Vatican spokesman responds to Rolling Stone article’s “surprising crudeness”

The head of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has responded to an article about Pope Francis appearing in Rolling Stone magazine, calling it superficial and crude. Via Vatican Radio:

“[The article] is a sign of the attention that the novelties of Pope Francis attract from many different quarters. … Unfortunately, the article disqualifies itself, falling into the usual mistake of a superficial journalism, which, in order to shed light on the positive aspects of Pope Francis, thinks it needs to describe the pontificate of Pope Benedict in a negative way, and does so with a surprising crudeness. … This is not the way to do a good service even to Pope Francis, who knows very well what the Church owes to his predecessor.”

The cover story of the February 13 issue of the magazine, titled “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changing,” was written by Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal contributing editor Mark Binelli. The lengthy piece is full of praise for Pope Francis’ “obvious humility, empathy and, above all, devotion to the economically disenfranchised”; the Holy Father’s simplicity of dress and living arrangements, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and his conversational daily homilies come in for particular acclaim (Binelli even describes Francis’ handling of journalists’ questions as “brilliantly Clintonian”). Binelli also takes the opportunity to criticize the papacy, character, and even the physical appearance of Francis’ predecessor. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s is described as a “dour academic” whose papacy was “disastrous”; Binelli also calls him “a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares.”

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Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.