November 7, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – The Amazon Synod is over. It’s been a couple weeks since my last article (see Time for an imperfect council to consider the case of an imperfect pope), as I remain occupied with readying Pia Fidelis for publication. The month of October and the first week of November have been eventful.
The Pachamama idols were heroically removed from a Roman Church and tossed into the Tiber. But, then, during closing mass of the synod, Pope Francis placed a bowl of earth and plants — apparently symbolic of the false goddess and idol, Pachamama – upon the altar above St. Peter’s tomb. If Pachamama was indeed symbolized by this bowl, earth and plants — as appears to be the case (see Fr. Z’s article here) — one can not help but think of the “abomination of desolation” spoken of in scripture: “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand” (see Matthew 24:15).
Though the events above are incredible in and of themselves, also in October, Catholics were treated to the suggestion, reported by the Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, that Pope Francis does not believe in the Divinity of Christ. Many outlets reported this news, of course (e.g., here). The Tablet reported:
Scalfari wrote in La Repubblica: “Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet with him and speak with him in utmost confidence – as I have done several times – knows that Pope Francis conceives of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth: a man, not an incarnate god. Once incarnate, Jesus ceases to be a god and become a man, until his death on the cross.”
Scalfari claims that when he put this idea to Francis, he replied: “Jesus of Nazareth, once he became a man, although he was a man of exceptional virtue, was not a god at all.”
(Source: The Tablet. “Scalfari claims Pope does not believe Jesus ‘the man’ was divine” by James Roberts. October 10, 2019; emphasis added by Roma Locuta Est)
While the Vatican press office on occasion has provided limp-wristed explanations and ‘denials’ regarding Scalfari’s reporting of his conversations with Pope Francis, these are insufficient (e.g., here). Pope Francis has never personally and directly denied any of Scalfari’s past representations (e.g., regarding the damned being annihilated). Now, within the last couple days, there is yet another controversy arising from Scalfari’s alleged conversations with Francis.
The latest from the last 48 hours or so is this. The Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari – who earlier in October reported Francis denied the divinity of Christ – now reports that Francis has also denied other dogmas of the Catholic Faith, for example, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ (see LifeSiteNews: Francis’ go-to interviewer claims Pope denies Jesus’ bodily resurrection). Citing his new book (Il Dio unico e la società moderna: Incontri con papa Francesco e il cardinale Carlo Maria Martini), Scalfari wrote in the Italian newspaper, La Republicca (November 5, 2019):
“He was a man until he was placed in the tomb by the women who recomposed his body. That night, in the tomb, the man disappeared and came forth from the grotto in the semblance of a spirit that met the women and the Apostles while still preserving the shadow of the person, and then he definitely disappeared.” (Source: As quoted by Martin Barillas in LifeSiteNews, November 7, 2019; emphasis added by Roma Locuta Est)
One reaction to Scalfari’s recent claims comes from Bishop J. Strickland of Tyler, Texas:
In response to Bishop J. Strickland, and with all due respect to him, I suggest he defend the faith — but let Francis defend himself. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that Bishop J. Strickland is one of the “good guy” bishops. One of the few of them, in fact. However, as so many commentators and Catholics following the news have observed by now, and I did again in my recent article (see here); if Scalfari habitually misinterprets Francis, why has Pope Francis continued to speak with Scalfari over the years? They are, by all reports, on friendly terms. There is no reason to think that Scalfari is trying to undermine Pope Francis. So, if Scalfari is a “deluded” or “insane” — as Bishop Strickland wonders, we must ask: why does Francis continue their conversations? If Francis converses with a madman….what does that make Francis?
Francis is on friendly terms with Scalfari, and he continues his discussions and interviews with him, because he trusts the man. There is every reason to believe Scalfari is reporting his honest recollections of the words and meaning of Pope Francis. Granted, Scalfari is a very old man (in his 90s I believe), and he is notoriously known for not taking notes during his interviews. It is indeed quite possible he has incorrectly remembered the Pope’s words or that he has misunderstood them. However, Pope Francis has given him credibility by his repeated discussions with him over the years. As noted above, they are on friendly terms and there is no reason to think Scalfari wishes to undermine Francis by putting heresies into his mouth which he never uttered. But think…what person would grant continued access and interviews to reporter who repeatedly fails to get your words and meaning down correctly — especially on theological matters, and when that person is the Vicar of Christ?
Given the gravity of Scalfari’s several claims — made now in both articles and books, Pope Francis should publicly deny and correct Scalfari’s recollections. Furthermore, Pope Francis should make a public profession of Faith which specifically addresses each and every heretical assertion that was wrongly put into his mouth by Scalfari. This seems to me so obvious, but I don’t believe I have yet to hear a single cardinal or bishop request this of Pope Francis.
Again, I am a fan of Bishop Strickland. We need him. I wish we had more bishops like him. However, as said, I believe the bishop’s anger in this case is misplaced. It should not be directed toward Scalfari. Rather, it should be directed against Pope Francis, who has not — after all these years — personally and publicly addressed Scalfari’s past claims (e.g., that the Pope believe the souls of the damned are annihilated) or publicly addressed Scalfari’s more recent claims (e.g., that the Pope rejects the Divinity of Christ, and his bodily resurrection).
I’d like to think that the US bishops visiting Rome would challenge Pope Francis on these questions, and so many others (e.g., Dubia, Death Penalty, Abu Dhabi statement, and so on, and so on). At least, a few bishops? Maybe one?
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).