Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Francis: Interview #2 UPDATED with CORRECTION

Two interviews in barely two weeks! Francis is taking every opportunity to engage in conversation. Here is the interview he granted Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist, in the same setting as the three day interview with his fellow Jesuit, Antonio Spadaro. I find it amusing that the Pope, who makes good use of his own cell phone, called to offer Scalfari an appointment, but had to wait to be "put through" to the journalist by the newspaper man's nervous secretary.

There are things in that conversation that will raise questions; I've only scanned the interview and found two eyebrow-raisers. A bit of research into the Italian original showed me that both are translation issues [really only one]. And serious ones, to my mind. (What? Did they use Google Translate?) So I am going to just hurry to post the differences between the English as published, and my own rather literal Italian.

If "everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them," is the Pope saying that there is no such thing as objective truth, or objective right or wrong?

This is where it is really, really helpful to know Italian: "Ciascuno di noi ha una sua visione del Bene e anche del Male. Noi dobbiamo incitarlo a procedere verso quello che lui pensa sia il Bene" is more literally (and helpfully?) translated as "Each one of us has his/her own vision of the Good or even of Evil. We must encourage him/her to move toward that which he/she sees as the Good." The Pope is not leveling the difference between truth and untruth, right and wrong: he is saying that we all have a duty to encourage people to pursue the Good, knowing that the true Good will not fail to manifest himself, even if "through a glass darkly." 

CORRECTION: Really, I must apologize right now, even though it is getting late (8:25 Central Time). The Pope made his point about conscience twice. The sentences I cited in Italian, believing these to be the original and only text, came first; these are accurately translated, even if the philosophical uppercase (Good and Evil) in the Italian was lost in the first sentence. The phrase about choosing "to follow the good and fight evil" as one conceives these was the Pope's follow-up statement. Again, rendered accurately enough. In these sentences, the fault was with my own all too rapid reading which conflated the two. 

What the Pope is doing is expressing the fully Catholic conviction of the primacy of conscience. Our challenge, he then explains, is "to identify the material and immaterial needs of people and try to meet them." At times, maybe a lot of times, this means not stopping at the words people use to express their needs, but perceiving the deeper, but unexpressed need. The woman who "needs" an abortion probably really needs a faithful husband; a supportive community; any number of material and immaterial goods. Her uninformed conscience might not take her that far; as Catholics we owe it to her to help her move toward the genuine stability and security she "sees as the Good." 
Me, tearing my hair out at the unreliable translation.

Here's another whopper: This next passage really does contain a translation error:
"The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood." Um, the Son of God did not become incarnate in souls. He became incarnate in human nature, in his own human flesh and blood. The Italian is " Il Figlio di Dio si รจ incarnato per infondere nell’anima degli uomini il sentimento della fratellanza": "The Son of God became incarnate to infuse into the soul of men [could say "the human soul"] the feeling of brotherhood."

Take the rest of the interview with a grain of salt--and with the Catechism at hand, knowing--as Pope Francis told Father Spadaro-- that he is a "son of the Church" and that everything he says should be interpreted in the light of Church teachings. I am sure that other commenters will be providing more of a blow-by-blow, but I wanted to get this out fast.

Read Italian? Here's the original.

Other links:
Interview of Pope Francis by Antonio Spadaro, SJ (updated translation from America Magazine)
Pope Francis School of Life (newsletter)

Related books, media:
Light of Faith (Pope Francis' first encyclical)
Jorge from Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children


Sister Anne said...

Father Z is already on it with a presentation on the integrity of conscience, and a reminder that the Pope is speaking here above all to unbelievers who do not have access to the guidance of revealed truth: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/10/pope-francis-interview-in-la-repubblica-or-is-this-now-my-fate/

Anonymous said...

The translation is quite good and your own if I may say so is rather liberal! You say to take the interview with ' a grain of salt' !
The english should be with ' a pinch of salt'! And not 'grain' ! Why must you blame the translation of what the Holy Father said ! Just accept it !

Larry Weisenthal said...

What I would like to see is simply a translation which everyone could accept as being accurate, then simply to read the words of His Holiness myself, without all the apologists translating the English into English to tell me what the Pope "really" said!

I believe that the Pope speaks plainly and clearly, and he speaks for himself. Everyone seems to want to view the Pope's words through her/his own lens...in effect, not to allow the Pope to break any new ground, but to try and twist his very clear words to be compatible with her/his idea of what our priorities should be, as Catholics, as opposed to what the Pope is trying to teach us about what our priorities ought to be.

Is the most important thing the rigid enforcement of doctrinal orthodoxy? Or is the more important thing something else entirely?

Best wishes on your effort to provide a faithful and clear translation; so that each of us may read the Pope's words and understand his message.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

phatcatholic said...

Is it bad that I wish he would just cool it w/ the interviews?

Sister Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sister Anne said...

Nicholas, I suspect that Francis is very deliberately "making a mess" for the laity to have to get involved in; have to know *and claim* what the Church teaches; put their faith into practice and not just into words. On the one hand, he is reaching out to the unbelievers of the world, like this journalist who believes in "being" but not in God; on the other hand, he is shaking things up (and us, too) by creating a situation in which the Pope can't have the last word--as much as we want him to just teach infallibly and keep us out of things. Maybe we've gotten too comfortable with "papal" Popes?

MK said...

I'm not sure primacy of conscience is the correct way of framing this. Well-formed consciences must be obeyed, but there are limits to this concept in Church teaching. For example, from Quanta Cura:

"And from this wholly false idea of social organisation they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, especially fatal to the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by our predecessor, Gregory XVI, insanity, namely that the liberty of conscience and worship is the proper right of every man, and should be proclaimed by law in every correctly established society... Each and every doctrine individually mentioned in this letter, by Our Apostolic authority We reject, proscribe and condemn; and We wish and command that they be considered as absolutely rejected by all the sons of the Church."

Sister Anne said...

The Pope was speaking to an atheist, so I "read" him in that context. What other light to moral truth does an atheist have than the perception of God's law written in his heart, even if he does not recognize the author? And in whose name are we to urge such a one to obey revealed truth? Absolute "liberty of conscience" is indeed insane in the light of Divine Revelation, but apart from that Revelation, what else is there?
The Pope acknowledges in this interview that believers are a minority in the world; at least the notion of "Good" gives us a starting point to speak of moral truth. I suspect that is what Francis is suggesting.

phatcatholic said...

I wish for once that he would articulate his thoughts in such a way as to remove all doubt as to what he is suggesting, instead of expressing himself so clumsily that we have to go around "suspecting what Francis is suggesting." These interviews are very frustrating to me, and it's difficult for me to see how they don't do more harm than good.

Yaya said...

Thank you Sister Flanagan for your effort to clarify what the interview is about and in what context to read it. It helps. ^^

Daniel F. Bonner said...

I note that Pope Francis cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church approvingly in a recent interview. Let that be known to all who crow about the Holy Father's temporizing. I heard your comments on a Catholic radio show, in which you brought your command of Italian to bear on a couple of linguistic issues. Excellent.

By the way, I'm a great admirer of your order, the Daughters of St. Paul. Back in 1960, I visited Jamaica Plain, and first became acquainted with the work.

More power to you.

Daniel F. Bonner

Ramil said...

Excellent! Thanks, Sister!

Ramil said...

Excellent! Thanks Sister!

Theodore M. Seeber said...

I've got the same problem with the Pope that I did with the New Apologetics Apology- what do I do when the perceived good is an objective intrinsic evil?

davezelenka said...

"The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood."

Fascinating! It's so true. First, brotherhood and sisterhood is agape love. It's the only type of love. The other love is powerlust and that is what we were without Christ.

Second, what I love about the Catholic church is that it is all about the Word becoming Flesh--in everything. This is why the Church allows icons. This is why we receive the Eucharist. It's God/Jesus becoming flesh in us. The Church is all about the incarnation. Jesus must be made flesh once again in all of his creation through us, his Bride. When the Pope says this the incarnation was to instill the feeling of brotherhood. He means that we once again can love. Agape love is what we will have fully in the Kingdom and it began with God in the Flesh instilling it in humanity.

Anonymous said...

I also wished the Pope would articulate his thoughts in such a way as to leave no doubt about what he means and leave us all in a spiritual mess... I am a convert to the Church because I believed after 40 years of searching that the Church is the Truth only to be told now that everyone has the Truth?.. I thought relativism is what we were fighting?...

Sister Anne said...

Could part of "the trouble with Francis" be that we are trying to interpret him as a teacher of doctrine, when he sees himself primarily as a confessor or doctor?
One thing's for sure: Francis is not Benedict! But neither is he a relativist. He already told us that he is "a son of the Church": this means that he expects us to have a fully Catholic understanding of what he says.
We also have to read what the Pope is saying in full and not focus on one or two phrases pulled out of the whole. It would be easier for us if the whole interview had simply been posted, without the Italian-style journalistic flourishes which we got from Scalfari. But even between the flourishes, we see that the Holy Father isn't saying that everyone gets to determine their own truth and follow that. He's not talking about objective truth; he's talking--to an atheist--about the place of conscience in a person's life: he's looking for a basic area of common understanding that will allow him to move the conversation forward, even if only by an inch. After speaking about the individual's perception of "Good" and "Evil", he commented: "Grace is not part of the conscience; it is the amount of light that we have in the soul... Even you, all unawares, could be touched by grace."
So the Pope is speaking on a very fundamental level: God, who loves all his creatures, and makes every person in his image and likeness, also enlightens the human conscience to recognize good and evil. (This is something St. Paul made very clear in his day, too.)
How can you take this occasion to grow spiritually under Francis' guidance, taking as the ground beneath your feet the confidence you rightly have in objective truth, while reaching new levels of faith in a God who is actively engaged in drawing "all things to himself" even when they are "sheep not of this flock"? St. Ignatius had the goal of "finding God in all things"; I know Francis is challenging me to have that same very broad vision.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that we have never had a Pope "Francis" before.
This is crazy. St Francis was arguably one of the most holy and human Christian men in our history.
I think Pope Francis is trying to make up for lost time (centuries) and to really get the values / spirit / approach of St Francis out in the public arena - including, above all, for the lost sheep who Jesus wants us ALL to try and bring back into the fold, under His (God's) Spirit (indeed, we're all Lost Sheep to a degree).
And if there's one saint I think people should really focus on during this Papacy, in particular, it is the wonderful St Francis of Assisi. St Francis: pray for us all.
Ed (UK)

Sister Anne said...

I think you are spot on, Ed! Which means that we are living in an era of immense grace...

Anonymous said...

Sister Anne, "we are living in an era of immense grace" got me exited so just donated $50 to your org. to help and encourage you in your evangelizing work.
God bless, Ed (UK)

Sister Anne said...

Many thanks, indeed! Lord knows we are needy in that realm!

Sister Anne said...

Theodore, I am so sorry I lost your comment in all my efforts to keep up with the translation issue and only found it this evening. On a later post I addressed pretty much the same question you raise: the erroneously identified good--we might say the confusion of some short-term, very limited personal benefit improperly considered a good when in actual fact it is an horrific evil. Abortion is the poster child for this wrongly-embraced "choice." It is a serious challenge to us, if we are going to help souls, to learn how to draw people out by helping them step by tiny step to think their values through backwards until they can recognize what it is that they are really seeking, and how the evils that are so available to us today, and so socially acceptable, are only pretenders to the throne and will never be good. It is especially difficult to do this in an era that does not recognize objective truth!
If we can't start with objective truth (or even abstract concepts), where an we begin?