The Showstopper For a Jesuit Pope: To Beatify Pascal, the Archenemy

The Showstopper For a Jesuit Pope: To Beatify Pascal, the Archenemy

Sandro Magister

In the preface to a book that presents eight of his interviews, just out in bookstores, Francis has lifted the veil on a couple of rather interesting things.

At a certain point the pope writes:

“Sometimes in my interviewers I have noted – even in those who say they are very far from the faith – great intelligence and erudition. And even, in some cases, the capacity to let themselves be touched by the ‘touch’ of Pascal. This moves me, and I treasure it greatly.”

The first is in reality more a confirmation than a revelation. It is his affectionate esteem for Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the newspaper “la Repubblica.” He is, in fact, the interviewer “very far from the faith” to whom Francis is referring.

The two meet once or twice a year, at Santa Marta, and it is almost always the pope who invites his friend. The conversation takes place without Scalfari recording any of it. And in the following days he publishes an account, adhering to the following criteria as he explained once to the Foreign Press of Rome, reporting these words that he said to the pope at the end of the first conversation:

“I will reconstruct the account of the dialogue in such a way that it can be understood by all. Some things you have said to me I will not report. And some of the things I will attribute to you, you did not say them, but I will put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.”

The effect of this liberty of transcription is that Scalfari has confidently attributed to Francis not a few “revolutions,” the latest of which is the abolition of hell, purgatory, and heaven. Without the pope ever having felt it his duty to correct or deny anything.

The second thing on which Francis has lifted the veil concerns the 17th-century French mathematician, philosopher, and man of faith Blaise Pascal. The pope writes that he appreciates how Scalfari has let himself “be touched by the ‘touch’ of Pascal.”

In effect, during their last conversation, this past summer, Scalfari had asked the pope to beatify Pascal, in addition to lifting the excommunication from the other great philosopher of the 17th century, Baruch Spinoza, passionately arguing for both of these requests.

But while Francis let the Spinoza idea drop, on Pascal he said he agreed, in these words as reported by Scalfari:

“You, dear friend, are perfectly right in this case: I too think that he deserves beatification. I intend to find out what needs to be done and ask for the opinion of members of the Vatican offices dedicated to such questions, together with my personal and positive conviction.”

Whether these words will be followed by deeds remains to be seen. But it would make quite a splash if the one to beatify Pascal – who wrote against the Jesuits that masterpiece which is “Les Provinciales” – should be none other than the first Jesuit pope in history.

“Les Provinciales,” in fact, are letters that Pascal wrote to a friend to tell him about the conversations he had with Jesuit fathers, whose casuistry and laxity in moral theology he brought under withering fire.

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One comment on “The Showstopper For a Jesuit Pope: To Beatify Pascal, the Archenemy

  1. Spinoza’s excommunication

    From Quickhits …, Oct 25, 2017

    By Phil Lawler

    … speaking of arguments that make the debater look bad, Sandro Magister of L’Espresso calls to my attention a tidbit that, I confess, I had missed. During an interview with Pope Francis this summer, the Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari argued “passionately” that the Holy Father should lift the excommunication of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. According to Scalfari’s account, the Pontiff did not respond to that plea. Which might seem odd at first glance, since the Pope has usually been receptive to Scalfari’s ideas—at least by the journalist’s accounts, which should always be treated with some skepticism. But in this case the Pope might have been doing his friend a favor by dropping the subject. A Bishop of Rome does not have the authority to undo the excommunication of Spinoza by an Amsterdam synagogue.

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