This adage1 came to mind when reading Pope Francis’s latest interview with Eugenio Scalfari. It is sadly true that the pope has chosen Scalfari—an old socialist atheist, apostate from the Catholic Church,2 and co-founder of the Italian leftist newspaper La Repubblica—as a friend and confidant. Indeed, Pope Francis has made Scalfari the unofficial spokesman for his innermost thoughts.
“We’re Friends—Just Call Me Francis”
In his account of their latest conversation, which took place on January 14, 2020, Scalfari shows how close he and the Pope really are: “Our readers have known for some time that I have a very intense relationship with His Holiness…. [The last time we met, w]e shook hands and embraced each other, also in Santa Marta’s room in the Vatican…. ‘Holiness’ [I said, addressing him; he answered:] … ‘Do not always call me that.3 I prefer Pope Francis or just Francis. We’re friends, aren’t we?”4
“There Is No Hell; There Is No Catholic God”
Scalfari freely publishes his conversations with Pope Francis, often attributing absurd or heretical statements to the pope, for example, “There is no Catholic God;”5 “Proselytism is solemn nonsense;”6 and “There is no hell. There is the disappearance of sinful souls.”7
Pope Francis never denies these attributions. He restricts himself to allowing a Vatican spokesman to give confusing explanations that convince no one. More tellingly, he does not end his friendship with the old atheist. They continue talking by phone and in person. And Scalfari carries on with his heretical attributions.
“Jesus of Nazareth Was Not Entirely God”
Last October, Scalfari wrote that talking to the pope about the words of Our Lord on the Cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Pope Francis supposedly commented: “They are the ultimate proof that once he became man and albeit one of exceptional virtue, Jesus of Nazareth was not entirely God.”8
Given its gravity, clergy and faithful strongly reacted to this statement so shockingly contrary to the dogma defined in the Council of Chalcedon and which the Church has always affirmed. Once more, a Vatican spokesman attributed the heretical phrase to Scalfari, not to the pope. The sovereign pontiff himself though said nothing on the matter.9
In a September 8, 1951 encyclical commemorating the Council of Chalcedon (held in the year 451), Pope Pius XII presents the Catholic dogma defined at Chalcedon as follows:
“Following, therefore, in the traditions of the holy Fathers we teach that all with one voice confess that the Son [of God] and our Lord Jesus Christ are one and the same, and that he is perfect in his divinity, perfect in his humanity, true God and true man, made of a rational soul and a body, consubstantial with the Father in his divinity, and the same also in his humanity received from the Virgin Mary in recent times for our sake and for our salvation, one and the same Christ, the Son, the Lord, the Only Begotten, having two natures without confusion, change, division or separation; the distinction between the natures was not removed by the union, but the properties of each remain inviolate and are joined together in one person. He is not sundered or divided into two persons, but is one and the same Son and only Begotten God the Word, the Lord, Jesus Christ.”10
Speaking of the errors opposed to this dogma, Pius XII adds:
“There is another enemy of the faith of Chalcedon, widely diffused outside the fold of the Catholic religion. This is an opinion for which a rashly and falsely understood sentence of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (ii, 7), supplies a basis and a shape. This is called the kenotic doctrine, and according to it, they imagine that the divinity was taken away from the Word in Christ. It is a wicked invention, equally to be condemned with the Docetism opposed to it. It reduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption to empty the bloodless imaginations.”11
The words Scalfari attributes to the Pope, “Jesus of Nazareth was not entirely God,” seem to match the kenotic heresy Pius XII condemns.
“We’re Friends, Aren’t We?”
The Vatican spokesman’s denial that Pope Francis had sustained this kenotic heresy would certainly have merit if the pope’s own actions corroborated it. It behooved the pope to sever his Scalfari friendship immediately, with just outrage over being misrepresented as denying Christ’s divinity.
Sadly, however, Pope Francis’s actions conveyed the opposite message. As stated, not only did the pope not break with Scalfari, but he received the atheist warmly once more at the Santa Marta residence on January 14, 2020. The pope embraced him and went on to give him a new interview, during which the friendship between them was highlighted: “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
But, if Scalfari had indeed lied in so grave a matter—claiming falsely that the pope denied the divinity of Our Lord—it is incomprehensible that Pope Francis still maintains his friendship with the old atheist.
A Statement That Corroborates the Abu Dhabi Heretical Document
That declaration heretically maintains that “[t]he pluralism and the diversity of religions … are willed by God in His wisdom.” Now only Christianity accepts Christ’s divinity. If God also desires the religions that deny Christ’s divinity, then that denial too is willed by God, which makes Him a contradictory being. That is impossible.13
Adapting the Church to the World
At their latest conversation, on January 14, 2020, Pope Francis is reported to have told his friend Eugenio Scalfari: “I am driven, as you know, because we have spoken about it several times, from the desire for the active survival of our church to adapt our collective spirit to modern civil society. Religions, and not just Catholic-Christian ones, must know modern society very well and in its cultural, spiritual, and active depth.”14
Wanting to adapt the Church to our modern, atheistic, amoral, and agnostic world seems quite consistent with a kenotic denial of Christ’s divinity.
- This maxim seems to be informed by Proverbs 13:20: “He that walketh with the wise, shall be wise: a friend of fools shall become like to them.”
- “I was raised by a mother who was a strict Catholic. At the age of 12 I won a catechism contest held by all the parishes in Rome and I was given a prize by the Vicariate. I took communion on the first Friday of every month, in other words, I was a practicing Catholic and a true believer.” Eugenio Scalfari, “The Pope: how the Church will change,” La Repubblica, Oct. 1, 2013, https://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/.
- “Non mi chiami sempre così.” Eugenio Scalfari, “Celibato dei preti, papa Francesco: con Ratzinger il caso è chiuso,” La Repubblica, Jan. 15, 2020, https://rep.repubblica.it/pwa/intervista/2020/01/15/news/papa_francesco_con_ratzinger_il_caso_e_chiuso-245890070/#success=true. (Our translation.)
- “Preferisco papa Francesco o addirittura semplicemente Francesco. Siamo amici, no?” Ibid.
- Scalfari, “The Pope: how the Church will change.”
- Eugenio Scalfari, “Il Papa: ‘È un onore essere chiamato rivoluzionario,’” La Repubblica, Mar. 28, 2018, https://rep.repubblica.it/pwa/intervista/2018/03/28/news/il_papa_e_un_onore_essere_chiamato_rivoluzionario_-192473492/?ref=twhr.
- “Sono la prova provata que Gesù di Nazareth una volta diventato uomo, sia pure un uomo di eccesionale virtù, non era affato un dio.” Gelsomino Del Guercio, “Eugenio Scalfari ci ricade: smentito il virgolettato attribuito al Papa,” Oct. 9, 2019, https://it.aleteia.org/2019/10/09/eugenio-scalfari-papa-francesco-divinita-gesu/.
- See Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “A Confidant Says Pope Francis Denies Jesus’s Divinity: Where Is His Indignant Refutation?” Oct. 22, 2019, https://www.tfp.org/a-confidant-says-pope-francis-denies-jesuss-divinity-where-is-his-indignant-refutation/.
- Pius XII, Encyclical Sempiternus Rex Christus, (On the Council of Chalcedon), Sept. 8, 1951, no. 23, http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_08091951_sempiternus-rex-christus.html.
- Ibid., no. 29. (Our emphasis.)
- “A Document On Human Fraternity For World Peace And Living Together,” Vatican.va, Feb. 4, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html.
- See Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “Theological and Canonical Implications of the Declaration Signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi,” Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.tfp.org/theological-and-canonical-implications-of-the-declaration-signed-by-pope-francis-in-abu-dhabi/.
- “Io sono mosso, come lei già sa perché ne abbiamo parlato più volte, dal desiderio di una sopravvivenza attiva della nostra Chiesa, di aggiornare il nostro spirito collettivo alla società civile e moderna. Le religioni, e non soltanto quella cattolico-cristiana, debbono conoscere molto bene e nella sua profondità culturale, spirituale, attiva, la società moderna.” Scalfari, “Celibato dei preti.” (Our translation and emphasis.)