VATICAN CITY, November 18, 2013 ( – The Vatican has removed the text of a controversial interview given by Pope Francis to noted atheist Eugenio Scalfari from the Vatican website, where it had been posted under the section for papal speeches. The link to the interview now deposits visitors at the Vatican home page. However, the interview remains as originally published on the website of Italy’s daily La Repubblica

While there have been no specific clarifications on most of the controversial aspects of the interview, Vatican observers are seeing in the removal of the interview from the Vatican website another step in distancing the Pope from the interview’s contents, as reported by La Repubblica. 

The October 1 interview raised eyebrows around the world as La Repubblica reported that the Pope had said that youth unemployment and loneliness of the elderly are the “the most urgent” problems facing the Church, and the “most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days.”  Moreover, some criticized the interview for appearing to distort the teaching of the Church on what it means to follow one’s conscience in determining good and evil. 


The day after the interview’s publication, Vatican press chief, Fr. Federico Lombardi, noted that the interview was “not a magisterial document,” but also suggested that the text was trustworthy.  The text of the interview was posted on the Vatican website and in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. It was also revealed that the Pope had a chance to look it over prior to publication. 

However, a week later another Vatican clarification was issued, nothing that Scalfari did not record, or even take notes, during his interview with Pope Francis, and that the whole interview was reconstructed from memory.  “Scalfari has stated that he showed the text to Francis for his approval, but it’s not clear how closely the pope read it,” the clarification added. 

And in what is widely being interpreted as a clarification to the Scalfari interview’s text on conscience, on October 22, the Vatican published an essay in L’Osservatore Romano by the head of the Church’s doctrinal office – the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Scalfari had reported Pope Francis as saying, “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” 

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In the October 22nd essay, Archbishop Gerhard Muller wrote of a “problematical concept of ‘conscience’,” which “was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.”

Catholics, he said, “have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them ‘not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it.’”

According to one report, Pope Francis himself had been concerned that his interview with Scalfari could be misunderstood. According to Antonio Socci, a Catholic columnist for the Italian newspaper Libero, the Pope “regretted” the publication of the interview in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and “complained of it to the director, Gian Maria Vian, in Assisi on Oct. 4.” 

Socci claimed that he “learned about the Pope’s regret by two different sources.” 

Of note, there have been no similar moves to clarify the Pope’s other interviews which have caused similar, and arguably greater disturbance.  Reverberations continue from the Jesuit interview wherein the Pope had stated: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”  During that interview he also said, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”