Third in Vatican’s Communication Office, Paloma Garcia refused to believe answer by Francis to letter from Argentinian bishops on divorced and remarried
At first hearing it, Paloma Garcia Ovejero did not believe journalist at a Roman lunch.
The awkwardness of the doctoring of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s letter still fresh, it is worth re considering the shock that the letter written by Pope Francis to the Bishops of Buenos Aires produced not only in the so-called “rigorists” but also in the same Vatican’s Communications office.
“The writing is very good and fully explicates the meaning of chapter VIII. There are no other interpretations.” With these words Pope Francis, endorsed a note from the bishops of the region of Buenos Aires who in interpreting the post synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” admitted the possibility of Eucharistic communion for the divorced and remarried who continue to cohabit “more uxorio.”
Paloma García-O: “How odd that we do not know about it, ok, alrigt”
At a Sunday Lunch on 11 September 2016 in Rome, a lightning stroke Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the third on command of the Vatican Communications ship as she did not know about the letter sent to the Pope by the Bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, nor about the answer sent by him endorsing their opinion.
García Ovejero refused to believe my story that two days earlier, 9 September 2016, an Australian journalist had asked Jose Granados, vice president of the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II, about the content of the letter of the Pope to his brothers the Bishops in Buenos Aires. The lunch was in the
context of an International Symposium for journalists at the Santa Croce Pontifical University, right after Granados’s talk: “How odd that we do not know about it, ok, alrigt”, reacted Ovejero.
Apparently, the letter first appeared in a Spanish web portal, Infocatolica. Infocatolica had taken it down very quickly after it was bounced from this portal to numerous other Web portals around the globe. So, Garcia Ovejero scorned Infocatolica, - “Infocatolica is not a newspaper”, she pointed-, and she credited it both to fake news and to my little understanding of how to deal with them. García Ovejero only believed me when I produced the article and the letter on my smartphone. And all this while a professor also attending that lunch, one of the organisers of the Symposium, kept doubting my word too, as he repetitively demanded from me seeing the letter or not believing: “IF he has said that, but I go to the point, to the journalistic fact… (…) I want to see the letter, positively. You tell me where you’ve seen it”, to end with a: “But first and foremost what I was saying earlier is that, the source, that letter, I mean, I do want to see… it is such a serious issue that it is not something you hear and do not pay attention to, don’t know if you get what I mean… Google to me, I mean, who is Google…"
“… it is such a disconcerting issue that I, boy…”
However, I was able to produce the letter in my smartphone after a few minutes. The above-mentioned professor could only keep doubting the source now: “My doubts hover around, well… it is such a disconcerting issue that I, boy…”. The letter was published in the Actae Apostolicae Sede a year later, in September 2017. I then wrote two emails to Paloma about the details, but she did not answer any.
José Granados: “Well, if that is true, I will have to stop teaching Theology of the Body in the Pontifical Institute John Paul II”.
The question of the letter had not failed to bewilder Granados on 9 September in the context of the Symposium addressed to journalists, as he did not know about it. To the journalist’s inexact description of the content of the letter published the day before, 8 September, Granados replied to him in front of me: “well, if that is true, I will have to stop teaching Theology of the Body in the Pontifical Institute John Paul II” - now Pontifical Theological Institute as from September de 2017 after Francis’ Motu Proprio Summa Familiae Cura.
José Granados: “the doubts about its interpretation can be answered only by the Pope himself”.
A year later, in November 2017, in my interview to Granados in his office (read here) he reflected “(…) it [the letter] has recently been included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and the Pope has declared its magisterial value. The task of a theologian consists in interpreting this text. And there are several consequences that follow the fact of this pontifical declarations. First, as a piece of magisterial teaching the letter does not belong anymore to the bishops in Buenos Aires, as the Pope himself has subscribed and confirmed it. This means that the doubts about its interpretation can be answered only by the Pope himself. On the other hand, by declaring it as part of the magisterium the Pope has given to it a new interpretative context, and that is the entire magisterium of the Church. He has made of this letter a new chapter of the great book of the Tradition of the Church, and this implies that we must read it in a different way as we would in an isolated circumstance of the document".
José Granados: “The text of the letter then could refer to rare cases such as this or others in which it is assumed that the sacrament was not valid”
“The single most delicate point in the letter from the bishops is number 6, where they state that Amoris Laetitia opens a new path to the reconciliation and the Eucharist for some complex cases of divorced people in a new union. The text is not quite clear. It first reads that they are talking about the cases where the ecclesiastical declaration of nullity could not be obtained, and this affects the entire nu 6 of the document. What does that really mean? Perhaps it means married couples whose marriage is null and due to no ecclesiastical tribunals in their region they could not be ascertained. The text of the letter then could refer to rare cases such as this or others in which it is assumed that the sacrament was not valid. It is a possible interpretation of the letter that as an advantage presents the possibility to be harmonised with the Tradition and the magisterium. To this interpretation, thus, we must concur, if there isn’t an explanatory answer by the Pope himself, the only one that can interpret this letter, as he has declared it a magisterial matter”.
Granados’ reflection looks like a solid example of faith and will to serve the Church and the Pope. To my understanding it overcomes his first amazement and it shows a rendering of judgement in favour of the Vicar of Christ, that is Francis. It is only obvious that he does that with the fresh outlook of interpreting it solely from the solid grounds of the Tradition of the Church, not admitting any whimsy misinterpretation of the first who wants to give an opinion. There is a lot of work to be done.
Others have had other kinds of reactions. An old story about Winston Churchill (almost certainly misattributed) after an overzealous editor -probably his secretary- attempted to rearrange one of Sir Winston’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, tells that the Prime Minister scribbled a single sentence across the document in red ink in reply: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."
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