Pope Francis said that clerical sexual abuse is the work of the devil, there’s corruption in the Vatican, warned against new religious orders with a “restorationist” mentality, and even appeared to take a gentle shot at reputed Marian apparitions such as Medjugorje, saying the real Madonna is not “the head of a post office that every day sends a different letter.”
These are only a handful of the points Pope Francis touched on during a meeting with 140 Superiors General of male religious orders and congregations November 25, in an informal, behind-closed doors exchange.
The transcript of the encounter was published on Friday by the Jesuit-run magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, which is celebrating its issue number 4,000.
Regarding sexual abuse by clergy and religious men and women, Pope Francis said that “it seems that half of those who commit abuse have been victims of abuse,” which is “devastating” because it sows abuse into the future.
“If priests or religious are involved, it’s clear that the presence of the devil is in action, ruining the work of Jesus through those who were supposed to communicate Jesus,” Francis said.
The pontiff added that as long as “we’re not convinced” this is a disease, the problem won’t be solved. As such, he called for a better screening of candidates for the priesthood, and to never welcome those who have been refused by other seminaries or institutions without clear reasons as to why they were rejected.
The pope also acknowledged that he’s worried about the decline of religious vocations in the West, something for which he said he hopes the next Synod of Bishops, directed to youth and vocational discernment, can address and suggest solutions.
Yet he’s also worried about the rise of some new religious institutes that attract many religious vocations, but which then fail, some because of the scandals of their founders. These, he said, are not inspired by the Holy Spirit but by a charismatic person.
Some of these new orders, Francis added, are “restorationist,” seemingly providing security when in reality they give “rigidity.”
“When they tell me that there is a congregation that draws so many vocations, I must confess that I worry,” he said. “The Spirit does not follow the logic of human success.”
Some of these new religious congregations, Francis denounced, are “Pelagians,” who want a return to asceticism and penance, “soldiers who seem ready to do anything for the defense of faith and morality, and then some scandal emerges involving the founder [male or female].”
Don’t put your hope in the sudden, mass blooming of these institutes, the pope told the Superiors General of male religious orders and congregations.
“Instead, try the humble path of Jesus, that of evangelical witness,” he said who “put it perfectly when he said that the Church does not grow by proselytism but by attraction.”
The pope also repeated some of his usual concepts, such as the need for a Church that “goes out,” which he defined as one that is in the outskirts, both existential and social.
“We think of a form of poverty, linked to the problem of migrants and refugees: and more important than international agreements is the life of those people!” he said. Charity, he added, is also a way of ecumenism, because “it’s the poor who united divided Christians!”
He also talked about the need for seminarians to be taught discernment, because “In education we are used to dealing with black and white formulas, but not with the grey areas of life. And what matters is life, not formulas.”
Discernment, Francis pointed out, “means moving forward through the gray of life according to the will of God.”
One of the questions posed to Francis had to do with the three themes for the upcoming Word Youth Days, meaning the ones held annually in every country and then Panama 2019. All of them are related to the Virgin Mary.
The pope said that they had been the only ones suggested to him, but that he was “glad” with the ones proposed, because in Latin America there’s a strong Marian devotion.
“But the real Madonna! Not the Madonna at the head of a post office that every day sends a different letter, saying: ‘My children, do this and then the next day do that.’ No, not that Madonna. The real Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, a Mother.”
The superstar Virgin Mary, who seeks the limelight, the pope insisted, “is not Catholic.”
Though he didn’t give examples as to what he was referring to, whenever Francis brings up the image of the Virgin as a “postmistress,” many think of Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where some believe she’s been appearing daily since 1981.
Asked about the source of his serenity, Francis said that he’s been at peace since he was named pope, without the need for “tranquilizers.”
He acknowledged that among the problems the Church faces is the corruption within the Vatican, but that even on this he’s at peace: “If there’s a problem I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under an image I have of him in my room […] now he sleeps under a mattress of notes!”
Full story at Crux.