Veteran Catholic journalist Francis X. Rocca offers the latest attempt to provide a charitable construction to Pope Francis’s habit of delivering extemporaneous remarks. It doesn’t work any better than earlier efforts from others. The fact is, we have a Pope who seems to speak first and think later, if at all. How else can one make sense of remarks like this one?: “Maybe you will get a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) saying that you said this or that. But don’t worry. Explain what you have to explain, but keep going.” Sometimes he isn’t just sloppy and glib, but rude, as when he likened the spiritual bouquet of rosaries sent by a traditional Catholic group to a form of neo-Pelagianism. When pressed to defend this verbal incontinence Francis explains, “You are going to make mistakes, you are going to put your foot in it. That happens! I prefer a church that makes mistakes because it is doing something to one that sickens because it stays shut in.” But here’s the thing: the papacy isn’t about him or about what he “prefers.” As its inheritor, his only real official title is Servus Servorum Dei, Servant of the Servants of God. Much has been made about Francis’s humility, mostly due to his well publicized breaks with the practices of his predecessors. Yet verbosity and showiness aren’t what come to mind when I think of humility. Moreover, speaking, wisely or foolishly, is “doing something,” good or bad, when your primary office is a teaching one. A reasonably catechized eighth-grader would know this; is it too much to ask that our Holy Father be cognizant of it too?
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