Pope’s Plane Press Conference Wows Media

John Allen reports a doozy of a press conference on the Papal plane en route from World Youth Day. The Pope who said before the trip that he “doesn’t give interviews” decided to give one for nearly 90 minutes and he stood the whole time and didn’t dodge a single question.

Some highlights from Allen:

– When asked about the Vatican’s alleged “gay lobby,” replied that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn’t have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” he said.
– Conceded he doesn’t yet know what to do about the Vatican bank – saying it could become an ethical bank, an assistance fund for good causes, or be closed altogether.
– Said he hasn’t run into significant resistance to reform inside the Vatican, and joked that if there really is a “gay lobby” he hasn’t yet seen it stamped on anyone’s ID cards.
– Argued for the importance of women in the church, yet said that John Paul II “definitively … closed the door” to women priests. He called for a deeper “theology of women” beyond disputed questions such as whether they can be lectors at Mass or head Vatican agencies such as Caritas Internationalis.
– Said a preliminary investigation had been conducted regarding charges of immoral conduct against his hand-picked prelate for the Vatican bank, Italian Monsignor Battista Ricca, which “found nothing”.
– Said of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican accountant who was recently arrested for alleged involvement in a plot to smuggle $26 million in cash into Italy, that he’s not in jail “because he resembles the Blessed Imelda” – an Argentinian expression meaning that he doesn’t seem to be any saint.
– Suggested that the Synod of Bishops may be in for a shake-up in the direction of both greater efficiency and greater collegiality.

And some thoughts from me:

As a good Jesuit, Pope Francis knows that freedom is one of the highest values in Catholic theology. So when it comes to divorced and gay people it seems that if they are not simply “lobbying” for the church to change their tune on these matters but moreover want to be in communion with the church as best they can (especially with the divorced in this case–if they have moved on from their marriage and now wish to remarry in the church) then there may be room for some accommodation. But more research is being done.

With regards to women in the church, the Pope wants to move on from “women can be altar servers, or lectors” and move into a deeper conversation not merely on the “role” of women in the church…but a “theology of women”. I would offer that this means to discuss the fundamental dignity that women have and because of that, how they should be treated as full members of the church. This won’t change the role of women with regards to ordination to the priesthood, but could open the possibility further for the role of woman deacon.

Lastly, I love the off the cuff remarks. “A tree makes a sound in the forest but the rest of the forest grows silently” was a nice turn of phrase when talking about people who cause problems in the Vatican.

Allen didn’t say…but it sounds like he loved doing this and wasn’t at all exhausted by it. Many advised him against it, which to him, probably made it sound like a better idea. One of my friends in radio often said, if enough people think this is a bad idea then it’s probably a reason to do something for sure. Might be the same element at work here.

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