Pope Francis' longtime atheist and liberal friend, Eugenio Scalfari, claimed in the latest edition of La Repubblica that His Holiness expressed statements that our Lord Jesus Christ was simply a "man of exceptional virtues" and "not at all a God."
Scalfari wrote in La Repubblica: "Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet with him [Pope Francis] and speak with him in utmost confidence – as I have done several times – knows that Pope Francis conceives of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth: a man, not an incarnate god. Once incarnate, Jesus ceases to be a god and become a man, until his death on the cross."
After expanding on this statement with Pope Francis, Scalfari continues to claim that His Holiness replied that "Jesus of Nazareth, once he became a man, although he was a man of exceptional virtue, was not a god at all."
Scalfari has been known to stretch facts and confuse events in the past, but why publish such a profound and provocative claim about a longtime friend? Why publish it during the first week of the scandalized and heretically charged Amazon Synod?
There are many questions and speculations to be had, but the fact is that these charges are currently unsubstantiated.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken and proclaimed the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, but as the Word Incarnate, Who deigned to serve His people on Earth and die as their Savior.
Catholic News Agency illustrated several instances to support the Pope's belief of the "divine life" of Jesus.
In Evangelli Gaudium, the pope speaks of the “divine life” of Jesus.
In his Dec. 24, 2013 homily, the pope said that “The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God...In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.”
Speaking of Jesus last October, the pope said “God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which he reigns giving his life.”
On the contrary, if Pope Francis professes the faith that Jesus Christ is True God and True Man, both fully human and divine, then why did the Vatican not unequivocally denounce the article by Scalfari?
The head of Vatican communications, Paolo Ruffini, only denied that Pope Francis made the comments and credits the false claim to Scalfari's failure to properly reconstruct past interviews and conversations, stating that “the Holy Father never said what Scalfari wrote...both the quoted remarks and the free reconstruction and interpretation by Dr. Scalfari of the conversations, which go back to more than two years ago, cannot be considered a faithful account of what was said by the Pope.”
That's a cheap response without affirming that His Holiness professes the teachings of the Church on the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Additionally, it doesn't help when several high-ranking prelates have come close over the past year to denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, like the report form Church Militant of the Spanish Bishop who had to apologize and clarify his remarks after denying the full divinity of our Lord during a homily this summer.
In 2017, the liberal Jesuit and homosexual advocate Father James Martin argued that Jesus learned the expanse of his earthly mission from the Canannite woman at the well in Matthew 15:21-28. Fr Martin tweeted: “Today we see Jesus’ human and divine natures: [H]e learns from the woman that [H]is ministry extends to all, and [H]e heals her daughter.” Although Fr Martin acknowledges the divine nature of Jesus Christ, he decreases His omnipotence by insinuating that He was unaware of his full mission at any moment in time, which is impossible since God exists outside of time.
Indeed, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, himself head of the German bishops, asked the rhetorical question in a homily, "If Christ were here today, would he say what he said two thousand years ago?" Thus, hinting to a possibility that God, the omnipotent Creator of the universe, is bound to the changing of the times and worldly culture.
Bishop Robert Barron is another prelate who continues to challenge the verbatim teachings on hell, as spoken by our Lord in all four gospels. Barron for years has spread the notion that it is a "reasonable hope that all men are saved" and that there is "no hell." It doesn't help the situation when His Holiness makes comments like "hell does not exist" and that "bad souls disappear" after death. These claims, also in La Repubblica, were never substantiated.
Do these statements prove that Pope Francis believes what Scalfari claims? No, but they shed some light into the possible discussions on and lack of defense for the faith behind Vatican walls. Something must be going on that is allowing such prelates to believe they can make such heretical claims.
Nevertheless, the claims by Scalfari in La Repubblica are unsubstantiated and it would be unjust and unwarranted to being throwing the book at Pope Francis. It broke my heart when I read these claims, but we must pray that they are not true. For the sake of Holy Mother Church, we can fight and pray to end the modernist liberal takeover of the Church, but heretical Arianism is a whole different battle.
In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus. Amen.