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Plenary Indulgence (Update)

Eugenio Scalfari, in today's edition of La Repubblica, the newspaper he founded, continues his creative interpretation of the significance of the pontificate of Francis. He writes of the profoundly revolutionary nature of the Pope's teaching, culminating in his abolition of sin.

È rivoluzionario per tanti aspetti del suo ancor breve pontificato, ma soprattutto su un punto fondamentale: di fatto ha abolito il peccato.

In reaching this conclusion – in a quite tortured way – Scalfari contrasts the judgmental God of the Old Testament with the God of Jesus ... and Francis:

Il Dio mosaico è un giudice e al tempo stesso un esecutore della giustizia. Almeno da questo punto di vista non somiglia affatto all'ebreo Gesù di Nazareth, figlio di Maria e di Giuseppe della stirpe di David.

Scalfari never mentions that Francis hears confessions and encourages the faithful to frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. It would not fit his agenda.

The article is here; and, for once, it's worth reading the comments.


Today (Monday) Father Lombardi issued a strong denial that Pope Francis had "abolished sin," as Eugenio Scalfari had contended.

Among other things, Lombadri said: "whoever follows the Pope day by day knows how often he speaks of sin, of our condition as sinners; indeed, one understands the message of God more profoundly the more one appreciates the reality of sin."

Lombardi's statement is reported here; Scalfari's response, in which he purports to agree with Lombardi and still reiterates his contention, is here.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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They're the same God.

They do seem like different Gods though - the OT God punishes people in this lifetime for perceived badness, but the NT God lets the sun/rain fll on everyone irregardless of badness.

Hello. This is an English-language publication. 

Anticlerical journalists who think they know all about Christianity often fall into vulgar misunderstandings or imagine that they can rewrite the Bible at the drop of a hat. But Scalfari is the most extreme from of such fatuity that I have yet encountered. I think it was a mistake for Francis to give him an interview; he would have done better to chat with Richard Dawkins as some Anglican prelates have done. Outreach to atheists is find, but outreach to blustering idiocy is not.

Fr. Imbelli:

What percentage of the blog's readers, would you guess, can read Italian?  What are the rest of us --  the vast majority of us -- supposed to do?

Please translate the quotes.  Thank you.



Dear Gene,

I thought that my summaries of his views in the sentences immediately preceding the two quotes sufficiently gave their gist.

Moreover, given the relative simple words used in the italian (and the closeness to their Spanish equivalents), I presumed the vast majority of Commonweal readers would have little trouble gleaning the point and even be able to manage a full translation. Perhaps my expectation was unwarranted.

And so, in the ongoing spirit of Christmas we have:

1. "[Francis] is revolutionary under so many aspects, in his still brief pontificate, but especially on a fundamental point: in effect he has abolished sin."

2."The God of Moses is a Judge and an executor of justice. At least from this point of view He does not at all resemble the Hebrew Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and of Joseph of the seed of David."

Seriously, Gene, is the Spanish of no help in understanding the Italian?

Fahter O'Leary, you may be an Irish ex-patriate, living in Japan, and consequently (so goes the charge) are incompetent to pronounce on American culutre, but I must say your understanding of Italian anti-ecclesial culture is on the mark.

The Italian comments on the article are surprising in their decrying the fatuity of Scalfari's remarks and his quasi-gnostic separation of the judgmental God of the Mosaic law and the merciful God of Jesus.

Fr. Imbelli, besides mentioning that Francis hears confessions and encourages the faithful to go to confession, we might also note his frequent public references to Satan, as well as his public acknolwedgement that he himself goes to confession twice a month.

Mr. Hudock,

Indeed, and a host of other statements taken from either Evangelii Gaudium or the homilies. The point is that Scalfari's is so severly a reductionistic account of Francis, not to mention the Christian tradition, that it has become an embarrassment. But as the Pope of Italian "secularity" he still commands attention. As witness the press given his "interview" with Francis. He is clearly seeking to fashion a Francis after his own image.

"He is clearly seeking to fashion a Francis after his own image."  My goodness, there's 'bout the finest example of the "pot calling the kettle black" I've run across in quite a while.  I do so hope my tendancy to fall back into a, well, shall we say uneducated if not maudlin vernacular is not misunderstood to be an attempt to drag those who dwell in the heights of intellectual and moral perfection down to, well, the pits.

Sweet Jesus!  We're attempting to show gratitude for and, when possible for we mere mortals, to emulate the life of a fellow who proudly rode to town upon a donkey.   A fellow whose actions made it possible to say without satire "lucky ass!". 

I am not familiar with the readership of La Repubblica, nor the Italian zeitgeist in general, but my sense is that it’s become rather secular.  So I wonder if it’s not noteworthy that the comments on the article exhibit a certain amount of fed uppedness with Señor Scalfari.

For what it’s worth, I understand that people may have good and valid reasons for using a pseudonym, but I wonder if it might be the case that, under the cloak of anonymity, they are more prone to post comments they would be embarrassed to have associated with their real name.


Wasn't one of the first heresies the belief that the God of the Old Testament is evil and that Jesus -the lover of mankind- comes to appease this evil God by sacrificing himself on our behalf?And cannot anti Semitism have its origin in that heretical belief longside the new Testament account that seeks to blame the Jews for Jesus' death?

Perhaps some of this heretical belief infiltrated  the Church anyway and this explains  in part why for so long we were not allowed to read the Bible.I have to admit ,I still see the Old Testament, though moving and poetic and comforting in parts,  as background to Jesus' incarnation.

quite true rose-ellen. Marcion is still alive and kicking, in the most unlikely places. It is easy to get worked up about the dark side of the Old Testament, but Jesus put its God at the heart of his message, in the Double Commandment. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God" Deut 6 and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" Levitiicus. This cuts through all the obstacles and gets to the heart of Judaism and of Christianity. Scalfari's vacuous pubtalk seems ignorant of what Jesus taught or else is making the preposterous claim that Francis is more radical and enlightened than Jesus. I suspect that the papal interview has gone to his head and bred a strange fantasy.

Fr. Imbelli,  those who note that this is an English language publication surely have a point which, for some reason, you seem unwilling to concede. Nevertheless, your translation into English of the quoted passages is appreciated.

Not only do most of us not speak/read Italian, many of us do not speak/read Spanish either, which you seem to believe is so close to Italian that no translation is necessary. Perhaps that is true for those who are fluent in Spanish. I don't know, as I have never studied either Italian or Spanish. Many people studied/study German, and Mandarin is increasingly popular for foreign language study. I studied French for years and yet would still not trust my personal translation of the Italian based on my knowledge of French to be accurate enough to be able to judge the meaning of the quoted passages, much less to give me a clear understanding of the entire article and the comments that you say are worth reading.

I studied German.  Thank God Google translates  :)

Crystal, I use google translate quite a bit to get the gist of things - even in French.  And because I do use it with French now and then, I realize that the google translations are often a bit inexact.  They are good for the general sense, but not so much when precision is needed.  Google works constantly to improve its translation service, but, in my experience,  it does not work as well as translations provided by those who are completely fluent in the two languages involved.

Hi Anne,

Yes, so true.  Most fun - watching foreign movies oin a language you almost understand and seeing the bizarre translations of some of the subtitles  :)

Iway ersonallypay inkthay eway ouldshay allway ostpay inway Igpay Atinlay. :-)

You may not know Italian but surely you speak Spanish? Talk about  a narraive of politial indoctination!Did this sentence/belief come from the "politburo" [Latino interest group lobby propaganda] or is it so pervasive that  it happened by osmosis [If you're American you do or should speak Spanish]?

Señora Caminer-

Su mensaje con tantos errores en inglés, avanza nuestra causa profundamente.

Muchisimas gracias,

Secretario de Propaganda del Politburó

Asi veo las cosas.Que es su causa?

Que tiene que ver que hay errores en ingles?

Ms. Caminer-

Your post railed against some imaginary Latino lobby, which is trying to indoctrinate us with pro-Spanish speaking propaganda in these United States of America.  I found it ironic that a post attempting to support the idea of English primacy in the USA, mangled the very language it purported to defend.  That irony, I submit, advances the imaginary cause of your imagined politburo. 

By the way - my guess is that the majority of people who are "American" (all of us from North, South, Central America and the Carribean) do speak Spanish.  It is one of the arrogances of empire that we citizens of the USA think we are the only Americans.

“A peaceful man does more good than a learned one.”    John XXIII

So many here attempt to communicate. Yet argue with those who want to understand them. Which may mean that they would rather pontificate than communicate. Or make fun of people rather than to reach them. We reveal so much of ourselves with our attitude. Most of the Apostles could not read. What chance would  they have here?

Nes Pa? (isn't it so?)

The irony of comparing the Old and New Testaments is that just as terrible atrociities have occurred in AD as in BC. Jesus made it clear that a new order had come.  Not always followed, however. The enlightenment freed us from dictatorships in church and state. But not from the evil of wo/mankind. 

En ymmärrä!

Actully I don' believe  in the primacy of English or any language for the US.I think people have the right to speak whatever language they're comfortable speaking any where.I do beleve there is a push by the Laltino interest groups[lobby] to push Spanish   down our throats-so to speak.If people naturally come to speak Spanish over time-I have no problem with that even if it suplants English as the dominant  language -as long as it is a natural evolution.I do feel we're being pressurred/ propagandized by Latino interest groups.That is their right of course.I notice it and it smacks of [unnatural] indoctrination which I don't like as it reminds me of a politburo.[this is how to think about said group,language ,whatever ].It is soft coercion but  a form of coercion.At least I perceive it that way. Though in the past there was too much of forgettng ones culture /language.

I do agree that it is arrogant  for US people to appropriate for  themseves the label Americans-implying that people of oher American countries are not. I was enlightened about that when I lived in Mexico  for a year.When I came back to the States and told that to  my neighbors- they were offended  and could  not get it. So I get where you are coming fom regarding that arrogance.


I make no claims of being a good speller or poster or the smartest person around. [ am having trouble with this site as the letters keep getting jumbled and i have to unscamble each word].

I think the thread has run it's course, so wishes for a good New Year.


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