How far can a pope go in exploring the “peripheries”? A program broadcast on April 5, 2023 – in the middle of Holy Week – on the pay channel Disney+, can hardly find a rational explanation, and has undoubtedly made Vatican communication services cringe once again.
Disney+ is known in part for its controversial content. In 2021, the channel had to pay a fine of 62,500 euros in Italy for broadcasting a parody of the Nativity. However, it was through this channel that Peter’s successor was featured in a documentary entitled “The Pope: Answers,” during which the casual attire - necklines, shorts, tattoos, piercings and colored hair – of young people contrasts with the shimmering white cassock of the octogenarian pontiff.
The film opens with banal scenes from the daily life of the head of the Church, such as telephone calls made from his modest office cluttered with files in St. Martha’s House, far from the private library of the apostolic palace where he usually receives the heads of state.
The Pope's ten interlocutors were selected from among 150 young adults from around the world for the questions they had submitted: on abortion, homosexuality, feminism, gender identity, etc. The viewer was spared nothing.
When a dubious dating site for young people is mentioned in front of him, the Argentine pontiff replies: “It's normal,” he said. “Young people have that eagerness to meet each other, and that's very good.” We can assume that the pope did not really understand what the site was really about.
The French Catholic press was not mistaken: the weekly Christian Family denounced the “vast trap, very ideologically oriented, between the editing of the questions, the transitions between them, and the young people’s very subversive route, the documentary shows Pope Francis totally overwhelmed by events while wishing to pass for someone benevolent.”
Overwhelmed may be the better word. While defending that “at one month from conception a human embryo is not a ‘bunch of cells that got together, but a systemized human life,” to justify his refusal of abortion, the Pope then sacrifices to the clichés of the fight against LGBT discrimination, and said that “Christians haven’t always had a mature catechesis on sex.”
The most amazing thing is that the documentary was not subject to any censorship by the Holy See, to the very astonishment of the director: “I was ready,” reveals Jordi Evole, “because of the relationship we had and of the trust he placed in us, to eliminate something if he asked us to.”
“It may be frowned upon for a journalist to say this, but I was considering doing some editing if he asked us. Obviously, nothing major, but there are times when he looks uncomfortable. He didn't tell us to retouch that look or that gesture. He didn't ask anything. This is unprecedented in the world of communication today.”
It is a confession that says a lot about the confused communication and the “short circuit” of the Vatican press services, which will remain one of the hallmarks of the current pontificate, and which sums up well the conclusion given by the Pope himself at the end of the documentary.
“This is the way of the Church: all brothers and sisters, all united, each their own points of view, their positions, some closer, some further, but brothers and sisters, a fraternity.” The peripheries are definitely very slippery.
(Sources : Catholic Review/National Catholic Reporter/Disney+ – FSSPX.Actualités)