A pope who wants to be 'normal'

A pope who wants to be 'normal'

Pope Francis’ latest interview, published today by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, featured more of his characteristic pastoral populism and a tolerant tone on several moral issues. His defensive comments on clerical sex abuse will no doubt raise the question: Does the pope think this issue is really behind us?

Here are some highlights:

-- The pope said he liked to get out and be among people, but he cautioned against creating “a certain mythology about Pope Francis.” “When for example it’s said that he goes out from the Vatican at night and feeds the homeless on Via Ottaviano. That never even occurred to me…. To paint the pope as some kind of superman, a type of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else. A normal person.”

-- Francis said he had sometimes asked the advice of retired Pope Benedict: “The emeritus pope is not a statue in a museum…. Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others. We don't know. He is discreet, humble and doesn’t want to be a bother. We talked about this and we decided together that it would be better if he saw people, got out and participated in the life of the church…. I thought of grandparents, who with their wisdom and counsel give strength to the family and don’t deserve to end up in a nursing home.”

-- Pope Francis distanced himself from the church’s past use of the concept of “non-negotiable values” on certain moral and ethical questions related to human life and sexuality: “I never understood the expression 'non-negotiable values.' Values are values, period. I can’t say that among the fingers of a hand, one is less useful than the other. So I don't understand in what sense there can be negotiable values.”

-- On civil unions, the pope indicated some margin of tolerance: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. The lay states want to justify civil unions in order to regulate diverse situations of cohabitation, motivated by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, for example in assuring medical care…. We need to look at the different cases and evaluate them.”

-- The pope said the 1968 encyclical against birth control, Humanae Vitae, was “prophetic” in its defense of morality and its opposition to population control programs, but he said this teaching needs to be applied carefully in pastoral situations. “The issue is not changing the doctrine, but going deeper and making sure that pastoral action takes into account that which is possible for people to do. This, too, will be discussed in the Synod.”

-- Asked about clerical sex abuse, the pope called such cases “terrible” but defended the church’s actions to safeguard children. “The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the road. The church has done much along this road. Perhaps more than all the others.” He said statistics show that most violence against children takes place in family or neighborhood environments. “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 to be attacked.”

-- Concerning his strong critique of modern capitalism, the pope said he was not bothered by those who have accused him of Marxism: “I’ve never shared a Marxist ideology, because it’s not true, but I’ve known many good people who profess Marxism.” He added that the Gospel clearly rejects the “cult of well-being” as a form of idolatry. And while modern globalization has saved some people from poverty, the pope said, it has “condemned many others to die of hunger.” The problem with economic globalization as practiced today is that “the human person is no longer at the center, only money,” he said.

16 comments (Add your own)

1. Lowell Rinker wrote:
I think most understand that the Church needs to set a high bar in terms of doctrine on moral issues. In the past, the Church through its rigidity and lack of pastoral approach, used moral doctrines to judge, punish and humiliate. What sets Pope Francis apart is his willingness to let God judge...he opts to embrace those who struggle rather than to publicly judge them....such a refreshing change.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 8:43 AM

2. Kelly wrote:
The sexual abuse quote was incredibly tone death.. something that one would expect from Benedict, not Francis. There are still lots of active U.S. bishops who have not been punished for covering up for abuser priests. See Bishop Finn.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 8:50 AM

3. JackL wrote:
"...I’ve known many good people who profess Marxism." I've known some (not many) good people who profess and promote dog-fighting. I know many good people who profess racism. Therefor.....

Marxism and its spawn communism are the two most profoundly evil "isms" to infect the world, costing somewhere around 90 million lives and untold misery for countless millions who survived its onslaught.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 10:28 AM

4. Sam wrote:
Kelly, I am curious: When did we ever hear something like that from Benedict? Didn't we more often hear this, from his letter to the Catholics of Ireland:

"I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future."

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope."

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 10:56 AM

5. Howard wrote:
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 11:53 AM

6. Dennis Neylon wrote:
The Pope's comment on priestly sex abuse is hardly tone deaf. It is answer to those who, no matter what the issue is, bring it up. The Pope says what happened was wrong, it deeply regrets what happened, it has a very pro-active program to keep it from happening again. I am tired of the priestly sex abuse issue being raised like a red flag every time the Church is in the news. I am equally tired of those who profess to be Catholic who demand the Church change her teachings to adapt to them or their agenda. It took me nearly 30 years to realize the Church was not the one who had to change, I was. I am glad I came back, and that I was able, through example, lead her to the Church. I will always be grateful for what the Church has done for me and to me.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 12:17 PM

7. elcid wrote:
@Lowell Rinker:

I'm not sure if you're referring to the middle ages when some members of the church did "judge, punish and humiliate" people just as some members of the church did sexually abuse minors in the 20th century, I think we have to separate what some people did in the church and what the church teaches.
But to your point, while I agree that God will be the judge in the end, doesn't the church teach that one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to "Admonish sinners"? who loves a person more; someone who prays for someone in mortal sin and tries to inform them of the risks of living a sinful life or someone who accepts a certain life style due to political correctness knowing the risks of that persons salvation?

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 1:14 PM

8. Mary wrote:
I thought of grandparents, who with their wisdom and counsel give strength to the family and don’t deserve to end up in a nursing home.”

This to me is the most pleasing statement in the whole article. Gracias Pope Francis.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 4:29 PM

9. Lowell Rinker wrote:

I'll give you just one modern day example of my point....it has not been uncommon for priests to deny people communion (sometimes in a public way) because they were divorced (and not annulled). Pope Francis has already signaled that this is not what we should be about. Instead of forcing people through a painful and humiliating process of annulment, or if they cannot endure that process, deny them communion....our new pontiff seems more interested in helping these folks through their pain...and not judging their circumstance.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 5:10 PM

10. Fr. John wrote:
From around the 12th century on, the way Venice judged, punished and humiliated priests found guilty of sexual crimes was to enclose them in a cage that was then hung from the Campanile in St. Marc's Square. The Holy Father spoke of Non-Negotiable Values. I had never heard of them. I wonder if the term came into being because our culture no longer sees a value as being either universal for the world or binding on anyone. That idea is accused of being downright "medieval."

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 5:10 PM

11. John Servorum wrote:
You seem to know little or nothing about the clerical abuse scandal. What Pope Francis said in this interview is completely accurate. The Church, especially through the great work of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict has been remarkably proactive in resolving this terrible scandal and assuring that it will never happen again.
The same cannot be said for the secular world in which sexual abuse of children is epidemic, while the press rarely reports about it and in the end nothing is done about it.
Before you post a message, please learn something about the issue.

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 5:50 PM

12. Steve Kellmeyer wrote:
Pope Francis distanced himself from the church’s past use of the concept of “non-negotiable values”... "I don't understand in what sense there can be negotiable values.”

Sounds like Pope Francis EMBRACED and CONFIRMED the idea that there are non-negotiable values. Who do I believe? The author? Or my lying eyes?

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 9:22 PM

13. Ann Olivier wrote:
Cardinal O'Malley of Boston now has the Pope's ear. If you think that the Pope still doesn't get it, why not write to Cardinal O'Malley to tell him why you think as you do. He can then tell the Pope how the laity really feels about the worst of the bishops who still remain in office. Cardinal O'Malley has his own blog, God bless him. (But who knows if he reads he comments. Sigh.)

Wed, March 5, 2014 @ 11:20 PM

14. Kelly wrote:
@Dennis Neylon

Yeah. The Church should have thought about that before it tried to engage in a massive cover up of the priest abuse scandal. I'm sorry but no bishops have been disciplined for their role in the cover-up.

Thu, March 6, 2014 @ 8:42 AM

15. JCar wrote:
Brilliant. His comments on non-negotiable values are simply brilliant. The use of that phrase is an admission to sin. Non-negotiable values implies that there are negotiable values. Values are values or not. One either stands for something or does not. Anything else is false and hypocritical.

Thu, March 6, 2014 @ 9:55 AM

16. Alyce wrote:
Kelly....I think your view on the clergy sex abuse scandal is somewhat hampered by the wrong historical perspective.
At the time most of this abuse took place, during the mid period of the past
century, this was largely the way child abuse was handled everywhere in the universe. It was always either swept under the rug or handled privately, within the institutions, even families. The Church and every other institution kept these incidences "under wraps"'thinking to prevent public scandal and preferring to not wash their "dirty linen" in public, so to speak. Was it right or morally responsible to handle abuse in this manner? No, but that was then the policy everywhere. Of course, this allowed for the further abuse of enablement but
this is all in retrospect. At the time it was the "approved method" for all. When all hell broke loose in Boston, it was poorly handled by the Bishops. But in all fairness, it seems that only the institutional Church has been held accountable, largely in the media, for this common practice. Often this targeting largely of the Church has been explained to have happened because of the deep pockets of the Church and our litigious society. Statistics prove sexual abuse in the Church to have been no greater and even less than in other institutions, such as public schools.
What followed after this is sadly forever part of the seamier side of Church history. As someone said here in the comments, one cannot talk about anything regarding the Church today and the scandal becomes eventually the focus. And yet, the vastly un-reported child protective measures the Church has enacted have probably made the Church the safest place for a child today. Certainly far safer than a mother's womb where the holocaust continues to this very day. Even most Christians, including Catholics, turn a blind eye toward human justice in order to promote a fallacious view of women's rights. We continue to prefer the darkness to
light in every age.

Sat, April 12, 2014 @ 10:18 AM

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