On the Vatican Reporting blog of February 24, 2021, Andrea Gagliarducci reports the words of Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., director of La Civiltà Cattolica, in the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, analyzing the current Pope’s mode of communication.
According to this close friend of Francis, “the Pope of the street does not speak like a priest.” In other words, it is for the current sovereign pontiff to adopt a new language and to get rid of the old one, because “theological language risks becoming a product of the weakness of the Western logos.”
In practice, theology might cause misunderstandings, while an instinctive language, based not on words but “on gestures,” might not create misunderstandings, because it is closer to people’s hearts. Fr. Spadaro even goes so far as to say that Pope Francis does not give a speech, but delivers fragments of speeches, such as A Lovers Discourse: Fragment (Editions du Seuil, 1977) by Roland Barthes.
This rapprochement with the French semiologist is surprising, when we know that the author of the Fragments only sought to propose paths and explorations likely to shed light on any experience of love in relation to language.
Andrea Gagliarducci rightly notes that this way of communicating is opposed to the Gospel which demands "let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil,” (Mt. 5:37).
To say that “the pope of the street does not speak like a priest” means, basically, to be rationally misunderstood, in the name of an emotional dialogue in sync with the people of the street, but where doctrinal identity is lost.
Andrea Gagliarducci adds: “The problem is that many Catholics think that this dialogue - or rather, dialogue done this way - is necessary, that principles can be put aside, that they are even unnecessary, and that pragmatic rhetoric is the only thing that matters.”
And to quote the warning of the philosopher of the left Gianni Vattimo to Corriere della Sera a few years ago: “You, Catholics, you have resisted, intrepid, the assault of modernity for almost two centuries. You gave in just before the world agreed. If you had held on a little longer, it would have turned out that the “updates,” the prophets of the post-modern future, were you, the conservatives. Too bad!”
“A layman’s advice: if you really want to change again, restore, don’t reform! It is by going back to a tradition that is the envy of everyone and that you have rejected, that will put you more in tune with the world of today, that will bring you out of the insignificance in which you have ended, by getting to it late. And with what results? Who have you converted since you tried to chase after us down the wrong path?”