Pope Francis’ new interview: his answer about Benedict XVI and Popes Emeriti

His Holiness Pope Francis gave a substantial interview which is published simultaneously in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera and an Argentinian source.  I read it in Italian.

The interview makes it clear that there were more than one recording devices used.  Thus, unlike in the Scalfari debacle, we know what the Pope said.  That said, as I read the Italian version, I has the sense that the answers were polished up before they went to press.  That’s reasonable.

We could tease out his responses about Humane vitae and about same-sex unions, about which I have plenty to say, but I want to focus here on this question and answer, in my translation:

Relationship with your predecessor. Have you ever asked advice of Benedict XVI?

Yes. The Pope Emeritus isn’t a statue in a museum. He/it is an institution. (È una istituzione.) We weren’t used to it. Sixt or seventy years ago, the bishop emeritus didn’t exist. It came after the Council. Today he/it is an institution. The same has to happen for the Pope Emeritus. Benedict is the first and maybe there will be others. We don’t know. He is discreet, humble and doesn’t want to be a bother. We have spoken about it and we have decided that would be better that he should see people, go out and participate in the life of the Church. Once time he came here for the blessing of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel, then to lunch at Santa Marta and, after Christmas, I sent him an invitation to participate at the Consistory and he accepted. His wisdom is a gift from God. Some would have wished that he retire to a Benedictine monastery far from the Vatican. I thought of grandparents with their wisdom, their counsels give strength to families and they don’t deserve to end up in a nursing home.”

Do you recall that I opined some time ago that Pope Francis would resign at 80 years old?  I still believe that.  Sure, he might wait till 81 or 82, etc., but I predict that he will resign his office before he dies in office.

It’s a busy day for me, so the comment moderation queue is switched on.

UPDATE:

An English translation is HERE.

Pope Francis’ new interview: his answer about Benedict XVI and Popes Emeriti
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35 Responses to Pope Francis’ new interview: his answer about Benedict XVI and Popes Emeriti

  1. The_Scott says:

    Hi Father! Happy Ash Wednesday!

    Thank you for the translation. I honestly think that the more we see Benedict with Francis, or Francis talking about his predecessor, the better. Seeing the two of them more often will destroy that “fluffy Francis v. hardline Benedict” dichotomy.

    In the future, when you aren’t as busy, I would really appreciate your thoughts on why you think Francis will resign the papacy in the future. But again, that’s a discussion for another day!

  2. LeeF says:

    If you get time perhaps you could translate the portion of the interview re Cardinal Kasper. I ran it through the inexactness that is google translate. The way I understood it, is that he seemed to say that he welcomed all the advice of the cardinals and bishops, implicitly including that which differs from Church teaching. However he did not endorse such views. I would like to think he welcomes such views because one way of defining the truth is to define what it is not.

    The situation with the German episcopacy is nearly hopeless, despite the efforts of Benedict. Archbishop Ackermann of Trier gave an extensive interview in which he seems to endorse vox populi as the benchmark for moral standards.

    Hopefully the model here will be that of Cardinal Mueller and his friendship with Father Guttierez of liberation theology fame, i.e. pull out the small part that is worthwhile and acceptable (preferential option for the poor in that case), and reject the rest (Marxism/violence/class struggle). And Pope Francis maintaining contact with Benedict and encouraging his participation can only be a good thing to that end.

    If we had a more Machievellian medieval type of pontiff, we might think this was all an exercise to get the dissenters to stick their necks out for chopping :).

  3. jhayes says:

    Vatican Insider now has an English version of the whole interview

    HERE

    Francis comments on same-sex marriage and contraception

    On the question of marriage and civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. States seek to justify civil unions “to regularize different situations of living together”, pushed by the need to regularize the economic aspects between people, such as, for example, to ensure health care, he said. “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.

    When asked whether the Church would again revisit the question of birth control, some 50 years after Humanae Vitae, Francis recalled that, at the end, Paul VI “recommended that confessors should be very merciful, and be attentive to the concrete situations”. Francis praised his predecessor for being “prophetic” and for “having the courage to go against the majority, to defend the moral discipline, to exercise a cultural brake, and to oppose present and future Neo-Malthusianism.” But, he said, it is not a question of changing doctrine, rather “it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and bringing it about that the pastoral practice takes account of situations and of what is possible for persons”. This will be discussed at the synod, he added.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I have my doubts that Pope Francis will resign one day. Many cardinals publicly supported Benedict XVI’s decision (what else could they do?), but at least one anonymous cardinal told Dr. Robert Moynihan of “Inside the Vatican” magazine that “this should never have happened. He (Benedict XVI) never should have left his office…”

    http://themoynihanletters.com/from-the-desk-of/letter-41-pray-for-us

  5. Legisperitus says:

    Does this mean we’ll start to see people in St. Peter’s Square holding signs saying “Emerito Subito”?

  6. Nancy D. says:

    Please God, protect our Holy Father, Benedict.

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    I saw the AP article. I have to say that this brings me hope. In Pope Francis’ simple way, he speaks simple truths. Truly, Benedict found himself unable to take on all of the challenges of the Pope in his present condition, but what a great gesture to say that he has knowledge and is still relevant. I am humbled by the Pope’s remarks on this Ash Wednesday.

  8. anna 6 says:

    “Emerito Subito!”

    That is the funniest thing I have heard in a long time.
    Thanks Legisperitus, I needed that.

  9. mamajen says:

    I think this is a very lovely way to describe Pope Benedict’s new role, and to show in a very real way how we should value and love our elders. This made me so happy to read. Pope Francis is a wonderful person.

  10. BillyT92679 says:

    Pope Francis is very charming.

    You entertained him on occasion Father, I can imagine he must have charmed you too.

  11. majuscule says:

    Ooooh….

    Fishwrap article about this and then the comments. Don’t miss the comments…

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/francis-marks-anniversary-interview-family-women-contraception

    [Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.]

  12. “this should never have happened. He (Benedict XVI) never should have left his office…” we can speculate all day long.He did.Miss him.You bet. Pope Francis made it a little easier with his words about Benedict’s role in the Church.
    And i agree with Father Z that Francis may do the same.MAY. I think it will depend on his condition when he reaches that age.Unfortunately i don’t think Pope Francis is in the best of health now,but will likely make it-God willing-to the age Fr Z mentioned. At that point he may not be able to(physically) carry the weight of the office either. He seems to have breathing problems and there is definitely something about his gait that tells me there is more going on there than meets the eye.I really believe Father Z is right. I now doubt all our Popes will stay until their dying day like Blessed John Paul and others. Some will,some won’t but it will definitely be a possibility now. (Opinion ONLY.feel free to disagree)

  13. McCall1981 says:

    Here is an English translation of the full interview:

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/transcript-pope-francis-march-5-interview-with-corriere-della-sera/

    Here is the full passgae in question:

    Interviewer: “Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?”

    Pope Francis: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

  14. OrthodoxChick says:

    If Pope Francis resigns before reaching age 80 and P.E. Benedict is still living, that would make for an interesting scenario of 2 living pope emeritii. At this point, very little would surprise me.

  15. Johnno says:

    So we should expect that sometime in the future we’ll see three ‘Popes’ walking around smiling together… I’m sure that will go down well…

  16. Louis Tully says:

    Sonshine135: Before you go getting too hopeful: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/05/pope-francis-church-could-support-civil-unions/

    The media is absolutely determined to forge a virtual Francis in their own image.

  17. wolfeken says:

    Louis Tully — Did “the media” say this concerning the establishment of homosexual civil unions?: “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.

    At some point we need to stop blaming “the media” for directly quoting the words spoken each and every day by Pope Francis.

  18. MaryL says:

    I thought of grandparents with their wisdom, their counsels give strength to families and they don’t deserve to end up in a nursing home.”
    I love Pope Francis.

  19. anna 6 says:

    I won’t lie that when I hear that Pope Francis has done another interview, I get a pit in my stomach.

    Are the media going to distort what he said to make it sound as if he is changing what the Church teaches? (yes).

    Am I going to have to explain some of the confusing aftermath to my kids?

    Am I going to end up in uncomfortable conversations with friends and relatives?

    I realize that I am being selfish, and perhaps even childish, but these are becoming a spiritual burden for me. I wish that I could be like some readers here who relish the opportunity for yet another “teachable moment”, but the weak person that I am is becoming disturbed and burdened by these media storms.

  20. anna 6 says:

    I should add that I am so grateful for Fr. Z’s explanations, clarifications and encouragement. THis blog has been a lifeline for me over the past 12 months.

  21. McCall1981 says:

    Apparently another “clarification” has come from the Papal spokesman on the Pope’s civil union comments. He was not “referring specifically to same-sex couples”, but was referring to the wide variety of co-habitation/living situations.

  22. kpoterack says:

    Boxerpaws1952:
    “Unfortunately i don’t think Pope Francis is in the best of health now, . . . . He seems to have breathing problems and there is definitely something about his gait that tells me there is more going on there than meets the eye.”

    KP: I can’t speak to the gait, but when I was in Rome on June 30th of last year he didn’t sound good to me. I swear, almost every second sentence of his homily in St. Peter’s began to fade (as he ran out of breath) and then you would hear him take a big breath before he continued. At the time I just assumed that it was because of the one lung, and that he has managed this way for decades. But this plus other maladies, responsibilities, etc. I do wonder.

  23. Gerard Plourde says:

    It’s truly a gift to the Church that Pope Francis recognizes the value of having recourse to Pope Emeritus Benedict’s wisdom. The constant care of God for his Church through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has again been made manifest by the election of Pope Francis.

  24. CrimsonCatholic says:

    @wolfeken

    Did you read the entire transcript? Do you know the context of that quote? The Pope wasn’t speaking about homosexual “unions” or anything of the sort. In fact, at the beginning of the quote he said marriage is between one man and one woman. He never endorsed anything beyond that, but from the question and context it implies that he is speaking about the divorced and remarried.

  25. Lori Pieper says:

    I find these words of Pope Francis heartening. I think that when Benedict resigned, he laid a heavy burden on himself; he felt that the only way he could justify resigning is if he spent the rest of his life locked away, that he couldn’t return among the living, as it were. This was my sense of the things he said at the time. I’m glad that Francis apparently persuaded him otherwise, if for no other reason than we will get to see Benedict more often and know he is well. He still has his life of prayer, but which he is supporting the Church, and he is faithful to that. But there is perhaps still more good that he can do. May his heart be at peace always.

  26. Gerard Plourde says:

    @CrimsonCatholic

    I agree that the quote wolfeken cites refers to divorced and remarried persons. But he did address the question of the contractual aspects of secular marriage or its equivalent, civil unions. Speaking to the question of marriage, one of the difficulties I have is the American hierarchy’s apparent insistence that marriage in either the civil or the Protestant sense is somehow equivalent to the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony. It is clearly not. I’m not sure how this position came about, but it is my firm belief that by making this false equivalency they unwittingly demean the Sacrament and cause more confusion than if they allowed the state to regulate the ownership and distribution of material goods between persons who have entered into a contractual relationship that can be terminated at the initiative of either or both parties (which most accurately describes the nature of civil marriage).

  27. Sonshine135 says:

    @Louis Tully
    I still have hope. Do not fall into the typical Catholic trap set by the media. The Pope actually articulated something I had though about for quite awhile. This would be better left, however, for a different blog post. Suffice it to say, we sometimes fall into the trap that two men or two women together are homosexual without realizing that two men or two women who are living together may be doing so out of convenience and not necessarily out of sexual attraction for each other. If they live together as room mates, without romantic intentions, to share the bills, and respect each other’s privacy, are they living in sin or is it now more or less like a contract? I actually have real life examples where this has occurred.

    Again, a topic worthy of its own discussion.

  28. LeeF says:

    @Gerard,

    In Catholic theology (though not in the Orthodox Church), the persons getting married are the ministers of the sacrament, not the priest. This is why is easy, barring previous marriages or other such impediments, to regularize a previous civil marriage by merely asking the spouses if they are each other’s spouse. And to my understanding this can be done by only one spouse to regularize his/her own situation when the other does not care or objects [someone correct me if this is wrong please].

  29. McCall1981 says:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-gives-new-interview-to-secular-newspaper

    “On behalf of the Vatican, Fr. Thomas Rosica released the following statement regarding certain interpretations of the interview:
    “There have been numerous questions, calls and messages throughout the day today regarding Pope Francis’ recent interview in the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, particularly referring to the section on marriage and civil unions. Some journalists have interpreted the Pope’s words in the interview to reflect an openness on the part of the Church to civil unions. Others have interpreted his words to be addressing the question of same-sex marriage. I have consulted with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, throughout the afternoon and have prepared the following notes on Pope Francis’ interview.

    [It is important to understand here that “civil unions” in Italy refer to people who are married by the state, outside of a religious context.]

    Journalists have asked if the Pope was referring specifically to gay civil unions in the above response. The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions. In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.

    By responding in this way, Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union. Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage.

    We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words that what has been stated in very general terms.”

  30. @ anna 6
    I feel exactly the same. Thank you for describing it so well. Putting words on it helps a lot.
    I won’t lie that when I hear that Pope Francis has done another interview, I get a pit in my stomach.
    Are the media going to distort what he said to make it sound as if he is changing what the Church teaches? (yes).
    Am I going to have to explain some of the confusing aftermath to my kids?
    Am I going to end up in uncomfortable conversations with friends and relatives?
    I realize that I am being selfish, and perhaps even childish, but these are becoming a spiritual burden for me. I wish that I could be like some readers here who relish the opportunity for yet another “teachable moment”, but the weak person that I am is becoming disturbed and burdened by these media storms.
    I should add that I am so grateful for Fr. Z’s explanations, clarifications and encouragement.

  31. St. Corbinian's Bear says:

    This Bear is giving up interviews by Pope Francis for Lent. Whatever purpose they have, they are certain to cause confusion. Let something actually be done, and then I’ll pay attention. Until then, instead of reading interviews and about interviews, I’ll pray for the Holy Father and his intentions.

  32. heracletian says:

    One of the best things I’ve read in explaining Humanae Vitae within the authentic development of Catholic doctrine is Elizabeth Anscombe’s Contraception and Chastity. In conclusion, she says

    Thus Paul confirmed the only doctrine which had ever appeared as the teaching of the Church on these things; and in so doing incurred the execration of the world. But Athenagoras, the Ecumenical Patriarch, who has the primacy of the Orthodox Church, immediately spoke up and confirmed that this was Christian teaching, the only possible Christian teaching.

    I personally was heartened by Pope Francis’ succinct and strong affirmation of Paul VI and his courageous (and, of course, authentic) doctrine.

  33. I don’t know why but I feel a sense of safety and calm knowing that P.E. Benedict is at least occasionally advising pope Francis. Perhaps that isn’t fair to the pope but it sure makes sense to me to go to the only other living human being who has ever had that job for advice once in a while. If the US political system weren’t so broken (article 5 anyone) it would be nice to see ‘retired’ presidents act in a similar fashion. Leave it to the Church to get something right the first time (sorta) out and set the real example for the rest of the world.

  34. Mr. Green says:

    Wolfeken: At some point we need to stop blaming “the media” for directly quoting the words spoken each and every day by Pope Francis.

    No, actually, we don’t. “Direct quotations” can misrepresent someone just as surely as a paraphrase. If the media in general understood the things it reports and was sincerely concerned with accuracy, there would not be near as much trouble.

    I’ll leave you with a direct quotation from the Bible:
    “There is no God.”