Papal interview: Web reaction roundup
“Unfiltered! Extraordinary!” - The Washington Post
“Blunt!” – The New York Times
“Confessional!” – The Daily Beast
“Explosive!” – Religion News Service
“Cool!” - Gawker.com
Those were some of the insta-responses to the interview of Pope Francis in America, an exchange that just about every media outlet—regardless of slant or the specific blurb-like language deployed—at least could agree was wide-ranging (and at 12,000 words, not counting the internal monologue of the questioner, it should be). Elizabeth Scalia calls it that, too, before noting the trouble with instant responses: “Expect all kinds of fireworks and fallout before people even read through the thing [her boldface and italics].” She also makes a reasonable suggestion: “Read it before allowing anyone else’s reactions to influence your own thinking.”
But given the effort dedicated to influencing others’ thinking, it would be a shame to let it go unnoted. So, here’s some roundup.
Kathryn Lopez in the National Review cites the long passage that includes these lines: “The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ,” and writes “That’s very much the Evangelical Catholicism George Weigel talks about, using that same Emmaus-road image, by my quick read. It’s the call of the Catholic to know Christ and make Him known, to set hearts ablaze.”
The Guardian sums up its take with this headline: “Pope Francis sets out vision for more gay people and women in 'new' church.”
Andrew Sullivan sees nothing less than "a rebirth of Catholicism":
I can barely believe that these words – so redolent of Jesus’ – are coming from the new Bishop of Rome, after so long an absence. Although the Pope is unfailingly respectful of his predecessor, let no one doubt the sharpness of Francis’ turn away from the dead end of Benedict. His message is as different as the context. Where Benedict, draped in ornate vestments, spoke from the grand edifice of the Vatican, Francis is in the same simple hostel in which he was ensconced during the Papal Conclave.
Martin Longman at Washington Monthly eagerly senses a less political pontiff:
Pope Francis I isn’t changing any doctrine with these kinds of remarks, but he is making a rather clean break with his two most recent predecessors, whose tone and emphasis was much more in tune with the Reaganite Right in this country.
Damon Linker at New Republic: The pope’s comments are not a “revelation.”
Consider what the pope did not say. He didn’t say that homosexual acts are morally permissible. He didn’t say that abortion can be morally acceptable in certain (or any) circumstances. He didn’t say anything to indicate he was interested in revisiting Pope Paul VI’s 1968 reaffirmation of the church’s ban on artificial contraception. He didn’t imply that he’s interested in revising the church’s strictures against married priests. He certainly didn’t indicate an openness to permitting the ordination of women. The interview contains no sign that the pope is willing to budge on any of the items on the progressive Catholic wish-list of reforms.
If you’ve been able to ward off any undue influencing, but still may not be able to read the whole interview yet, then this site might be for you. It lists the sixteen most important quotes from the exchange, with no analysis, spin, or snark attached (although it still calls the interview "incredible").
About the Author
Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.