March 21, 2014

Editorial

The pope’s latest interview

Does anyone remember that when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis, he had a reputation for not giving interviews? He admitted that they made him feel uncomfortable.

Boy, has that changed!

Uncomfortable or not, he has decided that giving interviews is an important part of his evangelization. Secular media pay more attention to the interviews than they do to his homilies, statements and written documents.

His first press interview took place on his flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro’s World Youth Day celebration last July. Then he was interviewed for the world’s major Jesuit periodicals. That was followed with an interview by the editor of the Italian newspaper La Republica. Soon he was a media star, with the secular press loving his humble style, his openness, and his plans to make the Catholic Church more welcoming.

Of course, as usual, the secular media tried to find controversy in the things the pope said. When he said about people with same-sex attraction, “Who am I to judge?” you’d think he was approving homosexual acts. At various times, according to segments of the media, you’d think the pope was approving same-sex marriages, calling for socialism, or changing the Church’s teachings about abortion.

This has been doubly true in regard to his latest interview—unless he has had another since this was written; it’s hard to keep up with him.

We refer to the one that was published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on March 5, Ash Wednesday. It was a wide-ranging conversation with the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Ferruccio de Bortoli.

This time, the controversy was over Pope Francis’ defense of what the Catholic Church has been doing concerning the clergy sex-abuse scandal. He said that cases of sex abuse by priests had left “very profound wounds,” but that, starting with the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the Church has done “perhaps more than anyone” to solve the problem.

He noted that statistics clearly show that the great majority of abuses occur in family and neighborhood settings. However, “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. And yet the Church is the only one attacked.”

That statement is true. However, it was immediately attacked by those who clearly don’t realize how much the Church has done since the problem was revealed—certainly more than many other organizations that work with young people, or public schools, or other religions.

It began with Pope Emeritus Benedict. While still a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he first recognized that guilty priests were not being punished and convinced Pope John Paul II to allow his congregation to take over the Church’s efforts to end this problem. As pope, he demanded that anyone who abused a child could not minister as a priest. As the Associated Press reported on Jan. 18 of this year, during 2011 and 2012 alone, he laicized nearly 400 priests.

Pope Francis, too, has frequently spoken about the scandal, calling it “the shame of the Church” during his homilies. He established a special commission to help him decide how to protect children from sexual abuses and provide aid to past victims.

In that interview for Corriere della Sera, the pope touched on some issues that will be taken up in October at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. These include the Church’s teachings on birth control and the predicament of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. He said, “The question is not whether to change the doctrine, but to go deeper and make sure that pastoral care takes account of situations and of what each person is able to do.”

Pope Francis also tried to tamp down what he called “a certain mythology of Pope Francis.” He said he found it offensive to portray him as a kind of superman, and he denied that “he leaves the Vatican at night to go feed the tramps on Via Ottaviano.” We had heard that rumor, but did not report it.

He will probably continue to sit for interviews as part of his evangelization, even if he doesn’t enjoy doing so.

—John F. Fink

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!