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by Kochurani Abraham
Pope Francis’ papacy is iconoclastic in many respects. Jorge Bergoglio taking the name ‘Francis’ as Pope, was in itself a revolutionary step as he broke away from the tradition of the earlier pontiffs. As the leading theologian Hans Kung observes, the new Pope with the surprising and programmatic name is a challenge to the Roman system, in terms of both spiritual and institutional reform. (Kung, “Don’t let spring turn to winter - Power and poverty”, 2013)
The choice of this name was indeed evangelical and Francis did not delay in translating to life why he opted to be the namesake of the ‘Poverello’ . The simplicity that has characterized his papacy right from its start has been a testimonial to the politics of this choice. His humble lifestyle as evident in the hostel he chose to stay and the public transport he accesses, his use of language that is comprehensible even to ordinary people and his very approachable ways of relating to people - all testify to the uniqueness of Francis’s papacy and the rejuvenation it promises to the 21st century Catholic Church.
On Maundy Thursday shortly after his election, Pope Francis washed the feet of young prisoners including a Muslim girl at a juvenile detention center outside Rome. In doing so, he was not breaking tradition for its own sake, but reclaiming the spirit and Christian significance of what had become a dead and exclusive ritual in the Church. This prophetic gesture, which declared in loud and clear terms the liberative import of Jesus’ servant leadership and the inclusive vision of the Reign of God, was a momentous event. Though it was not taken up widely by the tradition-minded sections of the universal Church, the evangelical implications of this path-breaking initiative cannot be overlooked.
It is widely acclaimed that Francis’s leadership has brought a new freshness to the way of being church in the world today. The wide reception of his Apostolic Exhortation Evangeli Gaudium and Encyclical Laudato Si, testifies to this fact. In Laudato Si, Francis called for a new relationality with the earth, which becomes possible only by moving away from human greed. Though this poses a tough challenge to the anthropocentric liberal market economy that has become the norm in today’s world, Francis’ call has found a strong echo across the globe. Perhaps what has made this document very appealing to many is the manner in which the Pope has brought out the spiritual dimension underlying ecological concerns.
Another characteristic feature that marks Pope Francis’s papacy is the outflow of mercy that has become a tangible experience through his words and deeds. Francis’ outreach to the poor and the marginalized, particularly the migrants and the refugees, speaks volumes to this effect. The ‘Gospel of Mercy’ is his response to the migrant and refugee crisis. He calls for an integration that will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism or xenophobia. (Message of Pope Francis on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2016). For him, protecting the world's migrants and refugees is a moral imperative, “a duty towards our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.” (Sixth International Forum on Migration and peace, 2017). These words became flesh as he reached out to the Syrian refugees, and took back with him to Rome 12 Muslims from three Syrian families during his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos. This gesture, though symbolic, communicated to the world a powerful message that the ‘Gospel of Mercy’ should not remain mere words.
Mercy and compassion seeps out of Pope Francis, not just in the texture of his life, but also through the text of Catholic doctrine, which is his distinctive contribution to the present times. This has become most evident in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia through which he invites the Church to make present the compassionate heart of Christ before the many situations that call for healing today.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis plainly sets out his moral and pastoral approach -observes Indian moral theologian George Therookattil. This is done in attentiveness to the realities and complexities of life in the concrete, rather than in the abstract. In his opinion, the goal of the Exhortation is to help families—in fact, everyone—experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional, gratuitous mercy of God and know that they are welcome in the Church. Therefore, it speaks of the pastoral concern to those who are divorced and have entered into new unions, those in mixed marriages, with disparity of cults and to those with homosexual orientation. It is an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment that asks the Church to meet people where they are, to consider and take into account families and individuals in all their complexity of various situations, and to respect their consciences when it comes to moral decisions. (George Therookattil, “Pope Francis’ Moral and Pastoral Approach in Amoris Laetitia, 2017.)
Even though Pope Francis spoke of the ‘need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church’ (EG 103), many find him continuing on a conservative note as his predecessors without bringing a radical change on the gender question. All the same, even his critics find his position on clericalism very striking. He has consistently spoken against clericalism, by calling the” the evil of clericalism” as “a mistaken way of living out the ecclesiology proposed by the Second Vatican Council.” Denouncing clericalism, he affirms the role of laity in the Church. In his words: “When that comes – when the ‘Hour of the Laity’ finally strikes – it will mean the prophetic fire has been lit, consigning clericalism to the past where it should belong.” (Letter to the President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, 2016).
Without doubt, in Francis we have a Pope who through his freeing leadership witnesses to the world a new and different way of being Church today. His attempts to give a more human face to the Church in a way that makes the heart of God more tangible, may be disconcerting to many. Yet, the Spirit blows where it wills, and it is undeniable that in the person of Pope Francis, the world encounters the human touch of the Spirit.
by Phil Kingston
I invite you to consider some questions about the global Neoliberal economy. How does it:
If you cannot answer in the affirmative, it seems reasonable to conclude that this economy excludes essential attributes of the God of creation, love and justice.
This economy is a human construct. The excluding of God is organised primarily by those who have the most power to develop it and to promote the consumerist society in which we each live.
I call it an idol because its proponents claim it as the primary basis for human security, a security which I imagine most Christians would regard as being fulfilled by God and people who seek God’s will. As with all idols, its false claim must not be questioned. It seems that nothing must be allowed to suggest that economic growth has problematic consequences for the Earth and future generations. Even while the World Wildlife Fund’s research shows that consumption by the current human population is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth by 50%, the mantra of more growth drowns out calls for debate about this overuse.
Of the few states-persons who voice concern about this economy’s fitness for purpose, Pope Frances is the most significant. The following are from Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and Laudato si’ (Care for our Common Home):
‘The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.’ EG 55
‘…. the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.’ Ls 106
‘In this (economic) system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.’ EG 56
‘How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference is made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice.’ EG 203
‘’.. the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.’’ (Ls 193).
With regard to Pope Francis’ courageous exposure of structural sin, I often think of him as a rather lonely man within many of the Churches of the materially rich countries, where I see his pastoral care and simple living acclaimed but his economic critique made almost invisible by silence.
A very different economic model is promoted by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy http://steadystate.org/ I invite everyone who wants the world which Pope Francis points toward to study it; and then to link it to our faith by considering Green Christian’s Joy in Enough project http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/joy-in-enough .
(Published in The Universe, a Catholic weekly, on 30/06/2017)
by Phil Kingston (Published with permission of the author. It also appeared in The Universe in August 2017)
About 35 years ago I became a supporter of Cafod. Whilst my heart was clearly being stirred, my faith then was more from my head than my heart. I later joined a parish Charismatic Prayer Group and was introduced to a new understanding of the Holy Spirit. Through an Alpha course I came to appreciate more this prayer of the heart. However, in both the parish group and the Alpha course, I didn’t experience much interest in work for peace and justice, especially the social-structural approach of Catholic Social Teaching.
Since then I have tried always to link prayer and activism. I have come to recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, just as Jesus promised. This has been accompanied by puzzlement because both in homilies and talking with Catholics, including JPCC activists, I have heard little about the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Assuming that this is a general aspect of British Catholic culture, it is extraordinarily different from that described in the Acts of the Apostles where the Holy Spirit’s presence shines throughout. A practical fruit of this was an amazing sharing where ‘those who had acquired land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale to be distributed by the apostles according to each one’s need’.
Pope Francis, in his clear and homely way, often speaks about the Holy Spirit. E.g. as: ‘’our travelling companion…. the sweet guest of the heart’’; One who gives strength ‘’to speak the truth without compromise’’. ‘’For anyone who is born of the Spirit, he or she follows without knowing where it will end.’’ And ‘’The cross cannot be taken away from the life of a Christian, (so) ask God for the grace of not being afraid because the Lord said: the Spirit will tell us what to answer.’’
I was a shy person for much of my early life. I now do things which I wouldn’t previously have considered, and I give thanks to God and the support of many people for that. I have become more willing to follow Jesus, both in his speaking truth to power and his non-violent actions in the Temple forecourt. My experience of the Spirit’s prompting is that when it arrives it usually feels exactly right; but that this is often quickly followed by thoughts like ‘people will think I’m nuts if I do that’’. I check this out with others who I believe are Spirit-filled, and usually recognise that my fear of consequences and of not being accepted are impeding the prompt. I have come to trust that if I follow it, then, according to the discernment of others, an aspect of God’s reign generally results. I ask if readers of this will consider writing about their own experiences of the Holy Spirit, via Readers’ Letters?
Pope Francis has called the entire Church to respond to the 19th November first World Day of the Poor. In a statement in which he twice refers to the Holy Spirit, he also says ‘’Let us never forget that, for Christ’s disciples, poverty is above all a call to follow Jesus in his own poverty’’ and adds ‘’St. John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: If you want to honour the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honour the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness’’.
by Julian Filochowski
(This presentation given in Georgetown, Guyana, on April 21st 2016 involved taking phrases from many excellent articles and analyses in Thinking Faith, America magazine and elsewhere. If appropriate reference is missing I offer my apologies.)
Laudato Si is ‘a great and timely gift to humanity’ says Jeffrey Sachs, one of the most distinguished economists of our time. It has been applauded by the world’s political leaders North and South, by scientists and by theologians and people across the planet, in the Church and far beyond, who care about the future of our world and its peoples.
But the most powerful praise came from the conservative US TV Channel, Fox News, where, after flicking through it, they declared “Francis is the most dangerous person on the planet”. What a magnificent plaudit! Praise indeed.
Evangelii Gaudium (EG) – The Joy of the Gospel
198 “That is why I want a poor Church for the poor….. to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, and to lend our voice to their causes.” As he did himself last week visiting refugees in Lesbos.
53 “Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
55 “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money...”
2 “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. ….there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. This is a very real danger for believers too.”
84 “At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who… can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.” (himself quoting here Pope John XXIII)
49 “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... my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: Give them something to eat (Mk 6:37).”
Laudato Si’ (LS)
They are not laid out in this pithy format by Pope Francis but they are indirectly present in Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si – and his teaching is the riposte and the antidote to this depressing quintet of abominable one-liners. Let’s be clear that far from offering a naïve condemnation of capitalism, as some critics have suggested, Laudato Si provides a sharp and intelligent critique of the fundamental limitations and failings of the market economy especially when it spectacularly fails to provide for the poor. 5
1 Damian Howard SJ, Thinking Faith, 18 June 2015
2 Cardinal Peter Turkson, 2 November 2015 http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/11/03/cardinal_turkson_speaks_on_laudato_si_in_us/1183983
3 Henry Longbottom SJ
5 James Martin SJ http://americamagazine.org/top-ten-takeaways-laudato-si
by Clyde Christofferson
There are those who are so troubled by what Pope Francis says in Amoris Laetitia that they have issued a Correctio Filialis, a document which identifies positions which they believe are heresies. The summary of Correctio Filialis states: "[Pope Francis] has not declared these heretical positions to be definitive teachings of the Church, or stated that Catholics must believe them with the assent of faith."
So, what's the problem, if these positions stated by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia are not “definitive teachings”? If they are not definitive, then they are open to discussion, right? Is it not, then, premature to call them heresies?
Then it occurred to me what Francis is doing.
These are positions which call for the reflection of the People of God, so as to bring to bear the sensus fidelium. As he has said so many times before, he is looking for vigorous discussion. Amoris Laetitia is an opportunity for Pope Francis to provide a different kind of leadership, calling forth the Spirit from the People of God.
Indeed, is this not what Jesus was doing? Jesus preached the reign of God. From where does this God reign? From on high, through the teaching authority of the Torah as interpreted by the temple priests? Or through the hearts of the people of God, if that capacity for discernment is cultivated?
This is not what many people expect from a pope. Many people are in the habit of expecting clear and definitive guidance, and the official Church has not taught otherwise. So hearts remain unpracticed, at least as to matters about which Rome has spoken. But since Rome speaks about so much, people can be forgiven for their reliance. The implicit assumption is that the Spirit will speak authoritatively through the pope, and lazy hearts will not have to trouble themselves.
Pope Francis is taking a different tack. The presence of the Spirit in the hearts of the people is a resource of enormous consequence. Vatican II (Lumen Gentium #12) recognized this in the sensus fidelium. There is a process of "reception" for the people to weigh in on Church teachings, which are being reformulated so that they speak in the language and idiom of the present time. As Saint John XXIII said in his opening speech to the bishops assembled at Vatican II:
"[There are those] who imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church's rightful liberty were concerned. ... [But] our duty is not just to guard this treasure, as though it were some museum-piece and we the curators ... There was no need to call a council merely to hold discussions of that nature. What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith ... What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else."
In this light, what Pope Francis is saying in Amoris Laetitia reflects his wise discernment that truth does not spring full blown, as Athena from the head of Zeus. We are a pilgrim people whose primary task on the journey of faith is to love one another, as Jesus taught.
So, the proper question for Amoris Laetitia is, "does it help us to better love one another?" And "does it help people to move from unpracticed hearts to practiced hearts?" The reign of God which Jesus preached contemplates hearts practiced in the art of being attuned to the presence of the Spirit within. Do the positions stated in Amoris Laetitia prompt this kind of practice?
To ask whether the positions stated in Amoris Laetitia are, or are not, heretical is to ask the wrong question.
While looking for an accessible summary of EG, we came across this by Kevin Cotter. Please follow the links to the The Fellowship of Catholic University Students website to see the whole article, and the sections mentioned below.
Evangelii Gaudium is a fantastic document that will have a deep impact on our Church for several generations. It is also a LONG document. In his own words, “I have dealt extensively with these topics with a detail which some may find excessive” (#18). Pope Francis covers a tremendous amount of ground and the task of trying to summarize such a lengthy document to various people who only have some much time to read this blog post presents quite the challenge.
In order to try to meet this challenge, I’ve separated the blog post into different sections below:
As always, the best option is to read the document yourself and then use this as a guide for reflection and study later. I know this isn’t always possible or realistic, especially the day of the release.