Francis’s Joy-Filled Exhortation

Evangelii Gaudium is Pope Francis’s 288-article exhortation, at the conclusion of the Year of Faith, on proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. From beginning to end, Francis’s writing exudes a spirit of joy, of hope in the future, of profound respect for people, of common-sense connection to the real world. “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter,” Francis writes (6). Francis is not one them. His infectious joyfulness makes the Gospel message attractive in its simplicity and depth.

Francis has become famous for his striking word choices, and he repeats some of his favorite words and phrases in the exortation – “narcissism” (a bad thing in ministers), “museum pieces” (not what the church should be), “house of cards” (what the Church’s moral teaching risk becoming), “neopelagianism” (in those intransigently faithful to the past).

Others will rightly be commenting on the main themes of the exhortation – the entire Church as evangelizing community, the Church’s concern especially for the poor and the needy, the Church’s critique of unjust economic conditions (see the sharp words on “trickle-down” theories and the free market at no. 54), and much more. For Pray Tell readers, I highlight some of the themes we tend to talk about around here.

Liturgy: The liturgy is not treated extensively in the exhortation. But at 95, Francis refers to an “insidious worldliness” in “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.” The life of the Church “turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few.”

Beauty in the Liturgy: This is affirmed twice at 24 – but with no further elaboration of the theme or critique of the reformed liturgy or call for greater continuity with liturgical tradition. The tone is practical and evangelical: “Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness.”

The Arts: Francis writes of the via pulchritudinis (“way of beauty”) at 167, with a bit more emphasis on the contemporary than the traditional. The Church should “encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new ‘language of parables’.”  He wants the Church to “be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty…”

Preaching: Francis gives a lengthy reflection on preaching (135-159) which is entirely practical and rather conversational in tone. Earlier (128) he wrote that preaching is “always respectful and gentle.” Here he emphasizes that “the preacher must know the heart of his community.” (137) The homily is not “entertainment”; it should be “brief” and not become “a speech or lecture.” (138) Preaching should not be “purely moralistic or doctrinaire,” nor should it be “a lecture on biblical exegesis.” (142) The pope speaks of the “closeness of the preacher, the warmth of his tone of voice, the unpretentiousness of his manner of speaking, the joy of his gestures.” (140) And in a rare note of realism in an official document, the pope says that “even if the homily at times may be somewhat tedious,” it will still bear fruit if the preacher has a spirit of maternal love.

A Church That Goes Out: Repeating a theme he has often stressed, Pope Francis writes: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.” (49)

Critique of Traditionalism: There is a danger that “we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance.” (41) There are “certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, … no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them.” (43) There are “rules or precepts” once effective but which “no longer have the same usefulness.” (43)

Traditional Devotions: Traditional Catholic devotions are warmly praised at 122-126. But at the same time, there is undue emphasis on “the outward expressions and traditions of some groups, or on alleged private revelations” (does he mean Medjugorje?), and there are “devotions reflecting an individual and sentimental faith life” which are not “concerned with the advancement of society or the formation of the laity.” (70) After affirmation of prayer and intercession, reading Scripture, and Eucharistic adoration, he quotes John Paul II in rejecting “privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity.” (262)

Divisiveness in Pastoral Workers: Francis writes, “It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealous and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?” (100)

Pastoral Spirit: Pastoral ministry should not be “obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed.” (35)  There should be a “fitting sense of proportion” in the “frequency with which certain themes are brought up.” (38) In words worthy of Luther, the pope decries “when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word.” (38). Then we risk “the edifice of the Church’s moral teachings…becoming a house of cards.” (39) Instead of the Gospel, we would be teaching “certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.” (39)

Relativism in Pastoral Workers: In a culture of skepticism toward Christianity, many pastoral workers “develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity and convictions.” They are obsessed with “being like everyone else.” (79) Pastoral workers fall into “relativism” which is not just about doctrine, but about “the deepest and inmost decisions that shape their way of life.” There is a “practical relativism” – “acting as if God did not exist.” (80)

Worldliness in Pastoral Workers: The pope seems to have a two-pronged critique of those on the so-called left and right. He critiques “Gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten,” and then he goes on to critique a ‘self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past.” This latter leads to “narcissistic and authoritarian elitism.” (94)

Mercy: The Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” (47) We should not act as “arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators,” and the church is not a “tollhouse” but “the house of the Father.” (47)

Ecumenism: Francis writes with emphasis, “How many important things unite us! If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us.” (246)

Decentralization: The pope promotes “sound ‘decentralization’” (16). The papal magisterium should not “be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world.” (16) The Second Vatican Council’s promotion of episcopal conferences “has not been fully realized” and there is a need for their clearer juridical status “including genuine doctrinal authority.” (32) “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.” (32) In the section on ecumenical dialogue, Francis says that “we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality… and synodality” from the Orthodox. (246)

Shared Decision-Making: There is an “excessive clericalism which keeps [lay persons] away from decision-making” in the Church. (102)

Women in the Church: The all-male priesthood “is not a question open to discussion,” (104) but “we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” (103) The pope speaks of exploring “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.”

Motive for Seeking Ordination: “Despite the scarcity of vocations, today we are increasingly aware of the need for a better process of selecting candidates to the priesthood. Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of… motivations hav[ing] to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being.” (107)

To be sure, Francis is no innovator on doctrine. He quotes Pope Benedict often (4 mentions in the text, 18 footnote references). He shuts the door (again) on women’s ordination, as noted above. He laments that “Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.” (66) There is surely a reference to gay marriage here, although the pope refrains from a head-on attack.

In general, the importance of this document is that it affirms, in an official way, the themes Pope Francis has emphasized more informally in his daily homilies and his interviews with the press. It is becoming clearer what sort of pastoral pope Francis is, and how he wants to energize the Catholic Church in its pastoral mission.

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68 comments

    1. @Jackie Parkes – comment #1:

      Yep. This:

      “From beginning to end, Francis’s writing exudes a spirit of joy, of hope in the future, of profound respect for people, of common-sense connection to the real world.”

      is the best description of this document I’ve read so far.

      His joyfulness is infectious indeed, and hopefully, will rub off on “sourpusses” (85) of the world who seem to always “find excuses and complain, acting as if [they] could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met.”(7)

      Anyway, I’m already looking forward to the pope’s next writing, reportedly a new encyclical on poverty.

  1. 1) Thank you for this summary – excellent!
    2) I was puzzled by the “collision course with neo-liberalism” that Faggioli mentions; the collision, to me at least, seems to be with neo-conservatism.
    3) My fears in connection to matters liturgical, especially musical, are (a) his demeaning of the “museum” of the liturgy; the liturgy is, at least in part, a museum. Museums are places where we preserve things of value to us, returning to them as shapers of who we are and tellers of our story. Museums also admit new discoveries from the past and new creations from the present; (b) the language about admitting “contemporary” expressions – though it remains to be seen how that gets appropriated by musicians: does it mean more faux Tavener or more 1980s rock (with 1880s theology)?
    4) Sometimes we, the Church, have gotten bruised, dirty and are hurting because we’ve stayed within the walls.
    All that being said (or written), as one who is and has been guilty of “self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” – what a phrase! – I need to re-read and reflect on this document seriously.

  2. Regarding #4 and the second point – the strain of market economics being criticised is in origin liberal, not conservative – and in Europe and other places it is correctly described as neo-liberal. Genuinely conservative economic theories have usually been protectionist and mercantilist – the economics of someone like Patrick Buchanan are more on the true conservative side. Thus in Professor Fagioli’s quote he is referring to neo-liberalism in this economic sense I believe.

    1. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #5:
      Thank you for that clarification, Timothy! I let myself get lured into the modern misusage of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” – something I try to avoid.

  3. Neo-liberalism is not what we call liberalism in contemporary American usage. Liberalism was in England, laissez-faire capitalism…what we would call neo-conservatism. Such are the problems with translation!

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #8:

      Let’s put it this way: the Acton Institute and George Weigel will be working mighty hard to spin this one.

      Traditionalists, many of whom are stalwart social and fiscal conservatives, have written off Pope Francis from his night of election. Since Evangelii Gaudium is not an encyclical or constitution, the neocon-traddie set will shout down the sirens and insult the Pope’s intelligence.

  4. **** The all-male priesthood “is not a question open to discussion,” (104) but “we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” *****

    Grrr 🙁

    1. @crystal watson – comment #9:
      Crystal, I have a gut feeling we will begin to see female deacons in the near future. Have to start somewhere….. There is even buzz about a female cardinal…. just buzz but once it’s out there you never know!

  5. Todd 🙂

    Dale,

    Whenever mention of women deacons or women cardinals has come up, the Vatican has shot it down:

    Lombardi says Female Cardinals ‘aren’t even remotely realistic’ … http://www.uscatholic.org/news/201311/vatican-female-cardinals-aren%E2%80%99t-%E2%80%98even-remotely-realistic%E2%80%99-28053

    And Cardinal Marx of Munich said ordaining women deacons was “not on the agenda” … http://corpus-blog.blogspot.com/2013/05/german-bishops-head-to-promote.html

    But even if someday there were women cardinals and women deacons, that wouldn’t get rid of the problem of the church not allowing women to be priests. There really is no substitute for that.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #14:
      Hi Crystal,
      the Vatican is constantly shooting down proposals, such as female deacons, readmitting divorced catholics to communion, etc…however, that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily binding. Just this week the Bishop Fuerst rebuffed the Vatican watchdog Archbishop Mueller and is proceeding w/ discussion on readmitting divorced catholics to communion in the Freiburg Archdiocese. Most telling was this statement: “When the Vatican doctrinal chief Mueller ordered Freiburg to withdraw the guidelines, Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx – one of the pope’s top eight advisers – retorted that he “cannot end the discussion” and the debate would continue “on a broad scale”.” How this will turn out is up in the air but it seems that the Vatican watchdogs are the “underdogs” now!

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-catholic-divorce-germany-idUSBRE9AO0EI20131125

  6. Love the witticism at #135:

    “The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! “

  7. There is also an explicit reference to the French Bishops’ valiant efforts to preserve the true dignity of marriage. There was some criticism of the Holy Father for not saying anything early in his papacy when the French were turning out in full force to support the traditional definition of marriage at the behest of the bishops of France. This is another example (in this exhortation) of the Holy Father holding up Bishops’ Conferences and local bishops who uphold the teachings of the Church. The same of course is true of the true nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and for ending the discussion of alternative definitions of it as well as his most explicit pro-life statements to date and brilliantly framed.
    He makes obvious what has always been the case. For 99.9% of Roman Catholics their parishes or the various movements (new and old) they have joined has the greatest impact on their Catholicism and how they live it locally, especially through the missionary zeal that the Holy Father makes beautifully explicit. Neither the Vatican nor diocesan pastoral centers or chanceries have in any way the same impact. And I dare say neither do ideological blogs such as this one or others dear to many hearts.

  8. I thought that §28, the section on parishes, was particularly remarkable (footnotes removed and emphasis added):

    +++
    The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if it proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.

    +++

    Almost nobody who regularly participates in my parish actually lives within its geographic boundaries, mostly because we cannot afford to do so. The area itself is primarily commercial (hedge funds, top-end art galleries etc) and what residents there are seem to spend much of the year in Switzerland or Moscow or Abu Dhabi. People travel to Mass, in some cases coming from abroad to visit. How can such a parish be in contact with homes and lives? And where does “virtual” contact become essential?

    Pope Francis gives us much to reflect on!

  9. Too bad Pope Francis doesn’t exude joy in his misguided criticisms for people who understand that the best way to reduce poverty is to allow economies to operate as freely as possible. Contrary to his recommendations for how homilies should be delivered, I see no compassion and lots of lecturing in his comments to people who trust individuals, private and religious organizations rather than corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. If he has spent a few minutes studying the performance of different economic systems he would have discovered that the best way to help the poor is free market economies. Regrettably in #54 he claims to have study the situation which makes his statements more disturbing. To suggest that market based economies are inherently corrupt or morally inferior is the same as claiming that Catholic doctrine is what caused sexual predators to run wild. His comments use the same straw man tactics as the demagogue who now occupies the White House. I don’t know anyone who has deified “the market” nor did I realize that a 2 point drop in the stock market warranted news; he seems unable to restrain his hyperbole when joyfully exhorting greedy capitalists. I do know as he should know from his life in S. America that politicians promote excessive gov’t control over economies by exploiting people’s fears and weaknesses so they are able to seize power. He believes that he has a grasp on the “signs of the times” (#51). If he does, then he would know that sloth, envy and hatred are widespread and that greed is not a sin exclusive to “the rich”. He’d be aware that it’s always popular to attack the rich. Christ did warn the rich that it’s hard for them to get to heaven, but it’s not the free market economic system that causes that to happen. He should spend more time encouraging the rich to perform acts of charity and avoid his populist rhetoric that makes it possible for politicians to exploit so they can impose corrupt economic systems that guarantee we have more poverty…

    1. @Michael Alexenko – comment #20:
      Allowing economies to operate “freely” is a recipe for lawlessness and the very worst sort of social darwinism. Time and again, aristocrats of this world have written and rewritten laws to suit them. And then flaunted their personal immorality whenever they could get away with it.

      In the modern world, “free” markets mean the trampling of small businesses, consumers, and the glorification of investment at the expense of work.

      Following the example of Christ is more than the performance of acts of charity. The underlying fallen nature of humanity must be addressed. And the way to do that is to move beyond acts of charity. It is time for movements of justice, and a restoration of law and order. Grave moral sin among the world’s aristocracy must be confronted for what it is, and sinners urged to repentance. If Christians among the world’s wealthy want to lead the way, so much the better.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #22:
        Todd,
        A free market system eliminates exactly what you’re complaining about. Aristocrats don’t get to make the rules; people who freely engage in competitive commerce determine winners and losers. And there is nothing wrong with that because it helps to efficiently utilize capital and resources which preserve wealth rather than destroying it. I think you and the Pope need to distinguish between the characters who participate in a system and their personal weaknesses and the system itself. If the Pope is concerned about ameliorating poverty then there is no better way to do that than to encourage an economic system that offers the greatest chance for widespread prosperity. His comments will lead to systems that will accomplish the opposite and have done so as my ancestors experienced. The greater challenge rests in how to preserve the health of the soul of a prosperous nation. Wealth does create moral flabbiness but, again don’t blame an economic system. BTW, whether a business is large or small doesn’t determine which is morally superior. I’ve experienced more raw deals from small businesses than from large ones.

      2. @Michael Alexenko – comment #27:
        Then we have yet to achieve a free market system. I see a system drastically tilted in favor of those too wealthy and too big to fail.

        My sense is that the idealism of a free market system is akin to the idealism of Communism. In a world of virtue, either system may well work.

        I think the moral flabbiness of the West is not exactly congruent to the crimes of the wealthy. We’ve always had manipulators and greedy people. That’s fallen human nature. Charity doesn’t always address that problem.

        The world economy is another problem unique, I think, to our era. A godless economic system is not influenced by patting rich people on the head and encouraging them to be more charitable. The issue is justice. An issue distinct from charity.

    2. @Michael Alexenko – comment #20:
      First, Francis is speaking as a pastor; not an economist. This speaks to the realities in today’s world – not some perfect economic order.

      Your objections sound similar to Sirico’s Acton Institute. Here you go:

      http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/samuel-gregg-evangelii-gaudium

      From Michael Sean Winters:

      “It is an extended variation on the childhood theme, “Who me? That was not my hand in the cookie jar!” Then he essentially says the pope does not know what he is talking about when it comes to economics”

      “….completely ignores the pope’s clear argument that the spread eagle capitalism we actually have, as opposed to the blissful free market Gregg imagines, debases all of culture. As predicted, the view presented here by Gregg is that the pope is a good and holy man but out of his depths. It is a shameful and pathetic response.”

      Nothing like recycling David Stockman and Ronald Reagen.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #27:
        Bill,
        Thanks for the link. I’m not sure why this should be considered to be pathetic or shameful. Maybe Mr. Winters should spend a little time explaining where Mr. Gregg goes wrong. His comments are respectful and backed up with examples. Unfortunately Francis offered none. There are two goals: reduce poverty and use our God given gifts in a way that is pleasing to Him. Free market systems will achieve the first and Pope Francis needs to focus on the 2nd. I don’t know about Reagan and Stockman being recycled, but the Pope does appear to recycle the Pastoral Letter on Economics from the 80s that was a shameful political document.

  10. I am finding the document quite overwhelming in its scope. My impression is that Francis may intend this document as a kind of Magna Carta which can provide the foundation for a true reformation of the Catholic Church. This will no doubt be found greatly disturbing to the Lefebvrists and other ultramontanists who will not be happy until a way is found to recreate the church as it was prior to Vatican II. It clearly calls me to conversion away from being a clerical functionary to becoming a servant leader inspired by the master who came to serve and not be served.
    In terms of its comments about women: Francis is unable to open discussion about the ordination of women because it would mean contradicting his most recent predecessors, one of whom he is about to proclaim a saint. But it should be noted that women could become decision makers with the elimination or modification of the canon which presently states that only men in holy orders may exercise jurisdiction in the affairs of the church. That change would affirm what is already true in many parts of the church where the leadership of faithful Catholic women is already well established. BTW, don’t the heads of women’s religious orders already exercise jurisdiction? Of course they do, but the canon exists to prevent them for exercising jurisdiction over men–especially those in holy orders. God forbid! The sections dealing with economic principles and assertions require a more detailed reading that I have not yet gotten to but will. If Francis is calling for a new economic system in which markets are not the only ruling factor, I wish him the best of luck because this will not be an exhortation perused by the barons of the world’s economic capitols. But you have to start somewhere.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #20:
      That change would affirm what is already true in many parts of the church where the leadership of faithful Catholic women is already well established.

      Yes, indeed. Just like in married households, the man may think he is the head, but the reality is much different, and I see it in various ways in my parish, and to be honest, it has been that way as long as I can recall. Most priests I see aren’t that territorial about their authority, and even the ones that are take care not to offend the worker bees too much.

      That said, it’s an unseemly situation, and my sense is that Pope Francis is seeking a more honest way to address the relationship.

      1. @Charles Day – comment #24:
        “like in married households, the man may think he is the head, but the reality is much different …. even the ones that are take care not to offend the worker bees too much.”
        And there in lies the problem. In successful marriages in the 21st century with which I’m familiar, including my own one of 37 years, the husband does not consider himself the head. There is a shared leadership, with shared responsibilities and shared joys. Responsibilities are parceled out according to preferences or talents. Each appreciates the willingness of the other to contribute. Neither considers the other to be a worker bee. There are no queens in the hive.

        The Pope calls for new images and new symbols because the old ones don’t work in the same way. The bridegroom/bride Christ/church language is one that perpetuates the image of an unequal yoking. The language of “spouse”, which Francis uses (104) here seems like an option to consider.

  11. He shuts the door (again) on women’s ordination…

    How can Pope Francis shut a door that’s been unmistakably closed for the past 20 years?

    1. @Francesco Poggesi – comment #23:
      When you have an argument, you sometimes slam the door shut behind you to make a statement. It’s not uncommon shortly afterwards to come back in the room and make a point so you can slam the door again. Sooner of later when temperatures have calmed, the door needs to be opened again and a more constructive discussion allowing the airing of views and grievances can take place!

  12. The heart of the message seems to focus on the need for the Church to be the embodiment of love and mercy.

    If people see in us a believing people who love God and others, this is what matters most.

    I really wonder if this pope would ever deny eucharist to anyone. The one good thing I experienced in Benedict’s pontificate was his granting laicization to me which was not available under John Paul II. I lived with the very real effects of not being able to receive Eucharist for over 13 years and the negative effect it had on my family and myself. While we can speak of spiritual communion when we can’t actually receive, this is no solution at all. Yes, my wife and I made choices that do not conform to the ideal, as many people do, but should we be condemned forever? This can be said of many people in many different situations. If the church does nothing to love all of these people, then it falls short of the love of Christ. Eucharist is food for the journey of life, not a weapon to enforce conformity with.

  13. IMO Michael A and Todd F are both correct, just different sides of a coin. I think it’s about greed, some large corporations are indeed greedy as are some poor people who milk the system for everything they can get…. have seen it directly so it’s not imaginary.
    W need mercy AND honesty. Unless we address greed some corporations and some of those in need will make all corporations and all persons in need look bad and nothing will be solved.

    To all commentators, posters, Fr. AWR and everyone at PTB I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
    We indeed have much to be thankful for!

  14. The problem with the women priests issue isn’t about overt or covert “leadership roles” for women. The problem is that the church makes an ontological distinction between men and women (the whole Theology of the Body thing) that Paul dismissed … “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    Ironically, Francis does quote this bit from Paul in his Exhortation (# 113), but he leaves out the “neither male nor female” part of it.

  15. Earlier I was so focused on mercy and love that being the cornerstone of this, that I failed to address the economic ramifications of his message. Francis is a realist who has a deep understanding of human nature and calls people to transform every aspect of life in light of the Gospel. No single economic system is above criticism and the poor are always the victims. If you really reflect on what he is saying, his wisdom is profound. In over 35 years of studying papal documents, I have never seen anything as profound as this. It is in a sense the Rerum Novarum of our time, but so much more than this because it comes from someone I believe is uniquely touched by the power of the Holy Spirit to speak the truth to us.

  16. Mr. Alexenko – sorry, can’t agree with your points:
    – 1986 pastoral – hard to see how that was a shameful political document (it sure wasn’t the pathetic, unresearched Fortnight for Freedom stuff we have had to put up with); it was a pastoral letter (my profs actually stated that the letter was well researched, well written, and had a good understanding of the economic realities of US society (most escpecially, its treatment of Appalachia)
    – in my Econ 101 class, we studied the reality that there is no *pure* economic system and that any economic system is also a political and human system (it just doesn’t exist in a vacuum)
    – most profs generalized that the world over the last 200 years has experienced three types of capitalism – unrestrained capitalism; mixed capitalism, and planned capitalism. Unrestrained has resulted in gross inequalities (and Francis correctly and pastorally identifies those – we currently are living in the US at a time when inequality between haves and have nots is greater than it has been in 50 years and is increasing); the American experience has had to correct unrestrained capitalism numerous times in our history (think T. Roosevelt and trust busting; Ida Tarbell, progressive party, etc.); planned economies are best exemplified by communism (and we know that system fails), and mixed economies – a blending of government actions to ensure that capitalism does not become unrestrained violating human dignity, rights, and freedoms. And yes, it is a delicate balancing act. Just as there are many different *democracies*; so there are many different capitalist economies. Finally, *pure* capitalism has no room for *labor* – for those who make the system work.
    Unrestrained capitalism has never reduced poverty – that is not the goal of capitalism.
    Reagan – cut taxes from roughly 75% to below 45% and it is now closer to 35% (not taking into account tax loopholes) – since Reagan, the top 1%’s wealth has increased more than 240% while wages/middle class have seen their income barely increase 10-15%. When markets are set up like this, it is hard to use your God given gifts – it becomes a *closed system* and the poor stay poor. This is what MSW is referring to as shameful and pathetic. Francis is speaking about human dignity and human rights which he deduces from the Gospel imperatives…..the gospels never address *economics*; they are about our encounters with the Risen Lord.
    Interesting question – 50 million US citizens are classified as living in poverty…..this number has increased ever year since Reagan; why hasn’t pure capitalism solved this problem?

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #35:
      The reason the USCCB manifesto was shameful is because it was clearly political. They started their project in 1982 which just so happened to coincide with the peak of a deep recession. They couldn’t finish it for four years but they were still able to launch their salvos at Reagan before he left office. What they didn’t do is provide any evidence to support or refute the success or failure of economic policies, whether they were Reagan’s or his predecessors’. An example of their cherry –picked data when they chose to use any is their citing of poverty rates (#17) from 1968 to 1978. Excuse me gentlemen you’re writing a document in 1986, so why the cutoff? Your professors should have explained to you why an economic analysis offered no tables, charts, graphs or comparative data. That usually helps when you’re attempting to spot trends so it’s possible to conclude if there is progress or not. They didn’t lose an opportunity to link defense spending to economic injustice #20 and #148. The Soviets were happy to read those sections. Turns out that JPII and Reagan understood what tactics and strategies would successfully crush an evil empire; our bishops did not. In regards to poverty rates, they did come down for many years. Check the data, they peaked in 1982 and fell until the next recession in 2001. So much for the idea that trickle-down /supply side economics doesn’t work. It’s been under the current administration that the rate has begun to noticeably rise. That has much to do with Obama’s changes to welfare and other entitlement benefits and the weak recovery that has in fact benefited the rich more than the poor. I would recommend that people read the link you offered and read the article posted by Samuel Gregg. I think you mischaracterized why Winters said it is pathetic. He clearly disliked the skillful way in which Gregg used data to identify the pope’s scrambled thoughts on economic issues.

      1. @Michael Alexenko – comment #46:
        Cont… Gregg is much more diplomatic about it than I am. Lastly, as you know we don’t have a pure free market system so I’m not sure why you attribute economic failure to a system that doesn’t exist.

      2. @Michael Alexenko – comment #46:
        That’s cherry picked twaddle, too. Poverty rates under Reagan-Bush I declined by virtue of Keynesian deficit spending, but then returned to the previous high under the Bush I recession, only to go down when taxes were increased on the wealthy, and began increasing when those taxes were lowered. (This is a mirror parody response – sarcasm alert.)

        What Reagan taught Americans is that the middle class could get the government services it wanted but for a lower cost through deficit spending. Hardly a free-market model.

        (Ditto)

      3. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #48:
        Deficit spending went down as a % of GDP under Reagan. You should concentrate on rates of change and not nominal figures. I’m concerned that people are not willing to honestly evaluate data. Using any metrics, it’s very hard to not recognize economic success in the 80s. The question about how do you get people to not cherish their possessions is another issue.

  17. “Free market systems will achieve the first and Pope Francis needs to focus on the 2nd.”

    This is misguided. The first is not of God. A free market system operates on the basic principles of competition and minimizes cooperation. In our attention-deficit culture, it also serves to enhance short-term profiteering at the expense of long-term insight.

    And the focus on the 2nd totally misreads the Gospel. Charity alone is not enough. Christians are called to advocate for justice, pointing to the day when charity will not be needed. Economic neocons so often miss the boat on that distinction. Charity becomes an exercise in narcissism: a feel-good salve to address personal guilt.

    Free-market economics is essentially a pagan system … only without the intelligence of, say, an Aristotle behind it.

  18. It seems that George Weigel’s book Evangelical Catholicism captures the essence of Pope Francis’ leadership agenda for the Church which is evangelical Catholicism with a strong emphasis on welcoming the poor, whether they are so materially, physically, spiritually, morally, mentally or canonically.

    There is a good review of this book at the following link which is uncanny in the sense that it could be a review of Pope Francis apostolic exhortation:

    http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/evangelical-catholicism.html

  19. Except, criticially, that Pope Francis has decidedly NOT embraced Mr Weigel’s ideologically neo-liberal economic hermeneutic. Put down that shoehorn, Fr Allan.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #38:
      While both Weigel and the Holy Father are free to comment on economic systems as it impacts people for better or worse we as Catholics can reject their economics since this is outside their scope of authority unless you want to go back to Chistendom when the pope was the head of state . But both Weigel and the pope can be prophetic about economies and the perceived damage these do to the welfare of people. They are free to offer moral solutions and opinions.

      1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #41:
        We Catholics can reject anything from the magisterium on Catholic Social Teaching when it’s about the economy? Really?? The popes only have (or had) authority in Catholic social teaching when they’re the head of state?
        You’re overstating and off the mark, I think. And it rather sounds like you put Weigel and the pope on the same level of authority.
        awr

      2. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #42:
        Well, this is not surprising. Mr Weigel has demonstrated that he himself is one of the least credible interpreters of papal teaching on economics, to the point of self-caricature.

        Fr Ruff, you forgot the economics is outside morals, except when you impinge on individual property rights, when it rises suddenly to the level of an intrinsic evil, but not otherwise. Tsk tsk. (sarcasm alert)

  20. 32. …The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.

    Wassup at Congregation for Bishops?

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/wassup-congregation-bishops

    Micheal Sean Winters writes The answer to the question – wassup with the Congregation for Bishops? – is above the pay grade of my sources. But, it is astonishing that Cardinal Marc Ouellet has not yet been confirmed in his post as prefect of that all-important congregation….Cardinal Canizares has not been confirmed, but he is expected to head back to Spain as Archbishop of Madrid.

    We now know that Francis decided upon the Council of Cardinals and his Secretary of State within days of being elected, but took months to put all of that into place.

    A big move to redo excessive centralization would be to give responsibility for the election of bishops and approval of liturgical texts to bishop’s conferences. That would explain why Oscar has being saying that the old document on the Papal Curia will not be the basis for the new document, as well as why appointments have not been confirmed.

  21. In some ways Evangelii Gaudium summarizes what Francis has being saying for the last six months. Francis has a great interest in gossip. He often preaches about it. He seems to like giving off the cuff remarks that start a lot of gossip. In a way we have seen the rolling out of this document ever since Francis became Pope.

    Francis loves repetition. This is not a one- time document for people to occasionally quote.

    17. Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality.

    18. I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. But I have done so, not with the intention of providing an exhaustive treatise but simply as a way of showing their important practical implications for the Church’s mission today. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake.

    25. I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough.[21] Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission”

    Francis is certainly a leader, i.e. one who influences people at the peripheries by his words and deeds. However, this is not only his vision statement but also very much a management document designed to create a workplace culture:

    27. I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.

    I think we are seeing a Pope who understands how to be a manager, how to create a workplace culture for the church’s employees.

  22. PS: I am no collectivist. (I was a libertarian in the early into mid-1980s – I was even on the Federalist Society Board in the peak of Reaganism – but I grew out of it when I saw the dysfunction then brewing in conservatism and libertarianism after Reagan’s landslide reelection.). I have no love of *ideological* capitalism. Capitalism is best understood as a *descriptive* thing, not a *prescriptive system*. It is a description of how people will tend to act under certain conditions of free exchange. Adam Smith would shake his head at the ideologically prescriptive version that has become popularized by neo-liberals in the last 40 years. (Even Hayek would frown.)

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #49:
      Don’t worry the neo-liberals aren’t winning. Gov’t continues to grow which just so happens to be the inverse of the church. That’s a correlation the Holy Father might want to contemplate.

      1. @Michael Alexenko – comment #51:
        The original post said that we’re concentrating on the themes interesting to Pray Tell readers, though others will comment on the sections on economics.

        Michael Alexenki, you’ve pushed your economic views quite clearly and I think we get the gist of your position. Let’s leave that side topic alone now and stay on the topic of the post.

        awr

  23. Given where Francis seems to be taking the Church, both in terms of internal reform and also in service of the poor, I can understand why some might like to concentrate on the economy where Francis is easier to criticize on economic grounds without looking disloyal to him.

    However, rumor has it that Francis first encyclical will be on poverty. I suspect that it will be addressed as much to the whole world as to Catholics, and will articulate what he thinks should be the response of all the baptized to poverty. Francis is very much for having laity rather than bishops assume responsibility for actual political initiatives.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #54:
      If only the laity would, at least high profile ones, not only on the economy, health care and the poor, but on the other major related topic “pro-life” which if neglected by the laity involved in voting and in the actual political and judicial arenas negates all the rest. And to relate this to the reformed liturgy of the last 50 years, has the ideology of communism come true for Catholics who disconnect worship from life, no matter their state in life, and allowed the liturgy and thus the institutional Church on the parish level to become the opiate of the “masses”?

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #55:
        Must be jet lag from your return from the Roman Holiday paid for by the catholics of your diocese but writing an english sentence with subject, VERB, object would be helpful – even if your thought is merely a repetitious mantra.

        In terms of Weigel (since you posted a review above, guess that means you never read the actual book?): http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/evangelii-gaudium-second-impressions

        Highlights from Michael Sean Winters:
        – “There are not enough gold and red pens in the world for George Weigel to parse the clamant social justice sections out of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation released yesterday.”
        – “…..keep in mind that the pope’s treatment of social justice is placed within the context of evangelization: The Pope is calling the Church to be a missionary Church, an evangelizing Church, and the privileged path of fidelity to the Gospel is service to the poor.” (your definition of evangelization and Francis’ definition seem to be very different?)
        – to quote you above……”on the other major related topic “pro-life” which if neglected by the laity involved in voting and in the actual political and judicial arenas negates all the rest.” Francis states: “Our service to the poor is about creating a “culture of encounter,” about forming our Catholic conscience in a deeper way than simply knowing right from wrong, but instead forming our fundamental stance, what Levinas called “the moral challenge of the face of another,” and that it is only if we so form our consciences to welcome the poor and the marginalized, to put their interests above our own, only then can we be sure of meeting Christ in this world, being true to His sacramental presence in the Eucharist, and nurturing the hope to live with Him for all eternity.” (guess this trumps your sad attempt to link VII liturgy with the Marxist *religion is the opiate of the masses*.

        Additionally, Francis states in chapters 2 & 4 that *the pope provides, a “pastoral perspective.” I call attention to this because in recent years, certain Catholic leaders have derided pastoral theology and come to understand the role of ecclesial leadership as one shaped by moral theology, not pastoral theology. A very smart bishop recently made this point to me and it rang profoundly true: One of the keys to understanding Pope Francis is that he, properly, understands moral theology as a subset of pastoral theology, not the other way round.* (so much for you and Weigel’s manualist approach to moral theology).

        MSW goes further:

        “I bring attention to this point, too, because you can already see how some Catholics, for whom the pope’s words are difficult to accept, are reacting.
        What his neo-con and libertarian critics fail to grasp is that the pope’s understanding has been profoundly shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not by the Gospel according to Hayek and von Mises, and that as a pastor from the Global South, there is nothing abstract about the sufferings of the poor wrought by globalization. Also, it must be said, the pope does not claim to be an economist. He is a pastor. He knows the poor. They are his people and, now, stunningly, he is showing himself to be their pope. That may not cohere with the academic thoughts on economics from our friends at the Acton Institute.”

  24. Here’s another good commentary from someone other than Sandro Magister:
    http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/vaticano-papa-el-papa-bergoglio-30216/

    It really does call into question this opinion…..*….has the ideology of communism come true for Catholics who disconnect worship from life, no matter their state in life…..* (Tornielli’s explanation of those who misinterpreted B16 appears to put you in that category)

    – “In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.” It is not hard to see that these attitudes apply to those who for example misinterpreted the depth of Cardinal Ratzinger and then Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on the liturgy, dedicating all their efforts to appearance, neglecting the heart of the ministry and paying attention instead to ecclesiastical aesthetics, bringing back sumptuous robes which should in theory give glory to God but instead end up glorifying only those who wear them and sending waves of self-satisfaction through them when they see their photos migrating from one blog to the next.”
    – OR….”The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past,”
    – OR….”A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others.”

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #57:
      Gee, Bill, my sound opinions must really make you insecure. Maybe you really do realize the sands are shifting below your feet. I’m flattered you take me so seriously that you have a compulsion to read and correct me but it does betray your insecurity.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #61:
        Sad!!!
        No, I respect all who post responsibly and try to respond to the actual post with honesty and integrity. (so, no compulsion – you appear to be confused about *compulsion* and your comments on PTB)
        Insecurity…..let’s just reply with your own words: “The unrepentant papist I am puts your last comment into the genre of comedy and the rest into hyperbole.” (talk about a sad attempt at humor and an insecure response!)

        Or, as Fr. Ruff just posted:
        “No, hyperbole means exaggeration. I responded precisely to what you wrote.”
        Or, in other words. insecurity is your attribution & exaggeration….I responded precisely to what you wrote.” (altho, it does become a hopeless project but the gospel holds out hope for conversion always)

  25. Well according to Fr Z, by this document Pope Francis is trying to divide the catholic left (presumably in order to strengthen the catholic right). Apparently, first seduced the catholic left with hints at possible minor reforms but now he’s got them hooked he’s aiming to smack them down permanently with authoritive traditionalism. His leftist economics is because of his bad experience of Peronism – or something like that. I was too stunned to take it all in, I haven’t read the comments section yet but I bet they’re a hoot!

  26. I see here encouraging words for all Catholics and persons committed to Christ. The call to evangelize is universal, for every walk of life. And I think that many will answer the call. The tone is joy, the response to the Resurrection, a primary fruit of the Spirit and also a keystone of Ignatian spirituality. The exhortation cites very selectively from papal and conciliar documents; I was impressed especially by the strong condemnation of unbridled capitalism and the positive citations from the liberation theology message of 1984. And no mention of defensive pronouncements such as Dominus Iesus and Veritatis Splendor.

    We are getting more of these end-runs from the center. The previous pope did something similar when he encouraged Catholics to petition their pastors and bishops for Latin-language liturgies. In other words, we are to take the initiative, not waiting for the hierarchy to lead the way. I would read this pope’s hot button remarks in that vein: don’t expect tectonic shifts at the level of the teaching authority, but listen to the Spirit in the places where we are. Don’t necessarily bring people to church but dialog with them on their ground. Not proselytism but evangelization.

    His lengthy treatment of the homily gives all of us food for thought. Whether we take bible classes or just dive into the scripture readings, let them speak to us. Whenever I prepare a reading for mass or write a Lector Works commentary I do a sort of lectio divina.

    Well – isn’t this how reform movements always get started? To take just one example, Ignatius gave his spiritual exercises for years before the hierarchy approved them. Ditto for all the parish renewal tools out there.

  27. This is a long complex document which is taking even an intellectual like myself a long time to read. This morning I am beginning Chapter Four

    I think we need to have a series of posts to discuss it.

    Perhaps a place where we might begin with is a new post of “my favorite quotes” and suggested future topics for discussion e.g. this morning I came across

    185. In what follows I intend to concentrate on two great issues which strike me as fundamental at this time in history. I will treat them more fully because I believe that they will shape the future of humanity. These issues are first, the inclusion of the poor in society, and second, peace and social dialogue.

    Another way might be to break up the document into its various sections.

    I don’t think this is a document like the Encyclical jointly issued by the Two Popes that will be promptly forgotten and remain around mainly as something for scholars, bishops and future Popes to quote.

    As long as Francis is around he is going to continue to talk about the issues in this document so we may as well tackle this document as a way of understanding Francis and what he is attempting to do in his own framework.

    As I said above @Jack Rakosky – comment #40:
    I think this is a leadership and management document more than a teaching document; it is meant to be used now rather than put on the heap of papal documents. One of the ways you can tell this is that Francis frequently has these “ad libs” or “asides” in the document. My quote above is one of many. My quotes in the previous comment are all of this type. Instead of red and gold pens I am using yellow (the text) and green (ad libs) highlighting.

    Francis like MLK is talking about the fierce urgency of now.

  28. I haven’t heard anyone talk about Apostolic Exhortations. They are issued after synods, based on the propositions from the bishops. Most of the ideas in this document are from the Synod, though Francis has emphasized them in his own fashion.

    IOW Francis writes as a bishop among bishops. It is his own vision, but it also comes from other bishops. This makes the personal nature of this exhortation all the more remarkable IMO.

  29. Don’t miss the ecclesial implications of this section (Francis hints in places that it applied to both civil and church society):

    III. THE COMMON GOOD AND PEACE IN SOCIETY

    Time is greater than space

    222. A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.

    223. This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans… One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces.

    Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.

    Unity prevails over conflict,

    226. Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. . But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

    228. In this way it becomes possible to build communion amid disagreement, but this can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity.

    230. The message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that the unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #65:

      Realities are more important than ideas

      231. There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric. So a third principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas. This calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems bereft of kindness, intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.

      The whole is greater than the part

      234. An innate tension also exists between globalization and localization. We need to pay attention to the global so as to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground.

      235. The whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts. There is no need, then, to be overly obsessed with limited and particular questions. We constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all. But this has to be done without evasion or uprooting. We need to sink our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God.

      236. Here our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the centre, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness. Pastoral and political activity alike seek to gather in this polyhedron the best of each.

      At long last a replacement for the ever present circles and spheres! Long live polyhedrons!!!

      And if circles are on their way out as we begin to think about polyhedrons maybe we won’t need all that gender imagery!

      BTW Notice how Francis “relativized” the dictatorship of relativism into one of many means of masking reality!

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