• John Thavis

Pope Francis on corruption, ‘gay lobby’ in Roman Curia

The pope with officials of Latin American Conference of Religious 

(UPDATED with statement from CLAR below)

A Chilean website has published a partial account of a conversation in which Pope Francis purportedly confirms the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, warns of a “restorationist” movement in the church and frankly confesses his own disorganization when it comes to governing.

The pope is said to have made the remarks in a conversation June 6 with top officials of the Latin American Conference of Religious. The partial text was published Sunday by the Reflexion y liberacion website, and translated today into English by the Rorate Caeli website.

I asked Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman about the authenticity of the text, and he responded: “The meeting of the Holy Father with the presidency of CLAR was a meeting of a private nature. I therefore have no statement to make on the proceedings or on the content of the conversation.”

It’s important to point out that the text appears to be more working notes than an actual transcript, with plenty of ellipses. That means that nuances and qualifiers may have been lost along the way.

Nevertheless, the text appears to echo the tone of Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff comments on other occasions. And it would seem that if anything patently false were reported, the Vatican would not have passed on the opportunity to knock it down.

Asked about his plans to reform the Roman Curia, the pope is quoted as saying:

And, yes… it is difficult. In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The “gay lobby” is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do…

And later:

Reform of the Roman Curia almost everyone asked for in general congregations: I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward.

The pope used the term “gay lobby” in the original Spanish, and he appeared to be referencing newspaper reports from last March, which alleged that a network of gay clerics inside the Vatican wielded great influence and was the subject of an investigation ordered by the retired Pope Benedict.

The account of Pope Francis’ conversation with CLAR officials begins with the pope apparently referring to the Vatican’s recent investigation of U.S. sisters, and the relationship between the doctrinal congregation and religious orders:

They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder, this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward… Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it.

The pope identified two particular concerns. First, “restorationist groups” that would take the church backward in its practices, such as measuring spiritual value in the number of rosaries recited.

Second, he said, a certain pantheism of an educated elite. “I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that.”

UPDATE: CLAR officials apologized in a statement today for the publication of what they said was a synthesis of participants’ impressions following the meeting with Pope Francis. No recording of the meeting was made, the statement said, and therefore the synthesis was not a verbatim text.

“It is clear that, based on this, one cannot attribute to the Holy Father, with certainty, the specific expressions contained in the text, but only the general sense,” it said.

Here is the Rorate Caeli translation of the text published by Reflexion y liberacion:

Audience with Pope Francis

CLAR, 06.06.13

“Open the doors… Open the doors!”

They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward… Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up…

(on his election) I did not lose my peace [of mind – no perdí la paz] at any moment, you know? And this is not from myself, I am of the kind that gets worried, that gets upset… But I did not lose my peace at any moment. This confirms to me that this comes from God…

(upon mentioning to him the hope that his gestures at this time have brought us, he makes reference to having stayed at Santa Marta) ….these gestures… they have not come from me. They have not occurred to me. It is not as if I had brought a plan, nor that I have made one myself once elected. I do it because I felt this was what the Lord wanted. But these gestures are not mine, there is Someone else here… this gives me confidence.

I came [to Rome] only with the necessary clothes, I washed them at night, and suddenly this… And I did not have any chance! In the London betting houses I was in 44th place, look at that, the one who bet on me won a lot, of course…! This does not come from me…

It is necessary to shake things up [flip things over, lit. dar vuelta (a) la tortilla]. It is not news that an old man dies of cold in Ottaviano [Rorate note: referring to the surroundings of via Ottaviano and the Ottaviano Rome Metro station, near the Vatican], or that there be so many children with no education, or hungry, I think of Argentina…On the other hand, the main stock exchanges go up or down 3 points, and this is a world event. One must shake things up! This cannot be. Computers are not made in the image and likeness of God; they are an instrument, yes, but nothing more. Money is not image and likeness of God. Only the person is image and likeness of God. It is necessary to flip it over. This is the gospel.

It is necessary to go to the causes, to the roots. Abortion is bad, but that is clear. But behind the approval of this law, what interests are behind it… they are at times the conditions posed by the great organizations to support with money, you know that? It is necessary to go to the causes, we cannot remain only in the symptoms. Do not be afraid to denounce… you will suffer, you will have problems, but do not be afraid to denounce, that is the prophecy of religious life…

I share with you two concerns. One is the Pelagian current that there is in the Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council… One feels in 1940… An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting… And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through – not you, because you are not old – to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today…

The second [concern] is for a Gnostic current. Those Pantheisms… Both are elite currents, but this one is of a more educated elite… I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that… They concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this is our flesh…

The gospel is not the old rule, nor this Pantheism. If you look at the periphery; the destitute… the drug addicts! The traffic of people… This is the gospel. The poor are the gospel…

(upon mentioning the hardship of being in charge of the Roman Curia, and the commission of cardinals who will support him, etc.) And, yes… it is difficult. In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The “gay lobby” is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do…

The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all Cardinals asked for in the Congregations preceding the Conclave. I also asked for it. I cannot promote the reform myself, these matters of administration… I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward. There is Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is Latin American, who is in front of it, there is Errázuriz, they are very organized. The one from Munich is also very organized. They will move it forward.

Pray for me… that I make mistakes the least possible…

Aparecida is not over. [Rorate note: the reference is to the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, held in the Marian shrine of Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. See our lengthy coverage of the meeting in our Aparecida Notes series.] Aparecida is not simply a document. It was an event. Aparecida was a different thing. First, because there was no working draft. There were suggesions, but not a draft. And in the end, there was no document either, but on the eve of the final day, we had 2,300 “notes”… Aparecida moved towards the continental mission. There ends Aparecida, in the push towards mission.

What Aparecida had that was special was that it was not celebrated in a hotel, nor in a retreat house… it was celebrated in a Marian shrine. During the week, we celebrated the eucharist and there were some 250 people, because it was a regular workday. But on the weekends, it was full….! The people of God joined the Bishops, asking for the Holy Spirit…

I saw – I name him because I see him more standoffish, more like this, he is good, but he is like that – I saw the Prefect, João [Rorate note: João Braz de Aviz, then-Archbishop of Brasilia, now Cardinal-Prefect of Religious], who went out with his miter, and people got close to him, and they brought the children near, and he greeted them, and hugged them like this… This same bishop then voted. He could not have voted the same way as if he had been in a hotel!

We had the meeting rooms under the Shrine. So the background music were the chants, the celebrations in the Shrine… This made it very special.

There is something that concerns me, even though I do not know now to understand it. There are religious congregations, very, very tiny groups, a few persons, very old people… They have no vocations, what do I know, the Holy Spirit do not want them to go on, perhaps they have already fulfilled their mission in the Church, I do not know… But there they are, clinging to their buildings, clinging to money… I do not know why this happens, I do not know how to understand it. But I ask you to be concerned with these groups… The management of money… is something that needs to be reflected upon.

Enjoy this moment that we live in the Congregation for Consecrated Life… It is a moment of sunshine… Enjoy. The Prefect [Cardinal Aviz] is good. And the Secretary [Abp. Rodríguez Carballo, OFM], that was “lobbied” by you! No, really, being the president of USG [Union of Superiors General], the logical thing was that it would be him! It’s better…

Place all your effort in the dialogue with the Bishops. With CELAM [Latin American Episcopal Conference], with the national conferences… I know there are some who have a different idea of communion, but… Talk, speak with them, tell them…

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