Pope Francis's "Apostolic Exhortation" on Evangelization has been released. It is a long, rich, and personal document. Here is a thought for the day:
265. Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it: “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for mission because we forget that the Gospel responds to our deepest needs, since we were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters. If we succeed in expressing adequately and with beauty the essential content of the Gospel, surely this message will speak to the deepest yearnings of people’s hearts. ... Enthusiasm for evangelization is based on this conviction. We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love.
266. But this conviction has to be sustained by our own constantly renewed experience of savoring Christ’s friendship and his message. It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights. We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize. A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise. Unless we see him present at the heart of our missionary commitment, our enthusiasm soon wanes and we are no longer sure of what it is that we are handing on; we lack vigour and passion. A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody.
The now infamous "Interview" of Pope Francis with the self-avowed atheist, Eugenio Scalfari, was recently removed from the "Francis" page of the Vatican website where it had been placed under the rather curious designation, "Speeches."
Since its original publication in La Repubblica, the Italian daily which Scalfari founded, it has come to light that the session with the Pope had neither been recorded, nor had notes been taken at the time. The exchange was reconstructed by the eighty-nine year old Scalfari after the fact.
Now, in a true interview with foreign journalists working in Italy, things become curiouser and curiouser. Scalfari says that he told the Pope when he sent his version of the exchange for permission to publish it:
Keep in mind that I did not include some of the things that you said to me. And that some of the things that I attribute to you you did not say. But I put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.
Despite this friendly warning, he received the "ok" to publish his version. But Scalfari goes on to admit to the reporters he was addressing:
I am perfectly willing to think that some of the things that I wrote and attributed to him are not shared by the pope, but I also believe that he maintains that, said by a nonbeliever, they are important for him and for the activity he is carrying out.
Reported in Chiesa.
When I saw that Russell D. Moore had written a long piece about the so-called Evangelical “retreat” from American politics and culture wars, I was elated.
I am updating a syllabus for a course in religion and American politics, and I hoped this would be the perfect fresh take to round out our coverage of Evangelicalism. Certainly the media-savvy and next-generation Moore, the newish President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, would help my students understand the movement better than when they read speeches by his predecessor, Richard Land.
In short, I was primed for this essay.
Sadly, it is not assignable. This 4000-word feature, authored by the most prominent official of the Southern Baptists, is composed almost entirely of straw men.Read more
Last Monday, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Vatican ambassador to the United States, reminded the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that Pope Francis prefers shepherds who smell like the sheep, not ermine. The speech was remarkable for its directness. "[Francis] wants 'pastoral' bishops," Vigano told the USCCB, who were preparing to vote for their next president, "not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology." What's more, Vigano cited a text well loved by liberal Catholics, Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975): "It is primarily by her conduct and by her life that the church will evangelize the world, in other words by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus — the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity."
That Vigano chose to lean on Evangelii Nuntiandi is even more interesting because of its history. The document was written in response to the synod of bishops on evangelization, and it conceives of the church not only as teacher but also as learner:
The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love.
In advance of next year's synod, Pope Francis has asked the world's bishops to ask their parishioners about a range of issues, including gay marriage and contraception, and report back. He wants to know where his people are. "For the church," Paul VI wrote, "evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new." Sound familiar? (For more of Pope Francis's commentary on the missionary character of the church, and the kinds of bishops required to carry it out, see his recent message to Guadalupe pilgrims: "The attitude of the true shepherd is not that of a courtier or of a mere functionary, focusing principally on discipline, rules and organizational mechanisms.")
Most of Vigano's speech reads like a rearticulation of Pope Francis's call for Christians not to get trapped in the sacristy. But about two-thirds of the way in, it gets weird. Vigano drops in an apocalyptic passage attributed to John Paul II, in which the late pope warns that "we are now facing the final confrontation between the church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist." Sounds scary. Vigano claims John Paul delivered those remarks in a 1976 speech at a Eucharistic congress in Philadelphia. But that address doesn't contain those words.Read more
During this morning's homily at Santa Marta, Pope Francis prayed:
Lord give me the discernment to recognize the subtle conspiracies of worldliness that lead us to negotiate our values and our faith.
He then, apropos the reading from Maccabees, offered an interesting allusion:
with a reference to the 20th century novel, Lord of the World, that focuses on the spirit of worldliness that leads to apostasy, Pope Francis warned against the desire to “be like everyone else” and what he called an “adolescent progressivism”. “What do you think?” – he said bitterly – “that today human sacrifices are not made? Many, many people make human sacrifices and there are laws that protect them”.
Lord of the World was written by Robert Hiugh Benson, a convert to Catholicism and Catholic priest, who was the son of an Archbishop of Canterbury. Of the novel Joseph Pearce writes that it depicts "a world where philosophical relativism has triumphed over objectivity...a world where euthanasia is practiced widely and religion hardly practiced at all."
Benson wrote at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Francis clearly finds his dystopian novel a cautionary tale.
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepares to elect its next president, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, delivered a remarkably pointed address urging bishops to be "pastoral," not ideological.
Pope Francis, Vigano said, "wants bishops in tune with their people." The pope
is giving us by, his own witness, an example of how to live a life attuned to the values of the gospel. While each of us must take into consideration our adaptability to the many different circumstances and cultures in which we live and the people whom we serve, there has to be a noticeable life style characterized by simplicity and holiness of life. This is a sure way to bring our people to an awareness of the truth of our message.
Vigano quoted liberally from Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, which, he noted, Francis has called "the greatest pastoral document written to date." It was promulgated in 1975.
"The first means of evangelization," Paul VI wrote,
is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, 'Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. and if it does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.'"
That witness, Vigano suggested, is what's required in order to carry on the work of Vatican II.
Vigano also cited John Paul II and John XXIII to highlight the constant "call to attentiveness, watchfulness, and preparedness for whatever proclaiming the gospel may mean for us as successors of the Apostles, who were called to give radical witness to their faith in Jesus Christ."
Noting that American culture is marked by a diversity of views, Vigano observed that "this is also true of the church." But, he warned, "we must take care that, for us as a church, this diversity does not grow into division through misinterpretation or misunderstanding, and that division does not deteriorate into fragmentation."
In conclusion, Vigano mentioned an article describing the past half-centuray of U.S. politics. Its subtitle: "The era of polarization began as Americans lost confidence in their leaders."
At yesterday's Angelus in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Francis gave a particularly lovely reflection on the Gospel reading. (I have corrected the translation in a number of places.)
Let's look at Zacchaeus in the tree. His is a ridiculous gesture, but it is an act of salvation. And I say to you: if you have a weight on your conscience, if you are ashamed of so many things that you’ve done, stop for a moment, do not panic. Think about the fact that Someone is waiting for you because He has never stopped remembering you — and this Someone is your Father, it is God Who waits for you! Climb up, as did Zacchaeus, climb onto the tree of the desire of being forgiven. I will assure you that you will not be disappointed. Jesus is merciful and never grows tired of forgiving! Remember well, that’s the way Jesus is.
Brothers and sisters, let us allow Jesus to call us by name. In the depths of our heart, let us listen to His voice that says to us: "Today I must stay at your house," that is, in your heart, in your life. And let us welcome Him with joy. He can change us, can transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He can liberate us from selfishness and make our lives a gift of love. Jesus can do it. Allow yourself to be gazed upon by Jesus!
The Italian text is here.
It’s great reading something like Forbes’s annual power rankings, because you get article teasers like this: “There are nearly 7.2 billion people on the planet. These are the 72 that matter the most” and puffed-chest pronouncements like this, touting the methodology used in compiling the
annual snapshot of the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world. The list represents the collective wisdom of top FORBES editors, who consider hundreds of nominees before ranking the planet’s 72 power brokers — one for every 100 million on Earth.
Forbes measures power “along four dimensions”: whether the candidate “has power over lots of people,” the financial resources each candidate controls, whether “the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres,” and whether the candidate “actively uses that power.” By those criteria Vladimir Putin tops this year’s list, with Barack Obama falling to second and Xi Jinping, secretary general of the Communist Party of China, coming in third.
Fourth? Pope Francis, whose title Forbes helpfully lists as “pope.” His “power profile” doesn’t immediately make clear the criteria that helped Francis finish that high. But then here’s another great paragraph, again from the methodology, that sheds some light and includes an interesting juxtaposition:
Pope Francis (No. 4) is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. Michael Duke (No. 10), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs 2.1 million people and is the top private employer on the planet.
Thus, Forbes Dimension Number One: power over lots of people (just like Benedict, who made the top ten in previous years). As for Bill Gates, David Cameron, and Benjamin Netanyahu: all comparative weaklings. The evidence is here.
In today's audience held in Saint Peter's Square Pope Francis again sounded his favorite theme of the "journey" (cammino). He developed it in a reflection on the Communion of Saints, anticipating Friday's Feast of All Saints. The Pope said:
the communion of saints goes beyond earthly life, beyond death and endures for ever. This union among us goes beyond and continues in the next life; it is a spiritual communion born in Baptism and not broken by death, but, thanks to the Risen Christ, is destined to find its fullness in eternal life. There is a deep and indissoluble bond between those who are still pilgrims in this world — us — and those who have crossed the threshold of death and entered eternity. All baptized persons here on earth, the souls in Purgatory and all the blessed who are already in Paradise make one great Family. This communion between earth and heaven is realized especially in intercessory prayer.
Dear friends, we have this beauty! This is our reality, all of ours, that makes us brothers and sisters, that accompanies us on the journey of life and that we will find again in heaven. Let us go forward on this journey with trust, with joy. A Christian must be joyful, with the joy of having so many baptized brothers and sisters to journey with him; sustained by the help of brothers and sisters who are taking the same path toward heaven; and also by the help of brothers and sisters who are in heaven and are praying to Jesus for us. Go forward on this path with joy!
The full reflection may be accessed here.
Tuesday night at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Abraham Skorka spoke informally about his old friend, whom he calls “Bergoglio.” Talking in English on the topics of theology, Jewish-Christian relations, and the themes of Pope Francis’s pontificate, the Argentine Jewish leader combined memorable anecdotes with substantive reflections.
The event, “Pope Francis and the Jews,” was a unique opportunity for the mixed audience—mostly Jews—to hear behind-the-scenes stories about Francis, while also watching Skorka engage questions from Dr. Celia Deutsch, a Sister of Our Lady of Sion and professor of religion at Barnard College.
Since they co-authored a book of dialogues together, On Heaven and Earth (2010), the close relationship between the respective leaders of Jews and Catholics in Argentina has been well known. But recent months have shown the friendship to be deeper and more casual than many had realized. “Since he became pope, our friendship has become stronger,” Skorka said last night.
A long portion of the conversation focused on theology. Deutsch introduced a question by drawing a distinction between how theology is practiced in “the Global North,” especially North America and Europe, and what she sees in Skorka and Francis from the Global South. Theology in the Global North is often written by university professors for university professors, she noted, but “you two do accessible theology.” Skorka accepted the compliment: “Bergoglio and I agree, theology is not just for professionals.” The “task of theology” is easy to explain, he continued. “How to build a connection with God, respecting your neighbor.”
Skorka connected Francis’s “accessible” theology to his overall personality. Bergoglio is a “very pragmatic person,” he said. Yes, he “studied a lot,” but “first and foremost, he wants to pragmatize theology.” He has a “simple way, with simple words,” but a “very deep message.”Read more
Just posted to the homepage: Commonweal's chat with Pope Francis, It's an unprecedented exclusive, the pontiff's first interview with a lay Catholic publication. The questions are searching and probing, the answers even more so. Why are you waiting? Read it now.
Just posted to the homepage, two new stories. In this web-exclusive response to Germain Grisez, Dennis O’Brien writes on Francis and the character of Christian truth:
It is often commented that unlike many other great sages and spiritual leaders of humankind, Jesus never wrote a word; his impact was in live speech. The primacy of live speech, face-to-face communication, is a deep lesson about the nature of Christian truth and teaching. I believe that Pope Francis in the interview places the particular person speaking prior to instruction. The interview with Civilità Cattolica starts with “Who is Jorge Maria Bergoglio?” The answer: “I am a sinner—a sinner who has been forgiven by Christ.” For Francis, the voice that claims to teach the truths of Christianity is the voice of a forgiven sinner. Grisez might counter that this is all very well for Bergoglio, but not for one charged with the office of pope. The pope should speak in a “universal” voice, not as Ratzinger or Bergoglio. I think a universal voice fails to carry the full Christian message, and that is the radical shift that Pope Francis effects. Face-to-face is the site of Christian teaching.
Also posted: E. J. Dionne Jr. on where Obamacare is working, and where it isn’t.
States that created their own healthcare exchanges -- and especially those that did this while also expanding Medicaid coverage -- are providing health insurance to tens of thousands of happy customers, in so many cases for the first time.
Those seeking a model for how the law is supposed to operate should look to Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat in a red state, has embraced with evangelical fervor the cause of covering 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians. …
Beshear urges us to keep our eyes on the interests of those the law is intended to serve, our uninsured fellow citizens. "These 640,000 people are not some set of aliens,” he says. “They’re our friends and neighbors ... some of them are members of our families.” As for the troubled national website, Beshear offered this: “If I could give unsolicited advice to the critics, and maybe to the media, it’s: Take a deep breath.”
Wise counsel. But there can be no denying the system failure that is a profound embarrassment to the Obama administration and threatens to undermine all the good the law could do, since its enemies will use any excuse to discredit it.
Last night a CNN special on Pope Francis (Pope Francis, A Man of Many Firsts) aired in the US, in which I appeared as one of several commenters, including John Allen, Chris Belitto, and Cardinal McCarrick. As promised, I'm opening a thread to discuss the program.
First of all, let me say that I thought the program was well done. Although it did not shy away from controversy, it presented a positive view of what is already being talked about as an historic papacy. Some of the “firsts” named in the program were: first pope from Latin America, first pope who is a Jesuit, first pope to take the name Francis, first pope to use the term “gay.” Are there other “firsts”? Yes, of course. We could brainstorm a whole list of them. But the ones they chose to highlight were a fair summary.
I enjoyed the footage from World Youth Day. In particular, the aerial view of the 3.5 million people at the Mass on Copa Cabana beach was stunning. Speaking of views from a height, the panorama of St. Peter’s Square, seen from the vantage point of the new pope right after his election—the crowds, the lights, the hush that fell before he said “Good evening”—was also impressive. The close-up shots, at the Holy Thursday service at the prison, in the airplane on the return trip to Rome from Brazil, and of miscellaneous contact with individuals, were memorable too and fun to watch.
Of course, the story of a person—especially a person who has awakened admiration and interest in so many people—is easier to tell than so many other kinds of stories. We are hardwired to see events through stories about individuals.
Where I find myself thoughtful in retrospect is around this basic question: What is really happening in the pontificate of Pope Francis, and how do we talk about it? What do the pictures and the commentary really tell us?Read more
After teaching eight years at New York's Saint Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, I began an eight year period of teaching at the Maryknoll School of Theology. Though only thirty miles apart, they were, in those days, different theological worlds.
The first time I had occasion to preach at Maryknoll, it occurred to me that I would preach the same text differently in each seminary, because, at least in my discernment, the challenge of the Gospel would take on a different thrust in each context.
These thoughts came back to me after a wonderful dinner conversation last evening with two very committed parishioners. We were speaking, naturally, of Pope Francis and the effect he was having on so many. The words that came to my friends were "comforting" and "consoling." I agreed, but suggested it was necessary to complement them with "challenging."
Some of that challenge is present in the Pope's homily in Saint Peter's this morning:
In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: remember Jesus Christ. If we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.
And I ask myself: am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes its toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.
Last week, here in Amman, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the pope who bears his name. Parishes held large Masses, and the Franciscans friars at the well-known Catholic school Terra Sancta College performed their annual ritual commemorating the life and work of their patron. The Jordanian Catholic television channel Noursat/Telelumiere (Light TV) live-streamed Francis’s visit to Assisi and provided immediate Arabic translation of his remarks.
The most important event was a Mass in honor of the pope hosted by Apostalic Nuncio Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican’s ambassador to Jordan. Though the Mass was an elaborate affair with many non-Catholic guests, a large youth choir, posters of the pope, and a post-Mass reception, it has not yet been covered in English-language news outlets.
This post isn’t an attempt to cover the event from a journalist’s perspective. Instead, because I was in attendance as a worshipper, I hope to share some of my own reflections on the significance of the service. The Mass reflected ways in which the spirit of the two Francises is alive and well the Catholic Church in Jordan, and it illustrates what the global church can learn from the church in the Holy Land.
Nuns on a bus
Many of those in attendance at the Mass, which was held outside Amman at Our Lady of Peace Center, a Catholic-run complex that serves individuals with special needs, were nuns. Nuns from numerous orders and nationalities live in Jordan, including the Comboni Sisters who work in Amman’s Italian hospital. I met these sisters, who hail from Italy, Egypt, Syria, Poland, and Singapore, on the bus ride to the service, and I continue to see them at morning Masses at Amman’s Jesuit Center. Their humble ministry reflects two of the values promoted by Pope Francis and his namesake: simplicity and accompaniment. These sisters left their home countries to live and work among the sick of Jordan. These nuns are a reminder that the church is not just one in service of the poor, but of the poor.
What Christian unity looks like
The Mass was not just a celebration by Catholics, but by leaders of other faiths in this religiously diverse area. Representatives from Orthodox and Coptic Churches were easily noticeable from their distinctive garb. Other Eastern leaders entered alongside dozens of Roman Catholic priests as the Mass began, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who sat beside the Catholic leaders on the altar, beneath a large icon of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
In his homily, Archbishop Fouad Twal, head of the Archdiocese of Jerusalem, which includes Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and Cyprus, spoke about the unifying nature of Pope Francis’s papacy: “His Holiness is a source of pride for us, because during the short time of his papacy, not more than seven months, the pope has been able to seize the hearts of many people, enthrall them with his goodness and simplicity and angelic smile, whether they be Christians or non-Christians.”Read more
Of the many painful details in reports on the capsizing of an overloaded refugee boat a half-mile off Lampedusa last week (the captain setting fire to a blanket to signal shore; the resulting panic of the passengers; the chaos that ensued as the Eritrean migrants—mainly women and children—were pitched into the water), maybe the hardest to bear is that the cries of the drowning were first mistaken for seagulls.
According to some reports, it was “local yachters” who first heard the sounds of the unfolding disaster, which if true provides not just apt symbolism but a literal picture of the divide between, in plain terms, those who have and those who do not. (The New Yorker pointed out that “if [before the accident] you searched the Web for ‘Lampedusa,’ you’d have found tourist sites touting a small Sicilian island with ‘the best bays and beaches.… Welcome to Paradise!’”). Divers were still searching for victims yesterday, with the toll passing three hundred and thirty, even as yet another vessel crowded with refugees capsized off Lampedusa, with twenty-seven dead at last count.
Pope Francis won justifiable attention during his visit to Lampedusa last July for use of the resonant “globalization of indifference” to characterize a dynamic that accommodates such tragedies and the underlying causes from which they arise. Lampedusa is the first destination for many Africans coming to Europe, lying just seventy miles across the Mediterranean from Tunisia. At the time of the pope’s visit, about fifty people in 2013 had died making the journey; that’s changed now, of course, with the total approaching 2012’s total of five hundred. World Bank economist Branko Milanovic estimates that since 1988, twenty thousand to twenty-five thousand people have died crossing from Africa to Europe, though he adds that no one really knows for sure. What’s behind the numbers, Milanovic says, is:
[a basic] issue to which there's no easy answer or easy solution, and that's the question of freedom of movement. We live in a world that is much more globalized, in which capital, knowledge, ideas and so on can travel much more easily. At the same time, it's a world in which people cannot move from country to country. … [It raises] an uncomfortable issue because all the other components of production are mobile, with the exception of one.
Milanovic does not view people merely as “components of production,” however, noting that “in an unequal world where income differences between countries are large, and information about these income differences is widespread, migration ... is simply a rational response to the large differences in the standard of living.” He also decries what he calls the “conspiracy of silence … that envelops” those who die in fleeing poor countries for richer ones. Though lightly clothed in the jargon of economics, his assessment doesn’t sound all that different from the construct Francis offered in July, at which time the pope also called the recurring deaths of migrants seeking better lives “a thorn in the heart.” Speaking after last week’s disaster, though, Francis employed more impassioned rhetoric to describe the migration crisis. “The word disgrace comes to me. It’s a disgrace!”
A deserter from the culture wars and no big fan of Justice Antonin Scalia, I nevertheless was struck by the derision he was able (and, doubtless, delighted) to provoke a few days ago by asserting, in a much ballyhooed New York Magazine interview, his belief that the Devil is real. No less provocatively, another famous interviewee, Pope Francis, in his homily for today's Mass, warns his hearers not to be naïve about this, and to be on guard.
Some things are true, even if Justice Scalia says them.
Today the Church commemorates the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman. Bill Portier, in a recent post, invoked Newman to elucidate some of what he finds in Pope Francis. Portier writes:
In The Grammar of Assent, Blessed John Henry Newman distinguished notional and real assent. If it is indeed possible to have a purely notional content of the faith, then Pope Francis has not changed it. In his Ignatian appeal to the imagination and the affections, however, as when he speaks of Jesus in terms of accompaniment and mercy, he puts many more people in a position to give real assent to the content of the faith. Proselytism may be nonsense, to quote Francis, but this looks a lot like evangelization, the kind of thing the chief pastor and teacher of all the faithful should be about.
I agree fully with the above and have long insisted that to promote the movement from a merely notional assent to a real assent to the faith is the heart of so much of ecclesial ministry, whether preaching, catechizing, or engaging in spiritual counselling.
Or in Francis more pungent terms: to assist people (all of us) to move beyond the pastry shop into the soup kitchen.
Both for Newman and Francis the Cross of Christ is the Measure of the World.
Just posted to our website, William L. Portier on Francis and his "pastoral rhetoric of invitation."
Over the past two months, Pope Francis has begun to fashion from the interview/conversation form a new genre of papal pronouncement, minimally authoritative, but unprecedented in its reach. ... In the give and take of conversation, Pope Francis’s ad hoc interviews play off his interlocutors. From Skorka to Spadaro to Scalfari, he does not fear to give up full control and places himself in their hands. The in-flight interview had the highest degree of spontaneity, while Spadaro heavily edited the Jesuit interview. Amazingly, the conversation with Scalfari appears in the latter’s own redaction. Despite variations, the three papal interviews to date have much in common. The pope’s irrepressible and unaffected spiritual joy comes through each time. His interviews do not appear in Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Rather he injects them into the flow of the secular news cycle where they share its immediacy, interactivity and ephemeral nature. ...
This new genre of papal pronouncement dodges grasping handlers and bureaucrats who would brand the pope restrictively, frustrate his wishes, and control his access. Pope Francis is now an anticipated part of the news cycle. The papal news media interview takes him directly to the people, all the people.
Read the whole thing here.
In my reflection on Pope Francis' interview with Father Spadaro, I remarked that it be best interpreted under the genre of "conversation," rather than "interview." The same was even more true of the "interview" with Signore Scalfari. But, even at its first appearance, I wondered how it had been recorded by Scalfari – did he bring an aide? (clearly not); did he use a recorder? (none was mentioned); is he adept at short hand? (even while discoursing on the "fabric of being").
Now it appears that it was not recorded at all, but reconstructed after the fact by the octagenarian (though very astute) editor.
John Page, in a comment below, called our attention to the new information. Since his comment is on an old post, I provide the link here.
I confess to finding the modus procedendi rather strange. Stranger still is that the "interview" with Scalfari is presented on the Vatican website under the category of "speeches!"
Actually less an "update" than a warm "recommendation." John Allen linked to an interview between Father Thomas Rosica and Monsignor Dario Viganò, the director of Vatican Television. The interview recounts the "transformation" that Viganò discerned in Francis after his moment of prayer before he went on to the Loggia.
But the whole interview is fascinating and Viganò speaks some of the purest Italian I'v heard in a long time (though Rosica is no slouch!). There are English subtitles.
Viganò speaks of the crucial role of images in filming Benedict's departure from the Vatican and Francis' appearance on the Loggia. At the very end he makes, in response to a question, an interesting comparison between the two Popes.
Here are twenty-seven very worthwhile minutes of breaking good.