The contradictory statements of Pope Francis (for example about communion for the protestant spouses of Catholic partners) are provoking serious questions about the nature and utility of the magisterium.

To be useful, a magisterium must, of necessity, be clear, intelligible and consistent. Doctrine, as Blessed John Henry pointed out, is not adventitious: it develops organically.

The problem with Francis is that of the promulgation of dogma by media interview.

Bearing in mind that the stock-in-trade of all interviewers is to expose and publicize inconsistency, this is – to say the least – a dangerous proceeding. The danger is aggravated by Francis’s less than total recall of traditional teaching, the provisions of canon law, and even his own previous statements.

Bearing in mind that Francis seems ill-disposed to clarify his intentions, even when formally asked to do so, all this could be mistaken for deliberate obfuscation – he first raises a dust and then complains we cannot see.

The sole beneficiary of confusion will be novelty.

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