VATICAN CITY (RNS) — In a talk with representatives of Catholic men’s religious orders, Pope Francis admitted there’s “corruption” in the Vatican but said he is not troubled by it and is working to reform the church administration.
“There is corruption in the Vatican. But I’m at peace. ... If there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes!”
The pope’s comments, delivered in a lighthearted tone, were made at a meeting in November and appear for the first time in the Catholic magazine La Civilta’ Cattolica.
The pope covered a range of issues, including clerical sexual abuse, financial abuse and criticism from his opponents. Excerpts of the remarks were published by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Feb. 9.
The pope condemned clerical sexual abuse as an “illness,” noting that half the people who abused others had been abused themselves. “For every four people who abuse, it seems that two have been abused in their lives. They sow the seeds for abuse in the future: it is devastating.”
Earlier this week, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said he was ashamed by revelations that Australia’s Catholic clergy may have abused more than 4,440 children between 1950 and 2010. The data were presented to a national inquiry into institutional abuse and follow church sex scandals in the U.S., Ireland, Austria, Belgium and other countries.
Francis said the “devil” was present whenever priests or other religious figures abused others and that until sex abuse was recognized as an illness, the problem would not be resolved.
While the pope takes a firm stance against issues including abortion and euthanasia, his critics have been angered by his determination to overhaul the Holy See, the Vatican’s administration; his personal intervention in the administration of the Catholic order the Knights of Malta; and his more liberal stance on climate change, migrants and refugees.
The breach with conservatives made headlines last week when a number of posters featuring a scowling pope appeared on the streets of Rome, openly criticizing his approach with the title “Where’s your mercy?” The posters were immediately
removed, and no one has taken responsibility for the campaign.
“It is good to be criticized, I always like it,” the pope said in the interview. “Life is also about misunderstandings and tensions. Criticism makes you grow, I accept them, I respond.”
Francis said he was much calmer than when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“I was more anxious, I admit it,” he said. “I was more tense and worried. I had a very special experience of peace from the moment I was elected (pope). It never leaves me. I live in peace.”