The pope on celibacy
Most English interviews with Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, are translation from Spanish, and you know what they say: “Traduttore traditore.” “The translator is a traitor.” (= Translations are unreliable.)
Nonetheless, they provide some insight into the mind of the new pope, and as you might expect, they reinforce first impressions. A 2012 discussion on priestly celibacy and the scandal of pedophilia is a prime example. Cardinal Bergoglio speaks frankly and honestly.
When I was a seminarian, I was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding. I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance… and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing. I was still free because I was a seminarian, so I could have gone back home and that was it. I had to think about my choice again. I chose again – or let myself be chosen by – the religious path. It would be abnormal for this kind of thing not to happen.
The blogosphere’s favourite canon lawyer, Dr Edward Peters, who is always precise and thorough, unpacks and clarifies one of the Pope’s remarks in this interview.
Cdl. Bergoglio: If a priest comes and tells me that he got a woman pregnant, I listen. I try to help him have peace and little by little I try to help him realize that the natural law takes priority over his priesthood. So, he has to leave the ministry and should take care of that child, even if he chooses not to marry that woman. For just as that child has the right to have a mother, he has a right to the face of a father. I commit myself to arranging all the paperwork for him in Rome, but he has to leave everything. Now, if a priest tells me he got excited and that he had a fall, I help him to get on track again.
First, I like Bergoglio’s observation—which I think applies to all scenarios of conception outside of marriage—that marriage is not always the “right thing” to do. Marriage among Christians is a sacrament for the future, not a fix-it for the past. But I am not sure what Bergoglio means when he says that ‘natural law takes priority over priesthood’.