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Discusses divorce and birth control, same-sex marriage and women in the Church, and why depicting the pope as a “superman” is “offensive.”
Rain falls as Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published a lengthy interview with Pope Francis touching on a wide range of subjects, from birth control and divorce to same-sex marriage and child abuse, as well as the role of women in the Church and his own “rock star” status in much of the mainstream media.

I’ve yet to see a full English translation of the interview [UPDATE: Catholic News Agency has published its translation of the full text of Pope Francis' interview]; until that’s available, Vatican Insider has some excerpts.

“The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps peacefully, and has friends like everyone else. A normal person”, Francis said in an interview with the chief-editor of Italy’s leading daily, Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli, published today. 

“I like to be among people, to be with the one who is suffering, to go into the parishes”, he stated. But he denied that he has gone out at night to feed the down and outs near the Vatican. He made clear however that he detests being depicted as a kind of superman or star: “Sigmund Freud said that in every idealization there is an aggression. To depict the Pope as a kind of superman or a star seems to me offensive”. …

He reaffirmed that he doesn’t take offense when some in the USA, and elsewhere, accuse him of Marxism.  “I have never shared the Marxist ideology because it is not true, but I have known many courageous people who profess Marxism”, he said.

Speaking about his relationship with Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said regards him as a wise grandfather, whose counsel he sometimes seeks.  He recalled that before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the idea of an emeritus bishop didn’t exist but now, he notes, we also have an emeritus Pope. “Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others. We do not know”, he said, not excluding the possibility that he could follow suit. …

Speaking about the horrific abuse of children by priests, Francis said “the cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds”.  Benedict XVI “was very courageous and opened a road, and the Church has done a lot on this route, perhaps more than all others”, he stated. He noted that the statistics reveal the tremendous violence against children, but also that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the milieu of the family and those close to them.  The Church is the only public institution to have moved “with transparency and responsibility”, he said; no one else has done as much as it, “but the Church is the only one to be attacked”. …

Pope Francis praised Cardinal Walter Kasper’s keynote talk on the family to the assembly of cardinals (the Consistory) on 20-21 February which the interviewer said had sparked divisions among them. “It was a most beautiful and profound presentation, which will soon be published in German.  It dealt with five points, the fifth of which was the question of second marriages”, Francis commented. He said he would have been “worried” if there had not been “intense discussion” and, moreover, the cardinals knew they could speak freely. Indeed, “the fraternal and open confrontations make the theological and pastoral theology develop.  I do not fear this; on the contrary I seek it.”

Asked why he doesn’t speak about the so-called “non-negotiable values”, particularly in the field of bioethics and sexual morality, Pope Francis stumped the interviewer by telling him, “I have never understood the expression ‘non-negotiable values’.  Values are values. Full stop! I cannot say that among the fingers of a hand there is one more useful than another. So I do not understand in what sense there can be negotiable values”. …

On the question of marriage and civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”.  States seek to justify civil unions “to regularize different situations of living together”, pushed by the need to regularize the economic aspects between people, such as, for example, to ensure health care, he said.  “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.  

When asked whether the Church would again revisit the question of birth control, some 50 years after Humanae Vitae, Francis recalled that, at the end, Paul VI “recommended that confessors should be very merciful, and be attentive to the concrete situations”.  Francis praised his predecessor for being “prophetic” and for “having the courage to go against the majority, to defend the moral discipline, to exercise a cultural brake, and to oppose present and future Neo-Malthusianism.”   But, he said, it is not a question of changing doctrine, rather “it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and bringing it about that the pastoral practice takes account of situations and of what is possible for persons”.  This will be discussed at the synod, he added.

Responding to a question on how the role of women can be promoted in the Church, Francis said that while it is true that women “can and must be present in decision-making places in the Church”, this is only “a promotion of a functional type” and will not take us far down the road.   It’s necessary to think that the Church “is feminine from its origins” because “the Marian principle guided the Church alongside the Petrine one.  The Virgin Mary was more important than any bishop or any apostle”. Therefore, it is necessary to deepen the theology, and this is being done with the Council of the Laity, with the contribution of women with expertise in different fields.

More to come, as a full translation of the interview becomes available.

 
About the Author
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
 
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