In a controversial interview with one of Italy's most famous atheists, Pope Francis allegedly revealed that some 1 in 50 priests spanning all ranks of the clergy are pedophiles and like Jesus he will "use a stick" against them.
In the interview with Eugenio Scalfari, the 90-year-old atheist founder of La Repubblica, Pope Francis said pedophilia is like a "leprosy" affecting the church.
"We have a leprosy in our house," Pope Francis allegedly told Scalfari, according to a CBS translation of the interview in a discussion about the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. According to Scalfari, the pope also claimed that as many as 1 in 50 priests are pedophiles.
"The 2 percent of pedophiles are priests, and even bishops and cardinals," Pope Francis allegedly noted. "And others, even more numerous, know about it but keep quiet, they punish without saying the reason why. I find this state of things untenable and it is my intention to confront it with the severity it requires."
According to the headline on the La Repubblica article, the Pope declared that "Like Jesus, I shall use a stick against pedophile priests."
In John 2:12-17 in the Bible, Jesus became so upset with the merchants and money-changers in the temple that he became angry and drove them out with a whip of cords.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. 13 And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
The La Repubblica report also alleged that Pope Francis saw celibacy in the Catholic Church as a "problem" and argued that "there are solutions and I will find them" after pointing out that the "Eastern Catholic Church" allows priests to get married and have children.
A statement from Fr. Frederico Lombardi in the Vatican Insider, however, disputed the quotes attributed to Pope Francis in the La Repubblica report.
"It is important to notice that [the] words that Mr. Scalfari attributes to the Pope, 'in quotations' come from the expert journalist Scalfari's own memory of what the Pope said and is not an exact transcription of a recording nor a review of such a transcript by the Pope himself to whom the words are attributed. We should not or must not speak in any way, shape or form of an interview in the normal use of the word, as if there had been a series of questions and answers that faithfully and exactly reflect the precise thoughts of the one being interviewed," said Fr. Lombardi.
The Vatican Insider report also noted that the interview between Scalfari and the pope was supposed to be an off the record conversation and Scalfari was aware of this.
This kind of private meeting "takes place following a clear verbal agreement," a source close to the pope told the Vatican Insider. "It is basically a cordial conversation to exchange ideas; the content of such meetings is never published. And Scalfari knew this."