In new interview, Pope skewers journalists who focus on scandal

Pope Francis meets with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea at the Vatican on Oct. 17, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis meets with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea at the Vatican on Oct. 17, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

.- Pope Francis gave an interview to a Belgian magazine in which he cautioned media to avoid several major temptations, including the desire to always focus on scandal – which he compared to “coprophilia,” a mental illness in which a person has an abnormal interest in feces.

“Media I think have to be very clean, very clean and very transparent. And not fall – without offending, please – into the sickness of coprophilia,” the Pope said in his new interview, published Dec. 7.

Coprophilia, or coprophagy, is technically defined as a condition in which a person has an abnormal interest and pleasure in feces or excrement.
 
However, for Pope Francis, his use of the word referred to an attitude in journalism that always tries to communicate scandal.  

Since people looking to the media frequently have “a tendency toward coprophilia” – meaning they take pleasure in and seek out scandalous news – this attitude “can do a lot of damage.”

Pope Francis made his comments to Belgian weekly magazine “Tertio” for the occasion of the close of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The editor of the publication, Geert de Kerpel, conducted the interview, which focused on a wide range of topics from the media and the Synod of Bishops, to religion in the public sphere and war.

In his comments about media, the Pope said they have “a very big responsibility,” since given their reach, they have the ability “to form opinion.”

“Media are the builders of a society” and as such are meant to foster a fraternal exchange of ideas, to educate and to make one think. Media is not inherently evil, he said, but cautioned that we are all sinners, and even media “have their temptations.”

First of all, they can be tempted to slander or defile people, above all in politics, he said, and also warned against defamation, since “every person has the right to a good name.”

To bring to light a problem from a person’s distant past and to hold them responsible, even if they have already rectified the situation, “is serious, it does damage, it nullifies a person,” Francis said.

“There is not right to this. This is a sin and it does harm,” he said, pointing to another particularly harmful attitude in the media: “misinformation.”

Described by the Pope as telling only one part of the truth but not the other, Francis said that to do this: “This is to misinform. Because you, the viewer, you give them half of the truth. And therefore they cannot make a serious judgement on the complete truth.”

Misinforming people “is probably the greatest harm that media can do. Because it directs opinion in one direction, taking away the other half of the truth,” he said, adding that if media stay away from these problematic attitudes, “they are builders of opinion and they can edify, and do an immense, immense good.”

In the interview, Pope Francis also asked about his vision of reform following the Second Vatican Council, specifically regarding the issue of “synodality” – a term Francis has often used when describing his vision for how the Church ought to be structured and function.

Describing the term “synodality,” Francis noted that the Church itself is ultimately born from baptism and from communities that gather around a bishop, who guides and supports them.

“The bishop is the successor of the apostles. This is the Church. But in the entire world there are many bishops, many organized churches, and there is Peter,” he said, noting that there can either be a “pyramidal” Church where “what Peter says is done,” or a “synodal” Church where Peter still holds his authority, but “accompanies the Church and makes her grow, listens to her.”

“Moreover, he learns from this, and harmonizes, discerning what comes from the (local) churches, and returns to it,” he said, pointing to the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the family as a prime example of what this synodal Church looks like.

Bishops from all over the world gathered together in representation of their own dioceses to voice their thoughts and concerns, the result of which was the Pope’s post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

Pope Francis then pointed to the richness of the different “nuances” that came out during the discussion, explaining that “it’s unity in difference. This is synodality. Not to go down from top to bottom, but to listen to the churches, harmonize them, discern.”

Turning to Amoris Laetitia, the Pope noted how everything inside the document was approved by a two-thirds majority of the synod fathers, which is a “guarantee.”

“A synodal Church means that if from this movement is given from top to bottom, bottom to top. The same for the dioceses,” he said, but added that synodality is something the Church must still work to understand and embrace.

He pointed to the Latin phrase “cum petro et sub petro,” meaning “with Peter and under Peter,” as an example of how the local churches ought to function in the “synodal” model of the Church.  

When asked about the centenary of the First World War, Francis said the post-war insistence of “war never again” failed, and that money is currently being made off the various conflicts around the world.

“Making war is an easy way to make wealth,” he said, but cautioned that “of course, the price is very high: blood.” He pointed to current, ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Yemen, the Middle East and Africa as examples.

As he has done several times in the past, Francis insisted that war can never be justified in the name of God.

“Terrorism, war, are not related to religion. Religious deformations are used to justify” war, he said, but insisted they have nothing to do with “the essence” of religions, which “is love, unity, respect, dialogue.”

Pope Francis also some had advice for priests. When asked what he thought was most important in the life of a priest, the Pope said what came to his mind was “remember that you have a mother who loves you. Do not stop loving your mother the Virgin.”

A second point was to allow themselves to “look toward Jesus,” and to try to find “the suffering flesh of Jesus” in their brothers and sisters.

“This is where you will find Jesus. This as a foundation. Everything comes our form here,” he said, explaining that if a priest gets “unhooked” from the one who called him, which is Jesus, he will “never be able to live the Gospel.”

Francis, as he has also done in the past, said the path to follow is that of “tenderness...do not be ashamed of the cures of tenderness.”

“Caress the suffering blood of Jesus,” he said. “Today we need a revolution of tenderness in this world, which suffers from the disease of cardio-sclerosis.”

Tags: Media, Catholic News, Pope Francis, Journalists, Scandal

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