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In new book, pope discusses traditional marriage, sins of the flesh, psychoanalysis

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — By virtue of its very definition, marriage can only be between a man and a woman, Pope Francis said in a new book-length interview.

“We cannot change it. This is the nature of things,” not just in the church, but in human history, he said in a series of interviews with Dominique Wolton, a 70-year-old French sociologist and expert in media and political communication.

Pope Francis (CNS file/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Published in French, the 417-page book, “Politique et Societe” (“Politics and Society”) was to be released Sept. 6. Catholic News Service obtained an advance copy, and excerpts appeared online.

When it comes to the true nature of marriage as well as gender, there is “critical confusion at the moment,” the pope said.

When asked about marriage for same-sex couples, the pope said, “Let’s call this ‘civil unions.’ We do not joke around with truth.”

Teaching children that they can choose their gender, he said, also plays a part in fostering such mistakes about the truth or facts of nature.

The pope said he wondered whether these new ideas about gender and marriage were somehow based on a fear of differences, and he encouraged researchers to study the subject.

Absolution after abortion

Pope Francis also said his decision to give all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion was not mean to trivialize this serious and grave sin.

Abortion continues to be “murder of an innocent person. But if there is sin, forgiveness must be facilitated,” he said. So often a woman who never forgets her aborted child “cries for years without having the courage to go see a priest.”

“Do you have any idea the number of people who can finally breathe?” he asked, adding how important it was these women can find the Lord’s forgiveness and never commit this sin again.

Pope Francis said the biggest threat in the world is money. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus talked about people’s love and loyalty being torn between two things, he didn’t say it was between “your wife or God,” it was choosing between God or money.

“It’s clear. They are two things opposed to each other,” he said.

When asked why people do not listen to this message even though it has been clearly condemned by the church since the time of the Gospels, the pope said it is because some people prefer to speak only about morality.

“There is a great danger for preachers, lecturers, to fall into mediocrity,” which is condemning only those forms of immorality that fall “below the belt,” he said.

Sins of the flesh

“But the other sins that are the most serious: hatred, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking away a life … these are really not talked about that much,” he said.

“The most minor sins are the sins of the flesh,” he said, because the flesh is weak. “The most dangerous sins are those of the mind,” and confessors should spend more time asking if a person prays, reads the Gospel and seeks the Lord.

One temptation the church has always been vulnerable to, the pope said, is being defensive because it is scared.

“Where in the Gospels does the Lord say that we need to seek security? Instead he said, ‘Risk, go ahead, forgive and evangelize.’”

Another temptation, he said, is to seek uniformity with rules, for example, in the debate concerning his apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia.”

“When I talk about families in difficulty, I say, ‘Welcome, accompany, discern, integrate …’ and then everyone will see the doors open. In reality, what happens is you hear people say, ‘They cannot receive Communion.’ ‘They cannot do this and that.’”

That temptation of the church to emphasize “no, no and no” and what is prohibited is the same “drama Jesus (experienced) with the Pharisees.”

‘Fundamentalist mindset’

This closed, fundamentalist mindset like Jesus faced is “the battle I lead today with the exhortation.”

Jesus followed “another logic” that went beyond prohibitions as he did not adhere to customs, like not touching lepers and stoning adulterers, that had become like commandments, he said.

Church leaders are used to “frozen norms” and “fixed standards,” but when they ask, ‘“Can we give Communion to divorcees?’ I reply, ‘Speak with the divorced man and woman, welcome, accompany, integrate and discern,’ which opens a path and a way of communication to lead people to Christ.”

Encountering Christ is what leads people onto a path of living a moral life, he said.

When asked about the church’s “just-war” theory, the pope said the issue should be looked into because “no war is just. The only just thing is peace.”

Concerning the persecution of Christians, particularly in the East, and the question of why God would allow such tragedy, the pope said, “I do not know where God is, but I know where man is in this situation. Men make weapons and sell them.”

It is easy for people to question God, he said, but “it is we who commit all this” and allow it to happen; “our humanity is corrupted.”

Speaking about women, the pope said they have an important role in society because they help unify and reconcile people.

Some people mistake women’s demands to be represented and heard in the world with a kind of “machoism in a skirt,” but machoism is a form of “brutality” and does not represent what women should be.

He said with the reform of the Roman Curia, “there will be many women who will have decision-making power,” not just roles as advisers.

While he said he believes he will succeed in opening up more positions to women in the curia, it will be difficult and there will be problems, not because of misogyny, but because of “the problem of power.”

Psychoanalysis

When Pope Francis and the French interviewer talked about differences between the Argentines and the French, the pope said, “Argentines are quite fond of psychoanalysis.”

The pope praised those psychoanalysts who are able to be “open to humanism and to dialogue with other sciences,” particularly medicine and homeopathy.

“Those whom I have known have helped me a lot at one point in my life when I needed consultation,” he said, describing how met with a Jewish psychoanalyst once a week for six months when he was 42 “to clear up certain things.

“She was very good. Very professional as a doctor and psychoanalyst” and “she helped me so much.”

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Pope Francis suggests church could tolerate some civil unions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care. He also said the church would not change is teaching against artificial birth control but should take care to apply it with “much mercy.”

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 26. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis’ words appeared in an interview published March 5 in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

In the wide-ranging conversation with the paper’s editor-in-chief, Ferruccio de Bortoli, the pope defended the church’s response to clerical sex abuse and lamented that popular mythology has turned him into a kind of papal superhero. He also addressed the role of retired Pope Benedict XVI and the church’s relations with China.

“Matrimony is between a man and a woman,” the pope said, but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.” Asked to what extent the church could understand this trend, he replied: “It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

Bishops around the world have differed in their responses to civil recognition of nonmarital unions. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said in February 2013 that some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of nonmarried couples. But until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.

In the interview, Pope Francis praised Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which prohibited the use of contraception.

In contradicting contemporary pressures for population control, Pope Paul’s “genius was prophetic, he had the courage to side against the majority, defend moral discipline, put a brake on the culture, oppose neo-Malthusianism, present and future,” Pope Francis said.

But he also noted that Pope Paul had instructed confessors to interpret his encyclical with “much mercy, attention to concrete situations.”

“The question is not whether to change the doctrine, but to go deeper and make sure that pastoral care takes account of situations and of what each person is able to do,” Pope Francis said.

The pope said birth control, like the predicament of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, would be a topic of discussion at the Vatican in October at an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. He said the synod would approach all such problems “in the light of profound reflection,” rather than casuistry, which he described as a superficial, pharisaical theology focused exclusively on particular cases.

The pope said he had welcomed the “intense discussion” at a February gathering of cardinals, where German Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a talk suggesting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics might sometimes be allowed to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriages.

“Fraternal and open confrontations foster the growth of theological and pastoral thought,” he said. “I’m not afraid of this; on the contrary, I seek it.”

Asked if the church’s teachings on sexual and medical ethics represented “non-negotiable values,” a formulation used by Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said he had “never understood the expression ‘non-negotiable values.’”

“Values are values, period,” he said. “I cannot say that, among the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than another. That is why I cannot understand in what sense there could be negotiable values.”

Pope Francis said cases of sex abuse by priests had left “very profound wounds,” but that, starting with the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the church has done “perhaps more than anyone” to solve the problem.

“Statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show the great majority of abuses occur in family and neighborhood settings,” Pope Francis said. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. And yet the church is the only one attacked.”

Reflecting on his own colossal popularity, the pope criticized “ideological interpretations, a certain mythology of Pope Francis. When it is said, for instance, that he leaves the Vatican at night to go feed the tramps on Via Ottaviano. That never even occurred to me.”

“To portray the pope as a kind of superman, a type of star, strikes me as offensive,” he said. “The pope is a man who laughs, weeps, sleeps soundly and has friends like everybody else. A normal person.”

He acknowledged that he has continued his longtime practice of phoning people who write to him with their problems, including an 80-year old widow who lost her son, whom he calls once a month.

Pope Francis said he has sought out his predecessor Pope Benedict for advice and encouraged him to “go out and participate in the life of the church,” most recently by appearing at a Feb. 22 ceremony with the College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum,” Pope Francis said. Noting that bishops never retired until after the Second Vatican Council, but that the practice has since become the norm, Pope Francis said the “same thing should happen with the pope emeritus. Benedict is the first and maybe there will be others. We don’t know.”

Asked about the Vatican’s lack of diplomatic relations with China, whose government requires Catholics to register with a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association and punishes members of the clandestine “underground” church, Pope Francis said he had written to Chinese President Xi Jinping “when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. There are some relations.”

 

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N.J. governor vetoes same-sex marriage bill

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Feb. 17 made good on his pledge to veto a bill legalizing same-sex marriage passed by the state Legislature but at the same time said he might name an ombudsman to make sure the state’s current law recognizing civil unions is respected.

The state Assembly passed the bill Feb. 16 with a 42-33 vote. The state Senate approved it 24-16 Feb. 13.

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