What did Jesus really think about divorce? As prominent Catholics throughout the world debate in Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis, his Vicar, CNN’s Larry King interviews the Man himself.
CNN: You seem to be at the raging heart of a controversy which is shaking the Church you founded. Is this what you wanted? People are claiming that you lack clarity on the issues. How do you respond to that?
JC: Well thank you, Larry, for giving me this opportunity to clear up a few things. To be frank with your viewers, I thought I had made matters crystal clear; I even repeated myself (which I very rarely do). But I grant that there have been problems. Some people respond negatively to a straight-forward, in-your-face approach to things. They crave subtlety and nuance. It makes them feel better.
CNN: So you are now thinking that a different approach would have got the message over more successfully?
JC: Well not exactly. You see I was talking to a Jewish audience, and so I had to do so in a way they could grasp and understand. Jews are great sticklers for tradition – don’t get me wrong, I am a Jew myself, I buy into all that! – but if you are going to try to change things in that sort of context, you have to be pretty authoritative. Looking back, I think I can say that I developed a rather useful formula. ‘You have heard that it was said in olden times … but I say to you.’ I used it quite bit. It had the advantage of putting an age-old Jewish figure of speech to a new use.
CNN: But were you really intending to contradict Moses? Some of your modern critics are saying that it shows you in a very poor light. It makes you – the great advocate of mercy, tolerance and love – look less loving and merciful than the grisled old law-giver of tradition.
JC: The Moses thing, let’s face it, was a concession. I was concerned, on the other hand, to get back to basics. What is the creational relationship of man and woman? I think the tradition is pretty clear about that, and I said so: I recalled people to the Creator’s original intention and asked them to ground their happiness and fulfilment in that. In my view nothing could be simpler or more traditional.
CNN: But you also went on to say that divorce was a provision for people who were ‘unteachable’. That comes over as terribly censorious – about the last thing that people expect from you these days.
JC: What can I say, Larry? Obviously I can’t agree with everyone about everything. But don’t you think that the present debate is proof that on the ‘unteachable’ thing I got it about right?