The hardest working priest at the Vatican has to be…

…Fr. Federico Lombardi.

After the pope, of course.

And stepping up to the microphone after the pope, to explain what he really meant, is becoming a full time job for the Vatican spokesman.

Yesterday, this was the big story: 

An interview that credits Pope Francis as saying about 2% of Roman Catholic clerics are pedophiles stirred controversy Sunday, as the Vatican sought to raise questions about the article’s accuracy and others called on the pope to take more action on the issue.

The remarks, reported in in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, came a week after the pope asked for forgiveness in his first meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The interview by Eugenio Scalfari, published Sunday, quotes the pope as calling the rash of sex abuse scandals “a leprosy in our home” and saying the pedophiles include “priests and even bishops and cardinals,” according to a CBS News translation. “And others, even more numerous, know about it but keep quiet, they punish without saying the reason why. I find this state of things untenable and it is my intention to confront it with the severity it requires.”

Yesterday, Lombardi issued this statement as a followup:

“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 Fahter 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?

You can read more about the pope’s conversation with Scalfari here. 


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