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 It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach.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

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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.

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About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is an associate professor of theology at Boston College.