The following is the continuation of Pope Francis’ interview with Reuters journalist Philip Pullella, in which he discussed topics such as financial reforms, to prevent future scandals and his zero-tolerance policy in the Church’s fight against paedophilia. Pope Francis reflects on and insists that the Church’s commitment to fight the scourge is non-negotiable and praises the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors for their hard work. For the previous part of this interview, please see last week’s edition (No. 27).
Financial reforms to prevent
Responding to a question from Reuters news agency, Pope Francis said he believes financial reforms will avoid future scandals, such as those that have hit the headlines in recent years.
He mentioned, in particular, the scandal regarding the purchase and sale of the Sloane Avenue building in London, now under scrutiny in an ongoing trial conducted by the Vatican court.
Speaking about the building, the Reuters journalist asked the Pope, “do you believe that enough controls are now in place so that similar scandals could not take place again?”.
“I believe so”, replied the Pope, immediately listing all the steps that have been taken. Amongst these, he mentioned “the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy with expert, technical people, who don’t fall into the hands of ‘benefactors or friends’, who can make you slip up. I believe that this new dicastery, let’s say, which has all the financing in its hands, is a real security in the administration, because before the administration was very messy”.
The Pope then gave the example of a section chief in the Secretariat of State who had to administer finances, but since he was not qualified in financial matters, the priest, in good faith, asked friends to give him a hand.
“But sometimes the friends were not The Blessed Imelda”, Pope Francis commented, referring to a 14th-century 11-year-old Italian girl who is an example of purity. “And so what happened happened”, he added.
The Pope reiterated that the fault fell to “the irresponsibility of the structure” for past financial scandals, saying the administration of money “was not mature”.
Pope Francis concluded by recalling that “this idea for the Secretariat for the Economy came from Cardinal Pell. He was the genius”.
The fight against abuse in the Church began slowly, but today it is an irreversible path, Pope Francis stressed. “(After Boston) the Church started zero tolerance slowly and moved forward. And I think the direction taken on this is irreversible”.
The Holy Father continued saying this commitment is irreversible and non-negotiable.
Responding to a question about the resistance that in some cases is encountered at the local level in the application of measures against abuse, the Pope observed: “There is resistance, but each time there is more awareness that this is the path”.
Pope Francis recalled the subdivision of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith into two sections, one dedicated to trials regarding abuse, and expressed satisfaction for the work it has done and is doing.
The Pope then cited a recent meeting with visitors who reminded him how in their country about 46 percent of abuse occurs in the family and noted that “this is terrible”.
After recalling what the statistics show, the Pope added: “This does not justify anything”.
The Pope recalled how even if it were a matter of a single case, it would be shameful and it would need to be fought.
“We have to fight against every single case”, he said. “As a priest, I have to help people grow and save them. If I abuse, I kill them. This is terrible”.
Gratitude to Pontifical Commission and its leadership
“Zero tolerance”, concluded the Pontiff, praising the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and the British-born Secretary of the Commission, Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, as “courageous” men worthy of recognition.
The Pope reaffirmed that he totally supports the work of the Commission.