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Pope Francis on celibacy, child abusers, same-sex unions, secularism, and traditionalists

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Excerpts from 'Politics and Society,' a new book-length interview with the Holy Father.

Here is another selection of excerpts from Politics and Society, a new book-length interview with Pope Francis, in which the pope deals with some of the hot-button issues of our day.

Pope Francis sat down for 20 conversations with French journalist Dominique Wolton for a book-length interview that will be released in French on Wednesday. The 432-page volume is titled  Politique et société : un dialogue inédit, or Politics and Society: Conversations with Dominique Wolton.

Wolton conducted the interview sessions over the span of two years, the first time that the pope has given such a lengthy amount of time to a project like this.

Wolton is a sociologist and the director of France’s National Institute of Communication Science (l’Institut des sciences de la communication), known for a book-length interview with the former archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger.

The French periodical Le Figaro has published some excerpts of the book; Aleteia offers you a provisional translation of some of these.

Choosing chastity

—Pope Francis: To renounce sexuality and choose a path of chastity or virginity implies a whole life of consecration. What is the condition without which this path disintegrates? It is that this path must bring one to spiritual paternity or maternity.

One of the ills of the Church is the [problem of] “bachelor” priests and “single” religious, because they are full of bitterness. On the contrary, those who have reached this spiritual paternity, either through a parish, or a school or hospital, are fine. … The same thing happens with women religious, since they are “mothers.” … It is a voluntary renunciation.

Virginity, either masculine or feminine, is a monastic tradition that existed before Catholicism. It is a human search: renunciation in order to seek God in his origin, through contemplation. But this renunciation should be a fecund renunciation, that maintains a type of fecundity different than carnal fecundity or sexual fecundity.

Also in the Church, there are married priests. There are Eastern married priests. But the renunciation of matrimony for the Kingdom of God is a value in itself. It means renouncing something in order to place oneself in service, to contemplate better.

If a priest is an abuser, he is sick

—Pope Francis: […] Before, the priest was moved, but the problem just relocated with him. The current policy is what Benedict XVI and I have applied through the Commission for the Protection of Minors, created two years ago here in the Vatican: defending all youth. It’s about confronting the problem. Mother Church teaches how to prevent abuse, and how to enable a child to speak about it, to tell the truth to his parents, and to be forthcoming about what has happened.

It is an edifying journey. The Church should not take up a defensive position. If a priest is an abuser, he is someone who is sick. Of every four abusers, two of them have been abused as children. These are the statistics from the psychiatrists.

Marriage is between a man and a woman

—Pope Francis: What can we think of marriage between people of the same sex? “Matrimony” is a historical word. Always, in humanity, and not just in the Church, it was a man and a woman. It’s not possible to change it just like that […] It’s not possible to change it. It is part of nature. That’s how it is. Let us call it, then, “civil unions.” Let us not play with truths.

It’s true that behind all this we find gender ideology. In books, kids learn that it’s possible to change one’s sex. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature? This leads to this error.

Let us call things by their names. Matrimony is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Let us call the same-sex union a “civil union.”

Traditionalist ideology

— Pope Francis: How does tradition grow? It grows like a person grows: with dialogue, just like what happens to a child when he is nursed. Dialogue with the world that surrounds us. Dialogue brings growth. If we don’t dialogue, it’s not possible to grow; a person stays closed in, small, dwarfed. I cannot progress with earmuffs; I have to see and dialogue. Dialogue permits growth and makes tradition grow. To dialogue and to listen to another opinion can, as in the case of the death penalty, of torture, of slavery, change my point of view. Without changing doctrine. Doctrine has grown with comprehension. This is the base of tradition […]

On the contrary, traditionalist ideology has a faith like this [the pope makes a gesture of putting on earmuffs]. “The benediction should be done like this. In Mass, fingers should be like this, with gloves, like before …” What Vatican II has done with the liturgy has been something truly grand, because it has opened worship of God to the people. Now the people participate.

Religions aren’t subcultures

—Pope Francis: The secular state is something healthy. There is a healthy secularism. Jesus said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. All of us are equal before God. But I think that in some countries, like in France, this secularism has a tone inherited from the Enlightenment, which is very strong; it creates a collective imagination where religions are seen as a subculture. I think that France — in my personal opinion; this is not the opinion of the Church — should “elevate” the level of secularism a bit, in the sense that it should say that religions also form part of the culture.

How can this be expressed in a secular manner? Through openness to the transcendent. Each individual can find his form of openness. In French heritage, the Enlightenment has too much weight. I understand this heritage from history, but the work of broadening must be done. There are governments, Christian and non-Christian, that do not accept secularism.

What does it mean for a lay state to be “open to the transcendent”? That religions form part of the culture; that they are not subcultures. It’s ridiculous to say that one can’t wear a crucifix that’s visible hanging around your neck, or that women shouldn’t wear this or that. Because both one and the other represent a culture. One wears a crucifix, another wears something else, the rabbi wears the kippah, the pope a zucchetto (laughs) … this is healthy secularism!

Vatican II explains this well, with a lot of clarity. I think that exaggerations arise on these issues, in particular when secularism is placed above religions. So then religions aren’t part of culture? They’re subcultures?

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