Reader Dan C Gets it…

That is, he gets that the only real difference between Francis and his immediate predecessors is not a change in the Church’s teaching, but simply a particular gift for being able to make the Church’s teaching heard.

All the recent popes have said the same thing.  The difference is that Francis is unavoidable.  Three central matters to the faith will require catechesis.

1.  The Role of Evangelization.  We are to bring people to Christ.  Benedict would bring people to meet Christ in the Church.  Francis is bringing another way to do this- we meet Christ in the poor, and we must make Christ more available to those who bear the Cross of poverty for us.  We are not to await some undefined future date that we are to perfect evangelization of those in the pews already.

2.  The dynamics of salvation.  Two acts are involved in this-God loves and desires salvation for everyone.  He saves on a large scale everyday in the cold world outside the doors of the Church.  Get over it.  The point of conversion is that we then get to participate in the Kingdom and Everlasting Life (which are Gospel terms dipcting both a “present” state for us and an eschatological future).  We are not to be condemning to hell those Baptists and Hindus who are outside the Church, we instead should be inviting them to everlasting life with us “now.”  The message that God is Love, loves the atheist and even the Baptist, is a given.  The message we say and have permitted to mimick the defective salvation theology of the Evangelical which is “you must accept Jesus Christ as your savior to get to heaven, otherwise you will rot in Hell.” The Church says something better:  come join in the salvific work of Christ and know the joy of the Kingdom now.

3.  The role of the poor.  The poor have been abandoned as equal members of the Church wholesale in America.  They are reduced to objects of charity whose care the Church (rightly) brags.  However, gone is the image of a Paul taking up a collection to keep the Church of Jerusalem afloat.  We have shut down poor Churches and indicated we need to retrench into the suburbs, churches with their images of the Resurrected Jesus over the altar (while the inner city churches always had the Crucified Christ over the altar- I always thought the images of Christ needed to be reversed).  Taking the Eucharist and losing the Church from inner city communities wholesale over 30 years has been devastating to the mission of the Church.  The poor are not represented as deserving of the same Presence within the Mystical Body with such a policy.  The popes have been uniform:  we are past the point of debating societal role in providing charity, we need to assess ensuring justice to these families who are poor and the popes have even become more and more specific: role of the wealthy must be to create opportunity.  The Church will not advance in its missions without the poor.

This is not the usual bit of purported catechetical needs- birth control, sex, etc are always enunciated first.

But these are the central Gospel teachings, core to the message of not just Francis but the last three popes, at least.

And, by the way, the people who are hearing these things, sometimes for the first time, are not merely the riff raff outside the Church so feared by  Reactionaries, but Reactionaries themselves.  It remains to be seen whether it will be received as what it is–Good News–or rejected.  But Dan C is right that it is very much the Catholic gospel.  This is as Traditional as it gets, folks.

  • capaxdei

    If it were just Reactionaries who needed to hear this, we would already have a poor Church for the poor.

    • Alexander

      I like the challenge that Pope Francis is making to all Catholics regarding the Church’s social teaching. I also think his controversial doctrinal-related comments can generally be squared — after some explaining — with traditional Catholic teaching. And I think the Pope is genuinely trying to reengage a secular world that has largely stopped listening to the Church altogether.
      But as a matter of *strategy*, I don’t think the tone and emphasis of some of his comments are wise. I think he’s right that we need to show the world the merciful face of Christ if we want them to understand WHY we care so much about issues like abortion and the family. But I fear he’s overly optimistic that, if we somehow just talk less about those issues, the secular world will wake up and turn toward Christ. Those issues are sometimes the thing that makes the world listen to the Church (even if the world doesn’t immediately want to hear it). It was the Church’s teaching on abortion that brought me into the Church.

      C.S. Lewis:

      “Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.

      It is after you have realised that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power-it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.

      When you know you are sick, you will listen, to the doctor. When you have realised that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about. They offer an explanation of how we got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it. They offer an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person. They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God.

      It is an old story and if you want to go into it you will no doubt consult people who have more authority to talk about it than I have. All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts-to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying facts. I wish it was possible to say something more agreeable. But I must say what I think true.

      Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

      • AnsonEddy

        If you don’t mind, I’d like to cosign this comment.

        • Alexander

          Glad to have the company.

      • capaxdei

        Okay, but do you really think, “If we somehow just talk less about those issues, the secular world will wake up and turn toward Christ,” is an accurate paraphrase or summary of anything the Pope has said?

        • Alexander

          Yes, without a doubt.

          • capaxdei

            When did the Pope say anything that can be accurately paraphrased or summarized like that?

            • Alexander

              Let’s put it this way, if the Pope’s admitted “not [having] spoken much about these things [abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods]” is NOT intended as a strategy to reengage the secular world and to get it to turn toward Christ, then I really will be worried about this papacy.

              • capaxdei

                I think you are badly misreading him — which for now will have to stand as my response. If I have time and wits this weekend, I will try to follow up on this.

              • Marthe Lépine

                Actually, why do you think in terms of “strategy”? Maybe Pope Francis is talking this way because he is being himself and that is what he thinks and the way he expresses his ideas. Whatever of what he is saying will reengage the secular world, will probably not be Pope Francis’ doing, but will result from the fact that there is definitely a part of the secular world that do hear Pope Francis, and what they only hear for the time being, may make its way to their heart and their understanding, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and they will start to “listen” as well.

    • Dan C

      This was comment was for universal catechetical needs. I may be a bit presumptive, but I think Francis is educating all levels and states of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including hierarchy. Hence the discussion some bishops are having like Tobin and Chaput. And some priests. I initially thought Francis was just teaching the ground and doing the “going over ‘their’ heads to talk to the people.” I decided he is also talking to the hierarchy too.

      • capaxdei

        I agree. Certainly his down-peddling of papal privilege is more for the edification of the bishops than the admiration of the people (though most, I’d say, because it’s who he is). And even in the much-criticized and much-misquoted passage of the interview with Fr. Spadaro, Pope Francis was explicitly speaking of his own priestly and Petrine ministries.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Dan C is right on the money here. God provides, and in the case of the new pope He provides abundantly. The continuity herein evidenced is a powerful thing, not least concerning point 3 and the social encyclicals since Leo XIII.

    Regarding the closing of poor parishes in the inner city, this is one of the things that will cause my blood to boil yet again over the abuse scandals. Perhaps if it were unnecessary to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for criminal priests and their criminal accomplices in the episcopacy and elsewhere, we might have a few million more for these parishes. Luke 12:48.

  • AnsonEddy

    Thanks, Dan C. Say, if this whole ‘physician’ thing doesn’t work out, perhaps you could go the apologetics route? We need more like this.

  • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com/ Ben @ 2CM

    Is it possible to overemphasize God’s love, acceptance, mercy and desire to save us all? I think it is if left vague. It flows into the mindset of “We all worship the same God”. This is true, but it can become almost a shrug of the shoulders, dismissing the responsibility of knowing God as he reveals himself to be.

    I’m a Francis fan, not a Francis foe, but I’m concerned about OTHERS vaguely interpreting his words and actions as “just be nice and forget the rest”.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Francis is behaving like a good Papa. But many in the Church don’t want a Papa. They want a General or School Master. I am happy to see them disappointed. Francis believes in upholding the rules and right theology, but his approach is that without the Person of Jesus central in our lives, all the rules avail us nothing. Once you bring the lost child home, you can clean him up, feed him, wash his clothes, cut his hair, etc. But if all you do is stand on the porch and scream at the kid to clean up before he’s allowed back in the house, that kid ain’t never coming home.
    Is the media misunderstanding this? You betcha. But you’re talking about a media that often struggles to understand that water is wet. The problem is with the media, not Papa Francis.

  • tj.nelson

    I completely agree.
    Off topic – will you be posting about the debate in St. Paul? I would like to read what you have to say.
    Thanks.

  • Barfly_Kokhba

    Yes, I understand. So, in death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name. His name is Robert Paulson.

    His name is Robert Paulson.

  • Guest

    People who have scratched their heads at some of Francis’s comments are generally not saying that he is teaching heresy or the like, but asking whether he actually said what was claimed, or that some of his comments can be ambiguous, confusing, and can, and most importantly, have been, interpreted in strange ways. At this point it does not suffice to claim that those who point this out are “reactionary” or “traditionalist,” as the Vatican itself via the press office has tried to tone down the Scalfari interview and infer that Francis may not have really said what was stated therein. But why do this if there is nothing potentially problematic about some of the comments? That makes no sense.

    We must be cautious about the extreme of deifying the pope and saying that nothing he states can be questioned, and then categorize/demonize people who point this out. It almost seems juvenile to deny at all costs the obvious fact that some comments seem vague or strange and the like, e.g., what did he mean by saying that the Church has too many small-minded rules? Is he talking about canon law, liturgical law? What exactly did he mean by saying the Church is “obsessed” with certain moral issues? Are the most urgent problems facing the world today really loneliness or care of the elderly? To disagree with the latter statement, for example, is hardly reactionary or a failure to show obedience to the Holy Father.

    • Almario Javier

      Small-minded rules – certainly. There may very well be problems with canon law or liturgical law that no longer make sense – it’s been done before, and the Church has survived the cure.

      Obsession on moral issues – There is a vocal minority that seems to place life issues or defending Christian marriage as the summum bonum they seek, or at least it is how it appears to outsiders. There is in certain quarters a legalism bordering on Jansenism which, of course, should be extirpated, that leads to failing to put our struggle on pro-life issues and marriage issues and all the other social justice issues outside of the Christian context (perhaps because we have been afraid of offending our non-Catholic allies on those issues).

      • Guest

        But how do you know this is what he was referring too or what he meant by these statements? That is the whole point: some comments are ambiguous or unclear. It would interesting to know exactly who are the “vocal minority” who defend life issues. And who are the “certain quarters” who have a legalism? You also contradict yourself between the first and second points: you take to task those who concentrate on issues like life, then complain of the “legalists” who block us from putting our efforts more into pro-life issues and marriage!?

        Also see my point above in reply to chezami about statements people are defending which turn out may not be what he actually said.

    • chezami

      actually, some significant voices are beginning to say exactly that, with rumbles of approval in the rightwingosphere. This is going to be a long pontificate for a lot of people who consider themselve the gold standard of orthodoxy.

      • Guest

        So I guess the Holy See issuing the press statement was also the work of “right wingers?” And keep in mind Francis most probably approved of the statement beforehand. You prove my point about divinizing the pope and turning matters of opinion- and yes, these are still matters of private opinion- into doctrinal statements. To say “I respectfully question that care of the elderly is one of the most urgent problems facing humanity” or ask a common sense question like, “What does he mean by this or that statement?” is not to assert oneself as a standard of orthodoxy.

        And people are starting to embarrass themselves when the comments they defend turn out not to be his or are questionably so, as is apparent from the Holy See press statement. So people will blindly defend anything, even if he didn’t actually say it!! But that means they are just mechancially doing so for the sake of doing so, which is not a good thing.


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