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On the exhortation

Posted to our homepage, two pieces on Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium. First, from our editors, who in “Out of the Tomb” write:

Francis wants to remind us that the church derives its whole identity from its mission to preach the gospel and to do so joyfully. This means that all Catholics, whatever their particular vocations, should understand themselves as missionaries. Most important, in order to share God’s mercy with a suffering world, Catholics must not allow their own sufferings to rob them of joy or apostolic vigor. Despite Francis’s characteristically upbeat tone, there is a suggestion of exasperation with those he describes, in the English translation, as “sourpusses.” He cautions against a “tomb psychology” that “slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum.” He does not quote St. Francis de Sales’s famous maxim “A sad saint is a sorry saint,” but he might have. If Christians really are people who have been liberated by God’s mercy, then, Francis insists, they should act as though they have been liberated.

You can read the whole thing here.

E. J. Dionne Jr. also writes on Francis’s exhortation:

Pope Francis has surprised the world because he embraces the Christian calling to destabilize and to challenge. As the first leader of the Catholic Church from the Southern Hemisphere, he is especially mindful of the ways in which unregulated capitalism has failed the poor and left them “waiting.”

His apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” is drawing wide and deserved attention for its denunciation of “trickle-down” economics as a system that “expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” It’s a view that “has never been confirmed by the facts” and has created “a globalization of indifference.” Will conservatives among American Catholics who have long championed tax cutting for the wealthy acknowledge the moral conundrum that Francis has put before them?

But American liberals and conservatives alike might be discomfited by the pope’s criticism of “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era,” since each side defends its own favorite forms of individualism. Francis mourns “a vacuum left by secularist rationalism,” not a phrase that will sit well with all on the left.

Read it all here

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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The idea that Francis is against capitalism is false. He is talking about unfettered capitalism which the justice department has prosecuted and thwarted over and over.

What is different about Francis is that he does not just play lip service to the core Gospel message. He screams it out. This is essential Christianity as is clear from the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."

The official church has been as guilty as the secular world in playing politics and neglecting the poor. The building of gargantuan cathedrals have been preferred to feeding and clothing the needy. Culture became more important than shelter and more divinity was seen in Bach than in the Leper.

Francis is returning the focus to the heart of the gospel. As has been the case from time immemorial the politics have played out too often the detriment of the disadvantaged. The churches of Africa led by Augustine profited immensely when the wealth of the Donatist churches were given to augustine's group. Today, it is the same with bishop's seen more at the places of the super rich than in the locations of the needy. This is why Francis refers first to the clergy when he writes and speaks. 


"The churches of Africa led by Augustine profited immensely when the wealth of the Donatist churches were given to augustine's group."

I am a big fan of Augustine.  (M.A, in Theology, Villanova University).

Can you give me sources for your comment?


As far as I know this is not a disputed fact that the ruling of the emperor against the Donatist  resulting in all the churches and wealth of the Donatists going to Augustine's group. At any rate, this is amply documented by Peter Brown in "Through the Eye of a Needle." 2011 You might also check out "Augustine" by O"Donnell. As an Augustine fan you may want to brace yourself reading O'donnell's book. 

Some consider Augustine the Father of the Inquisition for his approval for the use of force to curtail disagreeing Christians. Augustine's view of sex in marriage was not approving. A necessary evil, so to speak which one should not take pleasure in????

Also questionable is his view of original sin and baptism. 

But his use of the force of the Empire to help conquer the Donatists and the Pelagians is his most grievous fault. Etc.


I could not agree with you more.  What may be uncomfortable for many American Catholics is the Pope's Message is not tempered for anyone,,,,,I think he politely reminds us that Catholic means Universal, not American.  And yes, we have heard the usual "anti-catholic" innuendo style responses from Political Leaders who have been far too comfortable expecting the Catholic Church to carry their political waters.    I think the Pope has asked Bishops in America to go back to the roots of the church, and help the Needy within their own Diocese.

Bill Donohue from the Catholic League wasted no time defending Rush Limbaugh's many anti-catholic innuendo statements about the Pope, and as he said "The largest Owner of Property In Manhattan",  a wealthy Church.   Do you think Bill Donohue wil get the Pope's message,,,,which I think seems directed to an organization that seems never to dwell on the Poor, Immigrants, Sick, and un-educated?

Francis attacks what Martin Luther King in 1956 called the "misuse of capitalism" but he also perhaps  shows up the contradiction in the bourgeois insistence on maintaining it privileges at any cost while pretending to subscribe to ideologies of equality and justice (as noted in Simone de Beauvoir's "Privilèges" in 1955). Francesco Hideki Mitani has an eloquent essay on this in the forthcoming, December, issue of The Japan Mission Journal.

Joseph -- MLK was a democratic socialist.  His phrase "misuse of capitalism" was a rhetorical feint to avoid being vilified as a Commie.

Besides, King -- and Pope Francis, for that matter -- would be wrong to see the current malaise of the poor, the working class, and large swaths of the "middle class" as the result of any "misuse of capitalism."  Capitalism is about accumulating capital, which requires capitalists to keep wages as low as they can possibly go.  And without unions and/or favorable state policies, that's where wages have gone.  And the increasng automation of production, distribution, and even professional/managerial labor puts even further downward pressure on wages.  Many of the jobs that are created are what David Graeber has infelicitously but rightly dubbed "bullshit jobs":

These phenomena don't represent a "misuse"; it's the logic of the system.  



How come there is no comment blog here on Monday’s NYT editor Bill Keller's op-ed piece, Sex and the Single Priest?  

While it does not have the same erudition of some of the discussions on these Commonweal blogs, Keller's opinions do reflect the concerns of the majority Catholics - in or out of the pews - about the reforms necessary to begin to staunch the open wounds on the Body of Christ.

Jim Jenkins,

James Martin, SJ has a (highly defensive) post about this article on the America website (In All Things)  and there are comments stating a range of opinions about his post and about the NYT article.


The burden of proof is on those who believe that there are other systems better than capitalism. There are problems, to be sure. But other systems tend to make people lazy and disengaged. Unfortunately, those with money, as with the Tea Party, can pay for people to espouse one point of view. Greed needs to be regulated and the wealthy have to be reminded that it will indeed be more difficult for them to enter heaven. Very difficult. While we must be ceaseless in fostering justice we should be aware of the joy in the spirt under which we can "rejoice always" as Paul exhorts, because Christ is risen. Here is Francis:

“7. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”.[2] I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”

This Exhortation is, for me, a loving but firm call to a deep examination of conscience. What missionary work am I called to do and how willing am I to do it? My temptation is to let myself off too easily, citing my assorted limitations. Obviously, that's not good enough. Just as obviously, getting myself to do what i can, including of course prayer, is no short term or simple project.

I find a lot of Luke and not so much Keynes in the exhortation. Pope Francis has a wideness to his evangelizing, as when he gets into how to create a good homily or how members of the ministerial priesthood should conduct themselves. His underlying point about the economy seems to me to be that the economy was made for humans, not humans for the economy.

This is, of course, heresy to those Americans who think that capitalism was created by God with its own laws, that the laws appeared on the flip side of the tablet with the Ten Commandments and it was only through an editing error that they did not make it into Genesis. They think that, among those laws, is one saying people must take STEM (science, thechnolgy, engingeering and math) courses to be worth a living wage to job creators, that the humanities only arouse desires that the economy can no longer fulfill for most people, and that social sciences too often come to liberal conclusions and therefore are a turn-off for job creators

Even the STEMs can expect unpaid inernships and part-time employment in much of their careers. The people formerly known as artists must become entrepreneurs, because only entrepreneurial paintings and entrepreneurally written books will sell. The folks who used to do the heavy factory work will get jobs building fall and spring houses to go with the summer and winter homes of the job creators or, better yet, move to a low-wage country where their muscles can still be employed.

That is my grandchildren's future as  described by serious, tenured people. It is rejected by Pope Francis. Which makes the pope an outlier.

Now I would like to think there is a political party in the United States that stands with the pope. But one is exhausting the thesaurus looking for ways to say Pope Francis is nuts without being too blunt, and the other has bought into most the above as well. Both talk about the middle class, which is shrinking, but both take payments from the rich to ignore the poor, about whom none of the politicians and serious pundits is this country were talking until Pope Francis stirred things up while writing on a different subject, viz, evangelization.


1)  I second the recommendation of Peter Brown's great book, Through the Eye of a Needle:  Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350 - 550 AD.  

2)  Agree, Jim Jenkins, that the wonderful op-ed piece by Bill Keller deserves a thread and a discussion here.  It left a tear in my eye.  

And agree, Anne Chapman, that America's response, written by James Martin, S.J., was . . . defensive.  (Also angry, weird, historically flawed (about the apostles' marital status), etc., etc.  What's the problem at America?  Martin's comments (at NCR, I think) about their clumsy dropping of the sentence about women from the Pope's interview were also . . . defensive, angry, weird, . . . etc.)

3)  This article from the NYT this morning about the bishops being sued deserves a thread, too, imho.  It left a feeling of RAGE in my heart.  The war against women RAGES on.


I thought Fr. Ruff's (Pray Tell) comment to Fr. Martin's post at In All Things was interesting.  I've seen a past article at ABC Religion & Ethics that does give the opinion that the Catholic Church has a higher rate of sex abuse than other denominations ...

Sorry. it has been awhile and I got confused:

Of course Pope Francis is no Marxist, certainly no secular Utopian, but he is not a doctrinaire global Capitalist either, and Rush Limbaugh, being of mainline Protestant extraction, will find it difficult to appreciate what the Pope is saying, and how most Catholics will agree with him and in any case, will fall in line behind him. In fact I will wager that most American Protestants will not catch the nuance and balance the pope is describing. The news media will not help either; they will just gleefully proclaim “Francis is a Socialist”, and move on to the next Hollywood outrage or nonsense. Thoughtful people however who take time to read a few pages or think about what Pope Francis wrote for ten or fifteen minutes, will readily understand.

In my reading of his letter, Pope Francis points to the current form of capitalism as being deficient because modern societies have – you guessed it - lost sight of the value of individual human beings, of the value of life.

This part of being a Catholic is easy for me, in that while I probably do not understand all of what Pope Francis is talking about, and as a Republican, politically I tend not to be as much toward the middle (as balanced) as he most probably is, of course I know he is correct - he is the pope after all - and I will trim my sails accordingly.

There – that burden is easy and that yoke is light. Like the red button at the Staples store says; “That was easy”. I did the same with John Paul II, Pope Benedict (they both ocassionally commented on the economy as well); I will do the same with the next pope.

Old Chesterton once quipped something to the effect that; While strict Socialism ruins the family in theory, strict Capitalism does so in practice. In those days (1920’s) he promoted something called “Distributism”, which I have not yet looked into very much, but will of course - as time permits.

It will be intersting to see how American Catholics receive this, but how they react is not particularly important; Francis is simply saying the obvious truth and sputter away as one might, it is difficult to argue with that. In any case, for a traditional Catholic like me, the fact that the Pope in Rome - the Vicar of Christ - decided to take the time (i.e., spend his valuable time), and sit down and write out somehting like this means; it is important, we Catholics should pay careful attention, and with the consequent fresh understanding that sort of thoughtful consideration produces, adjust our course as best suits the common good.


Pope Francis is exactly right about unregulated, laissez faire capitalism.  Conservative Christians think Christianity is Capitalism, an vice versa.  These Christians think that private charity is all we need to help the poor.  But, charity is not justice, and private charity can never meet the needs of the poor.

I thought Fr. Ruff's (Pray Tell) comment to Fr. Martin's post at In All Things was interesting.

Hi, Crystal, just in the interest of keeping attributions straight: the Fr. Ruff who runs the Pray Tell blog is Anthony Ruff.  The comment to Fr. Martin's post at America was by a William Ruff.  (Not sure who that is, presumably he's an America reader.)


The comment under the name "William Ruff" was signed "Anthony Ruff, OSB."   

Martin used the word "lazy" twice in his hysterical denunciation of Bill Keller.   An odd word for a priest to use against a layman, especially a renowned journalist and editor like Keller.  (Jealous?)


From Wiki:


Keller joined The New York Times in April 1984 and served in the following capacities:[4]

  • Reporter in the Washington, D.C. bureau (1984–1986)
  • Reporter in the Moscow bureau (1986–1988)
  • Bureau chief in the Moscow bureau (1988–1991)
  • Bureau chief in the Johannesburg bureau (1992–1995)
  • Foreign editor (1995–1997)
  • Managing editor (1997–2001)
  • Op-ed columnist and senior writer (2001–2003)
  • Executive editor (July 2003 to September 2011)

He won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting citing his "resourceful and detailed coverage of events in the U.S.S.R." during 1988.


Where Keller might be "lazy" is more of tone than anything else. Even though he uses the  correct term "mandatory celibacy", he gives the impression that celibacy is a total farce. Even if he quotes a professor, former priest, who acknowledges that those who use it as a solid witness are few. Those few who use celibacy well should not be lumped in Keller's wide ridicule.  The other question here tho few raise it is that keller might be fighting his own demons in his preoccupation with a faith he says he no longer cares about. 

On the other hand Martin might be lazy also in that he beleives the surveys which show a majority of priests happy in their choice. There are seriously legitimate doubts as to the accuracy of that poll.

Jim - yes, his sign-in name was William, but if you read to the bottom of his comment, you'll see he signed it 'Anthony Ruff OSB'.

Oh - I see Gerelyn already mentioned this  :)

 The other question here tho few raise it is that keller might be fighting his own demons in his preoccupation with a faith he says he no longer cares about. 

To psychologize a man you don't know and suggest he's "fighting his own demons" is weird.     And to claim "he says he no longer cares about" the faith is dishonest.  He said nothing like that in the op-ed piece.  In fact, he says,  "Leaving your church is not so much like quitting a club as emigrating from the country where you grew up.You forfeit citizenship and no longer consider yourself subject to its laws, but you follow the news from the Old Country and wish its people well, because they are still in some sense your people. And if you write for a living you may sometimes write about that world, from a distance."

The article is about a beloved nun, his eighth grade teacher, who left the convent and married an ex-priest whose talents, training, etc., were wasted because he dared to marry.  (A woman.  Eeuuwww.)   She died recently.  RIP  

On the other hand Martin might be lazy also in that he beleives the surveys which show a majority of priests happy in their choice. There are seriously legitimate doubts as to the accuracy of that poll.

Several studies of priests and seminarians indicate that they are lazy.  Many failed at business before deciding on the priesthood.  (See, e.g., Katarina Schuth, et al.)  A soft berth.

As to what Martin believes?  Who knows?  Maybe, like Keller, he's saying what he believes.  Maybe he really believes priests are happy.  Maybe he really believes that the apostles (and Jesus) were bachelors.




We know a lot about Keller. This is not the first time he has talked about his lapsed faith and the church. He has written many times about the subject. Apparently you are looking at one article while I am looking at many. I used the word "might", whereas you listed keller's credentials as a journalism as if that would eo ipso make him right (or at least not lazy) on his pronouncements on celibacy. 


The idea that Keller put forth ... that there could be a connection between enforced celibacy and the sex abuse crises ... is worth considering, and attacking him personally can't obviate that.

Gerelyn and Crystal, thanks.  I guess I was too lazy to read all the way to the bottom :-).  Or not interested enough.  Actually, now that I know it's Anthony Ruff who wrote it, I might go back and read the whole thing ...

The question here was never that celibacy has had harmful effects. The question is whether Keller played fair in taking carte blance in attacking celibacy. Finally, as far as personal attacks, what do you mean by calling Martin "hysterical?" You know the connotations behind that word. Especially if it were applied in its historic (certainly unfair) meanings. Or is this some reverse, retaliatory, compensatory justice. I'll let you "psychologize" on that one. 

I haven't said anything about Fr. Martin.

Right Crystal. I apologize for the mixup.

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