Rorate Caeli

For the record: The new papal interview [Updated]

The full article, with comments and circumstances, is available at La Nación, Argentina's oldest daily. Below, just the excerpt containing the published portion of the interview itself:
-The first Latin American Pope, that is a great honour for all Latin America. What do you expect from Latin America?
-Latin America has been walking a path for some time now, since the first CELAM meeting. Monsignor Larraín, the first CELAM President, gave it great momentum. First came the Río conference, then Medellín, and then Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida. The Latin American Episcopate paved the way with these milestones. It did so as a collective body, with different methodologies. At first it went about it shyly. Now this 50-year path can certainly not be ignored because it means building awareness in the Latin American Church and maturing in faith. Walking this road has also aroused great interest in studying the Guadalupe message. The amount of studies of the Virgin of Guadalupe, of her image, her mixed ancestries, of Nican Mopoua, is amazing, constituting fundamental theology. This is why, when we celebrate the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, on December 12, as well as the 50th. anniversary of Misa Criolla, we are celebrating the road walked by the Latin American Church.
-A recent survey (Pew) confirmed that, despite the "Francis effect", Catholics still keep leaving the Church.
-I am familiar with the figures disclosed at Aparecida, it´s the only information I have. There are evidently several factors of influence, independent of the Church. The theology of prosperity, for instance, just to quote an example, has inspired many religious propositions which people feel attracted to. These people, however, end up in the middle. But let´s leave out factors which are external to the Church. I wonder about ourselves, what is it that we ourselves do, what is within the Church that makes the faithful unhappy? It´s that people don´t feel we are close enough, it´s clericalism. Today , to be close means to reach out to Catholics, to seek people out and be close to them, to sympathize with their problems, with their reality. Clericalism, as I told the CELAM bishops in Río de Janeiro, stopped laypersons from maturing. Precisely, laypersons are more mature in Latin America when they express popular piety. Clericalism was always an issue for lay organizations. I spoke of it in Evangelii Gaudium.
- Does the renovation of the Church which you have been calling upon since you were elected, and precisely in Evangelii Gaudium, also target staryed sheep and stopping the faithful from dropping out?
- I don´t like the "dropping out" image because it is all to close to proselytism. I don´t like to use terms connected with proselytism because that´s not the truth. I like to use the image of the field hospital: some people are very much injured and are waiting for us to heal their wounds, they are injured for a thousand reasons. We must reach out to them and heal their wounds.
- Is that, then, the strategy to recover those that have left?
- I don´t like the word "strategy", I´d much rather speak about the Lord´s pastoral call, otherwise it sounds like an NGO. It´s the Lord´s call, what the Church is asking from us today, not as a strategy, because the Church isn´t into proselytism. The Church doesn´t want to engage in proselytism because the Church does not grow on proselytism, it grows on attraction, as Benedict said. The Church needs to be a field hospital and we need to set out to heal wounds, just as the good Samaritan did. Some people´s wounds result from neglect, others are wounded because they have been forsaken by the Church itself, some people are suffering terribly.
- As a Pope you are different because you speak with utmost clarity, you are completely straightforward, you don´t use euphemisms and don´t beat about the bush, the course of your papacy is extremely clear. Why do you think some sectors are disoriented, why do they say the ship is without a rudder, especially after the latest extraordinary synod of bishops on the challenges posed by the family?
- Those expressions strike me as odd. I am not aware of anybody using them. The media quote them. However, until I can ask the people involved "have you said this?" I will have brotherly doubts. In general people don´t read about what is going on. Somebody did say to me once, "Of course, of course. Insight is so good for us but we need clearer things". And I answered, "Look, I wrote an encyclical, true enough, it was a big job, and an Apostolic Exhortation, I´m permanently making statements, giving homilies; that´s teaching. That´s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out, it´s very clear. Evangelii Gaudium is very clear".
- Some of the media have mentioned that the "honeymoon is over" on account of the divisions that surfaced during the synod...
- It wasn´t a division against the Pope, that is, the Pope was no benchmark. Because the Pope tried to get the ball rolling and to listen to everybody. The fact that in the end my address was accepted with such enthusiasm by the synod fathers shows that the Pope is not the issue, but rather the different pastoral positions are.
- Whenever the statu quo changes, which is what happened when you were elected pope, it´s normal to find resistance. Some 20 months later, the resistance seems to have become more evident.
- You said it. Resistance is now evident. And that is a good sign for me, getting the resistance out into the open, no stealthy mumbling when there id disagreement. It´s healthy to get things out into the open, it´s very healthy.
- Do you believe resistance is connected with your cleansing efforts, with the in-house restructuring of the Roman Curia?
-To me, resistance means different points of view, not something dirty. It is connected to some decisions I may occasionally take, I will concede that. Of course, some decisions are more of the economic type, and others are more pastoral..
- Are you worried?
- No, I am not worried. It all seems normal to me, if there were no difference of opinions, that wouldn´t be normal.
- Is the cleansing over, or is it still going on?
- I don´t like to speak about cleansing. I´d rather speak of getting the Curia going in the direction identified by the general congregations (pre-conclave meetings). No, there´s still a long way to go. A long way, a long way. You see, in pre-conclave meetings, as cardinals we have demanded lots of things which we should certainly not forsake.
- What you found in the cleansing process, is it worse than you expected?
- In the first place, I expected nothing. I expected to go back to Buenos Aires (laughter). And after that, well, I don´t know. You see, God is good to me, he´s bestowed on me a healthy dose of unawareness. I just do what I have to do".
-¿And how are things going at present?
-As everybody knows, it´s all public. The IOR (the Institute for Religious Works) is operating beautifully, we did quite a good job there. The economy is doing well. And the spiritual reform is my great concern right now, to change people´s hearts. I`m writing my Christmas address for the members of the Curia, I´m looking forward to two Christmas addresses, one for curia prelates and the other one for all the Vatican staff, with all our assistants, in the Paul VI room, with their families, because it´s they that keep their nose to the grindstone. Spiritual exercises for prefects and secretaries are a step ahead. It is a step ahead to stay six days locked in, praying; just as we did last year, we´ll do it again the first week of Lent. We´ll be staying at the same house.
- The G9 will be meeting again next week, the group of 9 consultant cardinals that are helping you with the reform process of the Curia and the universal church governance. Will the famous Church reform be ready by 2015?
- No, it´s a slow process. The other day we got together with the Dicastery heads and submitted the proposal of joining Laypersons, Family, Justice and Peace Dicasteries. We discussed it all, each one of us said what he thought. Now it will be forwarded back to the G9. You know, reforming the Curia will take a long time, this is the most complex part..
- That means it won´t be ready by 2015?
- No. We´re tackling it little by little.
- Is it true that a couple might be the head of this new dicastery, that you mightjoin the Laypersons, Family and Justice and Peace Pontifical Councils?
- Perhaps, I don´t really know. The heads of the dicasteries or of the secretariat shall be the fittest, whether man or woman, or even a couple...
- And not necessarily a cardinal or a bishop...
- The head of a dicastery such as the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, the liturgical dicastery or the new dicastery encompassing Laymen, Family and Justice and Peace will always be a cardinal. This is best because dicasteries are very close to the Pope. But dicastery secretaries do not necessarily have to be bishops because a problem we have is when we have to change a bishop-secretary, where do we send him? We need to find a dioceses, but sometimes they are not fit for one, they´re good at the other job. I´ve only appointed two bishop secretaries: the Governorate secretary, who thus more or less became the parish priest of all this, and the secretary general of the synod of bishops, for episcopalism.
- It was an intense year, with many significant trips, the extraordinary synod, the prayer for peace in the Middle East in the Vatican gardens. What stands out as the best moment and what as the worst?
- I wouldn´t know. Every moment has something good and something not quite as good, isn´t that so? (silence). For instance, the meeting with the grandparents, the elderly, there was amazing beauty in that.
- Benedict was there as well...
- I enjoyed that ocasion very much, but that doesn´t make it the best because I actually enjoyed them all. I really don´t know, I wouldn´t know what to say, I never thought of that.
- And about being Pope, what do you like the most and what least of all?
- You know. and this is the absolute truth, this is something I actually want to say. Before I came over here I was in the process of retiring. That is to say, I had agreed with the nuncio that when I got back to Buenos Aires we would be putting together a short list of three candidates so that by last year end the new archbishop might take over. That is to say, my mind was focused on the confessionals of the churches where I would be hearing confession. I even had the project of spending two or three days in Luján and the rest of my time in Buenos Aires, because Luján means so much to me and the confessions there are a grace. When I came here I had to start all over again, all this was new. From the start I said to myself: "Jorge, don´t change, just keep on being yourself, because to change at your age would be to make a fool of yourself". That´s why I´ve always kept on doing what I used to do in Buenos Aires. Perhaps even making my old mistakes. But I prefer it like this, to be myself. That evidently caused some changes in the protocols, not in the official protocols because I´m very careful about abiding by them. The thing is that I am who I am even where protocols are concerned, just as I was myself in Buenos Aires. You can see why "not changing" suited me so well.
- When you came back from South Korea somebody asked you a question and you answered that you were hoping to "go to the Father´s house" and many people were worried about your health, they thought that you might not be well or something of the sort. How are you? You look so well..
- I do have some aches and pains, and at my age ailments don´t go unnoticed. But I am in God´s hands, up to now I have been able to work steadily.
- A conservative sector in the US thinks that you removed the North American cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura because he was the leader of a group that resisted changes of any type in the synod of bishops.. Is it true?
- One day Cardinal Burke asked me what he would be doing as he had still not been confirmed in his position, in the legal sector, but rather had been confirmed "donec alitur provideatur". And I answered "Give me some time because we are thinking of a legal restructuring of the G9". I told him nothing had been done about it yet and that it was being considered. After that the issue of the Order of Malta cropped up and we needed a smart American who would know how to get around and I thought of him for that position. I suggested this to him long before the synod. I said to him "This will take place after the synod because I want you to participate in the synod as Dicastery Head". As the chaplain of Malta he wouldn´t have been able to be present. He thanked me in very good terms and accepted my offer, I even think he liked it. Because he is a man that gets around a lot, he does a lot of travelling and would surely be busy there. It is therefore not true that I removed him because of how he had behaved in the synod.
- Last question: do you have plans for your 78th. birthday next December 17? Will you celebrate it with the barboni (the homeless) once again as you did last year?
- I did not invite the "barboni", they were brought in by the charitable, and it was a good idea, wasn´t it? That´s where the myth started, that I had had breakfast with the "barboni". You see, I had breakfast with all the staff of the house and the "barboni" were present. This is part of all the fantasies that people make up about me. It´s the same as with the days when there is no mass in the chapel because it´s Wednesday, the day of the general audience. That day we will all have lunch together, with all the staff. It will be just another day to me, pretty much like any other one.
[UPDATE: Second and most important part of La Nación's English translation:]
- The recent extraordinary synod of bishops on the family allowed two different visions of the Church to surface, one sector open to debate and the other one refusing to hear anything about it. Is this the case, what do you think?

- I wouldn´t say that´s quite so... True enough, if you wish to simplify in order to explain things, we might say that there were a few more on this side, or on the other side. What we benefitted from was the synodal process, which is no parliamentarian process but rather a protected space where the Holy Spirit may endeavour. Two clear qualities are needed: courage to speak and humbleness to listen. And that worked very well. There are, indeed, positions more inclined this way or that way, but in the pursuit of truth. You could ask me "are there any that are completely stubborn and won´t move from their positions?". Yes, there surely are. But that is not my concern. It´s a question of praying for the Holy Spirit to convert them, if any. The prevailing feeling was a brotherly one, trying to find a way to tackle the family´s pastoral issues. The family is so beaten up, young people don´t get married. What´s the problem? When they finally come to get married, having already moved in together, we think it´s enough to offer them three talks to get them ready for marriage. But it´s not enough because the great majority are unaware of the meaning of a lifetime commitment. Benedict said it twice in his last year, that we should takethis into account in order to grant nullity, each person´s faith at the time of getting married. Was it something general, though understanding perfectly well what marriage is about, understanding it enough to convey it to another person? That´s something we need to look into in depth, to analyse how wecan help...

A few days ago, a couple who are living together came to tell me that they were getting married. I said: "Good. Are you ready for it?" And their answer was: "Yes, now we are looking for a church which suits my dress best", the girl said. "Yes, right now we´re in the middle of all the preparations -the invitations, souvenirs and all the rest", the boy echoed. "There´s also the issue of the party, we cannot make up our minds because we don´t want the reception to be hosted too far from the church. And then there´s the other issue, our best man and maid of honour are divorced, same as my parents, so we can´t have both of them together". All these issues are about the ceremony! Indeed, getting married should be celebrated, because you need courage to get married and that should be commended. However, neither of them made any comment at all on what this meant to them, the fact that it was a lifetime commitment. What do I mean? That for a great many people getting married is just a social event. The religious element doesn´t surface in the least. So how can the church step in and help? If they are not ready, do we slam the door in their face? It is no minor issue.

- Conservative sectors, specially in the United States, fear that the traditional doctrine will collapse, they say the synod caused confusion because though it did mention the "positive nuances" of living together, and gay couples were mentioned in the draft, although the bishops then backed off..

- The synod was a process; the opinion of a synodal father was just that, the opinion of a synodal father; and a first draft was merely a first draft meant to record it all. Nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod, it did not cross our minds. What we did talk about was of how a family with a homosexual child, whether a son or a daughter, goes about educating that child, how the family bears up, how to help that family to deal with that somewhat unusual situation. That is to say, the synod addressed the family and the homosexual persons in relation to their families, because we come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter. That´s what the synod addressed. That´s why someone mentioned positive factors in the first draft. But this was just a draft.

- Some people fear that the traditional doctrine shall collapse...

- You know, some people are always afraid because they don´t read things properly, or they read some news in a newspaper, an article, and they don´t read what the synod decided, what was published. What was worthwhile about the synod? The post synodal connection and the Pope`s address. That is definitive, but it will eventually become relative and provisional, turning into a "guideline" for the next synod. I think some fathers made a mistake when they talked to the media. We decided that each one of us would grant as many interviews as he liked, with total freedom, no censorship was imposed. We chose transparency. Why did we choose briefings or not? For two reasons: in the first place because written presentations were handed over first and we might find something in them, or nothing at all, or they changed things and thus were not the real thing. In the second place, to protect that person. And this is what really matters to me. If this were a Parliament, we would have to account to our principal, i.e. the local church. But this is not a Parliament and this man must be free to speak up without having to keep anything to himself, though nobody needs to know that he said this or the other. Disclosing what was said is OK, that´s why in the briefing we explained that we had said this, that or the other. Different bishops who had different approaches, but we will all move on together. We had to protect our work so that the Holy Spirit might move forward. I am not afraid.

- Afraid of what?

In the case of divorcees who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we allow them to open? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to Communion? Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration
- Afraid of following this trail, the road of the synod. I am not afraid because it is the road that God has asked us to follow. More so, the Pope is the ultimate guarantor, the Pope is there to care for the process. We must move forward. In my last address I said something interesting, I pointed out that we had not addressed any part of the doctrine of the Church concerning marriage. In the case of divorcees who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we allow them to open? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to Communion? Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration. They have not been excommunicated, true. But they cannot be godfathers to any child being baptized, mass readings are not for divorcees, they cannot give communion, they cannot teach Sunday school, there are about seven things that they cannot do, I have the list over there. Come on! If I disclose any of this it will seem that they have been excommunicated in fact! Thus, let us open the doors a bit more. Why cant they be godfathers and godmothers? "No, no, no, what testimony will they be giving their godson?". The testimony of a man and a woman saying "my dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me, I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on". Anything more Christian than that? And what if one of the political crooks among us, corrupt people, ate chosen to be somebody´s godfather. If they are properly wedded by the Church, would we accept them? What kind of testimony will they give to their godson? A testimony of corruption? Things need to change, our standards need to change.

- What do you think about the solution put forward by the German cardinal Walter Kasper?

- Kasper´s address to the cardinals last February included five chapters, four of them are a jewel, about the purpose of marriage, open, in depth. The fifth is the question of what do we do with divorcees who have remarried; they are part of our congregation after all. Kasper´s hypothesis is not his own. Let´s look into that. What happened? Some theologians feared such assumptions and that is keeping our heads down. Kasper urged us to seek hypothesis, i.e., he made the first move. And some panicked. And went as far as to say: Communion, never. Only spiritual Communion. And tell me, don´t we need the grace of God to receive spiritual communion? That´s why spiritual communion obtained the fewest votes in the relatio synodi, because nobody was in agreement. Those for it, because there´s not much to it, voted against it; and those who are not for it and would rather go for the other one, because it´s not worth it..

(Source, in Spanish, via La Nación's own English translation - 2nd part here. We removed only some Spanish inverted question marks, ¿, that had inadvertently been left in the translation.)