VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis responded to several questions touching controversial topics that have arisen in his papacy, including accusations of Marxism and rumors of women cardinals, in an interview published over the weekend in the Italian journal La Stampa.
Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli interviewed Pope Francis and asked him about the accusations of Marxism from “ultra-conservative Americans,” who took issue with certain passages of the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. The Holy Father flatly denounced the economic ideology.
“The Marxist ideology is wrong,” he said.
The Pope had severely criticized the assumptions behind “trickle-down theories” in the exhortation, saying that they expressed “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Pope Francis, by condemning economic practices driven by greed and leading to inequality, drew fire from public figures, including conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, who contended that the Pope’s comments were “pure Marxism” and “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.”
Pope Francis told La Stampa that he was not offended by the comments, noting that he has known many Marxists who were still “good people.”
The Pope reaffirmed his adherence to the constant Tradition of the Church, explaining that he had no intention of speaking in technical language.
“In the exhortation, there is nothing that is not found in the social doctrine of the Church. I didn’t speak from a technical point of view; I tried to present a photograph of what happens,” he said.
“The only specific citation was for the ‘trickle-down’ theories, according to which every economic growth, supported by the free market, is able to produce in itself a great equity and social inclusion,” Pope Francis added.
In the La Stampa interview, Pope Francis elaborated on his critique of these specific ideas. He said, “There was the promise that when the glass was full, it would have flowed over, and the poor would have benefited from it. Instead, what happens is that, when it is full, the glass magically gets larger, and so nothing ever comes out for the poor.”
But “this was the only reference to a specific theory,” he said.
Pope Francis took the opportunity to re-emphasize his standpoint, stressing, “I repeat: I do not speak as a technician, but according to the social doctrine of the Church. And this does not mean being Marxist.”
Valuing Women, Not Clericalizing Them
When asked about another controversial topic, the possibility of women cardinals, the Holy Father was quick to point to the problematic assumption underlying the question. “Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalized.’ Whoever is thinking [about] women cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”
As for any rumors about his own consideration of the issue, “it is a line that has come from who knows where,” he said.
Tornielli’s questions also included the recently much-discussed topic of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Unless their first marriage has been annulled, the Church prohibits the reception of the Eucharist by these individuals, because they are living with someone other than their legitimate spouse.
“The exclusion from Communion for divorced persons who live [in] a second union is not a sanction. It’s good to remember that,” said Pope Francis.
“We must seek to facilitate people’s faith rather than control it,” he added.
Evangelii Gaudium had noted the need for both “prudence” and “boldness” in regards to the sacraments, stating that “everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason.”
Pope Francis explained in the latest interview, however, that “some [people] had immediately thought of the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, but I did not speak about particular cases: I wanted only to indicate a principle.”
The interview, which spanned three pages, also included the Pope’s thoughts on ecumenical matters and his concern for the poor, as well as his understanding of Christmas as “a meeting with Jesus” in which “the hope and the tenderness of the birth of the Lord shakes us out of indifference.”