The fallout from the Pope’s interview with Eugenio Scalfari, in which he apparently cast doubt on the existence of hell, is “beyond tolerable”, Cardinal Raymond Burke has said.
Scalfari, the co-founder of Italy’s daily La Repubblica, claimed last week that Pope Francis told him the souls of sinners “disappear” upon death, adding: “There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
The comments generated headlines around the world, and were reported in most major secular media outlets.
“What happened with the latest interview given to Eugenio Scalfari during Holy Week and made public on Holy Thursday was beyond tolerable,” Cardinal Burke said in an interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
“That a famous atheist claims to announce a revolution in the teaching of the Catholic Church, believing to speak in the name of the Pope, denying the immortality of the human soul and the existence of hell, has been a source of profound scandal not only for many Catholics but also for many lay people who respect the Catholic Church and its teachings, even if they do not share them.”
The cardinal added that the day of the article’s publication – Holy Thursday – was especially insulting as it is “one of the holiest days of the year”.
The Holy See responded to the Scalfari article by saying that the comments cannot be “considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father”. However, Cardinal Burke criticised the response as “strongly inadequate”.
“Instead of clearly re-stating the truth about the immortality of the human soul and hell, the denial only said that some of the words quoted are not of the Pope,” he said.
“It did not say that the erroneous, even heretical ideas expressed by these words are not shared by Pope and that the Pope repudiates such ideas as contrary to the Catholic faith.
“This playing with faith and doctrine, at the highest level of the Church, rightfully leaves priests and faithful scandalised.”
Cardinal Burke also condemned the silence of many bishops and cardinals on the matter, and was especially critical of those who “spread fantasies of a new Church, of a Church that takes a totally different direction from the past, imagining, for example, a ‘new paradigm’ for the Church.”
Eugenio Scalfari, 93, has caused controversy on previous when reporting on his conversations with Pope Francis. In 2014, he quoted the Pope as claiming that two per cent of Catholic priests were paedophiles. He has also admitted that his supposed interviews are entirely based on his memory of the conversations and that he does not record them or take notes.