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VATICAN CITY, September 27, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― During a visit with African Jesuits in Mozambique, Pope Francis once again accused young priests in traditional dress of harboring “moral problems” and “imbalances.”

While answering a question from Fr. Lucas Joaquim Biriate, S.J., the socius of (chief assistant to) the Jesuit provincial in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the Argentinian pontiff condemned “clericalism” in no uncertain terms.

Biriate had asked how priests could “avoid falling into clericalism during formation for priestly ministry.”

“Clericalism is a real perversion in the Church,” Francis replied before offering an anecdote about a clerical “friend” he had in Argentina, who once refused to bless some pictures and a rosary proffered by a pious woman. However, the pope’s ire was saved for young priests who wear traditional dress.

“Clericalism has a direct consequence in rigidity,” he said, returning to one of the themes of his pontificate. “Have you never seen young priests all stiff in black cassocks and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? Behind all the rigid clericalism there are serious problems.”

He continued, “I had to intervene recently in three dioceses with problems that expressed themselves in these forms of rigidity that concealed moral problems and imbalances.”

It is uncertain to which dioceses the sovereign pontiff was referring.

Francis’s remarks, made on September 5, were recently published in the Vatican-vetted magazine La Civiltà Cattolica and its news website Vatican News.

Pope Francis has often attacked young traditional priests in his homilies and speeches. In a homily he gave in December 2016 at his hotel home, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Argentinian pontiff insinuated that young priests who wear more optional clerical garb are both “rigid” and effeminate:

About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus — and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow — he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest — before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one. And that priest — he is wise, that monsignor, very wise — was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’ Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.

On September 7, two days after his remarks to Fr. Biriate, Pope Francis warned African bishops against “young, rigid priests.”

“Today it is fashionable, I do not know about here, but in other parts of the world it is fashionable, to find rigid people,” the pontiff said.

“Young, rigid priests, who want to save with rigidity, perhaps, I don’t know, but they take this attitude of rigidity and sometimes excuse me from the museum,” he continued. 

“They are afraid of everything, they are rigid. Be careful, and know that under any rigidity there are serious problems.” 

In response to Francis’s September 7 remarks, Monsignor Charles Pope wrote an open letter to the pontiff over social media saying that, although not young, he knows that Francis does not like his kind of priesthood.

“I must honestly and painfully say that I am wearied from being scorned and demonized by you,” he concluded.