DENVER – A former editor of a women’s insert to the Vatican newspaper, and a well-known journalist and historian in Italy, has defined Pope Francis as “a catastrophe,” among other things because of an alleged failure to confront anti-Semitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Francis “limits himself to generic phrases on anti-Semitism, refusing to align the Catholic Church in an unequivocal way against anti-Semitism in all the forms with which it’s presenting itself. This is what Pope Francis should have done, and he hasn’t done it,” said Lucetta Scaraffia in a new interview with the Italian edition of the “Huffington Post.”
Scaraffia, who founded the “Women Church World” insert in L’Osservatore Romano in 2012 and edited it until she resigned in 2019 over what she claimed were efforts to muzzle her attempt to spotlight the abuse of nuns in the church, also asserted that Francis’s ambition to mediate the war in Ukraine has been a “failure,” and accused the pope of ignoring both the suffering of Iranian women and of Armenians in their conflict with Azerbaijan.
“He’s a pope who hates the values of the West,” Scaraffia said. “The fact that he’s anti-Western, and, above all, anti-American, becomes more evident all the time.”
Scaraffia also referred to Francis’s campaign to promote the role of women in the Vatican as “fake,” asserting that he’s promoted only “obedient” and “smiling” sisters, and criticized his handling of the case of ex-Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, accused of the serial abuse of nuns over a 30-year period.
A longtime professor of contemporary history at Rome’s La Sapienza University, Scaraffia, 75, also has served as a member of Italy’s national bioethics committee and a consultor to the former Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
The following are excerpts from the interview with Scaraffia, which was conducted by Giulia Belardelli, in a Crux translation. It began with a question about confusion generated on Wednesday when a group of Palestinians said the pope had used the word “genocide” to describe the war in Gaza, a claim a Vatican spokesman denied.
Professor Scaraffia, what’s behind this confusion?
There’s always the usual ambiguity, which is preferred over the sort of moral and spiritual position a pope ought to take. Jesus said, ‘Let your yes be yes, and your no be no,” not ‘let it be fifty-fifty.’ We know why the pope acts this way, and he says it continually: He hopes to be able to play the role of mediator … But to become one you have to be accepted by both parties, otherwise you absolutely can’t mediate. That’s a fact the pope doesn’t want to accept.
Why doesn’t he want to accept it?
Because this pope tends to be a bit self-referential. He continues to act this way because he thinks it contributes to his positive image. It’s true of both wars, the one in Ukraine and that of Israel. Regarding Ukraine, his total impotence is evident from the business of the stolen children … In all this time, the pope hasn’t succeeded in returning a single child … His effort at mediation has been a failure.
And if we move to the war in Israel, the problem becomes even worse.
Because what’s at stake is anti-Semitism?
The Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 was carried out with the cry ‘Let’s kill the Jews,’ and we all saw it. This has reopened the problem of anti-Semitism in all of Europe and the whole world, and it’s a problem that affects the Church very deeply.
The church found itself in deep trouble during the Second World War for not having defended the Jewish situation with sufficient vigor. Then it made amends, completely renewing the theology of the Jews with the Second Vatican Council. Above all, it removed the completely erroneous idea that Christians are the new Israel, the new elect people.
This fundamental aspect of theology has been completely forgotten by Pope Francis, who limits himself to generic phrases on anti-Semitism, refusing to align the Catholic Church in an unequivocal way against anti-Semitism in all the forms with which it’s presenting itself. This is what Pope Francis should have done, and he hasn’t done it.
[Scaraffia then asserts that Francis has engaged in “risky” overtures to Islam.]
For example, the document on human fraternity signed in 2019 with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb?
Exactly. The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar is an anti-Semite who doesn’t hesitate to say so every two minutes. He confirmed it after the Hamas attack on Israel, saying he stood with Hamas against the Jews. [The joint document] is something the pope never should have done. If nothing else, after the latest anti-Semitic stance of the Imam of Al-Azhar, he should have admitted to having made a mistake.
As if that weren’t enough, he’s preparing to meet [Al-Tayyeb] in Dubai during a conference on climate. Maybe, who knows, he’ll even embrace him because they agree on the climate. We know this much: The pope is more committed on the environment than on anti-Semitism. To me, anti-Semitism seems infinitely more urgent for the Catholic Church.
Would you define Francis as an anti-Western pope?
He’s a pope who hates the values of the West. The fact that he’s anti-Western, and, above all, anti-American, becomes more evident all the time. In so doing, he forgets that the West is the lone part of the world that’s tried, even in limited and insufficient ways, to realize the values of the church.
In a recent interview with La Stampa, the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut declared that ‘Pope Francis is discredited’ and defined him as ‘a catastrophe for the church and for Europe.’ What do you think?
I think he’s a catastrophe for the church in Europe and in the world. The church no longer counts for anything, it doesn’t interest anyone. It’s become fodder for journalists, who talk about the pope as if he were an influencer.
Acting like an influencer, has he given up playing a moral role?
He’s given up what it should mean to be the pope. He’s become an aspiring diplomat, which is a role he can’t even play … The consequences are extremely serious: A collapse of the church, and of the people who follow it. It’s a curious thing that Pope Francis is much more appreciated among non-Catholics, who, however, aren’t at all thinking about becoming Catholics.
Beyond the two wars, are there other international questions where the pope should have intervened and hasn’t?
The Iranian women: For him, it’s as if they don’t exist. It’s the same thing for the Armenians: Despite being Catholic Christians, he doesn’t want to see them.
Is something concrete changing in the way the church works? There’s talk of a reform of the conclave that would allow the participation of women and laity … is this all sizzle and no steak?
Regarding the role of women in the church, Pope Francis is doing absolutely nothing. It’s all fake. The women who’ve arrived in Vatican positions are women chosen by the clergy, extremely obedient, who won’t change anything … they pick obedient sisters who smile all the time.
The one thing Francis could have done was to establish the diaconate for women, and he hasn’t done it. He created a commission that produced a document, which was then made secret. Now, he’s creating another commission. You know better than I do that when you have commission after commission, it’s because you want to kill time.
Can the church play a role in confronting violence against women?
The church should not speak on this subject, for a very simple reason: The Catholic world is full of abuses against religious women that it keeps hidden.
Is this another failure you attribute to Pope Francis?
Absolutely yes. It’s a subject Pope Francis hasn’t even taken into consideration. Indeed, he protects abusers such as Rupnik. Facing this epidemic of femicides, it’s better that they keep quiet.