“Repubblica” Interview: Don’t Hide Behind Scalfari
The latest contortionism of the Clericalist Troops seems to be to imply – or to say openly; I have read that, too; and no, I will not post the link – that Eugenio Scalfari is not “there” anymore with his head, and the value of Francis' interview is therefore to be dismissed because hey, it was an interview with a very old man, and there was no recorder!
As so often, the Clericalist Troops are bending over forward to adapt their drams to the crude reality on the ground. Let us see why.
– The Bishop of Rome lives in Italy. He is obviously well aware that Scalfari enjoys the reputation of a very intelligent man even among those who, like me, consider him a dangerous bastard. Francis has answered to a letter of this man, and gave him a historic interview. If Scalfari is gaga, what does this say of Francis?
– If there were no recorders and no note taking, this can only have been because of an express wish of the Bishop. This makes sense. Even the man himself realises one hour or more of uncoordinated, confused waffle would amuse the planet exceedingly. Therefore, he chooses the “informal chat with no hard evidence” way, where he can waffle at pleasure and Dr Scalfari will then have the ungrateful task of putting all the eh-ing and ah-ing and no-ing into something intelligible. I doubt Scalfari would do this for many people. I do not doubt he – and everyone else – would do it for the huge “scoop” of an interview with the (though he does not call himself this way) Pope. If anyone thought Scalfari forgot the recorder, he had better go back to reality now.
– If no recorders and no notes were used, then the interview can only be a reconstruction of the disordinate ramblings of Francis after the fact. But this does not make it less of an interview, at all. Think one second and you will realise that the absence of recorders or note-taking does not dent a bit the credibility of the interview, or the gravity of what Francis stated. On the contrary, it enhances it. With a recorded interview or notes taken on the spot you are, in a way, delivered to the ugly truth of the words you have spoken. With an informal chat, the interview's content is the draft you have just received, now lying on your desk and patiently awaiting for you to decide what to make of it. No time pressure at all. In fact, you have now all the time in the world to read; re-read; examine the theological implications; wonder what effect this or that phrase might have on the readership; have other people read the thing and tell you what their impression is; & Co, & Co. It would be then very easy – and truthful – to say to Dr Scalfari “Dear Eugenio, thank you for the draft text of the interview. I do not think some of the phrases in the draft reflect the content of our conversation; at least I did not mean it to be so. Kindly forgive any misunderstanding I may have caused. Please find enclosed a corrected version of your draft, better explaining what I should have been able to convey.” Easy peasy. At this point, the draft is the only content of the interview any journalist in good faith is authorised to consider as expressing the mind of the interviewee. Nothing of all this happened. Make no mistake: this bomb was made to explode by Francis himself.
– The use of quotation marks in the interview is certainly strange, and I do not know what the Italian code of conduct for journalists say in the matter. If in this case an extraordinary exception to the rule was made, it is obviously because of the extraordinary nature of the interview, and of the exceptional position of the interviewee. Still, there can be no doubt that Francis accepted in full the paternity of every word printed as his own direct quotation. Even if you do not believe that Francis approved the draft in full knowledge of its content – and if you do, it's not Scalfari who is gaga – you must accept the fact he had the interview with the quotations going around the world without objecting in the least. Very simply, Francis has nowhere to hide.
These considerations would be very obvious in any other circumstance, with every other interview to every other interviewee whatsoever. I am forced to write them because an alarming number of Catholics seem to believe elementary logic and common sense cease to find application wherever Francis states something outlandish, or worse.
Stop dreaming. Start thinking.