ROME – Pope Francis opened up in a new book, soon to be published in France, where he talks, among other things, about his meetings with a psychoanalyst in Argentina, the Christian roots of Europe, gay marriage, migrants and the resistance toward his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
The book, Politics and Society, contains the transcripts of an unusually long series of 12 conversations between the pope and the French sociologist Dominique Wolton, founder of the Institute of the Sciences of Communication of the CNRS in Paris, and author of a book containing a long interview with Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the late archbishop of Paris.
The conversations occurred with the help of a priest who was present and provided the translation.
Pope says he was enriched, influenced by women in his life
Pope Francis spoke of the women who influenced him in his life, from grandmothers to former “little girlfriends.” “The ones I met helped me a lot in my life when I needed to confide myself,” the pope said, adding, “to have always been in touch with women has enriched me.”
“I have learned, even in adulthood, that women see things differently from men,” and that it is important “to listen to both,” Pope Francis said.
The pope admitted to having been greatly influenced by a communist female militant, Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, who founded a movement of mothers who denounced the killing of their children by the regime in Argentina.
“She taught me to think about political reality, […] I owe so much to this woman,” Pope Francis said. “I was told once: ‘But you are a Communist!’ No, the Communists are the Christians. It’s the others who stole our banner!”
Among the other women he confided in was his psychoanalyst whom he consulted between 1978 and 1979. These were trying years for Pope Francis as he was transitioning from the difficult task of provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina to rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel.
The pope’s visit with a psychoanalyst is not surprising, considering that Argentina has the highest number of therapists per capita in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
The book will be published on September 6, but the French Le Figaro Magazine has released three large abstracts from the book. Following is the translation into English of some of the most salient points.
‘She helped me a lot,’ pope says about psychoanalyst
“I consulted with a Jewish psychoanalyst. For months I went to her house once a week to clear up some things. She was a doctor and psychoanalyst, and she always stayed put. Then one day, when she was about to die, she called me. Not to receive the sacraments, since she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue. She was a very good person. For six months she helped me a lot, when I was 42 years old.”
‘Europe exploited Africa’
“The problem starts in the countries from which migrants are from. Why do they leave their land? Because of the lack of jobs or because of war. These are the two main reasons. The lack of jobs, because they were exploited – I am thinking of the Africans. Europe exploited Africa… I don’t know if we can say it! But certain European colonization… yes, they exploited.
“I read that a recently elected African head of state presented to the Parliament a law for the reforestation of his country as a first government act – and it was approved. The economic powers of the world had cut down all the trees. Reforestation. The earth is dry because it was exploited and there is no work.
“The first thing we need to do, as I said at the United Nations, at the European Council and the entire world, is to find sources to create employment, investments. It’s true that Europe must invest also in its own home. There is an issue of unemployment here also. The other reason for migration is war. We can invest, people can have a place to work and not have to leave, but if there is war, they will still have to escape. Who makes war? Who hands out weapons? We do.”
The lay state: ‘Religions are also part of the culture’
“The lay state is a healthy thing. There is a healthy laicism. Jesus said: We must render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. We are the same before God. But I believe that in certain countries like France, this laicism [laïcité in French carries a distinct idea of the relationship between Church and State. – Ed.] carries the legacy of enlightenment too much, which creates the common belief where religions are considered a subculture. I believe that France – this is my personal opinion, not the official Church one – should ‘elevate’ a little bit the level of laicism, in the sense that it must say that religions are also part of the culture. How to express this in lay terms? Through an openness to transcendence. Everyone can find his form of openness.”
‘Europe is afraid’
“I don’t see any more Schuman, I don’t see any more Adenauer (two of the intellectual fathers of the European Union)…. Europe in this moment, is afraid. It closes, closes, closes… Europe has a history of cultural integration, multicultural […], very strong.
“The Longobards, today’s Longobards (a Germanic people who occupied a large part of Italy. Today the Lombardy region in Italy is one of the most opposed to welcoming migrants and refugees), are barbarians that arrived a long time ago… then everything melts together and we have our culture.
“But what is European culture? How would I define European culture today? Yes it has important Christian roots, it’s true. But it’s not enough to define it. There are all of our abilities. The abilities to integrate, to welcome others. In our Spanish language, 40 percent of the words are Arab. Why? Because they were there for seven centuries. (The pope is referring to the Arab occupation of the Hispanic Peninsula from the beginning of the VIII Century to the Spanish Reconquista completed in the XIII Century.) And they left a mark…. I believe that Europe has Christian roots, but they are not the only ones. There are others that cannot be denied.
“Anyway, I believe it’s a mistake not to mention the ‘Christian roots’ (of Europe) in the document of the European Union on the first Constitution, and this (mistake) was also made by governments. It was a mistake not to see the truth. This does not mean that Europe must be entirely Christian. But it is a heritage, a cultural heritage, that we have received.”
‘No war is just. The only just thing is peace’
“Today we have to rethink the concept of ‘just war.’ We have learned in political philosophy that in order to protect yourself you may wage war and consider it just. But can it be defined a ‘just war’? The only just thing is peace… I don’t like to use the term ‘just war.’ We hear people say: ‘I make war because I have no other means to defend myself.’ But no war is just. The only just thing is peace.”
The Church is not the clergy, ‘the Church is the people’
“There are the sins of the Church leaders, who lack in intelligence or allow themselves to be manipulated. But the Church is not bishops, popes, and priests. The Church is the people. And Vatican II said: ‘The people of God, as a whole, do not err.’ If you want to know the Church go to a village where the life of the Church is lived. Go to a hospital where there are many Christians that come to help, laymen, sisters… Go to Africa, where there are many missionaries. They burn their life there. And they make real revolutions. Not to convert, it was another time when we spoke of conversion, but to serve.”
Pope criticizes preachers who only condemn morality ‘under the belt’
“How do we Catholics, teach morality? You cannot teach it with precepts such as: ‘You can’t do that, you have to do that, have to, can’t, have to, can’t.’ Morality is a consequence of the encounter with Jesus Christ. It’s a consequence of faith, for us Catholics. And for others, morality is the consequence of an encounter with an ideal, or with God, or with oneself, but with the better part of oneself. Morality is always a consequence… there is a great danger for preachers, that of falling into mediocrity. Condemning only morality – forgive the expression – ‘under the belt.’ But no one talks of the other sins like hate, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking a life. Entering the mafia, making illegal agreements… ‘Are you a good Catholic? Then give me the check’.”
Amoris: ‘No, no, no!’ is the great temptation of the Church
“The temptation is always the uniformity of the rules… take for example the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. When I speak of families in difficulty, I say: ‘We must welcome, accompany, discern, integrate…’ and then everyone will see open doors. What is actually happening is that people hear others say: ‘They can’t receive communion,’ ‘They can’t do it:’There lies the temptation of the Church. But ‘no,’ ‘no,’ ‘no!’ This type of prohibition is the same we find with Jesus and the Pharisees. The same! The great within the Church are those who have a vision that goes beyond, those who understand: The missionaries.”
Abortion ‘is the homicide of an innocent’
On the extension to all priests of the ability to forgive the sin of abortion, the pope said: “Careful, this does not mean trivializing abortion. Abortion is a grave, grave sin. It’s the homicide of an innocent. But if there is a sin, it is necessary to facilitate forgiveness.”
Same sex marriage: ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman’
“Marriage between people of the same sex? ‘Marriage’ is a historical word. Always in humanity, and not only within the Church, it’s between a man and a woman… we cannot change that. This is the nature of things. This is how they are. Let’s call them ‘civil unions.’ Lets not play with the truth. It’s true that behind it there is a gender ideology. In books also, children are learning that they can choose their own sex. Why is sex, being a woman or a man, a choice and not a fact of nature? This favors this mistake. But let’s say things as they are: Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Lets call unions between the same sex ‘civil unions’.”
Muslims should have a critical study of the Koran
Muslims “don’t accept the principle of reciprocity. Some of the Gulf countries are open and help us to build churches. Why are they open? Because the have Filipino, Catholic, Indian workers… the problem in Saudi Arabia is truly a question of mentality. With Islam, anyway, the dialogue is proceeding well, […] the Imam of Al-Azhar came to visit me. And there will be an encounter: I will go. I believe it would be good for them to have a critical study of the Koran, as we did with our Scriptures. The historical and critical method of interpretation will help them evolve.”