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Vatican questions accuracy of new newspaper interview with Pope Francis

July 14, 2014

The director of the Holy See Press Office has issued a statement questioning the accuracy of statements attributed to Pope Francis in the July 13 edition of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

On July 10, Pope Francis spoke with 90-year-old journalist Eugenio Scalfari for an hour, and the conversation reportedly touched on pedophilia, the Mafia, and priestly celibacy. In October, the newspaper published what appeared to be a transcript of an earlier interview between Scalfari and the Pope; Scalfari later said that he had reconstructed the Pope’s comments from memory.

“Many of my collaborators who fight with me reassure me with reliable statistics that say that the level of pedophilia in the Church is at about 2%,” Pope Francis reportedly said in the new interview. “This data should hearten me, but I have to tell you that it does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave.”

“Even we have this leprosy in our house,” the Pope reportedly added; “even bishops and cardinals” are pedophiles. “And others, more numerous, know but keep silent.”

On priestly celibacy, the Pope was quoted as saying, “Maybe you do not know that celibacy was established in the 10th century, that is, 900 years after the death of our Lord.” After referring to married Eastern Catholic priests, the Pope reportedly said that “the problem [of celibacy] certainly exists, but it is not of great extent … There are solutions and I will find them.”

Following the publication of the new report, Father Federico Lombardi issued the following statement:

In the Sunday edition of La Repubblica an article by Eugenio Scalfari was prominently featured relating a recent conversation that took place with Pope Francis. The conversation was very cordial and most interesting and touched principally upon the themes of the plague of sexual abuse of minors and the Church’s attitude toward the Mafia.

However, as it happened in a previous, similar circumstance, it is important to notice that that words that Mr. Scalfari attributes to the Pope, “in quotations” come from the expert journalist Scalfari’s own memory of what the Pope said and is not an exact transcription of a recording nor a review of such a transcript by the Pope himself to whom the words are attributed.

We should not or must not speak in any way, shape or form of an interview in the normal use of the word, as if there had been a series of questions and answers that faithfully and exactly reflect the precise thoughts of the one being interviewed.

It is safe to say, however that the overall theme of the article captures the spirit of the conversation between the Holy Father and Mr. Scalfari while at the same time strongly restating what was said about the previous “interview” that appeared in La Repubblica: the individual expressions that were used and the manner in which they have been reported, cannot be attributed to the Pope.

Let me state two particular examples. We must take into consideration two affirmations that have drawn much attention and that are not attributed to the Pope. The first is that among pedophiles are also “some cardinals”; and the second regarding celibacy: “I will find solutions.”

In the article published in La Repubblica, these two affirmations are clearly attributed to the Pope but curiously, the quotations were opened at the beginning but were not closed at the end. We must ask ourselves why the the final quotations are not present: is this an omission or explicit recognition that this is an attempt to manipulate some naïve readers?


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 16, 2014 11:42 AM ET USA

    "Maybe you do not know that celibacy was established in the 10th century." Huh? What about the Council (or Synod) of Elvira (I think that Denzinger renders it "Illiberi") circa AD 300? Canon 33: "Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and others with a position in the ministry are to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives and from the procreation of children. If anyone disobeys, he shall be removed from the clerical office." Scalfari's knowledge of Catholicism is shallow at best.

  • Posted by: normnuke - Jul. 14, 2014 10:34 PM ET USA

    'News stories' coming from Italian sources should be regarded as having the same relationship to truth as a Pizza has to a simple salad.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2014 8:28 PM ET USA

    This is the second time Pope Francis has been interviewed by Scalfari. The first one was also inaccurate but the Pope decided to do another one with him? The first interview was eventually pulled from the Vatican website but now, again? Is this some new PR method? You do something foolish - twice - and then discredit the person who reports it? Somehow I am not getting this.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jul. 14, 2014 6:57 PM ET USA

    If the Pope has decided to communicate in this way, then the least the Holy See Press Office could do is to make sure that when he speaks to anyone who is not obligated by law or custom to secrecy is to have what the Holy Father says recorded by the Holy See Press Office.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2014 6:22 PM ET USA

    How many more of there erroneous interviews with Scalfari are we going to be subjected to? What exactly is the Holy Father trying to achieve by submitting to questions from a "journalist" who then blatantly misquotes him? This does not seem to be very serious engagement with secular interlocutors.