“Repubblica” Interview And Explaining The Obvious: Proselytism.

It might be useful to expand a bit on a couple of the controversial statements of the Bishop of Rome in the recent interview: those concerning the “proselytism is nonsense” stunt. .

As the headlines, even when true, only report the actual words, the context can help us to better see what the situation was and was Francis was doing. In addition, we can use this to observe the way communication works, and apply it to all the other pieces of nonsense the Bishop of Rome continues to regale us with, and which are too numerous for a blogger who also has a job to examine in detail.

I have read the Italian of the text, and can vouch for the correctness of the translation.

Please consider that Repubblica is one of the biggest newspapers in Italy. It is not read by theologians, but by millions of John Does (or rather Mario Rossis, or Giovanni Colombos). Francis knows this perfectly well. He also knows the readership of the newspaper is one of leftists, generally entirely godless or tepidly cafeteria Catholics. This is not a newspaper bought by people of conservative attitudes, or by people ready and willing to give his every word the ideal, theologically appropriate Catholic interpretation after they have spoken with their parish priest.

Let us see.

Ora son qui. Il Papa entra e mi dà la mano, ci sediamo. Il Papa sorride e mi dice: «Qualcuno dei miei collaboratori che la conosce mi ha detto che lei tenterà di convertirmi»È una battuta gli rispondo. Anche i miei amici pensano che sia Lei a volermi convertire.Ancora sorride e risponde: «Il proselitismo è una solenne sciocchezza, non ha senso. Bisogna conoscersi, ascoltarsi e far crescere la conoscenza del mondo che ci circonda. A me capita che dopo un incontro ho voglia di farne un altro perché nascono nuove idee e si scoprono nuovi bisogni. Questo è importante: conoscersi, ascoltarsi, ampliare la cerchia dei pensieri. Il mondo è percorso da strade che riavvicinano e allontanano, ma l’importante è che portino verso il Bene».

And here I am. The Pope comes in and shakes my hand, and we sit down. The Pope smiles and says: “Some of my colleagues who know you told me that you will try to convert me.”

It's a joke I tell him. My friends think it is you want to convert me.

He smiles again and replies: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

The dynamic is clear enough. Francis says a light joke to Scalfaro about “attempts at conversion”. The other jokingly answers “same here”. At this point, Bergoglio launches an abrupt “proselytism is solemn nonsense”.

The reader does here what everyone of us does when he reads or talks: he follows the conversation. The Bishop is immediately linking “conversion” to “proselytism”, and calls the latter “nonsense”. He does not say anything on the lines of “I'd love to convert you, dear Dr Scalfari, but I am afraid it won't be that easy, or that fast”. This is the kind of answer a gracious Italian Catholic would have given; I mean spontaneously given, during a jovial conversation, because he is a Catholic. He does not even say “I wish I could make you understand how important salvation is for you, but I must pay attention that my imprudent enthusiasm does not result in the opposite of my intent”, thus making clear that if badly made, proselytism can backfire.

No. Francis is very brutal. It goes directly to the core of the matter (conversion) and says that… proselytism is nonsense. He says this, full knowing his words will go around the world as meaning the very words he has said: proselytism is nonsense. Not “some proselytism is nonsense”. Not “proselytism can be nonsensical”. Not “proselytism is good, unless it is made by a fool”. Nothing of all this. He says

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.”

To expect that the millions of readers of Repubblica and all over the world understand these words as anything different from what they very obviously mean is, truly, a solemn nonsense, and it makes no sense.

Also, Francis does not say that, say, after the two have improved their acquaintance he hopes he might persuade Scalfari to come closer to God, and perhaps to explore again, together with him, the reason of the Faith in friendship and without prejudices. He is not interested in converting the man at all, be it in the long or in the short term. He simply acknowledges the two have chosen very different ways and is very happy for this to be so, because “the important thing is that [their separate ways] lead toward the Good”.

Scalfari could have said exactly the same words to Francis, and no one in his right mind would ever interpret this as a desire of conversion to atheism.

“But Mundabor” – you might say – “you are now dissecting and analysing every word! Francis cannot dissect and analyse every word before he speaks!”.

To this I answer:

1. He can (in a way). This is an interview for a newspaper, not a live TV show. He could certainly ask to read the final draft and have the parts that aren't good or do not reflect his thinking to be taken away. If he hasn't done it, well he is a vainglorious fool who knows he tends to talk a lot of rubbish but thinks an interview on Repubblica is more important. Besides, I cannot imagine Scalfari would have said “no: either the text as it goes out of the recorder or no interview”. That's why you make newspaper interviews nowadays.

2. Think of how conversations happen. You have a leading idea that you want to express, and your words spontaneously express the idea you have formed. Our communication is spontaneous and authentic exactly because we do not have time to chisel two minutes on every word. What the heart feels, the mouth will tell, because words are but the expression of the concepts we have in mind. This is why when we are in conversation we generally do not stop our interlocutor asking to repeat the concept three times with different words. This is also why when – which at times happens – something isn't clear we stop the interlocutor immediately and ask him to explain it again; or why when we understand we might have expressed ourselves badly – also a rare occurrance: the mouth has generally no problem at all in expressing what the mind thinks – we immediately correct ourselves.

Not here. Francis is very sure of what he says. No qualifications, no distinguos, no problem at all with planting “proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense” in the middle of the conversation and leaving it there. What the heart has felt, the mouth has spoken.

It astonishes me that it could be any differently, not only here but in every interaction. If we had to apply the method some suggest we apply to Francis to every interview, newspapers and TV interview would be a solemn nonsense, they would make no sense.

I insist on this latter expression. Read it again. When I write “it's a solemn nonsense, it makes no sense”, does anyone have a doubt about the meaning of my words? Really?

And by the by, do I really have to spend one hour and more at the keyboard for such a simple concept? Isn't it what Francis has already said? Do you remember the “Rehab” post?

Do you need to convince the other to become Catholic? No, no, no! Go out and meet him, he is your brother. This is enough. Go out and help him and Jesus will do the rest”.

For heaven's sake, let us stop telling tales to ourselves.



Posted on October 3, 2013, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the excellent elucidation!

  2. ‘We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.’

    There’s a problem with this statement, not just on the very fact that it denies Proselytising, nor the fact that atheism offers nothing whatsoever, but the blatant hypocrisy of it. His attitudes towards the Traditionalists, the Franciscans, is completely devoid of this perspective and is violating Summorum Pontificum. The Atheists ought to be known and remain themselves, yet the Orthodox mocked, derided and suppressed.

    God Bless.

    • I also got the impression this “improve the knowledge” justifies dangerous activities.

      Shall I feel intellectually challenged to learn how an atheist think? Why? I understand one may study heresy to better fight against it: but this is exactly that: a fight. Nothing of the interest the Bishop clearly shows toward what is not right, like atheism, or Judaism, or the like.


  3. An atheist “thinks” that something can appear out of nothing. That’s not intellectually challenging, it’s “solemn nonsense.”

    All atheists are deists (perhaps, deists in denial) if you ask enough questions.

  4. Mundabor, it seems to me that there is something even worst in the interview. Bergoglio seems to have denied the divinity of Jesus. When he says “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.” Whose incarnation is he talking about? God’s incarnation as Jesus, or just Jesus’ incarnation as a ‘teacher’? He opens with “there is no Catholic God”, so I’m assuming that maybe the man doesn’t believe in the Trinity! And then, he says “Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, BUT God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.” WHY THE “BUT”?! SOUNDS LIKE JESUS IS JUST A TEACHER AND A PASTOR, AND GOD IS A WHOLE OTHER THING! A muslim could have said something similar. A ‘new age’ guru could have said that. And don’t get me started on the whole “The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood.” What do you think it means in the original? Is Fr. Z right in saying it actually means “The Son of God was incarnate in order to instill in soul of men the feeling of brotherhood.”? Because it makes a HUGE difference. We have to start considering that maybe the man is completely mad and is a total apostate. Seems to me there is a possibility that he doesn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity. Also, when he says “Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.” THE ONLY WAY? WHERE IS THE “LOVE OF GOD”? Loving our neighbor is impossible without loving God above all things. The man is crazy. I also ask you, why do you reject private revelation? I don’t mean to be a prick, I’m just asking. You don’t have to answer, I just want to understand this type of reaction, you are not the only one who just rejects it without saying why.

    • A very long post. Let me try to answer it in short.

      1. Incarnation. It seems too little to me to conclude Bergoglio does not believe in the Trinity. If and when he expresses himself badly again we will know more.

      2. I have read the Italian. Father Z is perfectly right on this.

      3. Agape bullcrap. Pure heresy. Every child knows we are saved by loving God and keeping his commandments. The love for others is just a reflection of the love for God, and can never save in itself. Love doesn’t save. Works inspired by faith save. One can be an atheist missionary spending his life helping children, it will be of no avail to him if he dies in his atheism. He has adored humanity, not a god.
      Gosh, Bergoglism is an entirely new religion.


  5. Mundabor,

    have you read this?

    From the article:
    “Jesus identified Himself as the way, the truth and the life.

    In the space of just a relative handful of words, Pope Francis has defined “the way” as a matter of brotherly love; “the truth” as whatever one thinks is good, and “the life” after which we seek as a goal for the here and now.

    In other words, Pope Francis has redefined Jesus Christ in terms that are perfectly acceptable to secular Jews, heathens and atheists; i.e., those who plainly reject Him and therefore He who sent Him.

    Difficult though it is to accept, we must hear the words of Pope Francis for what they plainly express, and that is the solemn doctrine of the church of man.

    We have entered a new phase in the post-conciliar destruction of the Church indeed. The days of pretense and nuance are most certainly over.

    If this is the bitter reality of Catholic life under the papacy of Pope Francis, so be it.

    My gloves have long since hit the floor and I will pull no punch in defense of Christ the King and His Holy Catholic Church, regardless of whatever persecution doing so may invite.

    Game on.”

    So be it. I have nothing to add.
    Game on indeed…!

    • “In the space of just a relative handful of words, Pope Francis has defined “the way” as a matter of brotherly love; “the truth” as whatever one thinks is good, and “the life” after which we seek as a goal for the here and now.”

      Since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church, at least from a hierarchical standpoint, has adopted the Freemasonic view of freedom of conscience. Freemasonic belief and modernist belief, while not identical, certainly have corollaries.

      Freemasonry, and I use the term without derogatory intent, believes that all religions worship the same one God, just in different ways. In fact, the local head of the Freemasonic Lodge in my area confirmed to me that my understanding of their belief was completely correct. For them, one’s “conscience”, in other words their “God”, as revealed to them, is everything.

      The American and French Revolutions were revolutions of Freemasonic ideals. The Roman Catholic Church condemned both as examples of religious indifference. The Anglican Church condemned the American Revolution on the same grounds. George Washington laid the cornerstone of the Capitol Building in full masonic regalia. The cornerstone itself has the symbols of freemasonry on it – the Grand Architect symbol, which one can see to this day.

      The Second Vatican Council stated in Dignitatis Humane that, “Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” I think they stated this well.

      Here is the problem: many in the church, particularly those in the hierarchy, took this far beyond what the council stated. They now approach a Freemasonic understanding of conscience. The council itself stated no such thing in any of its documents.

      So, one part Freemasonry, one part Modernism, one-quarter part Catholicism (in the case of the current Bishop of Rome, possibly two parts Modernism combined with one and one half parts Freemasonry and one tenth of a part Catholicism), et voila – the utterly ridiculous comments we see daily.

      This is clearly the belief of the current Bishop of Rome.

    • Four and a half fifth V II wrong understanding of religious freedom.

      May I ask that comment be kept short.


  6. It’s not the first time that Bergoglio denies Our Lord Jesus Christ, in 2012 the rabbi Abraham Skorka, who ardently favored state-recognized “civil unions” for homosexuals, received an honorary doctorate degree from the Novus Ordo “Pontifical Catholic” University of Argentina. In his scandalous, insulting speech at the event, Skorka did the following:

    Falsely claimed that the Nazi ideology is rooted in Catholic theology (Bergoglio always claimed this stupidity)
    Claimed Christianity cannot be known without Judaism
    Referred to Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ as a “Tipo” (Dude)
    Claimed that Our Lord’s teachings are all contained in the Talmud
    Concluded his talk by saying, “We jews await the true Messiah. meawhile we have to prepare the land”

    All of this took place at the supposedly “Pontifical Catholic” University of Buenos Aires, in the presence of “Cardinal” Jorge Bergoglio, the rector and the “Apostolic Nuncio”, all of whom remained, of course, silent at the outrage.

  7. Never did I think I would see the day that such a blasphemous pronouncement by a Pope get not even a hair raised or much media attention! It breaks my heart to think of the Catholics who aren’t well versed in the Bible, so they don’t have the Truth of the Word to fall back on…The Pope is sowing destruction among his flock to create a “new” all-inclusive universal religion and then all the people of the earth will boogie down in one great conga line onto a monstrous worldwide Sodom.
    Pray for the true believers in the Roman Church to have the courage and ability to refute these heretical teachings from this man.

  8. sorry I was sent this and could not help to share it with my dear M and his readers.

  9. Mundabor my friend,

    This quote is the most disturbing piece of the interview for me! I was an atheist/buddhist/yoga man for 10+ years. The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to control the mind… to be ones own God. What he described in the conclave is very scary for me. Before I read this interview I hoped the Pope was just an ignorant old man from the baby boomer generation. Now I believe he is his own God. He understands what he is doing! As he said “I CLOSED MY EYES AND MADE EVERY THOUGHT DISAPPEAR”!!. When I need help I pray to Saint Michael.

    NEWSPAPER – Do you have a mystical vocation?
    POPE – “What do you think?”

    NEWSPAPER – I wouldn’t think so.
    POPE – “You’re probably right. I love the mystics; Francis also was in many aspects of his life, but I do not think I have the vocation and then we must understand the deep meaning of that word. The mystic manages to strip himself of action, of facts, objectives and even the pastoral mission and rises until he reaches communion with the Beatitudes. Brief moments but which fill an entire life.”

    NEWSPAPER – Has that ever happened to you?
    POPE – “Rarely. For example, when the conclave elected me Pope. Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go way and relax I closed my eyes and MADE EVERY THOUGHT DISAPPEAR, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the ‘”Habemus Papam”.

    God Bless you and your readers,

  10. St. Benedict's Thistle

    Sean, I believe what the Pope described is how Centering Prayer works. One is to empty one’s mind of thoughts, which has its genesis in Eastern philosophy and religion.

    This is, of course a perversion of Contemplative Prayer and directly in opposition to Scripture. We are to have that “mind which was also in Christ Jesus” and not a mind emptied of thoughts.

    Matthew 12:44-45, “Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation.”

    I also believe St. Teresa of Avila spoke out against the temptation to empty one’s mind during prayer.

    • Yes, this is Buddhist meditation. The idea is that by emptying the mind of thoughts and daily cares, one’s soul will be able to “give” its best to the person thus meditating. It cannot go beyond a deep relaxation and a sense of peace and inner freedom, and those can and must be there with traditional Catholic contemplation.

      Francis can so meditate as much as he will. Christ will never enter his heart through it.

      Ask every Buddhist.


  11. Mundabor,
    I too am absolutely disgusted by Pope Francis’ words, however, I believe this ideology is here to stay in the church. Just think, out of the so-called conservative cardinals that Benedict appointed we got Bergoglio. Imagine the damage he is going to cause for us in his appointments. And I don’t see a single cardinal who is willing to reverse the mess of Vatican II. Do you?

    • One or two would if they could, but they keep silent. They might be our only hope if one of them is elected Pope, but a very thin one as a Burke or Piacenza as Pope appears now improbable.

      Bergoglio will appoint an army of people like him as Cardinals, and this will ensure that the mess continues for a while. In the bishops’ appointments, he will be an unmitigated disaster.

      The only hope as I see it is that the man loses face so hard his men suggest to him that he stops smoking whatever he is smoking now. But this is a thin hope too.

      We will have to live and die with shameless clowns as Pope, and denounce their antics as loud as we can. I think this is the most probable scenario.


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