dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Evangelii Gaudium

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 It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach.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.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

Topics: 
121 comments
Close

121 comments

Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Well, I've only read Part V of Chapter One, but it's beautiful.  

I will read the rest, bit by bit.  

I have a feeling there's something to offend/encourage everyone, including those who have decided the pope is a bumpkin and those who find the whole notion of evangelization intrusive and obsolete.

"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 2 points?

This is what makes this pope great. He is specific to the problem. Not bathing in luxury saying it is ok as long as one is not attached. He lives it. Even atheists acknowledge that concern for the poor is at the heart of the gospel. While he rightly criticizes the preoccupation with wealth, he first pays attention to reforming the clergy first. But how will they build quarter of a billion dollar cathedrals if they stop  courting the rich?

1. THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness"

 Right off the bat Francis tells of the Pearl of great price. This is evangelization. To let people know that drugs, false gurus, greed are false gods. No triumphalism here but the joy and sharing of the gospel.

At first glance, his writing style is eminently readable to someone other than an academic and/or a theologian ... except for: "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism" .

That is a very good first step.

I suspect this section will be quote quite a bit:

94. This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of 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, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings.

The other is the  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. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.

"self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism"

My favorite Butthead Surfers album.

Here is a part I love:

Unity prevails over conflict

226. Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. But if we remain trapped in conflict, we lose our perspective, our horizons shrink and reality itself begins to fall apart. In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.

227. When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. 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!” ...

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. ...

232.  ... What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason. ...

233. Realities are greater than ideas. This principle has to do with incarnation of the word and its being put into practice: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God” (1 Jn 4:2). The principle of reality, of a word already made flesh and constantly striving to take flesh anew, is essential to evangelization...

And this is funny:

The whole is greater than the part

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.

Here's part I don't love ...

The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion ...  (104)

More of Francis's tough love:

78. Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. At the same time, the spiritual life comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelization. As a result, one can observe in many agents of evangelization, even though they pray, a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour. These are three evils which fuel one another.

 

79. At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked scepticism with regard to the Church’s message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, although they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity and convictions. This produces a vicious circle. They end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do; they do not identify with their mission of evangelization and this weakens their commitment. They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses. Their work of evangelization thus becomes forced, and they devote little energy and very limited time to it.

I've just begun to read the exhortation.

There is definitely a strong Jesuit influence on Pope Francis - obviously. The emphasis on find God in the daily, joy and consolation, and mission to the "peripheries" are, I believe, strong in Ignatius' spirituality.

But what I really find exciting is how Pope Francis often cites the document of the meeting in Aparecida of Latin American and Caribbean bishops. Of course, he was the major editor of the final document but I don't know if there are any other major formal statements of Popes that quote regional bishops' conferences.

I think that one of the limitations of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was its failure to cite very little outside of Papal and Conciliar documents and the church fathers.

I'm looking forward to carefully finishing the document sometime later this week.

This encyclical is too long, but searching for "woman" and "women" in the text reveals that Francis frequently talks about "men and women". When he quotes a text that just says "man", he keeps it as is, but when he uses his own words, he says "men and women", see paragraph 181 for example. That's good.

Here are all the places in the encyclical that contain the word "woman" or "women", other than "men and women". So: there is the Samaritan woman (72,120), the sinful woman anointing his feet (269), Mary (lots of mentions), and, for references of contemporary women, women protecting their families or contemplating abortion (212-214), and two special paragraphs (103-104) on the "feminine genius" and the "reservation of the priesthood to males".

 

103. The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace”[72] and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.

104. Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”.[73] The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”.[74] Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”.[75] Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.

212. Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights. Even so, we constantly witness among them impressive examples of daily heroism in defending and protecting their vulnerable families.

213. Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. ...

214. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?

 

It's nice that Francis seems to be concerned about women, but the fact that he makes ontological distinctions between men and women, that as a man he feels competent to both define women and to tell them their place, is depressing.  When he says that other positions of decision-making and power aside from the priesthood will be found in the church for women, he misses the point completely. Women being priests is not about decision-making or about power, it is about accepting that there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The church's bid to evangelize non-Catholics is put into sad perspective by the fact that it will not share the reality of the good news with half of its own members.

Quite different is the emphasis of Francis of the priest being a servant, not set apart and not to dominate. Usually, papal language exalts the priest, the apartness etc. But Francis clearly states the Mary is more important. But this time it is not patronizing since the sacralization of the priesthood is not emphasized. You can bet that the Curial helpers put the phrase in that the male priesthood is not up for discussion. (ditto for neo-Pelagian). But Francis uses the opportunity to stress service. This is definitely not an encyclical with phony, clerical, hierarchichal overtones. 

Evangelli Gaudium is an Apostolic Exhortation.

 

I see Charles. Distinguish it for me. Here is some help. http://www.ewtn.com/holysee/pontiff/categories.asp

What Crystal said.  In spades.

Crystal-

 

Maybe as George Weigel did with Benedict's encyclical by using a gold pen for the parts he agreed with and a red for those he didn't, you could do likewise for us?  Feel free to adopt the colors of your choice!

 

AA

I'm sure there's lots of worthy stuff in what Francis wrote - all the other quotations I've seen have sounded good to me.  The only part I've disagreed with (that I've read) is the part (103 and 104) where he talks about "feminine genius" and women's inability to be priests.

Crystal, I'm with you. There is a lot that Francis says that I like. But I am getting really tired of being patted on the head in this patronizing way with statements such as The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society (Gee, thanks, guys). The condescension that underlies the repeated statements about Mary being more important than bishops (because she is a mother, one presumes, the only thing that counts with the popes, including this one), and the repetitive comments about "feminine genius" are both getting more than just a bit tiresome.

Until this pope and any successors recognize the truth in your observation - he misses the point completely. Women being priests is not about decision-making or about power, it is about accepting that there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus - the church in the west will continue to bleed out the young women, who then, of course, will not be the kind of mother the men of the church want - they won't be mothers who raise their kids in the Catholic church.  Until all members of the church are treated equally as far as the sacraments go, women will continue to leave and take their families and future families with them.  Fewer and fewer women are willing to continue to be second-class citizens in the church and even fewer (who put up with it) are willing to raise their children in a church that treats their daughters as second-class to their sons.

I noticed that the money quote from Galatians is missing something in section 113:

113. The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone.[82] God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals.[83] No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community. This people which God has chosen and called is the Church. Jesus did not tell the apostles to form an exclusive and elite group. He said: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). Saint Paul tells us in the people of God, in the Church, “there is neither Jew or Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people!

Watch those ellipses: “Saint Paul tells us in the people of God, in the Church, ‘there is neither Jew or Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28). N. B. What was left out? It wouldn’t have done to leave it in, would it. . . ?

Bill,

What I loved about the beginning was that it views the Gospel as something someone would want rather than as just something someone is supposed to have. This isn't unique, but it's always nice.

Like Anne and Crystal, there is very much that I like in what Pope Francis writes. Yet, I, too, find his words on women to be something less than breathtaking, and I'm not talking about women's ordination. I do take a little encouragement that in this document he outlines several traits he identifies as feminine, while noting that these traits TEND to be found more in women than men. The realization that such traits are not exclusively the domain of one or the other is progress, albeit small.  

However, I still don't know how to take the statement that Mary is more important than bishops.  Is this meant to be some comfort to  the rest of us women, none of whom were born without sin or bore the son of God and so bear little resemblance to the ways in which this woman is important?  I really don't get it and yet the Pope must think it's important because he's repeated it several times. 

I can only hope the other 264-plus paragraphs are as good as 265 and 266.   These paragraphs highlight that a true evangelist has an equanimity of soul, something you don’t often find in people.    

But I wonder if the left will be taken back by these words:

A person who is not convinced, …certain…will convince nobody.

Doesn’t that smack of the “triumphalism” they detest in conservatives?

Great observation, Susan. I didn't get to that passage before you pointed it out. I would not put that necessarily on Francis. People talk about Scalafari putting in what he thought the pope would think. The Curia, more than anybody, places in communications what they believe the pope should say. If Francis is responsible it would truly be disturbing. The whole sentence: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Never underestimate the deviousness of the Curia!

Mark, 

Apples and Oranges. All should be convinced. It is when the conviction is not followed by practice that the problem occurs.

Bill--

I think what you're describing is hypocrisy, not "triumphalism."

Bill Mazzella talks about Francis’s emphasis on, in Bill’s words, “the priest being a servant, not set apart and not to dominate.”  I recently received a link to a post which, if accurate, suggests that at least in some quarters,  there’s  a long way to go before that goal is achieved.   Here’s the link:  http://datinggod.org/2013/11/21/reflections-of-a-seminary-educator-guest-post/

Evangelii Gaudium contains many references to the writings of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. 

You use EWTN?

Look at the list of references to see what shapes his thoughts. I am struck, indeed, by the numerous references to episcopal conferences. I guess he really takes collegiality seriously! Not a single quote of a woman, except for Therese of Lisieux. I guess... (I'll let the reader complete that thought).

Fewer Fathers of the church than Benedict, I think. As to recent popes, a quick computer count within the list of references (approximate: I didn't check and didn't count the Ibid's) gives

John XXIII: 1; Paul VI: 13; John Paul II: 41; Benedict XVI: 17;

Second Vatican (Council): 18; Congregation for the doctrine of the faith: 4; Catechism: 2.

I notice that he has not quite done the final work of cleaning up the blibliography - there are a couple of references without author (see [182] for example), and the way in which references are cited is not entirely consistent. 

Claire:

Re: bibliography. I think that is the task of the papal theologian(s) which, of course, could include women. Put another way, I think the response to citation issues is "we have people for that".

My sense is that popes lay out their thinking in broad strokes and obviously their formative experiences inform that. As has been mentioned, this pope is Ignatian through and through, Benedict had obvious monastic proclivities, and JP II had the phenomenologists although he seemed to abandon them. 

As Bill mentions, the filling in of the details is likely done by Curialists quick to spot areas where he may be moving too rapidly and shore that up.

But in the main, his vision radiates through as the quotes shown illustrate.

 

Oh, If you're right, and Bill is right, then the Curialists add touches of their own color here and there, removing some things he may have written in (for example, what Susan Gannon found), or adding in things that the pope didn't write but that they think will help people understand better, things that they decide are important for him and the work he carries out ? For example, maybe he wrote

The reservation of the priesthood to males can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.

and they "clarified" it by inserting

The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.

The formulaic, brainless style of the expression "is not a question open to discussion" suggests that that might be the case. It looks as though the writer is on automatic. We see enough of pope Francis' style that we can see that it's not the way he writes. He doesn't borrow words of others in a mechanical way.

Then in a way it's   kind of like the Scalfari interview, isn't it?

 

It is reminiscent of Cardinal Madariaga's speech in Maynooth at the conference preparatory to the Dublin Eucharistic Conference (abridged translation in The Japan Mission Journal), itself inspired by the Aparecida document. 

Very interesting that Francis explicitly says that the downgrading of episcopal conferences was a mistake -- this is a sharp criticism of his predecessor.

Maradiaga, I mean.

 

Francis weaves many of his most memorable oral remarks into the document (smelling of the sheep, etc.), thus saving them from ephemerality. Scripta manent. 

 

Nice to see  him quoting Populorum progressio, Evangelii nuntiandi, Octagesima adveniens so prominently.

I also note that, as usual, some nuances are lost in translation. For example

(103) I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests

is, in the French version

(103) Je vois avec joie combien de nombreuses femmes partagent des responsabilités pastorales avec les prêtres

which could perhaps be translated as something like: "I am delighted to see how numerous are the women who share pastoral responsibilities with priests". I assume the original version is the Spanish:

(103) Reconozco con gusto cómo muchas mujeres comparten responsabilidades pastorales junto con los sacerdotes

So I suppose that, like most of what pope Francis produces, we need to look at the document in its globality and take in its general flavor without getting hung up on any single detail.

 

 

Evangelii gaudium echoes Gaudium et spes and Evangelii nuntiandi.

Claire --

The ease with which words can be misinterpreted might have been the reason why Plato himself (who knew a great deal about how language works)  refused to write down his own opinions.  His dialogues do not claim to be Plato's own thoughts -- he puts all those varied and conflicting ideas in the mouth of Socrates.  Plato  just didn't trust the writen word process.  (And neither did Socrates!)  But spoken language does gives us a few more cues about intended meanings.  

Ambiguity, ambiguity.

Good morning for those just joining us. Thank you to those commenting on the text, even if some of the comments are rather hypothetical.

I note that I deleted two comments that were "ad hominem" remarks, and will continue to do so. Evangelii Gaudium deserves better. So please make your case ad documentum sed non ad hominem.

Happy pre-thanksgiving; and safe travels.

Part of the concluding prayer by Pope Francis – lovely and rich; if my aging mind allows it, I will try to memorize it:

 

Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.

Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.

Star of the new evangelisation,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.

Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.

Amen. Alleluia!

As an adult convert, I was grateful for my catechism instruction, which emphasized the simple and beautiful truths (love God and neighbor) and avoided rigid declaration of "disjointed doctrines." My friend who brought me into Catholicism in the first place continues to promote a brand of Catholicism which may remain forever beyond reach for me. All I can do is to go to mass, pray, try to follow the rules, and love God and try to love neighbor in heart and deeds and allow the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks. 

 

I was so grateful to read the following words of Pope Francis (as quoted in another comment, above).  They were a caution to both me (first paragraph) and to my friend (2nd paragraph).

 

94. "This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of 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, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings.

 

"The other [are] 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. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity."

 

Now, I didn't understand the first part about Gnosticism, as all I knew was the 1st century form of it, which was downright weird. But I went and looked up what modern day Gnostics say about themselves.

 

"Gnostics believe in finding their own truth, and don’t believe in “hell,” “sin,” or that Jesus came to die for our sins -– but was a human messiah who served as a living example of how we should think and behave. Church members believe in an all-loving, all-merciful and benevolent God, in the power of prayer, and that we write a 'chart' for each life, to learn the life lessons we have chosen to learn through experience – to reach our own desired level of perfection for God, who loves us unconditionally and equally."4

 

Now that doesn't describe me exactly, but it is close enough in some respects to make me squirm a bit. I don't think that the second part  of the Francis quote describes my friend exactly, but I think it's close enough that it should make her squirm, as well.

 

 This particular essay by Francis reads like a modern day Pauline epistle, more than a traditional encyclical.  I'm thinking of it as "Francis's 1st Letter to the World"

 

Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

What do people make of this section?

As the bishops of the United States of America have rightly pointed out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid for everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights. Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom”.[59] We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.

The reference is to the USCCB document on ministry to homosexuals, so it is very clear which objective moral norm/"this teaching" is being discussed, or at least that is how I take it.  I would argue that it is critical thinking and a more mature conscience (as opposed to "just because they say so") that is leading so many to question "this teaching".

Are there nuances lost in translation?

 

I have not yet read the entire document. What follows is just an initial imprression.

Pope Francis speaks with and calls for genuine humility in all of us. There is the humility to offer to others what our reflections and experiences have shaped our lives. There is the humility to acknowledge the need to listen to others, both Catholics and others. Therre is the humility to recognize that each of us is limited in many ways and that often enough someone else is better equipped to make decisions or take initiatives than we are. There is the humility to recognize that in no matter whatsoever is the word that I say the "complete word," the word that makes other words about the topic idle.

All of this is part of the humility to accept with joy the Gospel in its entirety, i.e., both Scripture and the Tradition by virtue of which we receive the Gospel, the Gospel that calls us to serve and to hear. It is the humility of the sinner we all are who is nonetheless always Christ's beloved.

I do look forward to reading the whole text.

Make no mistake about it. This is a major document by a Gospel pope. Not Ignatian. But Sermon on the Mount. It does echo other papal documents. But Francis's stamp is clear. The Gospel of Jesus is front and center. The pope might like Augustine. But he is revamping many fourth century errors by Augustine, Jerome and even Paulinus of Nola. Etc. This is a gospel of the poor. Not empire. Rich in spirit and against greed and material aspiration. 

As encyclicals go, on balance Evangelii Gaudium seems is a pretty good first step out of the blocks for our Jesuit pope.  It shows that in his rise up the clerical ladder, Jorge Bergoglio hasn't forgotten his cultural and pastoral roots and lessons he learned in the shadow of  Gustavo Gutierrez, Dom Helder Camarra, Pedro Arrupe, among others.  [At least, in comparison to what has gone before him the last four decades ... in the spirit of the season I suppose that it's long past time we let all that go ...]

Hovever, I am left with the same question that others on this blog stream have voiced in different ways:  What is holding back our Franciscan pope on charting a new course when it comes to the role of women in the church?

I understand that you don't rise to the rank of cardinal/archbishop of Buenos Aires, then get elected pope without the support of the most reactionary ideologues in the hierarchy [read Ratzinger].  It would be illogical to expect that Francesco would now in the first year of his papacy to expect him to easily turn his back on the very hierarchs who elected him in conclave last spring.

Yet, now that Francesco is both infallible and omnipotent in the extreme, I do expect him to demonstrate several more degrees of freedom from the stifiling anti-feminine ideology that is strangling the church.  Predictable paeans to the Virgin just wont cut it.  

If Francesco is to be successful in rousing the church from its downward course, he is going to need the enthusiastic support of women.  Face it, it is women who are the most faithful human mirrors of the creative power of the divine - especially in their own bodies.  

Francesco needs to summon all his courage and take a leap of faith worthy of his sainted namesake:  Call on the women of the world to remake the church's teachings and doctrines about women.  Listen to women tell him what they need from the church to be full partners in the "Joy of the Gospel."  

If Francesco leaves it to the celibate hierarchs, we will be left with nothing but dry, dry bones.

[Maybe what Imbelli encountered on this blog was truly odious and he needed to eliminate those "ad hominem" attacks.  Although, I would humbly suggest that in imitation of Papa Francesco in this season of hope and renewal, that especially our priestly brothers thicken-up their skins and sensibilities.  There is a lot of anger and humiliation at the hand of the shepherds out here among the sheep.  My sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, embellishing on the Gospel often said:  "I have come to bring you the Truth.  And the Truth will set you free.  But first, it will make you miserable."]

Jim Jenkins:

"now that Francesco is both infallible and omnipotent in the extreme"

 

No one believes that and it's a childish thing to write.

 Bill—

I pray you are right and have no reason really to think you are not, but do you think the left is prepared for the full implications of Francis’ push “against greed and material aspiration”?  I have my doubts.

It’s not just those in the episcopacy with a sense of entitlement who will be caught short by Francis.   If you asked someone from the far left whether he could support a policy change that would make the poor 10% better off and the rich 20% better off, I gather he would be unable to respond with an enthusiastic “YES.”   That reveals a most malignant form of greed and material aspiration.

Do you suppose that this document is a response to Nietzsche's comment in the section entitled "On priests" in Thus Spake Zarathustra: "Better songs would they have to sing, for me to learn to believe in their Redeemer, and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!"

What is so refreshing is that Francis talks about the joys of the Christian life even amidst the trials on earth. No prophet of doom. No blaming others for this and that. The joy is there for all and true riches are in Christ. The generous of heart live fully. "10. The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”.[4] When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For “here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others."

Claire commented (Nov. 26, 10:45 pm) that “some nuances are lost in translation.”  If she’s right in her assumption that the original version is the Spanish, the English translation of 103

“I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests” 

appears to be defective.  The Spanish (“Reconozco con gusto . . .”) adds that, besides simply (or “readily”) recognizing it, he’s happy about it.  I'd say a better translation would be “I’m glad to acknowledge that . . .” or “I acknowledge with pleasure that . . .”  or “I’m happy about the fact that . . .”

 The church's bid to evangelize non-Catholics is put into sad perspective by the fact that it will not share the reality of the good news with half of its own members.

Crystal, in the main I agree with you (although I can't get worked up about it), but I find this statement of yours an exageration. You don't need to be a priest in order to have a "share in the reality of the good news". 

 

Jim H.,

It's a bit more nuanced than the allegation that people's strongly stated moral statements are pure relativism, but I agree that it misses the core argument of those it is criticizing. While there are certainly libertines who believe that the individual has an absolute right to do anything that does not harm others, I suspect that the majority of supporters of the equal treatment for gays and lesbians are based on the belief that their relationships have access to many of the goods that form the basis of the Catholic Church's advocacy of marriage for men and women and that demanding celibacy from gays and lesbians is as harmful as eliminating the sacrament of marriage and demanding celibacy from everyone would be.

Together with many others, I have long suspected that the Church prohibits discussion of the ordination of women because it has no persuasive arguments to make against it. But I did not imagine that the rhetorical bag was as empty as this:

104. ...The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,...

But then I hardly expected to read this sentence either:

103. The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.

It may be unfair to Francis, but almost anyone who has lived more than a few years in this world knows that the age-old follow-on is "in complement with the rationality, critical thinking, and decision-making skills of men." Even left unspoken, those words hang in the air like a miasma. And they are deadly.

Pope Francis is trying to make important and much-needed changes in the way that the Church carries on its mission. I wish him well. But I think he will get a more responsive hearing if he first clears away an unforced error that is a distraction and a barrier for many whom he needs to hear him.

John, if you read further in #104 there is the proviso that priests are not exalted over others because it is only a matter of function. My reading of this is that Francis attacks the most critical aspect of the patriarachal clergy. Namely, that they lord it over others. Especially women. Francis may never change the all male priesthood. But he does lay the ground work for that change with this signifcant nuance. Domination has always been the mv of the all male clergy. Francis neatly declares that our greatest dignity is in baptism not the ministerial priesthood. With that cleared the rest might be easy. Essentially, a pastor is a servant. What could prohibit a woman from that office? It may become a no brainer. 

104. Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”.[73] The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”.[74] Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”.[75] Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.

Here's a flat out contradiction.

226. Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. ...

103. ...The reservation of the priesthood to males… is not a question open to discussion...

There is certainly so much in the message that is delightful and fresh and nourishing. Even people who would never think of reading a papal document all the way through will take this one to heart. I hope it will be the first of many such messages and that they will show him  growing in his new office and enjoying the confidence of his whole flock, those following along in the rear,  those who have strayed, and those busily sniffing out new paths. 

 

Claore,

You don't need to be a priest in order to have a "share in the reality of the good news".

No, you don't, but what you do need, I think, is to have the basic assumption underlying the 'no women priests' ideology refuted.    As long as the church teaches that women and men are seen differently by God, that smen and women are ontologically different, the church is misrepresenting the good news (Galatians 3:28).  Women's ordination is not about getting a better "job" for women ... it is about the most basic assumptions the church makes about the nature of women and human beings in general.

An example of what I mean by the church's view ... http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/update/bn073104.htm  ...

male/female differences are so fundamental that they will endure even in the afterlife. The distinction is seen as “belonging ontologically to creation, and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form,”

As long as this view, which actually has no basis in scripture, is accepted by the church (and apparently Francis), I, at least, will feel belittled as a human being in my church.

What I think is holding Francis back when it comes to women is that he is a man of his generation and is held in by the terror that those  (hierarchical) men in the church feel about women.  Like the good white people of Birmingham, Alabama could not imagine equality with their African American neighbors, Francis and the vast majority of the RC hierarchy cannot imagine equality with women.

Ontology is a nice all-purpose word, allowing us to join or separate things to suit our current purpose, now emphasizing differences and now similarities, taking one time the widest view and another the closest. To a scorpion, I suppose a chimp and a human would be all but identical ontologically, but men and women are said by wags and sobersides of our own species to be so different that they might as well have originated on different planets.

Maybe so. But from another perspective, males in general (and sex as well) are biological afterthoughts, late contrivances that provide a useful measure of variation for organisms that no longer multiply by simple division every few hours. In many species, females are still able to reproduce without male participation; no male can do so without a female. Much as it pains me to say it, our original function as males was to give the gene pool a vigorous stir to improve fitness in the next generation of women's offspring. We're sort of like a vitamin supplement.

Of course, once males got going, they branched out in all directions with typical male panache. Territoriality, bright feathers, harems, fights to the death, wars, gallantry, self-sacrifice, whatever it takes. Among praying mantises, for example, the females bite off the head of the male after and sometimes during the act. (Don't ask me!) Provides extra nutrition. There are all kinds of niches for males. In Homo sapiens they make them bishops.

 

Do you think the Father flipped a coin between the Savior he sent being his son or daughter?   Do you think read his horoscope to see if it would be better to send Gabriel to Mary or Joseph?

If not, how can you think the difference does not go all the way down?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It will take me some time to plow through this lengthy document.  But these comments, I think, illustrate one important thing about it: Francis can no longer be an empty vessel into which we pour our own hopes and dreams.  By reason of its very detail (which he himself describes as excessive!) it appears he has staked out some definite limits, as well as sketched some inviting vistas, as to where his papacy will lead us.

I haven't had a chance to sample any of the conservative commentariat yet on this piece.  But based on the quotes produced here on some neuralgic issues, I'd think among the conservative reactions would be a heartfelt sigh of relief.  Francis' will be - already is - a transformative papacy, but apparently not on those particular issues.

 

My apologies - I meant to also wish everyone a most happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day.  In the person and ministry of our Holy Father, Francis, we certainly have reason to be thankful.

 

Jim,

I second your wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving to all.

As regards your comment, perhaps the summons is to a deeper transformation than most of us have bargained for.

Crystal:   Surely it can't be said that there are no differences between men and women. Of course, there are: vive la différence!  From a biological standpoint, the differences are fundamental, going all the way down, even to the chromosomal level. Whether one considers these differences "ontological" or not will depend on the meaning one assigns to the adjective.  If like me, you think that "ontological" is just a fancy word for "real," you will say that those fundamental differences are ontological.  

That these differences should be the sole determinant of questions like the ordination of women or those that arise within a theology of sex and gender is another question, which I would answer in the negative. 

@ Richard Smith:  You posted:

Jim Jenkins:

"now that Francesco is both infallible and omnipotent in the extreme" 

No one believes that and it's a childish thing to write.

You REALLY believe that there is no one living along the banks of the Tiber who doesn't still set their spiritual compass on papal infallibility and omnipotency???  Who doesn't still fantasize each day when they rise to recite their morning office that someday he too may wear the Shoes of the Fisherman???

Now whose being [childish]???  If you believe that, I suppose you still believe in unicorns and Santa Claus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim

Conservatives are happy with the women’s ordination statement, but they are upset about three others arguments.

1 the pope scolds in a rough way  (94)“catholics that observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. And (95)  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.

2 he is very harsh about economics and free market

3He wants give more power to Episcopal conferences and wants  a decentralization of the papacy: “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.” 

Fr. K,

 

Yes, there are physical differences between men and women.  But the differences pale in comparison to the ways men and women are the same (there are studies that how this).  Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the church (or JPII and Benedict) want to say that the differences are more than a biological necessity to reproduction, that the differences are important to the way God sees and feels about us, that he made Jesus a man because men are "better" or more like God in some way.  What did Paul mean, then, when he said there was no male or female in Jesus?

The trouble with emphasizing the differences between male and female is that the next step for too many is a distinction that is hierarchical as opposed to biologically functional.

If, as one is told so often, Catholics are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, then any hierarchical distinction should be (as John Prior pointed out so delightfully above) with women "on top" and men a useful but subordinate appendage in the process.

I also have a concern with overstating the differnce between men and women. Certainly there are differences but many of these can be rooted in cultural gendering and the imposition of gender codes that are assigned to sexes.

Which difference constitutes gendering and which constitutes biological sex is difficult to say for certain. However, my experience working with both women and men does NOT convince me that women are any more collaborative, power-sharing, and open than men. Neither are men any more aggressive, violent or overbearing than women. Temperment, corporate culture, and values all play a role. That is why, while I think it is important to open up the college of cardinals and certain key leadership posts in the Vatican to women (and I don't think this necessarily involves ordination), I don't think this will automatically turn the church into a kindler and gentler corporation.

In fact, an interesting factoid by a forensic psychiatrist was quite interesting. Depending on how you define it, women have MORE incidents of agression and violence (swearing, throwing, outbursts, etc) than men. However, when men exhibit agression and violence it tends to be more lethal and serious. But on the continuum of violence and agression, women have greater incidents in the less lethal side of the spectrum.

Just ask any police officer who has to break up fight and arguments in a bar!!

I think readers and lurkers here should be able to open this link as I think it is still free (for the moment?): 

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/772/second-sex-

Surely it can't be said that there are no differences between men and women. Of course, there are: vive la différence! ....

That these differences should be the sole determinant of questions like the ordination of women or those that arise within a theology of sex and gender is another question, which I would answer in the negative.

Fr. K, I agree that there are differences, physical and psychological. Like Claire, I think the church treats women as second-class and this will not be overcome until women have the same access to all seven sacraments that men enjoy.  So I am glad that you do not believe that these differences are a reason to keep women out of the priesthood and in a perpetually inferior status to men in the church.

I would argue that these differences are the most compelling reason to open the priesthood to women.  God made them male and female in God's image, but the official church has chosen to deny the feminine in God in a very systematic way, celebrating only the masculine in its priesthood, reducing women to the status of "helpmate", inferior because she was "made from Adam's rib" in one metaphorical account of the beginnings of the human race, the one preferred by Benedict it seems.  

The priesthood is a vocation that cries out for the participation of women. By reserving governance and development of doctrine exclusively to males, the church is literally choosing to operate with half a brain.  I believe that much of the harm done by the church in some teachings and in governance is the logical consequence of keeping women out of the priesthood.  The church will never be healthy in a holistic sense and truly  image God until it integrates the masculine and the feminine into the priesthood.  Complementarity is a term now used to reduce women to second-class status.  True complementarity actually requires that women have access to Holy Orders.

Mark,

One can acknowledge biological and social differences between men and women without seeing those differences as fundmental. The different races have biological and social differences, but it would be absurd to thinking of people having a European soul, an African soul, or an Asian soul.

For those interested, some further reading:

Karl Rahner ... "I do not see either in the arguments used or in the formal teaching authority of the Church...a convincing or conclusive reason for assenting to the controversial teaching in Paul VI's Humanae Vitae [encyclical against birth control] or to the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith which seems to exclude the ordination of women in principle and for all time." ....  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1982/feb/04/the-dream-of-karl-r...

William Barry SJ ... "All my instincts, training and experience lead me to the conclusion that these women are experiencing an authentic call of God [to be ordained priests]"  ... http://www.amazon.com/Paying-Attention-God-Discernment-Prayer/dp/0877934134

Robert Egan SJ ... Why Not? Scripture, History & Women's Ordination ... https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/why-not-0 ...  amd ... Continuing the conversation:  women and the priesthood ... https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/women-priesthood-0

Umberto Eco ... The exclusion of women from the priesthood according to Thomas Aquinas  ...  http://www.ministryforwomen.org/theology/eco.asp

Sandra Schneiders (Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley) ... Did Jesus exclude women from priesthood?  ... http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/schneide.asp

NT Wright ... Women Bishops:  A response to Cardinal Kasper ...  http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2006/20060721kasper.cfm?doc=126

"From a biological standpoint, the differences are fundamental, going all the way down, even to the chromosomal level."  No.  In one pair you have an XY, she has an XX.  The other 22 pairs are for all practical purposes the same.  Perhaps this fact will become important to you should you be unfortunate enough to need a transplant some day.

"Do you think the Father flipped a coin between the Savior he sent being his son or daughter?"   Precisely.  The entire notion God would flip coins is beyond absurd.  But, were God to do so we can likely assume God has hands and fingers and knows how to flip coins.  Now there's a notion well beyond bizarre.  When we anthropomorphize God when find truly interesting questions, like pants or dresses?  The list goes on.  Perhaps it is a bit telling more men than women find the need for such questions.

 

 

 

Can we all stipulate that the differences between men and women should neither be overstated nor understated?

Crystal:  The full statement of Gal 3:28 is: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  This did not lead Paul to conclude that there was no difference between Jew and Greek--he spent some time on this in Rom 9-11--nor that there was no difference between slave and freeman--he made no effort to eliminate slavery--, and so I don't think that it follows from this text that there are no differences between men and women. J.D.G. Dunn:

"Paul's point, of course, was not that all of these distinctions had been removed: Jews in Christ were still Jews (ii. 15), Christian slaves did not cease to be slaves (1 Cor vii.21; Col iii.22). Rather that these distinctions had been relativized (cf. Gal v.6; 1 Cor vii22; Phm 16). As distinctions, marking racial, social and gender differentiation, which were thought to indicate or imply relative worth or value or privileged status before God, they no longer have that significance. In particular, in the context it is the Jewish assumption that being 'under the law' showed Jews to be more highly regarded by God than Greeks which governs the rorce of the sequence. So, by implication, what Paul attacks in this version of a common theological affirmation in Hellenistic Christianity, is the assumption that the slave or the woman is disadvantaged before God or, still more, is an inferior species in the eyes of God" (Galatians, 207).

As long as this view, which actually has no basis in scripture, is accepted by the church (and apparently Francis), I, at least, will feel belittled as a human being in my church.

Why does it matter so much? If you know they're wrong, if you are certain, then you don't have to worry about it. Criticism that sounds like it might have a grain of truth can be hard to take, but a statement that is off the wall cannot, or at least should not, affect us, I think. I don't feel belittled when someone argues that women are ontologically designed to be inferior to men, any more than when a drunkard on the street swears at me. Why take offense at some erroneous characterization made by people who are clearly in error? Why should they trouble one's peace of mind?

 The church will never be healthy in a holistic sense and truly  image God until it integrates the masculine and the feminine into the priesthood.

That is an interesting idea Anne, but it might give too much importance to the priesthood. The Eucharist is - perhaps - the central action of the Church, certainly much more important than the priesthood. And we all participate in it. If we really think that the assembly has the main role on the human side during the Mass, then the restriction of the priesthood to males is just an unimportant quirk. In the main, the church "truly images God" when the assembly, men and women, gathers together for the Eucharist. (I know what I'm writing is not exactly reality in many parishes, but isn't it how it should be? That is, one way to get around the restriction of the priesthood to males would be to downgrade the role of priests in the church and upgrade the role of laity, men and women.)

Fr. K,

 

Thanks for the information.  This part ... As distinctions, marking racial, social and gender differentiation, which were thought to indicate or imply relative worth or value or privileged status before God, they no longer have that significance. ... that's just what I meant to say: that the difference between men and women is a difference that doesn't really make a difference, especially not to God.  I think JPII and Benedict end up expressing the opposite in their  own reflections on women and their inability to be priests.

Jim Hohman, the way he critiques gay rights movements as individualistic comes straight from the Aparecida document of the 5th CELAM meeting. That document presents a populist and caritative mission to the poor that is meant to correct the Liberation Theology accents of previous CELAM conferences, such as Medellin 1968 and Puebla 1979 -- or so I understand.

Those who thought Francis might ask Putin to respect the dignity of his gay brothers and sisters will find little comfort in this Vatican communiqué: "During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations, and the Parties focused on various questions of common interest, especially in relation to the life of the Catholic community in Russia, revealing the fundamental contribution of Christianity in society. In this context, mention was made of the critical situation faced by Christians in some regions of the world, as well as the defence of and promotion of values regarding the dignity of the person, and the protection of human life and the family."

 

John Prior @ 3:53 a.m. ==

Funny,  funny, funny. :-)   :-)  :-)

It seems to me that all these studies which compare groups of men and women are morally  irrelevant.  Yes, on average men do have more of certain qualities and women have more of anothers.  But ontologically (I happen to like that word) there is no such thing as an average man or woman -- there are only individuals.  (Yes, I'm something of a nominalist.)  

It seems to me that we all have certain fundamental capacities -- and weaknesses -- but we vary wildly as individuals as to those characteristics (physical, sensate, emotional, rational, etc.) within the male and female groups.  So we can find individual men who are extremely brave on the battlefield and gentle and kind to all children, or individual women with extraordinary physical courage and who are great in math.  We differ as individuals in all these things, and even differ from time to time in our personal characteristics.

It's time for the official Churhc to start meting women -- and men -- as the individuals that God made us to be.  That is all that counts because individuals are all that are real.  Those hypothetical averages are irrelevant.

This brief statement from #24 should not pass unnoticed: "The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewec self-giving."

Today, as we recall the life of Dorothy Day, we likewise recall how deeply she understood this truth, namely that all good works flow from the life of Christ in which we participate, especially through our participation in the Eucharist and the other sacraments.

Indeed, the sentence should not pass unnoticed. Thank you for bringing it forward.

Precisely.  The entire notion God would flip coins is beyond absurd.

Did it never occur to you that MightBe, precisely, my point?

Anne

I used to think like that until the advent of polling. With relatively small representative samples of the population, demographers can predict with amazing accuracy the outcomes of elections, who is most likely to vote, which messages will most appeal to which cross section.

Ditto for products and even social media. Pinterest, for example, is way over-represented by females than other forms of social media?

There really is a herd mentality and like any herd, a wise rancher can move it in different directions once you understand which way large swaths of the herd will go and now many are on the range, etc.

Granted, there are individual variables but when it comes to voting patterns, spending habits, and consumer choices understanding these averages will give those who seek advantage (politicians, salesman, etc) an edge.

In the last election when Bush was elected, as I recall, "soccer moms" (white, middle class, suburban, married with younger children) voted for Bush. Lot of theories but one of them was that he represented security and safety which is very important for mothers!

 

"The entire notion God would flip coins is beyond absurd."

Why is it absurd?  What I find absurd is a creature claiming/pretending to know anything whatsoever about the Creator.  

If, as Christians claim to believe, the Creator chose to become a human, and as a human used coins to tease/instruct his followers, why would S/He not flip coins to aid decision making?  

------

"There really is a herd mentality and like any herd, a wise rancher can move it in different directions . . ."

Female herd?  Male "wise rancher"?  

-----

 

 

George D. ==

First you tell us that the polls can tell us how males and females will vote.  Then you tell us that the polls were even more precise about the sub-class Soccer Moms.  But why is that?  I say it's because the closer you get to individuals, the more likely your predictions are likely to be.  And then there's the whole question of free choice that can skew all the results.   We can argue also about just what "probable" means.

As I see it, individuals set goals and develop habits, which make us predictable to some extent.  But goals waiver and change, as must the polls.  There's very little necessity in them for any length of time.  

Very good point Anne and that is why I think that there really is no such thing as a "Catholic" vote because once you start dividing that vote into the subclasses, Catholics vote like their non-Catholic counterparts in the particular sub-sets.

I would be the same thing could be said of the broad category "woman". Married women with children vote and act very differently than single women. They are more alike each other than their single counterparts even though they are the same sex.

 

PS

Not sure about arguing about probable. The polls in the last few presidential cycles have been pretty much bang on. People do in fact vote as predicted.

Plus when they make up their mind, it pretty much stays fixed. Afterall, Dick Morris famously told Clinton very soon after the Lewinsky story broke that the American people would forgive him for adultery but not perjury. Voila the talking points went out right away that it was all about sex and adultery. The legal/sexual harrassment trial side was downplayed and sure enough the people acted as predicted.

My point is not to rehash that whole period, I only offer it as an example of how artful interpretation of events can in fact sway outcomes once you can more or less predict, based on polling, the response of the public.

Pope Francis says that colleges of bishops should have more weight, and therefore that the pope should have less weight. But that statement itself should not be given very much weight, because it's only a statement that comes from the bishop of Rome, not from a college of bishops, right?

 

Claire--

You're hurting my brain.

George D. ==

This very morning I was thinking that I would really like to look into the influence of Edward Bernays, a not very well known figure who just might be one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century.  He was the nephew of Freud (and like him an Austrian Jew) who noticed the huge influence of Goebbels" progapanda (especially movies) in the German people's acceptance of Nazism.  Bernays gave the matter more thought and realized that propaganda well done can sway the thinking of millions of people all at once -- and not just about politics.  

He also realized the importance of images and language in propaganda.  He invented the term "public relations" as a synonmy of "propaganda" without its ugly connotations in order to make PR socially acceptable.  He then went on to found the American public relations business!  Time Magazine said he was one of the most influencial people of the 20th century, and I suspect that's true.  We seem to be almost at the  mercy of PR and advertising, another variation of propaganda.

So large groups do have tribal opinions, and there do seem to be strong psychological reasons for it. But people can be swayed away from them by reason -- and propaganda.  (Propaganda uses reason when it helps its cause.)  Which leaves the individual who still has some control over what he/she thinks -- but, I think, only if we understand how easily we can be manipulated.  I daresay its the new systems of communication that has made PR/advertising so powerful.  Before the media people just didn't have those influences working on them.

 And the New Evangelists need to learn about PR if it hopes to sway masses of people.  I saw Rick Santorum a couple of times on TV this week talking about his new job, which is making movies with wholesome messages.  This time I think Santorum is right -- images and language are most important in persuading people of basic values.  And he seems mightily impressed with Francis' message of helping the poor.  I wish him and his company well.  

This exhortation cites the 1984 liberation theology put-down at least three times, always for the positive things it has to say about this movement.  It also avoids any mention of defensive pronouncements such as Dominus Iesus and Veritatis Splendor.  It looks very much like a direct message over the top to all Catholics and even Christians inspired by the joy of the resurrection.  There are things that he and/or his Vatican apparatus are not ready to address, but as for the rest of the church (wink wink): get busy.  In that sense it reminds me of the previous pope's personal intervention to encourage local parishioners to petition their pastor and bishop for liturgies in Latin.

Voi che sapete che cosa è l'amor, please give me your opinion. Does the Pope understand love? He says: “Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born “of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life.”" (I corrected the misspelling of “indispensable”as “indispensible”). In context, this is intended to discredit same sex couples. It sounds like a put-down of love by a crusty old bachelor-celibate. Are the French bishops and the Pope “expert in humanity” as they claim, or can they learn something from dialogue with their flocks?

Father O'Leary,

I would say that Pope Francis "understands love" far better than the adolescent Cherubino.

So large groups do have tribal opinions, and there do seem to be strong psychological reasons for it. But people can be swayed away from them by reason -- and propaganda.  (Propaganda uses reason when it helps its cause.)  Which leaves the individual who still has some control over what he/she thinks -- but, I think, only if we understand how easily we can be manipulated.

Anne, I think it goes way beyond psychological reasons to neurological reasons: we are wired to be influenced by each other and we are quite easy to manipulate if we lose track of what we think and why we think it.  Talented propagandists keep track of issues that attract attention and language that bolsters a sense of connection.  Additionally distraction is a fine way to influence a course of events and we inhabit a world rife with distractions.  Maybe Francis should be exhorting the westerners to take regular breaks from all of our electronics from TV to the internet.

I wish people would not disparage loving sentiment. It is far better than most of the things that are hawked to us every day. And it is not notably ephemeral. It endures down the centuries in Hector and Andromache, David and Jonathan, Mary Magdalen and Jesus, Jesus and John, Cordelia and Lear, Ausonius and Paulinus, Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, and thousands more. And far from being the antithesis or enemy of long-lasting commitments, it is usually their foundation.

But worse, anti-ephemeralism is a pernicious doctrine, teaching that whatever is brief is worthless. Fortunately, sane people do not believe that. It would strip life of most of its beauty and kindness, and all of its charm.

Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born “of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life.”

It seems that Francis, for all of his good and loving qualities, is just as clueless about marriage and "loving sentiment" as are most other male celibates.

My husband and I married and stay married (41 years so far) because of "loving sentiment".  My husband and I did not marry because of an obligation to "society".  We also chose to have children (operative word - CHOSE) because of loving "sentiment" and not because of any "obligation" to society to procreate.  Without the "loving sentiment", I would have remained single and without the "loving sentiment" my husband and I may have chosen to remain childless. Like marriage, parenthood is not an "obligation" and should never be entered into without being the result of choice born of "loving sentiment".

This discussion clearly illustrates why celibate males should not be defining doctrine on marriage and the family, but should be inviting married couples (those who married because of "loving sentiment") and parents (who chose to have children because of loving sentiment rather than due to an 'obligation to society") to conduct the 2014 Synod. They could invite the bishops to attend and to listen. 

The sacrament of marriage is conferred by the couple, recognising that is the couple's loving relationship that  is holy.  If this were not the case, marriage would simply be a business contract, as it was for much of history and still is in some cultures. The sacrament is found in the love relationship, not in satisfying any obligations to society.  Procreation is not necessary for a sacramental marriage to be a sacrament.

Anne Chapman,

May I suggest that you and the French bishops seem to mean different things by "loving sentiment." They are using it in the sense of "mere emotional satisfaction" that is by nature "ephemeral."

I note that in your last paragraph the term gives way to "loving relationship" which seems to me close to what they intend when they speak of "spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life" which is what I presume you mean by "a sacramental marriage."

John Prior,

"brief" is certainly not worthless: as sunsets bear witness.

What the pope said about marriage and his denigration of "loving sentiment" is the traditional church line as exemplified by Muller's recent article ... http://www.osservatoreromano.va/portal/dt?JSPTabContainer.setSelected=JS... ... Muller says that 'love isn't a feeling'  (this comes from Aquinas).

But I think love is exactly a feeling.  I think the reason the church tries to teach otherwise is because it distrusts human nature, it doesn't have faith that a feeling can be lasting or be true, so it tries instead to redefine the emotion of love as some kind of duty or decision of the will.  And I think the church uses their new definition of love to try to keep people in loveless marraiges  (Muller even says women whose husbands beat them still should not get divorced).  But marriage is indeed now all about loving sentiment and I think that's the way it should be.

 

There is a certain amount of talking past each other that I sense going on in terms of sentiment/ephemeral vs. duty/permanence.

For me, love started with a feeling but it certainly required action, choice and steadfastness to develop into something permanent.   There were certainly times where my surface feelings were not loving at all, and I had to take action to communicate, to express myself, to hear, to listen, to seek healing; to make choices that prioritized what was good for us over what was good for me, to choose to be happy and grateful for what I have over regretting those sacrifices; and steadfast in not running away, not bailing, not giving up on us.

 

I think love needs to be different than a feeling and deeper. The feeling of love produces warmth, acceptance, harmony, satisfaction, etc. I am not sure how much this feeling characterizes the experience of most couples as they move through time together, or even our love of children. And there are certain characteristics and things about our loved ones that we do not even like!

Now I am a sentimental guy and can call on that when necessary to produce certain states. Listening to pieces of music, conjuring up memories, visiting places. And I share that with my wife and daughter. But there is no way that, and that alone, could sustain the commitment these last 20 years or so.

And I don't think that I am out of the ordinary when I say that to remain during stretches of time required me to call on a sense of duty and obligation. Ditto for her as I am not the easist person on the planet to live with I am sure.

Further, marriages are littered with affairs produced as a result of loving sentiments with other people outside of the partnership. Just talked with a friend a year ago who was believing this. My advice was to think this through very carefully. Go to a lonely place to really pray about this because loving sentiment, to be is fools gold. True love needs to be tested in fire.

Fr. Imbelli, it seems to me that the wording is an attempt to trivialize the importance of the emotional satisfaction which is an intrinsic aspect of the 'loving sentiment" that leads couples to marry, and which, one hopes, is not "ephemeral".  There is nothing "mere" about it. Although some marriages do not endure for a lifetime, the majority that do rely on emotional satisfaction and loving sentiment to sustain the marriage through the inevitable challenges that all married couples face as individuals, as couples, and usually as parents during their lives.  The bishops and Francis need to be more clear in distinguishing between the "ephemeral emotional satisfaction and loving sentiments" of romantic infatuation and the loving sentiments and emotional satisfaction that are intrinsic to the love that  holds two people together in marriage.  Their understanding of these emotions and sentiments seem to be academic rather than experiential. It is likely that at least some of these men  experienced romantic infatuations before becoming priests but they seem not understand the difference between those emotions and sentiments and those of married love.

My objection to this language is the focus on "obligation" to society and the trivializing of the emotional sentiments needed to support marriage. This statement -  "the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple" implies that the individuals who are the married couple are simply cogs in society's machine, cogs whose  "feelings and needs" are unimportant and can be ignored.  But it is precisely because of the feelings of emotional satisfaction and of loving sentiments that people are willing to fulfill the obligations of marriage - obligations to one another and to any children they may have, not to society or the church. Without the emotional satisfaction of the love relationship, a couple will very likely fail to meet their marital "obligations" at some point and may divorce. Their obligation to their children is not broken by the dissolution of the marriage of course.

The French bishops (and Francis) seem to believe that the main reason for marriage is almost purely utilitarian - to satisfy what they perceive as an "obligation" to society (by those who do not choose a religious vocation) to marry and procreate.. This is an understanding of marriage that is (to me) wrong, although it was dominant for most of history and is still too prominent in the church.

" Muller says that 'love isn't a feeling'  (this comes from Aquinas)."

Crystal --

Muller has obviously oversimplified Aquinas.   St. T. most certainly does recognize that there are feelings of love (plural) -- more than one kind. 

Let's see now --  there's love of gumbo, love of puppies and kittens, love of kids, love of learning, love of music,  (it goes on and on), and then there's "true love", which, I'd say, is a thorough appriciation of another person's reality which sometimes even transcends our own proper love of ourselves.  (Yes, it's right and good to love oneself.)  Marriage, we like to think in this culture, is a matter of true love.  (There is also infatuation, the usual preamble to true love, but it doesn't last.)  

People are encouraged to wait to find a true love *before* marrying.  In other words, we certainly seem to agree that true love can come into being *before* marrigage.  My big question is:  if you don't need marriage to have a true love, then what is the difference between a simple true-love-relationship and a true-love-marriage?  In other words, why get married?  Why not just have hooked up single lovers?  

My point is that there really does seem to be a lot more to marriage than true love (no matter how important that feeling is).  So I ask:  what does marriage have that simple true love isn't/ doesn't have?  (Yes, I suspect the answer is very complex, and I don't think some people are going to like it.  Sigh.)

 I don't understand people who say marriage is about duty, obligation, an act of the will, etc.  If you love someone, then your good actions will flow from that love -  love, the feeling of love, is the engine that drives action.  When Jesus helped people, he didn't do it because it was his duty, he did it because he had "feelongs" about them - compassion and love, the Grrek word "splagchnizomai" (Luke 7:13).  And as  Paul said, you can give all your goods to the poor, but if you don't have love, it profits you nothing.
 

Ann,

There's an interesting article on love in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  One of the sections is on love as an emotion and I especially liked the opinions of Rorty ... http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/love/#5.2

From something I wrote to the local diocesan newspaper a couple of years back:

"(Mr. X) argues that the Catholic tradition of not ordaining women is following the practice of Jesus.  It can be (and has been) argued that what Jesus did during his lifetime was a far cry from what the church calls ordination today.

However, tradition is not an arbitrary thing; we believe that it is the leading of the Spirit of God to preserve the unity of the church.  On what grounds, then, can the church change a tradition?  When that tradition begins to compete with the gospel and no longer serves the gospel it must be questioned. The ordination of women is a theoretical possibility within the gospel; there are no instances where the gospels state that women cannot be ordained.   It is church tradition, not the gospel, that prohibits the practice.  The significant question is whether that tradition still serves the gospel, or has it come to work against the gospel. The tradition of an all‑male clergy has come to compete with the gospel, to be a stumbling block to the gospel, and no longer serves the gospel.  There is a need for changing such a tradition and instituting the practice of the ordination of women.

The Spirit can, and often does, make the church do something that it has never done before, as part of the ongoing unfolding of the work and will of God among the people of God. It is not necessary to make ordination a function of the priesthood of all believers in order to argue the case for women's ordination.  It is to the greater benefit of the life of the church to understand ordination as the Spirit's bestowal of a unique gift of office apart from the community of the baptized, without needing to exclude women from the giving of this office. "

It's really too bad that the ordination of women and marriage issues are such nevralgic points that almost all the energy goes into discussing those points, even though they are very much side issues of this document, and risk blinding us to everything else.We complain that many in the church hierarchy are obsessed by sexuality and gender and can talk about nothing else, but look at ourselves!

Crystal --

I agree with Rorty that our greatest love is complex -- it involves both the beloved and ourselves.  I also think that included among the various kinds of love that are part of this complexity we can distinguish love of the beloved (elicited because the other is intrinsically good) and love of the other because the other makes the lover feels fulfilled by his/her experience of the beloved.  The former is selfless, the latter is not, and there is a thierarchy of loves with pure love of the other being greater than pure love of the self.  (Don't ask me why, I just think that it is.).

It seems to me that the selfless love of the beloved impels us to do good to and for the beloved mainly for the sake of the beloved.  This is something like an obligation because there is a certain necessity about it -- if you *truly* love someone you will necessarily act for his/his benefit.  

This shows me is that acting out of a certain necessity is not a bad thing.  And so when we  act out of the necessity imposed by an obligation, then that too is not to be scorned beneath human dignity.   In other words, an obligation is a good thing, and fulfillment of an obligation is also a good thing. 

Do you think there are such things as obligations?

 

Thanks for your rich and deep responses to my Cherubino question. I hope Francis understands all this as well, and sees that same-sex couples often achieve the same marital bonding that is so precious a human experience.

It's really too bad that the ordination of women and marriage issues are such nevralgic points that almost all the energy goes into discussing those points, even though they are very much side issues of this document, and risk blinding us to everything else.We complain that many in the church hierarchy are obsessed by sexuality and gender and can talk about nothing else, but look at ourselves!

Claire, IMHO these issues are the "hot-button" issues that are driving people out of the church in the west, driving them out because the hierarchy has been so focused on them for so long, especially in the west, but also throughout the world. The official church's stance on some gender and sexuality-related issues hits almost everyone at home, where they live out the theoretical in their real lives, including in their marriages. But it also has altered political policy, even international policy (such as distribution of condoms as an HIV-AIDS weapon in Africa).  It's not just academic at times, the church's influence has contributed to a great deal of good in the world, but unfortunately also to tangible harm to many, both directly and indirectly.  Its denial of a sacrament to women and its myopic and distorted understanding of "complementarity" are not just of interest as an intellectual exercise, but  present an unfortunate lesson and example to many. The church's highly visible treatment of women as officially second-class conveys a message to all that it is God's will that women be subject to male dominance.  Francis has so far failed to address this reality, and he has also failed to address the issue of accountability for bishops who protect priests who are a danger to the young.  Unfortunately, Francis does not seem to truly even understand the implications of the women's ordination issue.  He, like his predecessors, is fixated on an understanding of the "feminine" that is very limited, still too influenced by historical patriarchy.

These issues are  tied to justice and truth and to love.  These are the issues of the early 21st century, and at some point the "official" institution may be forced to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the sensus fidelium and then perhaps to develop doctrine in a way that will reflect the truth experienced in the lives of the 99.9% of those who are not clergy but are the church. This would allow the institutional church to move on and change the focus to other isues of justice and truth - economic, war and peace, to any number of grand and overarching issues that are out there.  But the institutional church will have to resolve the "hot-button" issues first in a way that is understood by the people in the pews.  If it does not come to terms with them, the hemorraging  will continue, especially of young adults and their future children.

Studies have documented the dramatic increase in "nones" and SBNR especially during the last decade. They have also documented that in the US, young women are leaving the church at higher rates than young men for the first time since they started keeping track of these things.  Marriage and baptism data in the US published by CARA indicate that many of these young women are not returning to marry in the church as was seen in earlier generations, nor are they returning to have their children baptized in the church, a trend that has also become very noticable during the last decade or so. I am not surprised.  In the dicussion here it is easy to see just how wide is the divide in understanding of the sacrament of marriage between those who are married and those who aren't. Catholic teaching is developed exclusively by male celibates and their understanding is limited by the lack of lived experience with the intimate matters they are trying to legislate. While baby boomers and Gen X may simply ignore the church's dictums in many areas and continue to go to church and receive communion, increasing numbers of the young adult generation aren't showing up at all, except for a  small but very vocal group of neo-traditional young adults.

I am not an academic nor an intellectual, and Commonweal prides itself on targeting that market. The academic discussions here are interesting but often on an intellectual level only. At times the discussions don't seem to get past the theoretical to  the level of "the real", because a purely academic and intellectual understanding of some of even the less esoteric topics seemsat times to reflect a failure to see the forest for the trees.

Ann, I do think there are obligations and duties and that it;s good to fulfill them - I think the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy would put this under the heading "moral rsponsibility" - but I just don't want to call those things "love" (though there's probably some overlap).  I recycle ... I make a decision, a choice, to do so ... because I feel that as someone who cares about the envuronment, it's my duty, but that's not what I think of as love.  They do seem somehow connected, though.

I think the problem is that the churc h considers marriage a duty - a duty to the family, a duty to society, a duty to the church.  But this isn't the ancient or medieval past and people don't get married anymore out of duty, but out of love.  There is no good reason now, no duty, for someone to stay married to a wife-beater, for instance, but the church still thinks women should do this. There is no duty to stay married "for the sake of the children" because studies show now that such a thing actually damages children, but the church still uses this argument.  Socity has changed - no one usually gets married now to make sure they have "legitimate" heirs, or to merge kingdoms, or to make finaincial transactions, or to trade service for protection .... marriage isn't anymore a business contract and people aren't dirty rotten breachers if they change their minds/hearts about it.  It's all about love, now, and I think that's partly why the church so hates same-sex marriage- that is based on love

I agree with Anne - this stuff can't be compartmentalized.  For the church to say in one breath that it cares about the "little ones" and in the next that women are second class citizens (in however nice language) is to put the lie to the first statement. 

Ok, I get it. Now, someone cheer me up.

 

Anne C. --

 

Fine post.  About Francis and women --  I think that he means well, but simply hasn't known many adult women very well.  But he's improving.  In the last couple of days he repeated his unfortunate view of women as intuitive, nurturing complements of men, but he also added that women are needed not only in the home but in *business*!  I've never seen any man admit that before.  As to the ordination of women, I won't hold my breath.  But he's a fast learner, and maybe dealing with the CDF will lead him to see the weaknesses of their silly arguments against it.

 

Crystal --

 

I agree that in the ages when there really wasn't enough food to go around and when people died so young there was probably an implicit assumption that a person *ought* to marry and marry young to be sure the clan would survive.  That's pure Darwin, and Darwin was right about this.  But we're also *rational* animals, there is enough food, for Americans anyway, and Americans die relatively old.  So it's not surprising that marriage-for-the-sake-of-procreation is no longer the urgent necessity it used to be.  The official Church is hundreds of years behind history in coming to that realization.

 

Still, most people do have children, and people's duties to them have not changed one whit.  Children still have a right to both parents if possible, and so divorce is still a dreadful thing in most cases.  Unless the studies I've read about are totally wrong, children of one parent simply do not  flourish as children of both parents do.  (It even seems to be the case that parents who divorce when their children are *grown* still cause great suffering in their kid!  That's how primary an intact family is to human flourishing.) So it seems to me that the official Church is mostly right about that.  In practice, however, there seem to be terrible problems, not the least of which is that people sometimes seem to marry a genuinely incompatible person.  What to do about those failed marriages is  a horrendous problem.  At least it seems that many of the bishops, including Francis, are starting to realize that. 

 

 As I see it, the only solution at this point would be to be sure that those who are granted a license to marry are truly mature psychologically.  But how to determine that?*  To add to the problem, kids need to be raised to become psychologically independent, but that  is happening less and less these days!  See the new helicopter mothers.  Scary.  (Yes, I think the community has a right to protect children, and that includes protecting them from bad parents.  But, again, what does that mean in practice????)

 

*Improving the teaching of the Humanities in the schools might help with that -- the Humanities teach both empathy, one of the great marks of maturity, and also reasoning, another skill needed for satisfactory human relations. 

 

(I'll shut up now.)

So the bad guys have won. The ones who were obsessed with women and marriage issues have been successful at obfuscating the Gospel message so that it becomes inaudible, young people leave the church and older people spend their time fighting over those issues. Regardless of our stand on them, the fact that we spend our time on that means that we acknowledge that it is as important as they claim it is.

Claire,

I think Francis does believe in and want a Church with more distributed authority, in which everyone has an important role to play, and every part is open to anyone competent to take it on. But he is constrained by the statements of his predecessors, by long tradition in an institution that thinks of itself as timeless, and perhaps by assumptions he absorbed in his youth and has not fully shaken off.

It seems to me that the theological and cultural arguments, that a male priesthood is required by Christ or by nature or by the fitness of things, were never sound and grow weaker by the day.  It will be harder and harder to maintain them even for people who have long practice in saying doubtful things with a straight face.

That leaves only competence and faithfulness as qualifications, and women have long since passed those tests in every area of modern life. Besides, the history of male dominance in the world and in the Church is hardly an invincible argument for continuing it.

All of the great nonviolent struggles for equality and justice are won essentially the same way: by showing up every day, doing one's share and more than one's share of the work, speaking out tirelessly and without fear, keeping the pressure on, and never losing hope or good cheer. Eyes on the prize, as they used to say.

 young people leave the church and older people spend their time fighting over those issues.

 

I know a lot of older people, i.e, my age, who have walked away in 1) disgust, 2) anger, and/or 3) boredom later in their lives.

Being hatched and matched doesn't mean by any token that we will stick around to be despatched.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment