The Vatican spokesperson said that the Pope’s words as reported in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” cannot be considered with certainty to be Pope Francis’ actual words.
Fr. Federico Lombardi of the Holy See Press Office questioned whether there is an “explicit acknowledgment” in the interview of “a manipulation of naive readers.”
On July 13, “La Repubblica” published an article by its founder Eugenio Scalfari, reporting about a conversation he had with Pope Francis July 10.
The conversation is about the two hot topics of mafia and clergy sex abuse of minors, which Pope Francis recently discussed.
“Pedophilia, Mafia: the Church, the people of God, priests, community, will be entrusted, among other things, with these very important issues,” Pope Francis reportedly said.
Pope Francis met with victims of clergy sex abuse in the Vatican July 7, asking forgiveness of the victims for the abuses and for the omissions of the hierarchy. He reiterated the excommunication of the mafia July 5, during his one day trip to the small diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, Calabria, Southern Italy, in one of the territories most infiltrated by the mafia.
According to Scalfari, in their approximately one-hour conversation, Pope Francis addressed the “leprosy of pedophilia in the Church,” saying that “Jesus loved everybody, even the sinners he wanted to redeem,” but that Christ also “used stick to get chase the devil that seized that soul,” and emphasizing that he will address the issue “with the severity required.”
Furthermore – commenting on a Madonna statue in front of the house of a mafia boss during a July 6 procession – Pope Francis reportedly assured that “these things are changing and will change. Our denunciation of the mafia will not be once in a while, it will be continual.”
According to Scalfari, Pope Francis also addressed priestly celibacy. The Pope reportedly told Scalfari that “celibacy was established in the tenth century, 900 years after Our Lord’s death,” and reminded that “the priests of Eastern Catholic Church are already allowed to marry.”
“There is a problem, but it is not a great deal. Time is needed, but there are solutions, and I will find them,” Pope Francis reportedly told Scalfari.
Returning to pedophilia, Pope Francis reportedly stressed that “the corruption of a child is what the most terrible and dirty one can imagine,” considering that “according to data I could personally look over, most of this abominable facts occur within families or anyway within communities with antique bonds of friendship.”
The Pope also reportedly underscored that “the main task of education of children seems to have gone away from houses,” and this is “a very grave omission,” though “we are not still in the absolute evil.”
The Pope allegedly also stressed that “this frequently happens within families, and it is practiced by relatives, grandparents, uncles, family friends. Often, the other members of the family are conscious of that, but they do not intervene, taken by interests or by other forms of corruption.”
According to Scalfari, Pope Francis also denounced the spread of drugs in the new generations and claimed that “the Church fights in order to wipe this addiction out and to recover education,” but he also conceded that the Church has the same “leprosy” of pedophilia within it.
“Many collaborators on my side provided me reliable data which estimate a rate of two percent of pedophilia within the Catholic Church,” the Pope reportedly said.
The Roman pontiff allegedly said that “this data should reassure me, but it does not. I find it very grave. Two percent of pedophiles are priests and even bishops and cardinals. And other people, even more numerous, know but are silent, punish without saying the reason. I find this state of things unbearable, and I intend to face it with the severity it requires.”
Pope Francis has already proved severity in addressing the priestly pedophilia. This last week, it was announced that Msgr. Luca Lorusso, number two of the apostolic nunciature to Italy, has been expelled from the diplomatic service of the Holy See and sent back to his home diocese of Taranto.
Msgr. Lorusso has been deemed guilty because he defended as a lawyer the former priest Patrizio Poggi, who had been sentenced for pedophilia and laicised, and for supporting Poggi’s accusation against nine priests of the Diocese of Rome. Poggi’s accusation were considered unfounded by judges.
Recently, Pope Francis ordered Fr. Mauro Inzoli to retire to private life, with no possibility of publicly celebrating Mass and delivering sacraments, because he was investigated for pedophilia.
And Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, has been defrocked after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith court found him guilty of sex abuse of minors.
Focusing on the mafia, Pope Francis reportedly confessed he “does not know the issue in depth. I know what they do, the crimes they commit, the huge interests the mafias manage. But I cannot see at all the way of thinking of mafia people, of their bosses, of their second fiddles.”
Pope Francis reportedly said that “in Argentina there are many criminals, thieves, assassins, but not mafias. I want to go more in depth this issue, and I will read the many books written on the issue and the witnesses.”
According to Scalfari, Pope Francis also spoke about the distorted way the criminal organization lives religion, and underscored that “the major part of women linked to mafia because of bonds of kinship, wives, daughters, sisters, assiduously take part in the celebrations in towns where the mayor and other local authorities are often mafia people. Do those women think God will forgive the horrible crimes of their relatives?”
Pope Francis reportedly addressed the omissions of some priests, who “are inclined to pass over the mafia phenomenon,” since they “condemn the individual crimes, honor victims, help families the way they can,” but “the constant denunciation of mafias is uncommon.”
Fr. Lombardi’s reaction
However, Fr. Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, underscored in an official note that while Scalfari reports the Pope’s words in quotation marks, they are reported on the basis of his memory as an experienced journalist, not on the precise transcription of a record nor of a revision by Pope Francis himself.
Fr. Lombardi affirmed that “it is not possible to speak about an interview in the common sense of the word,” since even if the article “reports the sense and the spirit of the conversation between the Holy Father and Scalfari,” it is also true that the quotes of the Pope, “in the way they are worded, cannot be attributed with certainty to Pope Francis.”
The director of the Holy See Press office focused on “two affirmations” that “have gained much attention” but that are not “attributable to the Pope”: which are the claims “there are cardinals among pedophiles and that Pope Francis firmly stressed, for what concerns celibacy, ‘I will find the solutions’.”
Fr. Lombardi noticed that Scalfari “clearly attributed these two sentences to the Pope,” but “strangely, the quotation marks are opened, but not closed.”
“Did Scalfari forget to end the quote or was it an explicit acknowledgement that he was making a manipulation of naive readers?”
This was the third meeting between Pope Francis and Scalfari.
The latter wrote that “Pope Francis wanted these meetings, because, among the many people of every social condition, faith and age he meets in his daily apostolate, he wanted to share ideas and sentiments with a non-believer,” and Scalfari asserted that he ultimately is “a non-believer who loves the human figure of Jesus, his preaching, his legend, the myth he represents in the eyes of those recognizing him a high rank humanity, but no divinity.”
Scalfari published another conversation with Pope Francis Oct. 1, which was the first “interview” Pope Francis granted.
On that occasion, Fr. Federico Lombardi maintained that the text was overall faithful to the Pope's thought, even though it could not be considered part of his magisterium.
The interview was first inserted among the Pope's speeches on the Vatican's website, translated in six languages, and later removed from the Vatican's website because “the information in the interview is reliable on a general level, but not on the level of each individual point analyzed,” Father Lombardi said Nov. 15.
One month after the publication of that “interview,” in a meeting with journalists of the Foreign Press Association of Rome, Scalfari conceded that it was “really possible” that some of the Pope's words he reported “were not shared by the Pope himself.”
On that occasion, Scalfari explained his modus operandi: his interviews are conducted without a recording device, nor taking notes while the person is speaking.
“I try to understand the person I am interviewing, and after that, I write his answers with my own words,” Scalfari explained.