Some at the Vatican Think Pope Francis Talks Too Freely


Does Pope Francis talk too freely and too much off the cuff? On a cold, wet January morning in the Vatican, that almost blasphemous thought crossed the minds of senior figures in the Holy See’s media machine, just hours after Francis touched down in Rome after yet another momentous pastoral visit, this time to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

When the pope speaks of Catholics breeding “like rabbits” and offers to punch anyone who curses his mother, he inevitably generates worldwide headlines. Holy See insiders, however, point out that the pope’s eminently quotable remarks on complex questions like contraception and freedom of expression can easily be misunderstood. He is not calling for a change in Catholic Church teaching on contraception, nor does he justify jihadist violence when he suggests there is a limit to freedom of expression.

The pope’s handlers know all too well that there is no way of spin-doctoring the Francis message. This pontiff does his own thing. They also concede that this is one of the reasons why he is one of the most popular people on the planet, a religious leader capable of attracting seven million faithful to an open Mass in Manila last Sunday.

Only he, too, would speak off-the-cuff, extemporaneously to such a huge gathering. No pope has ever spoken so frankly and so informally to the Vatican press corps.

Curiously, many of those who greet the pope’s message of reform and inclusiveness with worldwide enthusiasm do not seem to notice that he is, in fact, teaching a basically very traditional, old-fashioned Catholicism. It is not what he teaches, however, it is the way that he teaches it. When he talks of kicking someone “where the sun don’t shine”, he might sound like a Brooklyn truck driver, but he is making a point about corruption.

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SOURCE: Irish Times
Paddy Agnew