In an interview this week with the Belgian magazine Tertio, Pope Francis said, "Disinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do." (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

There’s much too much fake news to go around, but this is real: In an interview with a Belgian publication, Pope Francis reportedly compared news outlets that grab for a juicy story, even when it’s untrue, to those who participate in “coprophilia.”

The unusual term, which Francis has used before, means an obsessive interest, often of a sexual nature, in excrement.

“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into — no offense intended — the sickness of coprophilia, that is, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things,” Francis said in an interview published Wednesday in Tertio, according to Reuters and to other reporters who read the Belgian publication.

Crux, a news outlet covering the Catholic church, said the interview was conducted in Spanish, in which the term coprophilia is sometimes used more loosely to describe a morbid interest in dirty things, not just a prurient interest in feces. Later in the same interview, Francis used the related term “coprophagy.”

Crux said that Francis criticized media outlets that look only for negative stories and those that smear people’s reputations, but reserved the harshest criticism for those who report untruths. Spreading incorrect information, Francis reportedly said, is “probably the biggest damage a news organization can cause.”

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