(The American Catholic will observe its tenth anniversary in October. We will be reposting some classic TAC posts of the past. This post is from October 6, 2013.)
Announcing a new series at The American Catholic: PopeWatch. I think it is obvious that Pope Francis will be making the headlines on a regular basis, and I will be commenting on him fairly frequently as a result, hence the new series. First up, a statement by papal press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. I have a soft spot in my heart for press flacks. They have tough jobs, especially in the wake of feathers hitting a fan. Then they come out to meet the media, and often have to say the most absurd things with a straight face, and it would take a heart of purest granite not to feel some sympathy for them at such times. In the wake of Pope Francis’ colorful interviews, Father Lombardi explained what the problem is:
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.
“What the pope is doing is giving pastoral reflections that haven’t been reviewed beforehand word-for-word by 20 theologians in order to be precise about everything,” Lombardi said. “It has to be distinguished from an encyclical, for instance, or a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which are magisterial documents.”
Well, okay then. The Pope gives inteviews that he knows will be blasted around the world and make headlines, but we Catholics are not to pay attention to the individual words but rather to the overall sense. How we are to arrive at the overall sense without paying attention to the individual worlds is a mystery the solution of which Father Lombardi did not deign to reveal. If I might suggest a solution? When Pope Francis is speaking Father Lombardi should be present with two signs. One should say “Attention”, and that should be held up when Pope Francis is saying something that we should take seriously. At other times Father Lombardi should hold up a sign reading “Never Mind”.