Those privileged to receive a Christmas card from Antonio Spadaro found enclosed the following seasonal letter.
Years ago my old grandmother used to say: ‘Antonio, become a banker, I want you to have money and influence.’ She was not best pleased when I decided to become a Jesuit. ‘Either teaching school or writing clever books which nobody reads’, was how she unkindly put it.
If only she could see me now. Yes, granny, I am still a Jesuit; but I think I can say that I have real influence. As the closest aide to Pope Francis I am up there with the most influential people in the world, with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. After all, Francis is the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit and I am the mouthpiece of Pope Francis!
It is a real comfort to me that grandmother sees all this from heaven – her little Antonio!
But the job is not easy. This year the task has been to minimize the impact of ‘Amoris’ and neutralise its critics. And that has not been a walk-over. The secret has been to mention it as little as possible: ‘it is crystal clear what it means’; ‘there are no “ambiguities”‘; ‘it is already infusing the Church with a new spirit of charity’; that sort of thing.
When the Pope is silent, who can speak? So we have put all our effort into discrediting the Four Cardinals –portraying them as old and out of touch. ‘They are the past; Francis is the future’, and all that.
Which works up to a point. But with an eighty-year old boss with some pretty old-fashioned ideas about some things, a spin doctor has to go carefully. Once or twice I have had to follow the old homiletic rule we learned in seminary: ‘Argument weak here; shout like hell’.
But I can’t complain. It’s a hard job; but it’s better than scuffing around in a parish taking Holy Communion to bedfast old ladies.