RELIGION
03/20/2013 12:08 pm ET | Updated Mar 22, 2013

Pope Francis Talks Celibacy, Pedophilia In 2012 Interview (Report)

A 2012 interview with then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio may give the public a glimpse into the new pope's position on celibacy and pedophilia.

According to a transcript obtained by Catholic news website Aleteia.org, Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- chatted with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, last year about his views on celibacy among priests and his hardline stance against child sex abuse.

"When I was a seminarian, I was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle's wedding. I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance... and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while," Bergoglio told Skorka, adding that despite the temptation, he eventually chose to stay on the "religious path."

As for celibacy among priests, Bergoglio said that he -- "for the moment" -- was "in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures."

However, Bergoglio went on to offer a hypothetical alternative.

"If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons, not so much as a universal option," he said.

In a report for the National Catholic Reporter this week, Jesuit priest Father Thomas Reese argued that while the then-cardinal appeared to take celibacy "very seriously," based on his language, Bergoglio also seemed open to change.

Now that Bergoglio has marked the start of his ministry as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, many are eager to learn how the new pope is planning on tackling the many challenges facing the Church.

On Tuesday, after the pope's inaugural Mass, the Associated Press reported that while the new pontifex has been ladling out "crowd-pleasing messages" since his election last week, the Argentine-born pope has yet to offer "any hint of how he might tackle [the Church's] greater problems." These would include sex abuse scandals, issues of priestly celibacy, female priesthood and church reform, NBC News notes.

On the topic of pedophilia, Bergoglio told Skorka in 2012 that child sex abuse should never be tolerated or swept under the carpet, and that church leadership "must never turn a blind eye."

"You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person," he said.

As Channel 4 News noted last week, Francis is "faced with an uphill struggle in restoring the credibility of the church." Other than the internal issues facing the Holy See, Francis is "facing longer-term issues as well," such as the growing influence of secularization.

Channel 4 continued:

The new Pope will have to decide how he is to reach out to those who, for whatever reason, have left Christianity behind, and what sort of approach to adopt when governments press ahead with legislation the church fiercely opposes, such as gay marriage or abortion.

Francis has already come under fire for the anti-gay marriage stance he held while still a cardinal. (According to an earlier AP report, Argentina's gay community knows the pope as "the man who launched 'a war of God' against the move to approve gay marriage" there.)

As Francis meets with dignitaries and Christian delegations in the coming days, it is believed that his position regarding ecumenical issues will slowly come to light.

The pope's comments appear in Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, a book published by the Sudamericana publishing company. Visit Aleteia.org to read more from the interview.

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