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Catholic League's Donohue: Pope's Spontaneity Gets Him in Trouble

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Wednesday, 28 May 2014 07:40 PM

Pope Francis' spontaneity and willingness to take on any issue often get him in trouble, as was seen this week in Israel, says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

"He’s getting criticism from all sides and I understand that. It's a very delicate walk, isn't it?'' Donohue told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"I think he's trying to bring about peace, that's about it. Did he do the right things, the wrong things? I don't know. He’s known for his spontaneity. That gets him into some trouble.''

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The pontiff made waves Monday during his visit to Middle East when he corrected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pronouncement that Jesus spoke Hebrew, interrupting him to say it was “Aramaic.” Netanyahu responded, “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.”

Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post slammed the Pope's interruption as "rudeness and historical revisionism." She also criticized him for "reverentially'' touching and kissing a section of the West Bank separation barrier containing anti-Semitic graffiti "as if it were the Wailing Wall."

"By standing there, kissing the barrier with its Holocaust denying slogan, Francis gave Vatican license to Holocaust denial," Glick wrote.

"I think this is much ado about nothing. It's inconsequential. Most Catholics wouldn’t even know whether Jesus spoke Aramaic or Hebrew and you know what? It's not going to change their feelings one way or another," Donohue said.

"The Pope is … very much an impromptu guy. He doesn't go by script and there's a plus to that, but there is also a minus. He’s in a tough spot obviously, but I think he came across pretty well for the most part.''

Francis also made headlines in a chat with reporters on his flight from Jerusalem to Rome when he spoke about the Roman Catholic Church's rules on the celibacy of priests.

"Celibacy is not a dogma of faith … [It] is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal and I believe it is a gift for the church,” he said.

But "the door is always open' to changing the celibacy edict, "given that it is not a dogma of faith."

Donohue said the issue of celibacy has been raised before.

"Well when [Edward] Cardinal Egan left as the Archbishop of New York one of the last things he said was maybe the time has come to rethink it," Donohue said.

"The first thousand years of church history, celibacy was expected but it wasn't required. In the second thousand years they mandated it. It's what we call a discipline.

"In other words, it's a man-made kind of rule. It's not the like Jesus and the Resurrection and Easter. So they can change this if they want. It's like changing [eating] meat on Friday. Will they change it? I don't know.''

Donohue said he was struck that the issue of celibacy — one of many discussed by Pope Francis — was the one jumped upon by the media.

"The one that’s the most interesting [to the media] is about sexuality.... I've never seen such an obsession about it,'' he said.

"They don't care about Muslims and Jews, they don't care about Jerusalem, they care about nothing but sex. This is the media's obsession. They say that Catholics are obsessed about sex. No, it's the secular media.''

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