That said, the "off-the-cuff" interviews he has been giving lately cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called "teaching moments", let alone solemn declarations in which he speaks infallibly. It is quite legitimate for faithful Catholics to question spontaneous remarks and certainly acceptable to discuss the means of delivery of said messages.
Many of us have been questioning the wisdom of the pope's conduct of these interviews for they have often led individuals to believe that he is altering the Church's age-old teachings on faith and morals - particularly the latter in regards to the life issues. In the latest interview with La Repubblica there was even talk of the necessity of each individual to follow their concept of right and wrong - minimizing the need for a properly formed conscience. I needn't rehash that here; see my previous post.
I've been involved in some on-line discussions regarding these interviews. One of the more recent ones was with some good-hearted Catholics who enthuse over these debatable remarks by the Holy Father - and who in fact go so far as to insinuate that those of us who are wary are somehow "pharisees" or "holier than the pope" or other such pejorative sentiments. They admit that what he's saying is different, but "God must be showing us a new way". Apparently I'm not the only one who is baffled by this mindset; see this from American Catholic. To quote him, I have indeed seen this: "Frankly, the most evident fruit of the papacy thus far seems to be the willingness of orthodox Catholics to break out the cutlery and start stabbing whenever someone expresses unease over the Pope’s actions and words." I was actually threatened with expulsion from a facebook group when I didn't "get with their program" and join in their giggle-fest when the Pope posed for a "selfie" (that's a group cell-phone photo) with some teenagers.
My previous post also showed a video of a rather pathetic attempt by Father Fessio to put a "positive spin" on the pope's remarks. Such attempts, unfortunately, abound. See what the Creative Minority Report reveals. So we "shouldn't attach value to individual words, but an overall sense"? Really? Father Lombardi, how, oh how, is this "overall sense" defined and communicated, if not by judiciously chosen words? This is a philosophical - and theological - disaster in the making. One would hope that a Vatican spokeman would know better, but Father's gaffe seems symptomatic of another problem.
This problem is broached by Hilary White of LifeSiteNews. She senses a breakdown of coordination and communication in the Vatican itself - one starting from the onset of this papacy. I urge you all to read it, and the comments besides. Now we are hearing that there were inaccuracies in the La Repubblica interview; witness this from the Not-At-All Catholic Reporter. However, one must ask why they waited so long to issue some disclaimer. Are they only doing so pursuant to a lame attempt at "damage control"? There is also the revelation that the Vatican was offered the opportunity to vet the La Repubblica article prior to its release. It seems that a proper review might have apprehended some of the errors arising from Scalfari's poor memory. Not only was there no review, but the Vatican even posted the article on their own site and here it is, straight from the Vatican.
Some might say that the Pope didn't speak infallibly so "what's the big deal"? The "big deal" is two-fold in my opinion:
- Many people who dissent from the Church's moral teaching and who are in fact living in mortal sin are taking false comfort from imprecisely-stated ideas
- The Pope is undermining his own credibility so that if an occasion does arise when he must, some might conclude that the occasion is just another "off-the-cuff" affair.
To be clear, I am grateful that the Holy Father has spoken clearly on matters of faith and morals when he has. I pray for him that his interviews (and/or the Vatican communications staff) don't trip up the essential message of the Church.