Abp Gänswein: Pope’s way of talking can lead to bizarre interpretations; “Francis Effect” appears not to have transpired; Uncertainties have certainly increased

Abp. Georg Gänswein and Pope Francis
Abp. Georg Gänswein and Pope Francis

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The interviewer, Hendrik Groth, also asked Archbishop Ganswein whether he still stands by remarks he publicly made shortly after the election of Pope Francis that theologically, you could not fit a sheet of paper between the new Pope and his predecessor.

“I have asked myself the same question; and judging by everything I hear and perceive, I still positively perceive this to be the case. Considering the base lines of their theological convictions, there is definitely a continuity there.”

Given the external differences between the two Popes, Archbishop Ganswein said: “Obviously I am also aware that occasionally doubt might be cast on this, given the differences in representation and expression. But when a Pope wants to change an aspect of the doctrine, then he has to do so clearly, so as to make it binding.”

“Important magisterial tenets cannot be changed by half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes,” the German archbishop said, alluding to the controversy over the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He further warned, “Statements that can be interpreted in different ways are a risky thing.”

Acknowledging the cultural and personal differences between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Archbishop Ganswein reflected that “one has to simply accept the fact that his [Francis’] way of speaking can at times be somewhat imprecise, indeed flippant. Every Pope has their own personal style.”

The archbishop said he is sure that Pope Francis will not change his way of talking, even if that sometimes “leads to bizarre interpretations.”

However, Archbishop Ganswein also reflected on what role the media plays in the perception that the Pope is no longer “as solid as a rock, no longer a final anchor.”

“Uncertainties, occasionally even confusion and mayhem, have certainly increased,” he said, adding that the “Francis Effect” some German bishops predicted after the election, expecting it would lead to fuller pews and a boost to Catholic life in the nation, “appears not to have transpired.”