Startling Interview with Pope Francis

In an interview published this morning jointly by sixteen Jesuit magazines around the world, Pope Francis has spoken clearly — and in a way that is sure to be influential and widely discussed — about Vatican II, the Church’s presentation of moral issues, the dignity of gays and lesbians, and the dangers of traditionalism. The following quotes are taken from the report which has just appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

On Vatican II and the People of God

Asked what it means for him to “think with the church,” a phrase used by the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Francis said that it did not mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

He said he thinks of the church “as the people of God, pastors and people together.”

“The church is the totality of God’s people,” he added, a notion popularized after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francis praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible.”

On the Church’s Presentation of Moral Issues

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

On the Dignity of Gays and Lesbians

The interview is the first time Francis has explained the reasoning behind both his actions and omissions. He also expanded on the comments he made about homosexuality in July, on an airplane returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had celebrated World Youth Day. In a remark then that produced headlines worldwide, the new pope said, “Who am I to judge?” At the time, some questioned whether he was referring only to gays in the priesthood, but in this interview he made clear that he had been speaking of gays and lesbians in general.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

On the Dangers Associated with Traditionalism

And while he agreed with the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, to allow the broader use of the traditional Latin-language Tridentine Mass, he said that the more traditional Mass risked becoming an ideology and that he was worried about its “exploitation.” Those who seek a broad revival of the Tridentine Mass have been among Francis’s harshest critics, and those remarks are not likely to comfort them.

You can read the whole thing here.


  1. While the above quotes are accurate they are slightly skewed to the left . Pope Francis’ full interview is in America on-line . The Pope speaks well for himself without filters. It’s all there. The full text there is quite balanced. One thing is clear, this Pope is a pastor, speaks like one, thus is pastorally “liberal” but doctrinally conservative. Lead people to Christ through the Chirch and allow God’s grace to form them in freedom/free will as they are directed to the sources of our Faith.

  2. Thanks, Rita – his examples via literature, music, scripture, spiritual writers is amazing….he gets to the core so quickly. (slightly skewed to the left – don’t think so)

    Some other interesing quotes:

    – “…..I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”
    – “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life.”
    – “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
    – “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance;”
    – “Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it…. Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’
    – Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”

  3. Thanks, Bill. The whole thing is amazingly good. Thanks for posting these additional quotes. The remarks about the liturgical reform are on target. Anthony’s post will give space for discussing that aspect in more detail.

  4. Gotta love this guy.
    Interesting, Vetus Ordo, not Extraordinary Form. Possibly because he thinks there is only one form, the PaulVI Vatican II form and the old form for those who have, as he states it “sensitivities”. Maybe not a univeral right to have the Vetus Ordo everywhere for everybody? Possibly he will allow bishops to decide when to allow it?
    We’re not a small Chapel so I guess the “remnant church” is deceased.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #4:
      I’ve noticed some traditionalists prefer the term Vetus Ordo too. I doubt he would put power over the EF back into the hands of bishops, since he called SP a prudent decision, but also because reviving an indult-style system would shove the Latin Mass goers into a little Chapel ghetto rather than allow them to be part of the broader Church.

      I like how Pope Francis is more of a “large tent” Pope. Too many people see us being the anti-abortion/gay Church and have little desire to dig for the vast riches.

      1. @Jack Wayne – comment #15:
        Hello Jack,

        IMHO I don’t agree with the first part of your comment but I do definitely agree with the second part!

        I came across this quote by Pope Francis which touches upon his comments about moral issues and some of what you and I agree on about our vast riches:
        “I see in certain illustrious elite Christians a degradation of what’s religious. … they prefer to talk of sexual morality, of everything that has anything to do with sex. … We’ve left aside an incredibly rich catechism, the mysteries of faith and belief, and end up centering on whether or not to march against a proposed condom law.”

      2. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #16:
        I recall being bothered by a video I had to watch during Confirmation class. The person in the video flat out said he knew the Catholic Church was the true church because she did not change her stance on birth control in the 40s when the mainline Protestants did, as if it were one of the central tenets of the faith equal to, say, the Trinity or something. It seemed so bizarre and backwards to me at the time.

        I think the problem we’ve had isn’t that nobody preaches the hard stuff anymore (morals, rules, etc), but that so few *really* preach about God’s love and mercy, and the *joy* of having faith, in a meaningful way – those are the sermons that have stuck with me and enlightened me. A lot of homilies are about love, but too many seem to treat it in a trivial sort of way that really doesn’t balance out the hot button issues when they are preached.

      3. @Jack Wayne – comment #24:

        Very much agreed Jack.
        Too often the church behaves like the sex police “Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live…

        We need to be defined by not what we are against but rather what we stand for!

        One quote has always stuck with me, by JPII at world peace day in 2001.
        “There is no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness”.

  5. It’s worth pointing out that, in reading Summorum Pontificum, it didn’t seem to me to be Pope Benedict’s intention to coin the term “Extraordinary Form” with capital E and capital F. That was largely done by others. The phrase extraordinary form is used in Summorum Pontificum more as an adjective than a title.

    1. @Richard Skirpan – comment #6:
      Thanks – and as folks such as Rev. Komonchak have repeatedly stated – it is clearly *extraordinary* meaning it needs to meet certain limited criteria to be allowed or justified.

      Unfortunately, B16 and others towards the end of his papacy, built up this whole two forms of the one rite and the *imaginary* EF will allow for mutual enrichment, etc. Komonchak has argued that this was not the intent and it was others who applied this interpretation.

      And this says nothing about what Francis’ approach may be based upon these comments – couple this liturgical comment with his more expanded comments about synods, dialogue, and wanting episcopal conferences to handle these types of decisions.

  6. I am increasingly seeing Francis as “Gaudium et Spes” embodied.
    In particular, his expressions about ecclesiology are refreshingly Pauline and clearly Vatican II-based. Also his willingness to address his detractors publicly is a nice change in direction.
    Some of what’s going on – perhaps as a result of the modern day ability of technology to link the pope directly to most every believer (or at least those with internet access) – seems to be “galloping infallibility” in action; erroneously we believe that every statement from the pope’s lips becomes church policy and doctrine immediately.
    I will be both more joyful and hopeful when concrete systems and structures are put into place – ones with real horizontal accountability throughout the ecclesia.

  7. I was blown away when I read the section on “thinking with the church,” which Francis completely turns upside from what one would expect, that the church is all the faithful and they, “considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief…” Seems so “catholic” to me. In light of the Gospel last week with the missing sheep/coin/son, or JPII’s classic quote of the East and West churches being the two lungs of the same body. We are incomplete in our pursuit of Truth without being in dialogue with all persons of good will (ie, others also interested in pursuing Truth). Seems to me the only way forward.

    1. @Jeff Rice – comment #9:
      Jeff – and yet, that understandiing of *hierarchy* is defined and outlined in VII documents and by the folks who met, approved, and initiated those documents.
      Theologians have repeatedly described the early church notion of magisterium as the *total church* and then goes on to define each subsequent level of authority in the magisterium e.g. papacy, hierarchy (which is more about bishops), people of God. In fact, it begins with the people of God, then a narrower concept of authority via the papacy (which is defined as a servant leadership; not cultic; and not dictatorial); then the bishops of the church, and then theologians, and then the people of God (example frequently used is how the Assumption came about – it started with the people of God). Thus, the magisterium/hierarchy is the whole church – not some narrow, clerical, or curial definition only.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #11:
        “example frequently used is how the Assumption came about – it started with the people of God”

        I once heard a Protestant challenge a Russian Orthodox theologian on the authority for their theology on the Dormition. A pause, then: “Is in LITURGY.”

  8. The hurricane season is not over after all and it is having a world wide effect.
    Who would have dared to imagine a few months back that we would have heard such pastoral honesty coming from Rome ?
    The Church is a people in communion, listening to one another, responding to one another and to the good Lord for that is surely what Papa Francesco is doing.

  9. Pope Francis may be the best “Bringing Catholics Home” program we could ever have imagined. He is a true marketer as well. I find it interesting that he sees the Church as obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. One’s committment to constant concern with these issues has been the litmus test for advancement to the episcopacy, well at least abortion and contraception. It will be interesting to see what the new litmus test will be? What will the new balance be for the Church?

  10. From the interview:

    John XXIII adopted this attitude with regard to the government of the church, when he repeated the motto, ‘See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.’ John XXIII saw all things, the maximum dimension, but he chose to correct a few, the minimum dimension

    In his book Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness Robert Greenleaf in 1977 wrote about Pope John and the Catholic Church:

    For a brief moment in history, many literate persons in the Western World felt a lift of spirit, they became more significant as persons, they gathered strength to contend with the forces that were grinding them down… Some lament that John had so few years for his great work. I do not share those views.

    The Catholic Church in the United States is a minority religion but I regard it as potentially our largest single force for good. It fails to realize its potential for good in society as a whole because, I believe it is seen as predominately a negative force. The issues on which the church is in opposition, such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia, divorce and communism are specific and precisely defined. The issues on which the church is affirmative such as peace, justice and charity are broad idealistic generalities, and the actions are sporadic and imprecise.

    One can lead an institutional or a total society only by strong, sharply aimed affirmative actions. As a non-Catholic I was lifted by Pope John’s regime because an affirmative building leadership seemed to be emerging and this gave a new hope for the world.

    Greenleaf describes precisely almost to the last detail what is now happening with Pope Francis. Greenleaf admired Pope John because he undertook very large endeavors (to fill the leadership vacuum both in the church and the world) i.e. to see everything, and choose to inspire others in very positive specific ways rather than trying to fix all the problems himself.

    Francis seems to have a very similar understanding of his role and that of Pope John.

  11. The most startling thing was his frank, non-egoistic (meaning, not self-dramatizing) examen of his authoritarian approaches as provincial and how he learned from that. It’s a hard thing to pull off – to talk critically about oneself without slipping into egoism.

    Among many things, this should (but I predict won’t) stop people from spinning that he’s validating authoritarian methods in the way he’s been doing things.

  12. I was near tears for joy as I read the interview. He is a most remarkable man with sensitivities for everything from literature to liturgy. His love for classical music surely makes him a true brother of his predecessor. His love for the doctrine of the church unites him with all his faithful predecessors, and yet he comes across on a personal level as the kind of uncle or grandpa you loved to spend time with as a child. Nearly everything he said in the interview both inspires and frightens me. I am inspired to examine my own understanding and experience of prayer, of service, of the use of my time and frightened that I may not be up to the task. I feel like I am in the presence of the Master who is telling me how much I am loved and I so want to live up to that love. God help me, please. John Allen recently called Francis a “force of nature” in assessing his first six months as bishop of Rome. I haven’t felt so full of enthusiasm and hope since those heady days during and immediately after Vatican II. I think we are being given another chance to implement the richer vision of the church generated by that council. Francis couldn’t have a more rockbed, traditional life of devotion. He is a true conservative in his holding fast to the faith that comes to us from the apostles. But he is not only unafraid of how the world may judge that faith, he is eager to engage the world through his own living of the gospel. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful gift you have given us in our brother Francis. Ad majorem Dei Gloriam!

  13. I’m inclined to respond to the headlines of this particular interview from a different perspective that doesn’t presume or take for granted anything. I simply ask when was the last time most of this readership actually heard a homily in which these hot button subjects (homosexuality, abortion, distributionism or even the personification of evil) were expounded upon with any gravity or focus whatsoever, or whether the homilist represented the Cathechism’s contents objectively as well?
    Now I fully realize that the ambo/pulpit isn’t the only “delivery system” for moral teaching and guidance, and perhaps the confessional isn’t an ideal location for communal outreach. But, it seems to me that the majority of any interested Catholics encounters such deliberations primarily through ecclesial and secular media organs. If, as I heard Fr. James Martin, SJ. state in a PBS interview today, HHF’s fellow bishops, abbots and priests do, in fact, “take their cues” from the pope, then I’ll be one surprised soul!
    I rather think that for the foreseeable future a great many of HHF’s utterances will be distilled by many, many clerics as permission to continue personal choices to remain disengaged from their pastoral obligation to lead with some sort of authority in these moral matters that are blasted out like buckshot on a daily basis. I hope it changes the status quo. I wouldn’t bet on it.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #20:
      I simply ask when was the last time most of this readership actually heard a homily in which these hot button subjects (homosexuality, abortion, distributionism or even the personification of evil) were expounded upon with any gravity or focus whatsoever, or whether the homilist represented the Cathechism’s contents objectively as well?

      A priest I know moved to a new parish and after about 3 months was confronted after one Sunday Mass by an irate parishioner “I’m not sure you’re a Catholic priest at all, because for the last three months you haven’t said one word at Sunday Mass about the evils of abortion or homosexuality, and you also haven’t said anything abut the Rosary or Confession.” “Then what do I talk about at Sunday Mass?” asked the priest. The man replied “Just the Sunday readings and living good Christian lives.” “Oh, thank you” said the priest.

  14. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #17:

    You mean like pope John Paul I ?

    All kidding aside, I was thinking the same thing too Kelly. He makes himself so accessible. The Curia is a force to be dealt with and history has shown it is not always a force for good.

  15. Pope to new Bishops: Tend the flock of God

    Pope Francis spoke finally about a third element of tending the flock: remaining with the flock. “I refer to stability,” he said, “which has two precise aspects – ‘to remain’ in the diocese, and ‘to remain’ in this diocese, without seeking change or promotion.” In an age when travelling has become very easy, the Holy Father said “the ancient law of residence hasn’t passed out of fashion.” Residence in the diocese is not only functional, he insisted, but has deep theological roots. “Avoid the scandal of being ‘airport bishops!’” he said.

    “Time spent with your priests is never lost!” he said. “Receive them when they call on you, do not let a phone call go unanswered, always be close to them, in continual contact with them.” In off-the-cuff remarks he insisted that if a priest calls his Bishop, the Bishop should respond the same day, or at most the next day, and that the Bishop should always find a way to make time for priests who want to see him.

    This Pope is getting tough with the bishops. Looks like he still remembers how to be an authoritarian Jesuit superior.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #23:
      This pope is very autocratic, there is no doubt about it. Like any good pastor he has already set the agenda and his consulters better get aboard to confirm it. His agenda is pastoral and this pastoral autocrat ism is new to the papacy but exciting.

      1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #26:
        “This Pope is very autocratic.”


        OED definition of autocratic: “taking no account of other people’s wishes or opinions;”

        “And if you see at some point that I’ve lost it, please, tell me, tell me, and if you can’t say it privately, say it publicly, but say it: ‘Look out, be converted!’, because it’s clear, no?” [applause]” Francis to the clergy of the diocese of Rome recently.


  16. I thought there were many great and heartening things in the interview, but I also thought the NYT reporting of it was pretty awful. I’m not sure whether it is the Catholic Church or the Times that is more obsessed with gays and abortion.

  17. Contrast Pope Francis’s interview – the tone, not the content – with an equally recent interview with Cardinal Burke:

    The alarming rapidity of the realization of the homosexual agenda ought to awaken all of us and frighten us … This is a work of deceit, a lie about the most fundamental aspect of our human nature, our human sexuality, which after life itself defines us. There is only one place these types of lies come from, namely Satan. It is a diabolical situation … we have many adult voters who support politicians with immoral positions because they do not know their Catholic Faith and its teaching with regard to same-sex attraction and the inherent disorder of sexual relations between two persons of the same sex …

    What has also contributed greatly to the situation is an exaltation of the virtue of tolerance which is falsely seen as the virtue which governs all other virtues. In other words, we should tolerate other people in their immoral actions to the extent that we seem also to accept the moral wrong. Tolerance is a virtue, but it is certainly not the principal virtue; the principal virtue is charity. Charity means speaking the truth, especially the truth about human life and human sexuality. While we love the individual, we desire only the best for one who suffers from an inclination to engage in sexual relations with a person of the same sex. We must abhor the actions themselves …

    Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin – cooperating with the crime of procured abortion – and still professes to be a devout Catholic … I fear for Congresswoman Pelosi if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is … We live in a culture with a false sense of dialogue which has also crept into the Church – where we pretend to dialogue about open and egregious violations of the moral law … There is no way to reconcile it; it simply is wrong.

    The whole interview can be read here.

    The pope and the cardinal probably agree on many things. But what a difference in the way they speak!

    Fritz, I agree with you that the NYT didn’t report this well. But when a top prelate gives an interview like this one, it’s not hard to see how the newspapers develop the slant that they do.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #30:
      I would have to differ a bit with you and Fritz in deploring the reportage at the Times. For the Pope to push back against people in the Church who are critical of him for not speaking out against abortion is very big news.

      Especially in the current year, when the American church has put so much of its weight behind so many public initiatives on just these subjects (gays, contraception, abortion), to have the Pope say “this isn’t the most important thing” is huge.

      Also, given the length of the interview, choices had to be made. They very understandably picked the material that is most accessible to and interesting to their readership. Why I became a Jesuit and things like that are just not as newsworthy.

      It’s also the case that when a story appears on the front page, you sacrifice space for prominence. Inner page stories can be longer. They chose to put in on the front page, but I think rightly so. People will be talking about this interview for months, if I’m not mistaken. It may even become historic.

      I’m curious, though. What did you think they did wrong or poorly?

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #37:
        NYT: Asked what it means for him to “think with the church,” a phrase used by the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Francis said that it did not mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

        They’ve omitted the word “only”, with which Francis qualified his remark: “We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.” Francis was clear that this “thinking” is by all the faithful, all the people, and that includes the hierarchy and the theologians. And he clarifies even further that this is not a form of populism. All of that was absent from the NYT snippet. I thought it was sloppy editing, or slanting/spinning on their part.

        My fear is that people will read the NYT summary (or some other summary) and not take a half hour or so to sit and carefully read the actual interview. People will simply say “Pope Francis says Catholics are obsessed with abortion” because that’s what the NYT leads them to think he said, when what he said was far more nuanced: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. … The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.” In other words — in fact, I don’t need to summarize it, Francis already did — “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing.”

        Those two quotes from Francis are very well hidden from the reader of the NYT summary.

      2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #42:
        Thanks for the specific comment, Jeffrey. I now see what you are saying.

        But this just seems to me like the sort of lack of nuance that non-theologians are guilty of all the time. It’s not particularly poor reporting. To be able to grasp that hierarchy is part of church isn’t that easy. In common parlance, most people see them as separate and distinct. The relationship is widely misunderstood by Catholics, too, if Walter Kasper is to be believed. (He wrote about this issue some years ago.) Even he said it was a distinction surmounted “in principle” by the Council’s teaching, but hadn’t been realized yet, in fact, on the ground.

        Judging from the amount of traffic at the America site, a lot of people did go to the primary source, however, which of course is admirable. One should always take news reports with a grain of salt, and the Times has had many bloopers in the past. I just didn’t think this one was particularly poor. Laurie Goodstein is a very conscientious reporter.

      3. @Rita Ferrone – comment #37:

        Hi Rita, I agree with you.
        Anytime the Catholic Chruch makes the front page of the NY times, even if slanted but in a favorable light, is a good day!
        No newspaper around, even Catholic papers, aren’t without some slant.

        It’s a good day for the church.

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #37:
        RIta, let me clarify my comment on three fronts.

        1) There is no longer any room for a relativistic interpretation of this pope; the interview puts paid to “reading Francis through Benedict”, not to mention the waffle about how he is a conservative progressive, or a progressive conservative, or whatever. He has made his views very clear. And I agree that this was front page news, an historic interview.

        2) I hope I didn’t “deplore” the Times report — I can’t speak for Fritz.

        3) How could it have been better? I thought this coverage in The Washington Post put the focus where it belongs:

        Francis told a group of Jesuit journals that although he embraces traditional church teachings, he’s “not a right-winger.” He placed himself with regular Catholics, saying that “thinking with the church” doesn’t mean “only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.

        Pope Francis’s views on gays, contraception, abortion, politicians, etc., all flow from this stance — as the opening sentence of the piece shows:

        Pope Francis made a significant push Thursday toward his vision of a more pastoral, less doctrinaire Catholic Church, saying the church has sometimes “locked itself up in . . . small-minded rules” and dismissing criticism that he hasn’t spoken enough on issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

        And the headline was good too, Pope Francis identifies with regular Catholics. Exactly.

        Maybe the story didn’t appear on the front page. I cannot tell from the website. And it looks as though the Post has published other stories on the interview that look more like the one from the NYT. But the piece I linked to shows that a more balanced presentation of the story is at least possible. I am curious about Fritz’s view!

      5. @Jonathan Day – comment #48:
        Thanks, Jonathan!

        Points one and two are very helpful, and I would agree.

        As to point three — there are some good points in the Post’s coverage that you quote, but I’m afraid I would not agree that “Pope Francis identifies with regular Catholics” describes at all well what he was doing / saying in the interview, which was really much more pastoral, thoroughly thoughtful, and Ignatian than anything we’d ascribe to “regular Catholics” in general — in short, it was an exercise of leadership.

        Of course, I’ve seen a lot of what I would call “phony populism” from Church figures in recent years, so when I hear “regular Catholics” it evokes back slapping and ball games, and not any depth.

      6. @Rita Ferrone – comment #51:
        Jeff and Jonathan more or less said what I would say about the NYT report. I did think it went a bit beyond the typical media cluelessness on Church matters by not placing the Pope’s quite brief comments about gays and abortion within the context of other things he said.

  18. I am strangely touched by his references to Turandot and Knappertsbusch’s Parsifal. It’s not that his predecessor didn’t express piquant tastes (his favorite writers were Th Storm, H. Hesse, Th. Mann, Goethe, Kafka and Annette Kolb, his favorite composer Mozart, his favorite philosopher Plato) but there is something fresher about Francis’s predilections.

  19. Old and new, extraordinary and ordinary, which is the better descriptive. Properly understood, OF is the normal, regular Mass of the Chirch. EF indicates that it is the exception to the normal form, to be requested, and there are limits applied. Old and new have no such connotations and would make the two more on an equal footing, one is just old, the other is new, take your pick, make your choice.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #33:
        Oh? I think there are a lot of choices to take from this interview and craftily designed for your spin, my spin, mass media’s spin, all leading to dialogue and discussion , encounter, etc unless one thinks a certain spin is excluded. Nice try.

      2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #36:
        Thanks, Rita – more of the same and could have sworn that Fr. Ruff wanted him to cease about the claims that Francis is conservative.

        Loved this from Michael Sean Winters:

        Allow me to highlight:
        – *What Pope Francis Meant to Say* Awards (have a couple of other candidates in mind)
        – It shall go to those people who take this plain-speaking pope’s words, which really stand on their own and do not need much in the way of explication, and try and contort them to fit an agenda that is plainly not the pope’s.

  20. As a member of the LGBT community, I have to say I’m not impressed by Pope Francis’s recent comments, and they have not changed anything about my relationship to the Catholic Church. Despite all the rhetoric about being non-judgemental, he still seems to believe that homosexuality is a sin and upholds the teaching of the Catechism. Personally, I prefer the homophobia of Cardinal Burke’s fire and brimstone tone because at least know where he stands, instead of Pope Francis’s deceptive homophobia, which is just a more palatable variation on “love the sinner, not the sin.”

    1. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #34:

      “Pope Francis’s deceptive homophobia”

      Really? Did you actually read the whole 30-page interview?

      If you haven’t, please, go read the whole thing, instead of those selected sound bites quoted by the media.

      If you have and still feel the way you do, then I am sorry.

      For I do not think Pope Francis is “deceptively homophobic,” as you put it.

      1. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #38:

        Yes, actually I spent most of last evening reading the whole thing in detail. It’s clear that while he doesn’t want to over emphasize the Church’s teaching on gays, he doesn’t want to change it either.

        “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

        He even says he’s upholding the Catechism.

        He talks about abortion, homosexuality and contraceptive in the context of the confessional. Why would he do that unless the thinks there’s something that needs to be confessed?

        Perhaps you might re-read the article yourself from the point of view of a gay person.

      2. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #39:

        “He talks about abortion, homosexuality and contraceptive in the context of the confessional. Why would he do that unless the thinks there’s something that needs to be confessed?”

        Because that’s what some people talk about all the time, which the pope clearly disagrees with? He said:

        This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.

        How you read that as the pope saying “homosexuality is a sin,” I do not understand. I read that as him saying, to EVERYONE, not just gays, “Enough with the judging and condemning already!; seek the Lord, confess your sins and do better.”

        But I guess we shall have to agree to disagree, as it surely sounds like you have already closed your mind.

        Anyway, yes, indeed, I am going to re-read and thrice-read the article. And again and again.

        There is just so much in there that warrants multiple readings and much pondering.

      3. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #40:

        Look, I think Pope Francis is a nice guy and I’m sure we could have fun hanging out singing Nessun Dorma all night, but I don’t see that he’s said anything other than “homosexuality is still wrong, we should just be less mean about saying it.” If now all of a sudden the Church via the Pope is saying “gay is okay!” then I think there needs to be a revision to the Catechism, rather than an informal interview in a newspaper. Until then, the altar is still closed to me.

        If i understand Jonathan Day’s comment #30, then Mr. Day is saying the content is the same, just the tone is different. Which is what I am arguing. So I’ll leave it to him though, to clarify if I’m wrong.

      4. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #43:
        Jonathan Z.,

        I understand what you are saying. But those who are proclaiming that this is only a matter of tone are possibly quite wrong about that. I suspect they are either missing some clues or hoping that nothing will change and essentially saying “Move along, move along, nothing to see here!”

        But there IS something to see. Someone sent me an interesting post by Terry Weldon about “something much bigger going on” which you might want to look at before concluding that nothing significant is shifting.

        Further parsing of the Catechism comment might seem like hair splitting, so I’ll let that go.

      5. @Rita Ferrone – comment #45:

        I’m at work so I’ll have to read the link during a longer break, but I want to clarify that I don’t think that “nothing significant is shifting” just that, for me at least, the unseen shifting is useless to me until it comes out in the open. I’m not interesting in reading the tea leaves about what may happen in the future. I hope things change, and it’s encouraging that things look like they will eventually, it’s little consolation presently.

        And I also don’t mean to seem like I’m raining on everyone’s Pope Francis parade either, but people’s excitement over his election and how he’s different make it seem like he’s a living progressive saint. (C.f. last night on All In with Chris Hayes). He may seem like a breath of fresh air, but for me, he’s just a breath of relatively less stale air.

      6. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #49:
        Jonathan, as the author of the blog post Rita referred you too, that I too am openly gay, and a gay activist for full inclusion and equality in church, and in the world. I too am not greatly interested in vague promises of better things to come, I also want to see real improvements, right now.

        For me, the important thing about this interview, which really is ground-breaking, is that it creates the conditions for radical reform of teaching on all aspects of sexuality, and most definitely on homoerotic relationships. That’s the future. But in the meantime, there will be fundamental change in tone and actions by local bishops. It will no longer be possible for bishops to exclude openly gay Catholics from parish ministry, not unless they want to signal that they are in conflict with the head of the Church. Equally, it will no longer be feasible to shout so loudly against equal marriage or gay adoption.
        Core doctrine won’t change just yet – but most Catholics simply ignore the disordered doctrines anyway, on contraception, cohabitation before marriage, divorce after remarriage, masturbation and the rest – as well as our particular concerns. What really matters to most people is not so much the rules of the Catechism, but ordinary treatment and rhetoric on the ground. That should change, just about immediately.

  21. Francis has many interesting images of the church in his interview beyond the people of God image.

    I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.

    I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess… The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost
    “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. (my favorite sentence on this theme).

    The young Catholic churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient churches. For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom.

    Francis Catholicism is the rich, diverse Catholicism of a universal church in all time and places. Even his image of people of God is a rich concrete one rather than an abstraction

    Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.

    “The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows

    A sharp contrast to the narrow sectarian “evangelical Catholicism” which some have tried to construct in recent years.

    Certainly sectarian movements attract people and creating new sects has been the way of growth for Protestantism. However Catholicism has always domesticated its sectarian movements in forms such as new religious orders.

    A sectarian movement such as a new spirituality, e.g. the spirituality of the poor, is useful for growth; however whenever it tries to become a Church unto itself as the only interpretation of the Gospel it becomes a dead end. That was the problem with Liberation theology.

  22. Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League in the United States, has given his opinion of Pope Francis’s interview.

    William Donahue, “Don’t be shocked by Pope Francis”, CNN Opinion, 20 September 2013

    It is interesting to compare Bill Donahue’s statements to Jonathan’s (at #30) excerpt of one of Cardinal Burke’s interviews. Consider the following quotation from Bill Donahue’s CNN editorial:

    Laurie Goodstein’s article in The New York Times [19 September 2013] on the pope’s comments says U.S. bishops will feel the pinch of these remarks as they often appear “to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities.” This is inaccurate.

    It is not the bishops who have made these issues front and center — it is the Obama administration. It would be more accurate to say the pope would find fault with the bishops if they did not resist these state encroachments on the religious liberty rights of Catholics. [my addition]

  23. Jonathan Z, I did not say that the content was the same, the tone was different — far from it. All I said was that Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke agree on many fronts, certainly not on all.

    I suspect that Pope Francis would condemn many of the attitudes toward the poor that many conservative Catholics — I cannot speak about Cardinal Burke here — view as “prudential judgements”. I doubt that Pope Francis would applaud the thousands of dollars that have gone to provide the Cardinal with gilded mitres and fur-trimmed vestments and jewelled gloves.

    I know quite a few priests who simply refuse to condemn gay sex from the pulpit, primarily because — whatever your view about the sinfulness or non-sinfulness of it — there are so many behaviours that are unquestionably more destructive. That is a step in the right direction; a change in emphasis (“tone”) that, I hope, precedes a deeper change.

    For what it is worth, I am convinced that the Church’s public teaching on homosexuality is wrong and that it will change. I am broadly in agreement with Gareth Moore, the Dominican who wrote A Question of Truth (Continuum, 2003).

    But it will take a long time for the official pronouncements to shift.

  24. Count me as mystified as to the importance given the secular press coverage of this. It’s not as though America put this piece up behind a subscriber’s firewall. And the interview is not that long.

    When I heard about it I went to RNS first. When I saw it was up, I was pleasantly surprised and went to America directly. Outside of NY, people are not going to buy a Times and read it. And if they have internet access, they’ll likely go to the source.

    The NYT and the WaPo are irrelevant beyond their locales, sorry East Coasters–this is the 21st century. I’m a little more concerned, but not too much, about what was said on tv. But I’m glad to say I had three ministry appointments and a Mass last night, and was too busy getting the fragrance of sheep on me. Our campus ministry director, a lay woman, preached on the interview, btw.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #53:
      Maybe I should clarify. I put up this post immediately, when I first read this story in the Times. Since then, a host of publishing outlets have covered it. If you like another one better, be my guest.

      I did go to the America website, Todd, to try to get the primary source and couldn’t open the story, I don’t know why. At the time I presumed it was protected content. It worked for me later, but after I had already posted.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #60:
        I apologize for being snarky on that point. I get a lot more weary with the meme of “that ignorant media misunderstands us poor Catholics.”

        Journalists are ignorant about a lot of things: climatology, evolution, economics, etc.. Catholics can take a number. But they shouldn’t feel particularly special.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #63:
        Todd – here is another *ignorant media* type but just loved it:

        Especially his poking Rod Dreher in the eye (Dreher ediotorialized for years in the Dallas papers – was thrilled when he moved east).

        From M. Silk: “As for me, I’d like to see some evidence that the right-wingers, who love to talk about the importance of the magisterium, are taking the pope’s magisterial pronouncement seriously. As in: “Gee, maybe we have been too preoccupied with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. Thanks, Your Holiness, for the paternal correction about the need for the church to re-balance itself as it makes its way in the contemporary world.”

        But I’m not holding my breath.”

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #64:
        Well, I did concede I went to RNS first. I would hardly consider a professor of theology to be a typical journalist.

        For all the bellyachin’ about ignorance, I’m just saying go to the source and encourage others to do likewise. When I want science news, I have a list of good sites, and they are not governed by our corporate masters at NBC, Disney, or what-have-you.

        And yes, Prof. Silk is indeed entertaining.

  25. From today’s readings:
    Teach and urge these things.
    Whoever teaches something different
    and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
    and the religious teaching
    is conceited, understanding nothing,
    and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
    From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions,
    and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds,
    who are deprived of the truth……”

    Struck me as especially meaningful.

  26. There are some who say that the Old order Vertus ordo is on equal footing as the New Order (Novus Ordo).
    But I don’t agree. By using Vertus Ordo Francis specifically avoided the term extraordinary. Ordinary vs extraordinary both have the term “ordinary”in them. Since the extra ordinary is an ordinary form which implies an active order but not the normative order hence”Extra” Ordinary form. This in my opiniom implies a somewhat active and equal status, exactly as B16 has stated.

    However, Vertus Ordo just means that, old order, there is no implied legitimacy as in the “Extra Ordinary Form”. There are many “older forms” ie Sarum mass, and many variants in the middle ages in the different religious orders, etc. They are all Old Forms or Vertus Orders and all are suppressed to my knowledge.
    Deliberately using Vertus Order IMO doesn’t bode well for an Extraordinary Rite that can now be said anywhere just for the asking.

  27. Pope Francis’ interview has generated some wonderful and exciting dialogue. But why should Francis’ words be seen as so ‘new’? They only express the thoughts of someone who takes the Gospel seriously.
    What effect will his words have on the way we ourselves excercise our ministries? Couldn’t it be said that some of us also “obsess” over favorite issues or causes to the neglect of others? And as far as being “a home for all”, does that include those whose theology or liturgical practices are more conservative/liberal than our own?
    Priests and pastoral ministers rightly find Francis’ words energizing and liberating. But will priests and pastoral ministers allow those words to energize and liberate others besides themselves?
    In their book “Rebuilt”, Michael White and Tom Corcoran characterize some parishes’ song/motto “All Are Welcome” to actually mean, “All are welcome to be present as we meet our needs.”
    In the end, who should feel more empowered– the ministers or those ministered to?

  28. Our brothers Jonathan and Terence have an understandably different take on the interview than those who are not GLBT activists. But I encourage them to stay tuned and to keep in mind something that former Speaker Tip O’Neil said about “all politics is local.” There are countless pastors throughout the country and the world who have been long time practitioners of mercy and kindness with regard to those whose lived experience is in conflict with “the rules”. They deal with pastoral issues in a manner like that in which families deal with family issues. I have a brother who is in his third marriage and who no longer attends church regularly. But that isn’t because he’s angry with church rules that might seem to exclude him, but because he hasn’t yet had the kind of encounter with the mercy and love of Christ which leads to a hunger for the Bread of Life. I don’t relate to he and his wife as if they are not really married. I relate to him as my baby brother whose mother died when he was a week old and I was less than 12. He and his wife are believers each in their own way, and I can only hope that my love for them will make it more possible for them to realize that we are all on a journey of faith together.
    Jonathan, do you really think that the Pope and the Bishops can readily come up with a new theology of sexuality that would be more to your liking or mine. Bigger than the theological and scriptural issues are those which are anthropological, anatomical, and biological. It has been less than twenty-five years since the words gay and marriage could be used in a sentence that would make any sense at all to nearly the entire population of the planet? No one has to fear those whose love is homo-erotic to not know how to take it all in. What I hear in the comments of Francis is something like this: I’m not at all sure how to take in this whole matter of homosexuality, but I’m resolved to look at everyone as a person whom God loves and cherishes. Good starting point as far as I’m concerned.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #63:
      Wonderful Fr. Jack.
      It seems that many are stating that this is just all a change in tone and style rather than actual substance.
      However, didn’t B16 rule that gay men, including chaste gay men, were not to be allowed in the seminary? Now comes Francis and he states “who am I to judge” concerning chaste gay priests. The implication being that he won’t remove chaste gays from the seminary and the rank and file because it is incompatible with the priesthood as Benedict stated?

      If this is indeed the case then there is a significant shift not only in tone but substance?

    2. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #65:

      Thanks, Fr. Jack, for the insights. A few unorganized thoughts for response:

      Of course, you’re correct that there are lots of pastors who stand up for gay rights both within the Church and in the political sphere, and I call to mind several I know locally. They would have no problem giving me communion, and encourage me to do so. But that just seems to me like they’re trying to sneak me in the back door while their bosses aren’t looking. Further, why would I want to receive communion in the first place from an institution that officially doesn’t want me to? Now of course, my qualms are my own and I appreciate the protests done by the Rainbow Sash movement among others who are doing great work in furthering gay rights in the church. Personally, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving communion in a Catholic church until I was officially allowed to, and I think I would feel the same way if I were a heterosexual using contraception or in a second marriage.

      Yes, I would and do expect the Church to develop a theology on any issue that is consistent with contemporary society, and that includes a sexual theology that addresses sexual behavior outside of a first heterosexual marriage. The ECUSA and ELCA among others seem to have done much of this already, though other readers here will know more about a potential sexual theology than I would.

      I’m a bit confused by what specifically you mean by the bigger issues that are “anthropological, anatomical, and biological” so I’m not sure how to respond.

      Again as I said earlier, I think Pope Francis is a nice guy. But my main purpose in writing all this today is to temper what looks to me to be undue adulation for someone who, while certainly looking ahead in the right direction, hasn’t taken a first step yet. And I think the NYT and other progressive media aren’t doing us any favors by going out of their way to make Pope Francis appear like he’s just about to ordain women, etc.

      1. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #69:

        Again as I said earlier, I think Pope Francis is a nice guy. But my main purpose in writing all this today is to temper what looks to me to be undue adulation for someone who, while certainly looking ahead in the right direction, hasn’t taken a first step yet.

        The fact that Pope Francis has dared to say the word “gay” is a huge step. In only a few phrases, Pope Francis has told the Church that the homosexual constitution is intrinsic and immutable. This is a significant blow to those in the Church who ardently wish to objectify LGBT people, and especially gay men, by bizarre evasive phrases such as “one who suffers from same-sex-attraction” and “persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” Pope Francis has called us gay folk by the name we’ve chosen for ourselves.

        I (briefly, thank God) went to diocesan-sponsored conversion therapy. Even Stanley Kubrick couldn’t direct something that twisted. Anyway, those in the church who peddle psychological abuse towards LGBT people smoothly sailed through the last two pontificates. Now, Pope Francis, by referring to at least gay men by their self-identification, has stirred the waters. Hopefully, this radical change will pull Catholic conversion therapy efforts up by the roots.

        Jonathan Z, Pope Francis’s recognition of the humanity of gay people is one more nail in the coffin of the faction of the Church which perverts doctrine for the service of hate. If that’s not something to rejoice about, what is?

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #70:

        Well, sure, I agree Pope Francis’s attitude is something to be happy about. I just think it needs to be in context and in proportion is all.

        Also, he didn’t use the word “gay” in Italian, he mostly talked about “persone omosessuali”. Not that that changes your point, I only bring that up because I’m a language nerd and I’m curious to learn what differences of connotation there are between using “gay” in Italian as a loanword from English and “persona omosesuale”

  29. I hope we can participate in “finding a new balance” as the Pope says, and not expect him to hand it all to us on a silver platter. The finding of a “new balance” is an open-ended task, isn’t it?

  30. To Jonathan Ziegler at #71:-
    Pope Francis did answer in Italian. His exact words were as follows (my apologies for not being able to show the Italian accents properly):-
    “Se una persona e’ gay e cerca il Signore e ha buona volonta’ ma chi sono io per giudicarla?”.
    For which the English translation is:- ‘If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will But who am I to judge him/her?’.

    1. @Mark O’Meara – comment #73:

      I stand corrected. I didn’t realize that Pope Francis used different words in the interview on the plane and in his paraphrase of that line in the La Civilta Cattolica interview:

      “Durante il volo di ritorno da Rio de Janeiro ho detto che, se una persona omosessuale è di buona volontà ed è in cerca di Dio, io non sono nessuno per giudicarla.”

  31. Interestingly Fr Z’s blog is no longer ‘reading Francis through Benedict’ and has changed his strap-line to ‘I see the church as a field hospital after battle. This time last year Fr Z was advocating ‘Benedict has a marshall plan…’ and the biological solution’. How quickly Francis is moving on and disrupting the narrative on the traditionalist blogs as well as in the wider media! It’s quite remarkable – he is clearly setting the agenda.

    The NCR also has started a rather humorous regular piece called WDPFRMTS – what did pope Francis really mean to say? featuring the most incredulous spinning and distorting of Francis’ quotes by traditionalist blogs trying to convince that he really meant the opposite of whatever he said.

  32. Biological solutions look to nature. In the church and in theology there is always the unpredictable role of the Holy Spirit to be taken into consideration. Francis’ election and ministry is grace.

  33. Ah, Gerard. In three swift sentences you have said more than I could have done in as many long paragraphs. Thank you!

  34. Thanks Bill — I was looking for WDPFRMTS without success. The link you provided got me to Michael Sean Winters’s column.

    Andrew, yes, the traditionalist bloggers are turning themselves inside out to re-interpret Pope Francis. But remember, not that long ago, it looked as though the world had changed forever. Cardinals like Burke and Ranjith seemed to be in the ascendant. The new generation, so the story went, was committed to the old Mass, to the moral theology of the manuals and to the culture war. Those of us who weren’t Tridentine manualist culture warriors were old and dying off. It was the hermeneutic of contiunity, the biological solution, the new liturgical movement and the Marshall Plan.

    This change was forever, so the story went, because Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had stacked the college of cardinals.

    Of course Pope Francis has changed all of that. I hope he has also convinced me that it is never wise to proclaim the end of history — only God can rightly do that. The restorationist movement could come back.

    For now, though, we have a pope who seems focused on the really important things. As Gerard says, his election and ministry are grace, a gift to God’s people. As Jack Wayne and others have said, on this and the other Pope Francis thread, it’s a great time to be Catholic.

  35. Thanks, Jonathan – here is another very interesting column that reinforces what Gerard said:

    Some examples:
    – one traddie commenter states; “The mark of the true Catholic is fidelity to Rome, our pope and the bishops in union with him in the areas of faith and morals.” Really, thought that Francis said:
    “The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God….There is no full identity without belonging to a people – in fact, this is the hierarchy and the magisterium – people, Spirit, etc.
    – another commenter: “this is really about pastoral theology – watch, Francis may just make this pastoral theology a dogma”
    Really – where to begin in terms of completing misunderstanding or as this America article states: Francis identifies infallibility as inhering in the whole church: “a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. . . When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit.” This is an entirely orthodox understanding of infallibility, but one side-lined in practice for too long in favor of a monarchical view. It is what Blessed John Henry Newman called “a conspiracy of bishops and faithful.”
    e.g. JPII’s model of the church was almost always institutional in terms of the clerical hierarchy….Benedict echoed this.

  36. I have now read the Italian (original) version. Well, I don’t know any Italian, so had to resort to Google translation (heh), but regardless, am glad I did.

    It turns out America’s version edited out certain parts — mostly related to Father Spadaro’s words (obviously). And I liked this version better, which felt more… complete? intimate? fuller? or something (can’t think of a word), despite some wonky translations.

    It’s now available at La Civilta Cattolica’s website (which everyone probably knows already).

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