Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis.) A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)
Writes John Allen:
The idea that some lines as published by La Repubblica may have been after-the-fact reconstructions as opposed to direct quotes has driven some people to distraction, especially given that the interview was later published by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and on the Vatican website. If we’re not sure these are actually the literal words of the pope, many have asked, then what are they doing in official Vatican organs?
Perhaps the most insightful take on all this came from Lombardi himself, who said we’re seeing the emergence of a whole new genre of papal speech — informal, spontaneous and sometimes entrusted to others in terms of its final articulation. A new genre, Lombardi suggested, needs a “new hermeneutic,” one in which we don’t attach value so much to individual words as to the overall sense.
“This isn’t Denzinger,” he said, referring to the famous German collection of official church teaching, “and it’s not canon law.”
“What the pope is doing is giving pastoral reflections that haven’t been reviewed beforehand word-for-word by 20 theologians in order to be precise about everything,” Lombardi said. “It has to be distinguished from an encyclical, for instance, or a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which are magisterial documents.”
Implicit in that reaction is that the pope is probably going to continue to shoot from the hip, and sometimes he’ll allow voices outside the narrow circle of authorized spokespersons to tell the world what he said, trusting them to get the gist of it and perhaps not sweating the details. Trying to put every line or every anecdote under a microscope in those circumstances may be a waste of time.
If the pope wants to express himself formally and with precision, Lombardi implied, he has other ways of doing it.