In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis praised Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on contraception.
Emphasizing that confessors should be merciful, Pope Francis said that his predecessor’s “genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural ‘brake,’ to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of going into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account situations, and what it is possible for people to do.”
“Cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds,” Pope Francis said. “Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened up a path. The Church has done so much on this path.”
“The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show that the great majority of abuses are carried out in family or neighborhood environments,” Pope Francis continued. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”
Asked about marriage and civil unions, the Pope said that “marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions … driven by the need to regulate economic aspects between people, such as assuring health care … You have to see the variety of cases and evaluate them in their variety.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis also said
- that Pope Benedict XVI is “not a statue in a museum” and that “his wisdom is a gift from God”
- that the position of Pope Emeritus needs to be “an institution,” much as the position of bishop emeritus has become in the past several decades: “Benedict is the first, and maybe there will be others”
- that “last March I had no plans to change the Church”; instead, his desire to change the Curia came only after listening to other cardinals in the conclave. Pope Francis spoke of the need for curial officials to make a true five-day silent retreat, rather than intersperse parts of a retreat with normal work duties.
- that having visited Brazil, he will travel to the Holy Land, Asia, and Africa before returning to Latin America
- that the Church is feminine, that the Virgin Mary is more important than any apostle or bishop, and that “the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar labored much” on this issue
- that “the traditional doctrine of the Church says that no one is obliged to use extraordinary means” in a terminal illness; instead, he always recommended palliative care
- that the last movie he saw is Life is Beautiful
“I do not like ideological interpretations, a certain mythology of Pope Francis,” the Pontiff added. “The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps peacefully, and has friends like everyone else. A normal person.”