Pope Francis opened up in an interview last year about a young woman he had been infatuated with in the past, and even discussed that the priest celibacy rule “can change”.
The interview was given while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, and was transcribed by the Catholic news website Aleteia. Then-Cardinal Bergoglio claimed to have been ‘dazzled’ by a girl he met at his uncle’s wedding, and was ‘bowled over’ by her beauty and intellectual brilliance. “I kept thinking and thinking about her,” he said. “When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head.”
Pope Francis added that the celibacy rule ‘can change’ although he is “in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons.” He added that priests who cannot “get back on track” after breaking their vow should leave the church.
Breaking the celibacy rule with another consenting adult is quite different than with a child, and Francis encouraged zero tolerance for pedophiles within the church. But he refused to make the link between the recent scandals and the vow of celibacy itself.
“The idea that pedophilia is a consequence of celibacy is ruled out . . . if a priest is a pedophile, he is so before he is a priest.”