The Vatican’s latest sensational news


On the same day, a Vatican official says celibacy “is not a church dogma,” and the pope responds to an atheist.

The comments about celibacy by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s new secretary of state, made news “but represent what might be termed the standard moderate Catholic line – priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma,” cautions John R. Allen in the National Catholic Reporter.

But Allen was surprised by what Pope Francis did: For the first time, a pontiff directly answered questions put to him in newspaper editorials. The pope’s personal letter to Eugenio Scalfari — a founder of La Repubblica, a leftist and nonbeliever — was splashed on the front page of Italy’s best-selling newspaper.

Allen sums up what Francis had to say:

  • God has never abandoned the covenant with the Jewish people, and the church “can never be grateful enough” to the Jews for preserving their faith despite the horrors of history, especially the Shoah, the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

  • God’s mercy “does not have limits” and therefore it reaches nonbelievers, too, for whom sin would not be the lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one’s conscience.

  • Truth is not “variable or subjective,” but Francis says he avoids calling it “absolute” — truth possesses us, he said, not the other way around, and it’s always expressed according to someone’s “history and culture, the situation in which they live, etc.”