- On New Year’s Eve, Lombardi put out a statement to counter a column by a prominent Italian journalist and atheist, Eugenio Scalfari, claiming that Francis “has abolished sin.” Lombardi had to reiterate that those “who really follow the pope daily know how many times he has spoken about sin.”
- After fevered speculation that the pope might break with tradition and name women as cardinals, Francis himself denied the rumors. “I don’t know where this idea sprang from,” he told an Italian journalist in an interview in December. “Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”
- In early December, the Vatican categorically denied a media report that Pope Francis has been slipping out at night to visit the homeless in Rome. The stories, while appealing and in keeping with Francis’ intense concern for the poor, are “simply not true,” Vatican officials said.
- In September, the Vatican “firmly denied” that Francis had called a gay man in France to assure him that “your homosexuality doesn’t matter.” No way, no how, said Lombardi.
- And last May, the Vatican called the claim that Francis had performed an exorcism on a handicapped man in St. Peter’s Square “absolutely false.” Francis often embraces the sick and disfigured when he mingles with the crowds, and those images often go viral. But that wasn’t enough for some.
Q Scores that brand managers can only dream of. But is the pontiff becoming a victim of his own good press? The Vatican once again had to dispel media reports that went well beyond what Francis actually said, as his spokesman formally denied that the pope had signaled an openness to same-sex unions in a recently published conversation with leaders of religious orders. During the November discussion with leaders of the Jesuits, Franciscans and others, Francis said they needed to engage “complex” situations of modern life, such as the prevalence of broken homes and the growth in gay couples rearing children. He noted in particular the case “of a very sad little girl” he knew of who confessed that her mother’s girlfriend “doesn’t like me.” After citing the example of that lesbian couple he seemed to warn against being quick to condemn: “How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.” And that was quickly interpreted as a papal blessing of sorts of gay families. The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, on Monday issued a statement saying that while Francis certainly wants to “affectionately accompany” people no matter their circumstances, the pontiff had “absolutely not expressed” his opinion on gay unions and that some reports had “forced” such an interpretation. On Tuesday (Jan. 7), another Jesuit and papal confidante, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, wrote to a leading Italian daily to protest that Francis has no intention of “legitimizing any behavior that’s inconsistent with the doctrine of the church.” Spadaro said any other reading was an effort at “manipulation.” Still, it’s not the first time this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last. Consider:(RNS) No doubt about it, Pope Francis is generating the kind of Internet buzz and sky-high