In response to Pope Francis’ latest interview, I urged people not to read Francis’ words too closely:
After two recent interview with La Repubblica and La Civiltà Cattolica, it has become clear that the dialogue he desires will be informal and unguarded. It is the kind of dialogue usually reserved for close friends and, of course, very susceptible to misunderstanding when it isn’t. This is why Francis has delivered his beautiful daily homilies ex tempore and chosen intimate interviews rather than public speeches as his preferred way of communicating with his Church and the world. Francis has decided to approach the world on casual terms, and the world has responded with overwhelming love for him, if not always perfect understanding of the faith.
How, then, should Christians read his interviews? Talmudic explanations of how what he said was not what he really meant or, on the other hand, what the faith really teaches miss the point. Francis is not so much aiming for precision as shooting the breeze.
That this has been Francis’ desire has long been clear, but now it’s been confirmed by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. John Allen reports:
Perhaps the most insightful take on all this came from Lombardi himself, who said we’re seeing the emergence of a whole new genre of papal speech — informal, spontaneous and sometimes entrusted to others in terms of its final articulation. A new genre, Lombardi suggested, needs a “new hermeneutic,” one in which we don’t attach value so much to individual words as to the overall sense.
“This isn’t Denzinger,” he said, referring to the famous German collection of official church teaching, “and it’s not canon law.”
It goes without saying that this casual approach has its downsides, leading to headlines like “Are Archbishop Myers’ ears burning? Pope scolds ‘obsessed’ clergy.”
Francis himself is showing some frustration with the media’s response, as Allen reports:
[Francis] took a shot at the media, saying newspapers had been “full of fantasies” about the trip, suggesting he was coming to “strip” the church — renouncing honorific titles, selling off properties, etc. His real interest, he said, was to call the church to a “stripping” of the “cancer of worldliness.”
Francis has a great deal of work to do, work already begun with the “G-8″ group of advisory cardinals, in showing the world what he means.