Pope Francis recently gave a 40-minute interview to a Mexican TV station, the full transcript of which has not been released in English (full Spanish transcript here). Several English-language outlets have translated portions, including America magazine, CNA, and Vatican News.
Much is covered in the wide-ranging interview, including abortion, immigration, sexual abuse, Amoris Laetitia, homosexuality, China, Theodore McCarrick, and Archbishop Viganò. This interview also contains what appear to be his first public comments on the public letter signed by 19 Catholics, including the once-prominent English Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols, in which he is accused of the “delict of heresy” and where the signatories call on the bishops of the world to remove him from office.
In his Mexico television interview the pope was asked how he reacted to the accusation of heresy made against him in a letter to the world’s bishops on April 30 by a small group of clergy and Catholic academics, Pope Francis said, “with a sense of humor.”
“I pray for them because they are wrong,” he said. “I saw [them as] poor people [who are] manipulated by some. I saw who signed it…. Seriously, I looked at it with a sense of humor and, I would say, tenderness, paternal tenderness. That is to say, it did not hurt me at all. What hurts me is the hypocrisy, the lie. That hurts me. But a mistake like that, in which there are people whose heads have been filled…. No please. We have to care for them also, we have to take care for them.”
This is CNA’s report of his reaction:
Pope Francis said he reacted “with a sense of humor” to the accusation of heresy made against him earlier this month.
“It does not hurt me at all. Hypocrisy and lies hurt me, these hurt me. But such a mistake, where there are even people who have filled their heads with … no, please, you have to take care of them too,” Pope Francis said in a Spanish interview published May 28.
Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki asked the pope how he took the accusation that he was a heretic, to which he responded, “With a sense of humor, my daughter.”
“I also pray for them because they are wrong and poor people, some are manipulated. And who are those who signed…?” Pope Francis added, alluding to an open letter signed by a group of 19 Catholics who accused the pope of “the canonical delict of heresy.”
Finally, here is Google Translate’s interpretation of the exchange from the Spanish Transcript [my edits and additions in brackets]:
Q. – Pope Francis, there is a lot of polarization not suddenly in the world in general, in the Church as well, in here, not in this room but, within the Vatican, everywhere. It is not a Vatican prerogative.
R.- Polarization is a destructive temptation.
Q.- But it feels like very strong also within the Church, these groups .
R.- Also, well … you mentioned they accuse me of being a heretic and …..
Q.- What about [being called] a heretic, how did [you] take it?
R. – With a sense of humor, daughter.
P.- [You do] not give much weight …
R. – No, no, I also pray for them because they are wrong and I saw poor people, some are manipulated. I saw who were the ones who signed … No, seriously, sense of humor and I would say tenderness, fatherly tenderness. I mean, it does not hurt me at all. Hypocrisy wounds me, lies, that hurts me. But such a mistake, where there are even people who filled their heads … no please, you have to take care of them too, you have to take care of them.
I wrote earlier this month about Fr. Nichols’s fall from grace, lamenting the fact that a theologian who had garnered so much respect and high esteem had allowed himself to be taken in by reactionary extremists. Pope Francis seems to feel the same regret, but also reminds us that we must pray for those who have fallen astray.
It cannot be pleasant at all to consider oneself a devout Catholic while imagining the pope and the hierarchy are working against the true faith. One can only imagine the anguish they feel, and the desperation to do something about it, even if the result of their efforts is irrational or ridiculous. Yes, they are wrong, but they need prayers.
We’ll have more on this interview in the near future, as well as some commentary on the recently released correspondence by ex-Cardinal McCarrick. Stay tuned.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.