Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The theology of Pope Francis: an interview with Juan Carlos Scannone

"For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always."
 -- Gospel According to Saint John 12:8
This is a translation of an interview with Father Juan Carlos Scannone who was one of Jorge Mario Bergoglio's teachers in the seminary. I offer it up because it contains so much insight into the man who is now the Pope.

[NOTE: The original interview was apparently done in Spanish as explained below. The article that I translated was in Portuguese. So there may be some parts of the translation that are little rough, but I have tried to make it as accurate as possible while still making it readable in English. One word that is a challenge to translate is "o povo" or "el pueblo". This is usually translated as "the people", but there is a connotation of the poor people or at least the common people.]

Notice that the themes that have emerged out of this papacy are already outlined by Scannone in May of 2013 -- only a few months after Bergoglio's election. Such themes as a "church of the poor", ecumenism, relations with Jews and Muslims. And contrary to many reports according to Scannone, Bergoglio does favor a Argentine form of liberation theology which he refers to as "theology of the people". Although perhaps this could also be translated as "theology of the poor" or "theology of the common people".


The theology of Pope Francis: an interview with Juan Carlos Scannone
Monday, May 27, 2013
Father Juan Carlos Scannone Jesuit 81, a former professor of several universities in Latin America and Europe, including the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and former dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, is the greatest Argentine theologian alive.
This article is by Mauro Castagnaro, published in the journal Il Regno, May 2013. The translation is by Moses Sbardelotto. [The original article was apparently in Spanish.]
Here is the interview.
What do you think of the rise of Cardinal Bergoglio to the Seat of Peter?
The fact that he has become the first pope "of the Americas", particularly from Latin America, has a great symbolic value along with the choice of the name Francis. Jorge Mario is a simple person, concerned about the poor, and with the renewal of the Church through an “urban” evangelical apostolate, carried out on the streets, and not only within the churches, as was the apostolate of St. Francis of Assisi .
Jorge Mario has three great qualities: he is a man of spirituality, and when he was my provincial I had the impression that he ruled based on spiritual discernment, at least with respect to me. He is austere, so that in Buenos Aires he traveled by subway or bus -- and often visited the poor neighborhoods, defending priests who worked there. He is determined, and therefore he will implement the necessary changes in the Church, but without causing a rupture.
What do you think about his actions in the case of the kidnapping during the dictatorship, of the Rev. Orlando Yorio and Fr Ferencz Jalics?
Fr Jalics denied any connection between Father Bergoglio and their arrest. I already knew that because I was a good friend of Father Yorio, with whom I sometimes collaborated on a theological level, and as Father Bergoglio lived in the same house as me, when they were “disappeared”, he told me about everything he was doing, and what the vicar of the region, Don Mario Serra, was doing in order to discover where they were and to have them released. The military denied that they had arrested them, but the news leaked that they had been detained at the Navy Mechanics School (Esma), and when the military realized that they were innocent, they still detained them for several months, in my view because they did not know what else to do. In the end, the military left them sleeping (most likely drugged) in a field. Then, with the help of the provincial, Father Yorio and Father Jalics took refuge abroad to avoid being arrested again.
What will Francis do?
I expect him to promote the new evangelization with the preferential treatment for the poor, as is appropriate within each culture. Therefore, he will look much towards Africa and he will promote this apostolate with respect to the most poor, in the large urban areas and in the "fourth world". He will also promote ecumenism and conferences worldwide with other world religions, particularly Judaism and Islam, based on what he has done in Argentina, where there is a dialogue between these three religions and Christianity. Also, I imagine that he will try to have his austere syle adopted by the whole Church, which would in this way be better able to adapt to the modern culture. Finally, he will give an emphasis to the fact that he is the Bishop of Rome while certainly not ignoring the universal Church, but valuing collegiality and the community of the faithful as a whole.
What consequences will his election have for Latin America?
Francis is very familiar with the Church of this continent. He was rapporteur at the Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops , held in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007, also he coordinated the committee that drafted the final document, and so he will try to encourage the "pastoral conversion" of which the text speaks mainly putting the Church in Latin America "in a state of mission" in the major cities. Most likely he will promote dialogue with trade unions and popular organizations to foster greater social justice, and search for agreements in the area of politics that promote the common good. He will at last give credence to popular piety and spirituality, especially the typical Marian devotion of Latin Americans.
As Pope will Bergoglio look towards the theology of Latin America?
Jorge Mario is convinced of the importance of a spiritual and pastoral theology at a level of the contemporary culture and at the level of each particular culture. I believe he will promote the preferential treatment of the poor as the hermeneutic that reflects the  theological and pastoral teachings of Latin America. In Argentina, he defended what I refer to as "Argentinean liberation theology", which some refer to as the "theology of the people", and I assume he will continue to promote it, without ignoring other theological orientations.
What are the characteristics of this "theology of the people"?
Just as with liberation theology, it uses the method of "seeing-judging-acting", it connects historical praxis and theological reflection, and makes use of as intermediaries the social sciences and humanities. But it favors a cultural-historical analysis compared with the socio-structural Marxist type. It is a form of thinking that emerged in the immediate post-conciliar period, from two sources: paragraph number 53 of Gaudium et Spes, which speaks of "culture" as a way of life of every people, reading it with the conviction that the first evangelization contributed much to forge the Argentine culture that manifested itself especially in popular Catholicism; and the social theories which originated at the University of Buenos Aires in the 1960s and based on the categories of "pueblo" and "anti-pueblo", which recognized that there was injustice, but which emphasized unity rather than conflict, as would have occurred if it used the concept of "class".
Therefore, this way of thinking stresses the importance of culture, religiosity and popular mysticism, while affirming that the most authentic and faithful interpreters of culture are the poor, with their traditional spirituality and sensitivity for justice. This way of thinking gives rise to the pastoral care of the barrios and poor neighborhoods.
What is the situation of the Church in Argentina today?
Over the past 15 years, the bishops maintained a critical dialogue with the Executive [Presidency?], although a minority of bishops takes a more conservative approach. On the social level, we all recognize that the Church is far ahead, both with regards to assistance through Caritas, as well as in promoting humane solutions[?], but sometimes she comes into conflict with the government, because although the situation of the poor has improved thanks to assistance from the government, there is still a lack of financial investment to create decent jobs.
On moral issues such as abortion and marriage between persons of the same sex, I believe that natural law should be defended and also the rights of the unborn, but through more dialogue with secular society. In the case of the Law on the Equality of Marriage if among the bishops those who wanted to accept civil unions had prevailed instead of the radical opposition, then I think we could have avoided having the  relations of homosexuals raised to the level of “marriage”, by guaranteeing rights to all people such as inheritance, pensions etc. In my view, the hierarchy is still not accustomed to dialogue with the postmodern society, which expresses a kind of cultural relativism.
See also:


  1. Thank you so much for this translation!
    God bless.

  2. Hello Martina,

    It was my pleasure. Thank you for pointing me to this very important article.

    Yours in Christ,

  3. There was a good priest from Buenos Aires who prophezised already in 1967 all we can observe now: Padre Meinvielle


    I found his name first in this article:

    P. Meinvielle on communism:

    He was "far right", you know. ;-)

  4. I believe in helping the poor in every way possible but I do not believe that we in the Latin rite must give up our traditions to do so. If cultural pracitices in Latin America are to be lauded, then also, the traditional Catholics within the church should be able to keep their traditions that are meaningful to them. I get the feeling that all other rites, the eastern rites, the traditions in the third world countries, etc are being complimented but that the one group in the church, allowed by two previous popes is being criticized in a way that is not fair, notable from the interviews posted on other sites. One interview mentioned that repetitious prayers were not praying, but then what about the rosary and the divine chaplet? Many of the devotions are repetitious and yet I pray them and find great solace from them. I don't understand this attitude which I have been reading all over the net on the interviews with Pope Francis.

  5. Hello Marty,

    Pope Francis is speaking loud and clear. Those who don't understand what he is saying are not listening. They are only hearing what they want to hear. Or else they are in agreement with the objectives of "liberation theology" which has nothing to do with the teachings of the Catholic Church as given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ and further revealed to us by great saints through the ages.

    It is time to wake up! Holy Mother Church needs all of our prayers.

    And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?
    -- Matthew 26:40

    God bless you,