Dennis Sewell Catholics had a friend in Gove FEATURE, PAGE 9
Richard Ingrams What we ought to steal from Anglicans
FEATURE, PAGE 9
Francis Campbell Britain snubs the Catholic Gandhi
COMMENT, PAGE 12
July 18 2014 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Vatican in a spin as Pope Francis grants an explosive new interview
Vatican spokesman claims Pontiff’s atheist interviewer is seeking ‘to manipulate naïve readers’
BY ED WEST
THE VATICAN is seeking to downplay reports that Pope Francis suggested that one in 50 clerics were abusers in an interview with a leading Italian atheist.
After La Repubblica published the interview on Sunday, the Vatican spokesman issued a scathing statement claiming that the Pope was misquoted. Fr Federico Lombardi said Francis’s conversation with Eugenio Scalfari was not “an interview in the normal use of the word” because the 90-year-old journalist had not taken notes or used a tape recorder. He also suggested that Mr Scalfari’s failure to clearly identify the Pope’s actual words was “an attempt to manipulate some naïve readers”.
In the interview Mr Scalfari quoted the Pope as saying: “My colleagues who struggle with me reassure me with reliable data that assess paedophilia within the Church at the level of two per cent.” Pope Francis said the statistic was intended to reassure him but that, in fact, it disturbed him. “I find this situation intolerable and I intend to tackle it with the seriousness it requires,” he said. Mr Scalfari also quoted Francis as saying that priestly celibacy was a “problem” and he hoped to “find solutions”. Fr Lombardi denied that the Pontiff had used those words. The conversation, Mr Scalfari’s third with the Pope, took place at the Domus Sanctae Marthae on Thursday.
The dialogue between Francis and Mr Scalfari began after the avowed atheist wrote an open letter to the Pope in La Repubblica last summer. The Pontiff offered an extensive reply in a letter that the newspaper published last September. Later that month Francis invited Mr Scalfari to meet him. The encounter led to an article in which the journalist quoted Francis as saying that he had thought about refusing his election as Pope and that the court atmosphere at the Vatican was “the leprosy of the papacy”. The interview was republished in L’Osservatore Romano and posted on the Vatican website. But when doubts were raised about its accuracy, Fr Lombardi issued a statement saying it “should be considered faithful on the whole to the mind of the Pope, but not necessarily in its
The atheist who has the Pope’s ear
Eugenio Scalfari is one of the co-founders of La Repubblica and was its editor from 1976 to 1996 He is regarded as ‘a figure of exceptional importance’ in Italy. His investigative journalism has exposed government cover-ups and he is considered a leading secularist intellectual He was a founding member of Italy’s anti-clerical Radical Party and served in the Italian Chamber of Deputies from 1968 to 1972 He was baptised Catholic and served as an altar boy He describes himself today as ‘a non-believer who loves the human figure of Jesus’
particular words and the accuracy of its details”. Mr Scalfari admitted that he had neither taken notes nor recorded the interview and that he had reconstructed it entirely from memory. The text was later removed from the Vatican website, though it has recently reappeared.
The Vatican’s panicked reaction to the latest papal interview recalls an episode earlier this year when media reported that Pope Francis had phoned an Argentine woman who is civilly married to a divorced man and told her that she could receive Holy Communion. Fr Lombardi insisted that such phone calls were part of Francis’s “personal pastoral relationships” and did “not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities”. He said the reports were a “source of misunderstanding and confusion” and that “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences”.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has announced that Lord Patten of Barnes, chancellor of
Oxford University and former chairman of the BBC Trust, will be president of a powerful Vatican media committee. The former Conservative Party chairman will lead a group advising the Pope on how to revamp and modernise the Vatican’s media operations.
Lord Patten has served as a Cabinet minister, governor of Hong Kong and a European Commissioner. He also organised Benedict XVI’s state visit to Britain in 2010. He told The Catholic Herald that it was “a great honour and challenge to be asked to help with this enterprise” but that he could not comment on the Scalfari interview. He said he expected the committee to have its first meeting towards the end of September and that he would “be involved with producing a report for next summer”.
As president of the media committee, Lord Patten will report to Cardinal George Pell, who described the life peer as “a man with wide and senior experience in public life”. Lord Patten stood down in May as BBC chairman on health grounds following major heart surgery. Cardinal Pell said that “his first priority” would be “to regather his strength”. “Soon after the end of the summer, he’ll be very much involved and we’ve discussed informally the amount of time that might be required initially and he has accepted,” the Australian prelate said.
Cardinal Pell explained that one of the aims of the committee would be to increase the number of Catholics reached by the Vatican’s media outlets. He said he expected that Lord Patten’s committee would “recognise that the world of the media has changed radically and is changing”.
Vatican Radio has been broadcasting since 1931. But, the cardinal said, “no longer in most parts of the world do people listen very frequently to the radio”. The cardinal suggested that “patterns of expenditure within the Vatican in no way correlate to the number of people who are reached”. Vatican notebook: Page 4 Adams cartoon: Page 12 Editorial comment: Page 13 Pastor Iuventus: Page 17
Pope Francis confers with Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi. The pair are said to meet regularly Photo: CNS
Priest may be jailed for refusing to break the seal of Confession BY STAFF REPORTER
AN AMERICAN court has ruled that a priest may be compelled to testify about what he heard in the confessional in 2008 concerning an abuse case.
The priest, Fr Jeff Bayhi, faces automatic excommunication if he breaks the seal of the confessional. But he also could face jail if found to be in contempt of the court should he refuse to testify.
In the case, a girl who was 14 in 2008 said she told her parish priest – Fr Bayhi, parish priest of St John the Baptist Parish in Zachary, Louisiana – in the confessional that she was abused by a now-dead lay member of the parish.
The girl’s parents sued Fr Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failing to report the abuse. The parents won at the district court level about compelling the priest to testify, but lost in Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals, before the state’s highest court reversed and vacated the appellate court’s decision.
Fr Bayhi said: “One of the great sacraments of healing in the Church is Confession. It has given hope and comfort to all Catholics throughout the centuries and continues to do so today.
“The seal of Confession is one that can never be broken. Through its use the faithful must always be protected, so much so, that as a priest I cannot even say someone has come to Confession, let alone divulge the contents of what was revealed.”
The Baton Rouge diocese said the Louisiana Supreme Court violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution in its decision.
“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of Confession is absolute and inviolable. Pursuant to his oath
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Meriam: I’d like to meet Pope Francis BY ED WEST
MERIAM IBRAHIM, the Sudanese Christian mother who became an international cause célèbre after she was sentenced to death for “apostasy”, has said she would be “very glad” to meet Pope Francis.
Italian media reported that Antonella Napoli, Italy’s representative to the Darfur region of Sudan, met Miss
Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani in Khartoum last week. She said the couple were “both very faithful”, adding: “They met at church, thanks to his sister. They fell in love almost immediately. Then, in 2011, they were married.
“When I asked if prison had somehow changed her relationship with religion, she promptly responded ‘no’. The difficulties haven’t undermined her deep trust in God: ‘He will guide me,’ she repeated.”
The 29-year-old doctor was in prison for 10 months for the crime of converting from Islam, although she maintains she was never a Muslim.
Jude Law signs peace car inspired by Mizens
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
ACTOR Jude Law has backed a campaign inspired by the murder of Catholic schoolboy Jimmy Mizen.
The Talented Mr Ripley star signed the “Release the Peace Car”, which is an initiative inspired by the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.
The car is driven around the capital and people are encouraged to add their signatures to it in order to show their support for building peaceful communities. The actor was pictured with Jimmy’s mother, Margaret Mizen, signing the car last week.
Other celebrities who have signed the car include Gary Lineker, Dermot O’Leary and the mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Jimmy Mizen was murdered in south London the day after his 16th birthday.
Jimmy’s parents now visit prisons and schools, speaking to children about the importance of peace through their son’s story.
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