The other day I ran into a high-ranking churchman in New York City and we chatted about the state of the Church. Though appointed by Pope Francis, he shared some of my distaste for this pontificate. He found the pope’s "vindictive" side disappointing and dislikes the pope’s lack of spiritual seriousness. The latter is evident in his absurdly casual "living arrangement" at the Vatican hotel, the prelate said with a grimace. "A pope needs contemplative silence," he said. He described a pope who spends his days not deep in prayer but hanging out at the Vatican cafeteria, engaging in silly political chitchat with anyone who happens upon him.
A pope sauntering over to the salad bar while shooting the breeze about Donald Trump is an image that perfectly fits his temporally-minded pontificate, so preoccupied as it is with the politics of the moment. Into this pathetic milieu has returned, appropriately enough, Eugenio Scalfari, the doddering Italian socialist and atheistic journalist whom Francis insists on treating as his Boswell.
Scalfari doesn’t use a tape recorder, preferring instead to reconstruct his interviews from "memory," a comically slipshod method that doesn’t bother Pope Francis in the slightest, since they think similarly on most matters anyway. Pope Francis thought so highly of Scalfari’s previous reconstructions of their exchanges he had them included in a book issued by the Vatican publishing house — a work some future pope will probably put on the Index of Forbidden Books.