Pope Francis Praises Eating and Sex as Pleasures That 'Come From God'

Pope Francis has praised the "simply divine" pleasures of eating and sex, according to a book that has just been released of conversations he had with a prominent Italian gastronomist.

Carlo Petrini, 71, a pioneer of the "slow food" movement, spoke with the head of the Catholic Church between May 2018 and July 2020 on a number of topics for the book Terra Futura: Conversations with Pope Francis on integral ecology.

During the dialogues, the pope, who was born Jorge Bergoglio in Argentina, described the pleasures of a well-cooked meal and "sexual pleasure." In his view, these had previously fallen victim to "overzealousness" by the Catholic Church in the past in what was a "wrong interpretation of the Christian message."

"Pleasure arrives directly from God, it is neither Catholic, nor Christian, nor anything else, it is simply divine," the pope said, according to RTE.

"The Church has condemned inhuman, brutish, vulgar pleasure, but has on the other hand always accepted human, simple, moral pleasure."

Pope Francis
Pope Francis is greeted by well wishers at the Vatican on September 9. In a book of conversations with Italian food writer Carlo Petrini, the pontiff spoke about the pleasures of food and sex. Vincenzo PINTO/Getty Images

"The pleasure of eating is there to keep you healthy by eating, just like sexual pleasure is there to make love more beautiful and guarantee the perpetuation of the species," the pope said, adding that opposing views "have caused enormous harm, which can still be felt strongly today in some cases."

"The pleasure of eating and sexual pleasure come from God," he said. The pope also mentioned the 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast—about a chef who invites ultra-puritan Protestants to a banquet— as reflecting his message on pleasure and as "a hymn to Christian charity, to love."

Catholic commentator and writer Peter Williams said that Pope Francis "is unusual as popes go, in giving answers in interviews that are as casual and off-the-cuff. So, if his words sound odd, it's probably because he likes to talk in a very down-to-earth manner."

"I don't think it's unusual for a pope to say what he specifically said though. In calling the enjoyment of food and sex 'divine', the Holy Father is rightly pointing out that pleasure comes from God," Williams told Newsweek, adding that the pontiff was reiterating "the church's acceptance of 'human, simple, moral pleasure', like good cuisine and fulsome sexual love in marriage."

"Pope Francis is simply repeating the perennial Christian message on virtue and vice. By avoiding the twin evil extremes of repressive puritanism on the one hand, and immoral libertinism on the other, both of which prevent or destroy happy enjoyment of good things like food or sex, the Church rightly espouses the 'golden mean,'" Williams added.

The dialogues between Petrini and the pontiff comprise the first book's 67 pages, with the rest consisting of Petrini's thoughts on topics ranging from biodiversity to education.

The three conversations took place during significant periods, according to the Vatican News. The first was in 2018 just after a disastrous earthquake in central Italy, while the second took place in 2019 just before the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

The final conversation in 2020 was held amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged Italy.

The interviews focus on the pontiff's vision of environmentalism and his commitment to "cultivate and preserve" the planet and those who live on it, which he described in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si (Praise be to you). In it, the pope criticized consumerism, global warming and environmental degradation.