PopeWatch: Niece


One of the more frustrating aspects of the current pontificate is the lack of information about Pope Francis prior to his pontificate, especially information about him as a man.  DICI has put up an eye-opening interview about the Pope given by his niece:


In an interview posted at the Argentine website Tierras de América on August 12, 2014, the niece of Pope Francis, Maria Inés Narvaja, confides several observations about her uncle’s personality.  She describes him as someone who is very attentive to the poorest of the poor.  But, according to her, from a political perspective, Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not like labels.  In looking at him, one might wonder “what side he is on.  Certainly he cares a lot about social justice, but you never know whether he is on the left or the right,” she explained.  “Maybe because theologically he is rather conservative, but pastorally he is rather progressive.”  Another character trait that Maria Inés Narvaja emphasizes is Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s great discretion and his reluctance to speak about personal things, especially about his problems.  “He is remarkably impenetrable,” she declares, adding that he is “very reserved”.

In this interview she also mentions her marriage, at first a civil marriage, with a man who was waiting for the declaration of nullity of his previous union by the ecclesiastical authorities.  Four years later, she finally married in the Church.  “During that whole period, he (my uncle) was a father to me and I am very grateful to him,” she explains.  “He does not judge you, he will never tell you what you must do.” 

Go here to read the rest.  The Pope, while projecting an image of openess and transparency, is obviously someone who has kept his cards close to his vest for a very long time.  Perhaps it is as a result of being “theologically conservative and pastorally progressive”, whatever that means, that may explain why the Pope has often expressed a desire not to judge those who clearly flaunt the teachings of the Church, while he is quick to judge on matters that are more tangentially related to the teachings of the Church.  Thus factory owners receive a blast from the Pope for laying off workers while “gay” Catholics receive a shrug.  Perhaps the Pope is a divided man who separates the teachings of the Church in traditional areas of the responsibility of the Church, sexual morality for example, as being reserved for preaching in Church, from secular matters where he can give voice to political sentiments.  PopeWatch does not view that formulation as entirely accurate, but does wish that more people were interested in probing why Pope Francis seems to give different emphasis to the issues he speaks out on in the public forum from his immediate predecessors and what that would tell us about how he views the role of the Church in the world.

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  1. “those who clearly flaunt [sic] the teachings of the Church” – a typo for “flout,” perhaps?

  2. It looks like he has a divided mind. (Reflective of our culture )
    How can one be honest in the separation of the theological and the pastoral? It can’t be done. That is the ancient meaning in the Shema: that The Lord God is One! The reference is not just referring to the fact that there is only one God, but also to His integrity or inner unity.

    The teachings of the Church give us our theology. “Pastoral” describes the pedagogy, and the application of those teachings. In God’s pedagogy revealed on the bible, we do not find the pastoral contravening the theological… There is not even a “shadow of change”.
    . Pastoral is the applied use of the theological. That is where man’s will is easily seen- either in the “obedience of faith” or, like Lucifer, the decision Not to serve.

  3. As our Pope might say,
    “Although the pastoral sense of companionate marriage undoubtedly arose from confusion with the theological sense of holy matrimony, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard.”

  4. I think Francis is quite confusing. I can’t derive his choice of emphasis from the premise of his being theologically-conservative-but-pastorally-progressive. Can you imagine him saying “If someone is factory owner, and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Why no pastorality from the Pope for those who organize production outside of government?

  5. Anzlyne wrote, “Pastoral is the applied use of the theological.”

    That is plainly right. Theology furnishes us with general principles, but judgment is required in deciding what principles apply in concrete cases. For example, to say that Catholics are bound to contribute to the support of their pastors does not answer the question of how much X should contribute, taking into accounts his individual circumstances, his means and his other obligations. Again, how far is a person obliged to travel to hear Sunday mass? It depends on his means of transport, the weather, the state of the roads, his contitution, his state of health, other legitimate demands on his time and no rule of thumb can be devised to answer that question (although some manualists have tried). In such cases, there is no substitute for a properly formed conscience, neither lax on the one side nor scrupulouson the other.

  6. Exactly right Anzlyne. The problem is that there are pastoral situations where niceness can open a person to the Truth in a way that its opposite will not. I’m not a pastor so outside of my circle of friends and family I have no idea of what the proper approach is in each situation. All I know is that there were times when Jesus was nice and times he was not, so each individual case must be treated differently.

  7. It seems to me that Pope Francis likes to comment critically and compassionately on secular issues where he has little competence but is loath to comment faithfully and forcefully on the Church doctrine where he should have. It is as if, from a religious perspective, he advocates forgiveness without repentance, and, from a secular, condemnation without understanding.

  8. “It is as if, from a religious perspective, he advocates forgiveness without repentance, and, from a secular, condemnation without understanding.”

    Comment of the week Michael. Take ‘er away Sam:

  9. This is not the first time the Church has had a Pope that was not a good one.
    We have the Lord God and his Saints. Mother Mary protect us.

  10. please refrain from judging Pope Francis. to date, there is nothing he has done to merit negative criticism much less judgmental condemnation.

  11. Maria Ines Narvaja, PF’s niece: “During that whole period, he (my uncle) was a father to me and I am very grateful to him,” she explains. “He does not judge you, he will never tell you what you must do.”

    Eddie Too, there is much for which to criticize PF, most especially his creation of a hurricane of confusion in the Catholic faith, he who is the Supreme Teacher of the very same Faith (“Who am I to judge”, cited by some Illinois legislators in 2013 as justification in their vote to destroy traditional marriage…”

    Or, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!…if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”” (Homily 5/22/13, homily, Domus Santa Marta), effectively proving right what Bp. Fellay and the SSPX have claimed about his indifferentism; And there is so much more that could be cited, just for example from his disastrous cyclone of confusion, his letter called Evangelii Gaudium.

    But perhaps the worst citation is right here from his own niece, “He will never tell you what you must do.” But in fact, it is his obligation to do so, Eddie T. We owe it especially to the young people to lay out the truth for them. My experience as a far-from-perfect father was guided by my own Lt. Col. dad: “At least the Old Man told the truth.” How I wished later in life I had listened then: but it helped me to turn things around sooner when I saw what he said fulfilling itself. I therefore was determined to do that for my daughters. It isnt a happy announcement, to lay out the disturbing facts you are seeing in their lives at times: but at least they know the truth. By the way, it did help, in light of later events.

    We OWE it to our children and our family members to lay out the truth: and when PF could have done it, he instead chose to be a smiling, silent Buddha. Rather the style he has chosen as leader of the Catholic faith. We are all in trouble.

  12. I think there can be differences in individual behavior among priests when preaching theological points of our faith and and practicing pastoral elements. Granted they can’t be in conflict … but can be taught and shown differently. Pastoral cares about bringing a sinner back to Christ and the church — which we would agree needs theological truth. Some respond better to fire and brimstone absolutes immediately … while others may respond better to a softer approach that more slowly wins them back. Maybe that is what is at odds here.

  13. The TAC article immediately prior to this article on Popewatch is a quotation from part of St. Thomas Aquinas’ devotional writing on “The Cross”: in part, it states:

    “If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in who are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.”

    ” Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

    There is no love of the Cross today among many putative Catholics and many putative Catholic leaders: everything [self-deceptively, mistakenly] can be resolved through “dialogue”, through soft words and warm hugs, through carefully polite language and avoidance of choosing rough-hewn terms, through smiles and handshakes and arm-squeezes, things “delightful”. But St TA tells us following Christ will be like drinking gall and vinegar, being struck and being spat upon, participating in the sign that will be opposed (Luke 2:34).

    Personally, I like the easy way out every time..

  14. D Will wrote, “ Some respond better to fire and brimstone absolutes immediately … while others may respond better to a softer approach that more slowly wins them back”

    St Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, was acutely aware of this. In his letter to Simplician, he says, “Here someone will say, why was not Esau called in such a way that he would be willing to obey? We see that people are variously moved to believe when the same facts are shown or explained to them. For example, Simeon believed in our Lord Jesus Christ when He was still a little child, for the Spirit revealed the truth to him. Nathanael heard but one sentence from Him, “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee” (John 1:48); and he replied, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.” Long after, Peter made the same confession, and for that merit heard himself pronounced blessed, and that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were to be given to him. His disciples believed on him when by a miracle in Cana of Galilee water was turned into wine, which the evangelist John records as the beginning of the signs of Jesus. He stirred many to believe by his words, but many did not believe though the dead were raised. Even His disciples were terrified and shattered by His cross and death, but the thief believed at the very moment when he saw Him not highly exalted but his own equal in sharing in crucifixion. One of His disciples after His resurrection believed, not so much because His body was alive again, as because of His recent wounds. Many of those who crucified Him, who had despised Him while He was working His miracles, believed when His disciples preached Him and did similar miracles in His name. Since, then, people are brought to faith in such different ways, and the same thing spoken in one way has power to move and has no such power when spoken in another way, or may move one man and not another, who would dare to affirm that God has no method of calling whereby even Esau might have applied his mind and yoked his will to the faith in which Jacob was justified?

  15. I think we should distinguish between the acts of a parish priest, who lives everyday in the trenches, and a Bishop or Archbishop, who from his perch, most also defend The Faith. A priest, who is intimately involved in parish life, knows when to act pastorally, and when not to. He may marry a cohabiting couple on the spot due to a whole host of extenuating circumstances; in another situation he may not. It all depends. However, most Bishops, especially those in large urban dioceses, cannot possible understand the ins and outs every hard ship case that comes to their desks. The Bishop is also part of the teaching Magesterium. If a Bishop will not defend Dogma and Orthodoxy, who will? For it is his decisions, his teachings, and his public pronouncements and edicts that guide us all (or help to guide us) to Heaven.

    The Holy Father does seem to be a man torn. His instincts are that of a parish priest and not a Bishop. I’m not saying that he his ill-suited for the job; but, I’ve seen this before in other fields. I’ve worked for Vice Presidents who continue to operate like General Managers, or Brigade Commanders who continue to lead like company commanders. Pope Francis would be an outstanding parish priest in any country. His instincts are to show Mercy in almost any situation; however, there is a big difference in granting personal absolution to one person and granting blanket amnesty to an entire group. A parish priest can bend the rules – in many cases he has to. But, a Bishop must defend the teachings of Christ and Church Dogma. The Pope needs to understand he is now the Man. He now runs City Hall.

  16. “I think we should distinguish between the acts of a parish priest, who lives everyday in the trenches, and a Bishop or Archbishop, who from his perch, most also defend The Faith.”

    Comment of the week JP. Take ‘er away Sam!:

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