Zeno’s Paradox popped into my mind again as yet another of Pope Francis’ apparently infinite supply of scandals burst forth when he again was reported to be uttering heresies. The secular English language newspapers burst forth in songs of gleeful praise as the pope – on Holy Thursday no less! – denied the entire point of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross.
Unrepentant wicked souls, the pope is reported to have said, “do not go anywhere in punishment. Those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and go among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and therefore cannot be forgiven vanish. Hell does not exist, only the disappearance of sinful souls.”
The take-away message of the pope to the Catholic faithful the day before Good Friday? “So really, there was no point at all to that whole crucifixion/resurrection business. It was all just a rather sad waste… Redemptive suffering? Uniting your own suffering to that of Christ on the Cross? Redemption from what?”
As always, it was done in a way that provided sufficient cover, by again allowing the nonagenarian, radical atheist and notorious anti-Catholic Eugenio Scalfari to report the pope’s words “from memory”. The method allows barely enough plausible deniability to encourage the usual suspects to issue their (increasingly absurd) excuses; Austen Ivereigh and other professional Francis-apologists suggested again that this was the “merciful” Francis trying to convert Scalfari. These claims were bolstered with yet another hasty “non-denial” issued by the Vatican. The fact that the Vatican message-controllers failed completely to either assert that the pope didn’t say that, or that the pope believes what the Church believes about the existence of Hell and the immortality of the human soul, seemed not to deter them a bit.
As Antonio Socci observed, the methodology here, that appears to be Francis’ favourite game, is two-tracked: first, to issue “vague and theologically ambiguous” messages intended to be heard by the Catholic world, meticulously avoiding “explicit statements” while “little by little demolishing” Catholic doctrine; and second, to send signals to the secular world, the non-Catholic readers of the extreme-left La Repubblica, that the pope’s real position is one of fashionable, radical doubt on central issues of Catholic teaching. Socci asserts that this radical doubt is the substance of Francis’ “true ideas” and these messages are being issued in this way “in order to build up his ‘revolution’ and to have popularity among non-Catholics and the media.”
In other words, he’s hiding behind Eugenio Scalfari specifically because of Scalfari’s lack of credibility; because Scalfari is a life-long bitter anti-Catholic crusader; because he’s in his 90s; because he admitted he doesn’t take notes or make recordings. This is the cover that Francis is using to get his message out for those with ears to hear, all while remaining with his toes barely on this side of the “formal heresy” line, the line that he knows we are all waiting for him to cross.
Given the regularity with which the Catholic world has had to endure this monotonous exercise in two-step subversion since the first days of this pontificate, it is difficult to argue against Socci’s thesis without ignoring much of what we can observe with our own eyes. From what his former victims in Argentina have reported, this is the patented game, the Bergoglian Tango, that he has used from the earliest days of his ecclesiastical career. Jorge Bergoglio was and remains known mainly for his skill at manipulation and his eagerness to cause division, strife and chaos in order to consolidate his own power. A classic Peronist.
Among the questions remaining at this astonishing pass is how fine is he going to be able to cut the remaining infinitesimal distance between himself and a formal declaration of heresy? And, perhaps even more to the point this month, as Cardinals Burke and Brandmuller were speaking at a Rome conference on the “confusion in the Church” over doctrine whilst never once actually calling Francis out by name to demand that he declare and defend Catholic truth: who is going to hold him to it? Who, among these “good” bishops and cardinals is going to say to him, to his face, “Holy Father, you’re a heretic and you will lose the papal office if you do not recant immediately.”? Who of our hierarchy is going to have the guts to call it?
While these two cardinals, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Cardinal Zen by remote teleconferencing, are in Rome, where are the sitting bishops? All or nearly all of the bishops who have said anything thus far – as the Pope grows ever more bold, halving the distance again and again – are retired, having no see to govern, no seminarians to form. The ordinaries, the sitting bishops and archbishops are either hiding in studious silence or are currying the favour of this pope by ever-more open declarations opposing perennial Catholic doctrine.
I know we have been wondering all this time; how far are the “good bishops” going to let it go?
How do we know what’s true: Sherlock Holmes and the drawing of negative space.
Of course, the now-normal fight over whether the pope “really said it” immediately broke out on social media, with precisely the same excuses being offered that we have seen trotted out for five years. I was told it was “common sense” that a pope would never say such things, and therefore “the media” were “blowing it out of proportion,” “taking him out of context,” “misquoting” and anyway – our old favourite – “it was probably a mistranslation.” With every one of these interview scandals being so much the same, both in what the pope says and the reaction to it, it can be difficult to keep track of it all, but someone I know dug around and made a count: this is the eighth time Francis has had one of these little “informal chats” with Eugenio Scalfari.
More than one Catholic news outlet asked the obvious question: “If, as the Vatican press office continues to insist, Scalfari either lies, misinterprets or otherwise misrepresents the Holy Father’s words in his ‘reconstructions’ of their conversations – and every single time causes a huge uproar in the Catholic world – why does Francis continue to go back to him?” The UK’s hapless Catholic Herald, still bravely trying to square the “conservative” circle, laments that this habit is causing “confusion” among the faithful.
Perhaps the Herald is doing that (aggravating) English thing of talking around the point in order to make it obvious. The point, of course, being that it is perfectly clear that Francis keeps going back to Scalfari specifically for the purpose of creating this confusion.
But how do we know this is the correct interpretation? How can we figure out what is really going on?
Easy; by eliminating everything that doesn’t fit.
There’s a technique in classical realist art called drawing the negative space. Drawing a portrait is among the most difficult tasks for an artist; everything, each feature, every curve and shadow has to be in absolutely perfect proportion and exactly accurate distances from each other in the complex system of a human face. The human eye is so well trained to recognise faces that even the tiniest inaccuracy in the placement of any element of the drawing will be spotted instantly. One of the tricks an artist will employ to place, for instance, the left eye exactly correctly in relation to the right eye, is to draw around it. My instructor called this “sneaking up on it”. If you are struggling to get the placement of the feature right, draw everything on the face that isn’t the left eye. Once you’ve done everything else with perfect accuracy, the only space left will be the precisely correct spot for the eye.
This idea, of identifying everything around a problem, was articulated by Arthur Conan Doyle who put it in the form of a logical axiom that was the operating system of his great investigator, Sherlock Holmes; “Once you have eliminated everything that is impossible, whatever is left, however improbable it may be, must be the truth.” In some idealised reality, in a parallel universe in which, say, Scola was elected pope in 2013, it might very well have been “common sense” that a pope would never deny a dogmatically defined, de fide, portion of the Catholic faith. But since we are living in this universe, and we have this puzzle to examine, let’s do it rationally.
What Austen Ivereigh and his pals want us to do is to take every artefact produced by the Great Bergoglian Scandal Generator as a singular object without context. They want us only to look at the left eye, by itself, without reference to its position in the rest of the face. When he tells Eugenio Scalfari that there is no hell, this is to be examined in a kind of hermetically sealed mental “clean room,” where it will be examined exclusively on its own merits, with no reference to all the other times he has said this or something similar.
They want us to not remember that Bergoglio has said exactly this and other scandalous things to Scalfari, and not once but several times. They want us not to think about the fact that in every case, he has never once issued a clear, unequivocal statement that Scalfari’s claim was not true. They want us to ignore the fact that something very similar to this was inserted into the text of Amoris Laetitia – again with just enough of an ambiguous twist to provide a diaphanous veil of increasingly implausible deniability: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”
With each rotten bloom of scandal, we are expected to look only at this instance, and ignore the full context of all that we have learned in the last five years. We are supposed to forget that Bergoglio’s longstanding habits have been reported by the Argentinians he worked with in the past and these reports are completely congruent with what we are seeing today. And we have ourselves heard and read the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times he has “accidentally” misquoted Scripture, endorsed homosexual activists, gender ideologues and abortionists, insulted faithful Catholics, lay and clerical; said that atheists can be redeemed through good works, said that Christ and His Blessed Mother were guilty of sins…
After five years of this constant stream of scandal, error, heresy, blasphemy and outright blatant lies, are we now really expected to believe that Francis didn’t tell Eugenio Scalfari what Scalfari said he did? It’s true that we don’t have a recording of the conversation, and yes, it’s true that Scalfari is an elderly communist and hater of the Church. But these are the only bits of negative space left in the drawing, and all that surrounds them pretty clearly tells us exactly what we’re looking at.
This article appears in the latest Remnant print edition. To see what else is included, Subscribe today!