Intrigued by news coverage of Pope Francis’s interview with the world’s leading Jesuit journals, I wanted to read the whole thing for myself. The full English text was 19 pages long. The part that generated all the excited headlines — “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control” was how The New York Times announced it on page one — amounted to only about five paragraphs. Maybe the Catholic Church isn’t the institution that’s obsessed.
You wouldn’t know it from the media’s compulsive focus on the controversial social issues, but the long conversation with the new pope was far more interesting and wide-ranging than a mere skull session on culture-war politics. The pope discussed everything from his favorite paintings to his daily prayers, from how he taught literature to high school boys to how he learned to avoid being authoritarian as he rose in the church hierarchy. He explained why leaving “room for doubt” is so important in any honest person’s search for God, and why he distrusts any religious figure who claims to have “the answers to all the questions.”