Pope Francis on "Fake News":
Truth is not a fact but a feeling!
by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 25, 2018
It seems there is no sociopolitical subject on which Pope Francis does not feel himself competent to issue a pronouncement, including immigration policy, atmospheric CO2 levels and the fate of mangrove swamps, and even the Scottish independence movement (he’s against it).
Now Francis has expatiated on the “fake news” controversy, which is primarily an American phenomenon. Not surprisingly at this point in the pontificate, his Message for World Communications Day 2018, read as a whole, clearly leans in favor of the censorship of conservative opinions designated “fake news” by liberal censors. Thus, Francis praises “institutional and legal initiatives aimed at developing regulations for curbing the phenomenon, to say nothing of the work being done by tech and media companies in coming up with new criteria for verifying the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.”
Yes, amazingly enough, Francis praises the regulation of speech by tech companies, which means, of course, the regulation of conservative speech — as conservative opinion-makers’ bitter experience with Google, Facebook and Twitter confirms. In fact, there are no attempts by conservatives to regulate the “fake news” constantly spread by the liberal media, so there is little doubt of what Pope Francis (or his ghostwriter) is praising here: the censorship of conservatives by liberals.
Francis even goes so far as to praise the efforts by tech companies to verify the personal identities of Internet account holders, thus clearly pandering to American liberal hysteria that “Russian bots” and a Macedonian “content farm” stole the 2016 presidential election from Hilary Clinton. There is certainly no demand in the US that liberal account holders have their personal identities confirmed by tech company snooping.
Most disturbing about this Message, however, is Francis’ purely emotive definition of the truth that will supposedly counter fake news. Quoth Francis:
“To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.”
So, according to Pope Francis, truth is not simply a fact, something existing objectively as what is and to which the mind (to use the Thomistic term) adequates (conforms) itself in an encounter with the real. Rather, it is a proposition that promotes what Francis deems to be the correct relational disposition between discussants: communion rather than disunity. As Francis would have it, even “undeniable facts” are to be viewed as “false” if they hurt or discredit another. But what if justice or charity demands that another be discredited by the undeniable facts, even if it “hurts” him in the purely emotional sense of making him feel bad? Note also the characteristically false disjunction between a statement that promotes “goodness” and one that “tends to isolate, divide, and oppose.”
Is Francis really unaware that it is precisely statements about truth which promote goodness, particularly in the area of morality, that provoke disunity and discord in a civilization that has turned its back on God? Pope Francis appeals to the Gospel in his Message without ever mentioning Our Lord’s own prophetic warning that His Gospel would divide the world, with the powers of darkness standing in opposition to the truth that makes us free:
“Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (Luke 12:49-53)
The “truth” that “encourages communion” in the sense that this fallen world demands is only what itching ears want to hear: the beguiling lies of the Adversary since the time of the Fall — to which, ironically enough, Francis refers in the same Message. The truth that divides a world in rebellion against Christ is the truth of the Gospel, which condemns the world’s wicked ways and calls upon fallen men to walk the narrow path that grace will enable them to follow, and to carry the burden that grace makes light, as Our Lord promised.
If only Pope Francis would put the matter that clearly. But in our time clarity is hard to come by in the human element of the Church, now in the grips of that “diabolical disorientation” foretold in the Third Secret of Fatima.