Some people say the sky is just the sky

Father Lombardi, who is fast earning the title “long-suffering,” has issued an interesting statement on Scalfari’s editorial to Edward Pentin. Let’s look at the statement in full:

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register Nov. 2: “As has already occurred in the past, Scalfari refers in quotes what the Pope supposedly told him, but many times it does not correspond to reality, since he does not record nor transcribe the exact words of the Pope, as he himself has said many times. So it is clear that what is being reported by him in the latest article about the divorced and remarried is in no way reliable and cannot be considered as the Pope’s thinking.”

Father Lombardi said he would not be issuing a statement about the matter as those who have “followed the preceding events and work in Italy know the way Scalfari writes and knows these things well.” Over the past two years, Scalfari has written several such articles following conversations with Pope Francis, each of which has drawn controversy.

(Emphasis supplied.) We have said elsewhere: this is a very funny way of saying “The Pope never said anything like that to Scalfari.” What this statement is, to our eye, is a long way of saying, “Scalfari generally makes things up. Don’t listen to him.” That’s some denial.

We have some brief questions, then:

  • Did the Pope say it or not? Saying Scalfari is generally not to be believed is not the same thing as saying that Scalfari fabricated the quote in question.
  • Perhaps more to the point, why does the Vatican, if it “know[s] the way Scalfari writes,” not insist on producing and making available a verbatim recording of interviews with Scalfari? If Scalfari is such an inveterate fabricator, surely a prudent person would prepare his own record of the interview to avoid precisely this problem.
  • Perhaps even more to the point, why does the Holy Father agree to speak with Scalfari, knowing—as everyone who works in Italy knows, apparently—that Scalfari is going to fabricate quotes and attribute them to him? More than that, why does the Holy Father agree to speak with Scalfari when the Holy Father has been burned very publicly three or more times?

Edward Pentin himself asks this last question:

This exchange appears no different, which raises the question: why does the Pope continue to speak to someone such as Scalfari, and discuss such sensitive subjects with him, when he knows he is unreliable but likely to report his words without reference to a recording or transcript?

Why, indeed? It seems to us that there are fundamentally two possible answers. One, the Holy Father does not care that he’ll be misquoted. There are a lot of possibilities, but given Fr. Lombardi’s comments, one assumes that it’s because he personally likes Scalfari and is inclined to indulge his impressionistic interview style. Two, the Holy Father views Scalfari as useful for getting deniable ideas out there. If people like the idea, nothing need be said. If people don’t like the idea, well, it’s Scalfari and he makes things up.