Out of the Tomb

Francis's Reminder to Preach the Gospel, Joyfully

Pope Francis’s recently released apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, is a 47,500-word pep talk. It is sometimes severe and demanding, sometimes consolatory, but all of it is intended to motivate. In other words, it is exactly as advertised: an exhortation.

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. If their faith itself seems to be a source of sorrow, they are a “counter-witness” to the promises of the gospel.

The differences between Francis and Benedict have been somewhat exaggerated in the press (almost always at Benedict’s expense), but the exhortation does signal a real contrast of emphasis between the two popes. Benedict foresaw the possibility that the church might grow smaller; and, while he did not greet this prospect eagerly, he did speculate that a smaller church might turn out to be a purer one. Francis generally seems less concerned with moral relativism outside the church than with worldliness within it. He rejects the notion that the church is an exclusive club for the preservation of moral purity and traditional piety, and wants the church to be open to as many people as possible. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” Evangelization is not simply one of the church’s functions; it is its raison d’être. The church exists to evangelize.

The element of the exhortation that has grabbed most of the headlines is the pope’s sharp criticism of unregulated capitalism. Francis says he wants a church that is poor and for the poor. And to be for the poor is, in his judgment, to be against any social structure or ideology that deprives poor people of what they need and deserve as human beings. Some may worry that the exhortation’s critique of global capitalism is excessively antagonistic or rhetorically self-indulgent. But the pope has at least made it difficult for his judgments to be misrepresented by those who would rescue the church from social teachings they find embarrassing or inconvenient. Francis brushes aside the shibboleths that are supposed to justify the economic policies of much of the developed world. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he writes. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Until recently, the Catholic debate about political economy has mainly been about how best to interpret the church’s teachings, with many Catholics on the right arguing that the modern church favors a laissez-faire capitalism softened only by a few modest welfare programs and private charity, while Catholics on the left insist that the church has been skeptical of capitalism all along and has always taught that distributive justice was one of the main responsibilities of government. Now, after Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate and Francis’s exhortation, the debate is no longer about what the church teaches, but about whether the church’s teaching about politics and economics is right or whether the church has any competence in this domain. At the same time, it is crucial to recognize that Francis’s argument isn’t just about ethics, economics, or political theory; it is also, and above all, about ecclesiology—that is, about how the church understands itself and what its mission entails. That doesn’t mean the church pretends to have the solution to every problem, nor does it mean that the Vatican thinks it can dictate economic policy. But it does mean, at the very least, that we should expect to hear more from this pope about the social perils of growing economic inequality. To be any kind of Christian means to imitate Christ, and to imitate Christ means to take the side of the poor. Or so, at least, says the new bishop of Rome.

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The qualifiers in your comment indicate that you are either trying to maintain a journalistic distance or that you do not fully agree with the pope's critique of capitalism. The Vatican is very qualified to point out the moral foundations and negative efftects of the "free market." We have had over twenty years of trumphant capitalism and human misery is at an all time hight while the earth is being destroyed. Coming form Latin America, Pope Francis knows of the depredations of "neo-liberalism," as it is known there, far better than North American economists or for that matter journalists.

“The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life,” wrote the pope. “Today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”
His criticism of capitalism, referring to it as a killer, was enhanced by a call for "Governments to create more jobs..." which every experience, including the US government's  recent almost trillion dollar  "Jobs program', which was a dismal failure in creating jobs but the money, mostly borrowed, was spent, have failed. Governments do not create jobs, individual and corporate efforts under capitalism do.
Pope Francis lived under both dictatorial and socialist regimes in Argentina but unlike Pope John Paul II who lived under communism, Pope Francis failed to understand the economic failures were caused by the governments policies not by capitalism.
China's emergence as an economic power was the result of introducing capitalism into its economic policies which created millions of   jobs in a relative short time. 

The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:35), that will determine each person’s, not presidents, politicians, nor government bureaucrats, final destiny was taught us from the Baltimore Catechism: 1. Feed the hungry 2. Give drink to the thirsty 3. Clothe the naked 4. Shelter the homeless 5. Visit the sick 6. Visit those in prison 7. Bury the dead For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only “Love the Neighbor’ and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” with no guidelines as to how the Romans were to spend the tax monies. “For you will have the poor always with you” Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local politicians or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example of “Love thy neighbor” because he stopped at the inn to make a 911 call but because he acted, providing aid, comfort and financial assistance to his neighbor. Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be used be used to support states becoming the major or only source of charitable acts. Eventually, hopefully sooner not later, Catholic Bishops and nuns will realize that the old adage “he who pays the piper calls the tune” is true.   

Why is it that American Catholic conservatives, who apparently have no problem accepting BOTH the teachings of Jesus Christ who said the rich have about as much chance of making it into the just reign of God on earth as a camel has of sliding through the eye of a needle AND the favorite economic theory of the rich -- i.e., free market capitalism -- insist that nobody, not even a pope, can believe BOTH governments AND individuals should take responsibility for the well-being of those in need?  How is that an either/or proposition?  There's enough need to go around, and yes, there always has been. 

At the time of Christ, both Israel via the Law and Rome via imperial rule required citizens to contribute to programs that benefited the poor.  Jesus not only didn't condemn any of that, he demanded even more of those who wanted to become part of HIS entourage -- i.e., that they sell everything they owned, give the money to the poor and take to the open road...with him.  Talk about pipers calling tunes.  Whose song are you hearing?

I'm struck first by the argument that "Governments do not create jobs, individual and corporate efforts under capitalism do." It seems to me fairly indisputable at this point that both have a role. For instance, here we are on the Internet, which was first created by citizens of the United States working through their federal government at a time when no private company had the least interest in creating such a network. Every job that has arisen from the Internet exists in significant part because of that government action. Many of our largest companies were started or are run by executives whose educations were subsidized or made possible by the federal government, whether through the GI Bill or other programs. The once-prosperous suburbs of the United States came into existence in significant part because the government created a program to guarantee mortgages beginning in 1938, and then built the interstate highway system to make them more accessible. Each of these government actions made it possible for private actors to create millions of new jobs. Active government involvement to help create industries and jobs is an American tradition that goes back to Alexander Hamilton - at least.

But may I ask a religious question? Of course it is presumptuous to answer on behalf of Jesus, but if you were to ask him: "We have given private charity but many of the poor are still hungry, homeless, and in desperate need of medical care. Should we permit our democratically elected government to help them, or should we prevent it from doing so?" what does your heart tell you he would say?

I would add one more point. Adam Smith well understood that capitalism could only work if capitalists operated from a deep moral and ethical foundation. Smith wrote: "No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged." Might not capitalists yet have something to learn something from Adam Smith, Pope Francis, and Jesus Christ?

 

"For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only 'Love the Neighbor’ and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point 'to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s' with no guidelines as to how the Romans were to spend the tax monies.  ...Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be used be used to support states becoming the major or only source of charitable acts."

Right after teaching about almsgiving, Jesus then said, "This is how you are to pray: 'Our Father ...thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'" (Mt. 6:1-16)  This prayer was viewed as a subseversive guideline.

"Governments do not create jobs, individual and corporate efforts under capitalism do."

Our Armed Forces, our land, water and air traffic/transport systems, Social Security, and yes, even our national health care, while maybe not initiated by "government," are in the sphere of responsibility and influence of the "government" elected and appointed by the citizens of this country, and administered by their elected representatives.  It's a daunting task.  Our national experiment and endeavor is among the latest and one of the most successful.  We have an environment where jobs exist and are created.  Individual efforts are the seed.  However, "he who pays the piper calls gthe tune."  Corporate gains, not efforts, "under capitalism," are the fruits of invasive, impersonal, and legal but not liable entities.  Corporations do not give thanks.  They promise dividends.

Thank you for the beautiful and practical reminder of what a "good Samaritan" does.

Paz y Bien, Rolando, OFS.

 

 

EVANGELII GAUDIUM may well be one of the last of the papal pronouncements at the conclusion of the axial age religion known as Catholicism and the religious denomination of Christianity.

The hierarchy, religious orders and some of the laity may find it difficult to evolve. On the other hand, the remainder of the population may find it difficult not to evolve.

It is not easy to understand why religious evolution is problematic given that it is in a constant state of evolution and has been since the earliest Christians believed in the resurrection of Jesus. They did so because ‘resurrection’ was a long-standing Jewish belief.

See Thomas Sheehan’s “Revolution in the Church,” The New York Review of Books, XXXI, 10 (June 14, 1984), 35-39. click for PDF; read online for a very brief history regarding the Jewish idea of resurrection.

Beyond the Christian context, religious evolution goes back eons to a very early human understanding of religion.

But we are at the moment interested in the Catholicism of the twenty-first century. The post-axial age becomes a faith and moral agency phenomenon supplanting the old time religion and a morality base that needs updating.

If the axial age is waning and the post-axial age is waxing, why do we have this change? The advance of human knowledge tells why we have the change, for example the human change, and the planetary change. But the advance of human knowledge also tells us why we need to change in order to survive and continue our long-standing evolutionary journey. It also tells us how we can change. Expert knowledge and skill building from many relevant disciplines enhance our faith as well as modify and strengthen our moral agency and action.

Funk et al in The Acts of Jesus give us scientific biblical scholarship that produces no historical evidence for the basic doctrinal foundations of Christianity i.e. the incarnation and resurrection stories. The mythical aspects of Catholicism originating in the age of mythology must make way for a contemporary scientific worldview reality that embraces a faith and moral action able to overcome as much as possible our multifaceted global crisis and continue our God-given evolutionary journey.

Pope Francis exhorts us. But together, all of us must learn more than teach, because we are just beginning to understand that we are in a new historical period for people and planet to be restored.

 

 

>> The element of the exhortation that has grabbed most of the headlines is the pope’s sharp criticism of unregulated capitalism. <<

"Unregulated capitalism" is a false strawman.  It doesn't exist in developed countries.

>> Francis says he wants a church that is poor and for the poor. And to be for the poor is, in his judgment, to be against any social structure or ideology that deprives poor people of what they need and deserve as human beings. <<

Perhaps the Pope can explain why the Catholic countries below the U.S. border are mired in poverty, correuption, prostution, repression, , etc., while the protestant countries above said border are prosperous.  If "to be for the poor is to be against any social structure or ideology that deprives poor people of what they need and deserve as human beings", then to be poor means to be anti-Catholic Church.

>> Some may worry that the exhortation’s critique of global capitalism is excessively antagonistic or rhetorically self-indulgent. <<

All of that, but mostly excessively ignorant.

>>  “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he writes. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

A remarkable display of ignorance. 

Under our capitalist system, who is building affordable housing without government subsidies? Under US style capitalism we have millions woithout proper health care, unless government programs provide. We have people who are hungry unless government provides them with the means to purchase food. We have people working fuill time, as in the fast food industry, who cannot make ends meet. We have corporate interests trumping environmental concerns, community needs and the democratic process. Unless an economy works for everyone, it is not working.

Governemnt in the US generally follows the tune played by the corporations so our tax policies, huge government subsidies, US foreign policy, telecommunications, and financial regulations benefit the owners of capital and do not generally serve the common good.Government is a tool to be used for good or ill; it depends on who is sovereign. In a democracy it supposed to be the people, but in the US it is corporations and the owning class.

Pope Francis sees this and, as did JP II and Benedict XVI, is calling it out. Time for all of us who follow Him to reflect deeply on what Jesus was talking about when he said to love one another as I have loved you." In the least I think he would abhor the creation of an economic system which results in hunger and homelessness for many, imprisonment for those left on the margins of society and the build-up of the most violent and destructive military in history to protect the injustice.

It is Marxist/Socialist non-theological doctrine to eliminate God and the
Family and leave only the State that one owed not only allegiance but
also his/her soul. Francis Cardinal George described it as, "Freedom
of worship was guaranteed in the constitution of the former Soviet
Union," Cardinal George wrote in a column in the Catholic New World.
"You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however,
could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship
— no schools, religious publications, health care institutions,
organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow
naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat
that vision of society."

The Obama administration, anti-religious democrats and its bureaucrats seek to impose Marxist/socialist
Godless theology on all religious faithful through administrative mandates, rules and regulations.

For all those who favor government control of charity and in support of Cardinal George are the examples in Massachusetts and Illinois where Catholic adoption agencies were closed because they would not place children with same sex couples. What religious charitable service or  is next?

In the parable of the owner of the vineyard Matthew 20:1–16, Jesus did not condemn the owner for paying those who worked the whole day the same wage as those who only worked the last hour.
"Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. "
Regarding charity at the time of Jesus the Jews practiced charitable act and giving according to their religious belief found in the the Torah, not at the commands of the King Herod. The Romans were famous for their laws, their roads and thie
 
http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/a-true-christian-conquest

In the parable of the owner of the vineyard Matthew 20:1–16, Jesus did not condemn the owner for paying those who worked the whole day the same wage as those who only worked the last hour.
"Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. "
Regarding charity at the time of Jesus the Jews practiced charitable act and giving according to their religious belief found in the the Torah, not at the commands of the King Herod. Regarding the Romans were famous for their laws, their roads their engineering, their government expertise, however charity was not a notable trait of their governance.
  http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/a-true-christian-conquest

>> Under our capitalist system, who is building affordable housing without government subsidies? <<

The manufactured housing industry and the housing industry.

The major impediment to affordable housing is local government restrictions in the form of zoning.  Government attempts to supply affordable housing such as Cabrini Green in Chicago have been a disaster.  The biggest impediment to affordable housing in New York City is government rent control.

Every one who believes the poster's nonsense can just move to a Catholic paradise below the U.S. border.

Hey Mosman, don't be a sourpuss. The Pope says so.

E. Patrick Mosman: "Regarding charity at the time of Jesus the Jews practiced charitable act and giving according to their religious belief found in the the Torah, not at the commands of the King Herod. Regarding the Romans were famous for their laws, their roads their engineering, their government expertise, however charity was not a notable trait of their governance."

Helping the poor may not have been a notable trait of Roman government, but it was practiced.

As for the Jews, the fact is, even under Roman occupation, Israel continued to operate as a theocracy, which meant strict Torah tithes -- for the poor --  were collected regularly, as were taxes to both Rome and local rulers, such as Herod Antipas, some of which went to what today we'd call government aid programs. 

In fact, it was because they were so heavily taxed that people then -- like Fox News commentators today -- considered local tax collectors public sinners. (Of course, many also took a little off the top for their trouble.)  Still, we all know how easy Jesus was on that particular group of sinners.... using one as an example of humility, and dining publicly with several....as well as inviting himself to the home of one who showed his fear of the public by listening to Jesus speak by hiding in a tree.

 

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