “clandestine” Church, and had promised to act in support of their protests, a few days later an official Vatican statement confirmed instead that there was no “disparity of thought and action between the Holy Father and his colleagues in the Roman curia with regard to Chinese issues,” that the secretariat of state kept the pope constantly informed “in a faithful and detailed manner,” and that the statements to the contrary by Cardinal Zen elicited “surprise and regret.”
Or again, look at how Francis behaved with Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation for divine worship. On July 11, 2016, an official Vatican statement attacked the cardinal in a humiliating way, contesting his recommendations in favor of a reorientation of liturgical prayer toward the east and his stated interest in proceeding with a “reform of the reform,” meaning a correction of the deviations of the postconciliar liturgical innovations.
Except that Francis had received Sarah in audience two days earlier. Thanking him and praising him for what he was doing, without the slightest reference to the backstabbing he was about to get. And the previous month of April, during another audience, Francis had urged Sarah to proceed with precisely that “reform of the reform” which he would publicly disown just a little while later.
But the most sensational example of the contradictions personified by Francis is his response to the Lutheran woman who asked him if she could receive communion together with her Catholic husband.
Not in separate audiences and speaking to different persons, but in a single statement of a few minutes with the same person, Bergoglio concentrated everything and the contrary of everything. He told her first yes, then no, then I don’t know, and finally do as you believe. The video of that question-and-answer (in Italian, with a transcription in English) is an extraordinary “summa” for penetrating the personality of the current pope:
> "Mi chiamo Anke de Bernardini…"
A personality that was forged by going through not a few dark “passages,” as he himself recalled recently, which led him to entrust himself for a few months to a psychoanalyst and which in any case have left in him a still-unresolved interior disquiet.
To overcome which he himself has confessed, for example, that he chose Santa Marta as his residence “for psychiatric reasons” and refuses to read the online writings of his opponents, to safeguard his “mental health.”
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)