No. I Mean *Seriously*. This Guy is Fantastic!

Sherry Weddell, who has forgotten more about the Church’s mission work and engagement with developing countries than most of us will ever know writes:

From an interview with Pope Francis in 30 Days, 2007. He clearly has an apostolic, evangelizing heart and expects the same of his priests and lay people as well. I wish I could ask him some questions to get a bit more clarity about some of his comments below but he obviously has a great trust in the Holy Spirit and in the “tenderness of God” (what a lovely phrase).

BERGOGLIO: I didn’t say that pastoral systems are useless. On the contrary. In itself everything that leads by the paths of God is good. I have told my priests: «Do everything you should, you know your duties as ministers, take your responsibilities and then leave the door open».

Our sociologists of religion tell us that the influence of a parish has a radius of six hundred meters. In Buenos Aires there are about two thousand meters between one parish and the next. So I then told the priests: «If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.

This is valid also for lay people…

BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment. And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be afraid of depending only on His tenderness…

This is going to alter the character of the New Evangelization like steroids.

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  • Marya

    This is electrifying, I’m sitting here in southern Africa feeling as if I’m hearing the voice of a Pope who understands us in the Third World for the first time ever.

  • Melissa Fry

    I think he’s fantastic too but I only worry a little bit about him being a Hispanic from Argentina. What if he tries to promote liberal reforms or “liberation” theology?

    • rakowskidp

      I’ve read that our Holy Father was an opponent of Liberation Theology from the earliest days of his priesthood. He’s also been outspoken about the protection of life and traditional marriage. You have no reason to worry.

      • Faith-Free

        Three cheers for quashing any real change for the poor and sucking up to right-wing dictators! Hooray!

        • Roberto

          Would you define for us “real change” and “sucking up”?

          • Irenist

            Judging by his comment, I’d say F-F defines “real change for the poor” as atheistic Marxism (because look how well that’s worked out!) and “sucking up” as not being a Ditchkins-style rudely in-your-face shouter of insults at those with whom one disagrees.

        • Irenist

          The errors of Liberation Theology are not the only way to help the poor. Since you’re “faith-free,” I gather that you attempt to help the poor without believing in Liberation Theology, right? In addition to his personal works of corporal mercy (publicly kissing the feet of AIDS patients, e.g.), we have this on his broader impact on the welfare of the Argentine people:

          Francis also seems to be an opponent of austerity, most notably during his time as spiritual leader of Argentina when the country defaulted on its debt in 2002.

          A paper by Thomas Trebat, “Argentina, the Church, and Debt,” details the church’s role in the crisis’s resolution. Argentine bishops, including Francis, had long criticized the laissez-faire policies of Carlos Menem, who was president from 1989 to 1999. “The bishops were critical of the economic model as a generator of poverty and unemployment, notwithstanding the stability it had brought to the country,” Trebat wrote.

          And when the debt crisis hit in 2002, the church called in strong terms for a debt restructuring to take place which privileged social programs above debt repayment. They argued that the true problems in the Argentinian economy were, in their words, “social exclusion, a growing gap between rich and poor, insecurity, corruption, social and family violence, serious deficiencies in the educational system and in public health, the negative consequences of globalization and the tyranny of the markets.”

          Trebat thinks this influenced the eventual outcome of the crisis, wherein the country’s creditors accepted a less devastating austerity package than many expected. “Civil society, of which the Church is a part, has a clear role to play in demanding that debt service not take precedence over human development once reasonable efforts have been expended to pay the debt,” he concludes.

          Trebat studied the whole church’s response, rather than just Francis’s, but comments by the new pope suggest he held similar views. Allen quotes a later speech in which then-Cardinal Bergoglio declared, “We live, apparently, in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

          (Reposted since it looks like the spam filter ate my comment. Apologies if two copies show up an hour from now.)

        • RS

          The Church is in far less need of “change” than secular society is. So yes, Viva Papa Francis!

    • Faith-Free

      Don’t worry. He had liberationist priests handed over to the Argentine military dictatorship. He’s in line perfectly with the reactionary right-wing policies of Wojtyla and Ratzinger, who quashed the only interesting theological development in about 2,000 years.

      • Bill

        honestly, Mark Shea has a hell of a lot more patience than I do with his blog

        • Ed Graham

          Bill, just ignore Fact-Free. No need to feed the Troll.

        • Chris M

          Seriously.. It’s like a giant steaming cloud of smugness and pseudoknowledge just settles into the comboxes and shuts down any real conversation. If that’s what we wanted, we could just hop on Facebook, geez.

      • Dustin

        “[T]he only interesting theological development?” Why, being “faith-free,” would any theological development at all interest you? Since liberation theology analogizes the struggle against sin to the temporal struggle against injustice, and sees Jesus Christ as especially the vindicator of the poor, why would it mean anything at all to you?
        People who hang around this blog while disagreeing with the house philosophy, as I do, are nevertheless interested in dialogue and good conversation. But you stomp in here with nothing but a sneer, evincing not the even the slightest indication of curiosity and open-mindedness about Bergoglio, as if all questions surrounding him have already been definitely answered. It doesn’t appear you’re interested in a conversation. You’re the kid who rings the doorbell and leaves a flaming bag of crap on the porch.

        • kara

          Dustin, you win.

        • Jamie R

          I think if faith-free finds a theological development interesting, it’s a pretty clear sign that it’s not a theological development. Liberation theology suppressed, to the limited extent that it was suppressed, insomuch as it’s just dialectical materialism.

        • Advocate

          It’s called The Seagull: Fly in, make a bunch of noise, crap all over the place, then fly away.

      • Mark Shea

        Faith Free is illustative of the Christ haunted atheist, proclaiming how free he is of the Church while spending his days obsessing over it and obsessively telling lies about it. The notion that JPII and Benedict quashed interesting theological development is particularly funny. Along with the eagerness to expand internet rumors into TRVTH if they tell him what his itching ears long to hear.

        • dpt

          “Faith Free is illustative of the Christ haunted atheist”

          Amen brother Mark!

      • Noah D

        What? How is The Theology of the Body not interesting?!

        (Let alone other little things like reconciling Aristotle with Christianity, the transition from Christ Triumphant to Christ Suffering, the creation of Mendicant Orders, The Trinity, The Assumption and Perpetual Virginity of Mary…)

    • Irenist


      I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about anyone being “a Hispanic from Argentina.” Being Hispanophone doesn’t imply any particular place on the political spectrum, as the ideological wars of the twentieth century in, e.g., Spain, Cuba, and Mexico demonstrate.

      Similarly, being of “Hispanic” heritage (anthropologically a nonsense term, as it includes everyone from bilingual Maya-Spanish campesinos in Guatemala to King Juan Carlos of Spain) implies nothing about anyone. As for the Holy Father, he is a Hispanophone from a Hispanophone land, but his own heritage is, as it happens, entirely of Italian extraction; not that it matters in the slightest.

      • Beadgirl

        Well said, Irenist. Melissa, someone just being “Hispanic” makes you worry a little? I gotta tell you, I find that quite offensive, and I hope you did not mean it the way I read it.

      • Pancho

        “…being of “Hispanic” heritage (anthropologically a nonsense term, as it includes everyone from bilingual Maya-Spanish campesinos in Guatemala to King Juan Carlos of Spain) implies nothing about anyone…”

        Oh, I wouldn’t say that. There are certainly cultural traits shared by all of them. Even the Maya-Spanish campesino in Guatemala grew up in a post-Columbian culture, not a pre-Columbian one. The new Pope is of Italian extraction but he’s at least as bi-cultural as any son of Polish or Italian immigrants in the U.S. .

        • Pancho

          I should’ve written, “he might be at least as bi-cultural…” because I don’t know how he views his parent’s heritage. The reports I’ve seen on Spanish-language t.v. say that he doesn’t grant interviews so that makes figuring this stuff out difficult since its not something one typically talks about during public speeches.

    • Mark Shea

      He’s no liberation theologian. As to “liberal” reforms, what do you mean?

    • Bella

      Oh dear. Step away from the bong! :-) This is a Pope who was HATED because of his opposition to Liberation Theology, and who agreed with John Paul II that love for the poor was ONLY truly served through Christ, not Marx.

  • Steve P (with a space)

    Thank you, Dustin.

    F-F, I’m sure you’d have some interesting things to say if you wouldn’t be so quick to score a cheap shot. You know no more than any of us about the new pope, but you are bound and determined to condemn him. Try having a real conversation, and see where it leads.

  • Mark

    Benedict said much the same kind of thing, all the time. Constantly. He deplored clericalization and inward-looking Churchiness. What Pope Francis says is very much in line with what Benedict wrote and taught.

    • Mark Shea

      Yup. Cuz he’s the pope and the pope is Catholic.

  • Me

    Callah, would you mind linking to the website where this writing can be found? I can’t find the connection between Sherry Weddell and the interview.


  • Me

    Sorry, Mark. I meant your name but I’m foggy from staying up late with the news.

  • victor

    See, I told everyone that the New Evangelization was already too old and what we needed was a NEW New Evangelization or even a NEW New New Evangelization (for a few years out when the NEW New Evangelization becomes passé). Glad to hear the new Pope agrees!

    • midwestlady

      We haven’t even really gotten to the 1st level of New Evangelization yet. But now it begins.

      • Bella

        This is so wrong on so many levels. The Church has RADICALLY changed because of John Paul II. A MILLION new initiatives are in place, a ZILLION new young Catholics were gifts of the new evangelization; there are a zillion new websites, books, journals, conferences, lay movements, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

  • CK

    This is great. But let’s hope it’s not like steroids as such strength is artificial and turns bones and spines into milk.

  • Chris

    This is amazing. We can really see the arc of the Holy Spirit in the last three pontiffs:

    1) John Paul II –”This is what we believe.”
    2) Benedict XVI – “This is why we believe it.”
    3) Francis — “Now go and do it!”

    • Faith

      I love this summary!

    • Dante Aligheri

      Now, that’s what I call a theology of history!

  • Philip

    House churches run by laymen — laymen who distribute the Eucharist without the supervision of a priest?! This frightens me.

    • Maiki

      Bringing them communion where they are at is different than letting them do it without his supervision. The pope is saying: go to them, if they won’t come to you.

    • ivan_the_mad

      We often fear what we do not understand.

  • Philip

    There’s also this:

    Greg Venables, former Anglican Archbishop of the Southern Cone and based in Argentina, offers a look at what Bergoglio “is really like.” He writes:

    [Bergoglio] is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written.

    I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary.

    He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate [creating by the Catholic Church to accommodate alienated Anglicans] was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans.

    • Chris M

      I mentioned this indirectly in another combox.. This worries me a bit.. but I’ll just hope at worst he leaves well enough alone.. and at best comes round to the Pope Emeritus’ way of thinking on the Ordinariate.

      • Roberto

        Say that it is unnecessary, does not imply that he thinks it wrong. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Francesco seems to know what he is saying and doing better than any of us.

      • Roberto

        I meant to say **To say**, but I can’t just say “To say” or the editor will not let me say it :)

  • Adolfo

    Our new Holy Father is a staunch critic of liberation theology. Where people might be getting tripped up is that they read of his great admiration for Communion and Liberation, the lay ecclesial movement founded by Fr. Giussani, and get them mixed up.

  • CV

    I love your pithy summary. Think I’ll steal it :)
    I think it’s interesting that Catholics from the left to the right and in between seem to be genuinely excited about this guy. I got a text from a lefty Catholic friend who previously ran a diocesan communications office and was very unhappy when Benedict was elected. She bought into the God’s Rotweiller slur against him. But she is thrilled with Pope Francis. It seems to me that he exemplifies the fact that being orthodox on Church teaching on social issues is not inconsistent with concern for the poor, catholic social teaching, “peace and
    justice” issues, etc.

    Pope Francis is the complete package, the right man at the right time. Thank you Holy Spirit! I feel like He is truly looking out for us (not that I ever doubt that :) but it’s very reassuring during these “interesting times” we live in. There’s a reason that these three extraordinary popes have been raised up in succession.

  • Clare Krishan

    well with his Papal crest likely to be modelled on his Episcopal arms (with Jesuit ‘sol’ logo) and the moniker Santo Padre Francisco abbreviated as SPF, when do we fan boys-n-girls start awarding each other yonosoydigno-ness rubrics a la ‘sun protection factors’ “? During the Lenten tenebrae we’d better stay covered-up, thus I award Mark the maximum FDA permissible: SPF50 (in honor of VII’s call for a New Pentecost!)

  • Mdmike

    I love it! Bring on the micro chapels in every suburb and city!

  • L. Fleure

    Happily, many converts from evangelical-fundamentalist faith backgrounds will now be able to experience Catholic leadership. Welcome to the bigger, messier Church!