Catholicism can and must change, Francis forcefully tells Italian church gathering/In Florence, Francis Re-Boots Evangelii Gaudium

Catholicism can and must change, Francis forcefully tells Italian church gathering (Joshua McElwee)/In Florence, Francis Re-Boots Evangelii Gaudium (Michael Sean Winters)

National Catholic Reporter | Nov. 10, 2015

Pope Francis gave a very important, and impassioned, talk this morning at the Cathedral in Florence to a Congress of the Italian Church. My colleague Joshua McElwee has a report on the talk here.

The Holy Father’s address is a kind of re-boot of the vision of the Church he outlined in Evangelii Gaudium, his programmatic apostolic exhortation issued in the first year of his pontificate. He doubtlessly returned to the themes articulated there because they have not entirely been absorbed. Also, because this meeting in Italy is a big deal, bringing together thousands of Catholics from across the country every ten years. The only thing even remotely akin to this meeting in the U.S. Church is the national Encuentro, which brings together Latino Church leaders from across the nation. Here was a moment for the pope to speak from his heart about what is most important. As you read McElwee’s account, you will realize he did not disappoint.

These words from McElwee’s report seem to be a reflection on the opposition Pope Francis encountered at the recently concluded Synod:

“Before the problems of the church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally,” the pontiff said at one point during his remarks.

“Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives — but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened,” said the pope. “It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ.”

“The reform of the church then, and the church is semper reformanda … does not end in the umpteenth plan to change structures,” he continued. “It means instead grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Spirit — so that all will be possible with genius and creativity.”

The pairing of “unsettled” and “enlivened” is stunning, yes? So, too, the call for genius and creativity, which seemed rather lacking in some synod interventions. Indeed, one could say that some synod fathers evidenced a commitment to a joyless Gospel in their interventions, all Good Friday with no Easter Sunday.

The joy the pope is calling us to is not just any joy, but the joy of the Gospel. The theme of the conference was Christian humanism. And, what is distinctive about Christian humanism is its rootedness in the person of Jesus Christ.

Looking at his face, what do we see? Before all, the face of a God who is emptied, a God who has assumed the condition of servant, humble and obedient until death. The face of Jesus is similar to that of so many of our humiliated brothers, made slaves, emptied. God had assumed their face. And that face looks to us. If we do not lower ourselves we will not see his face. We will not see anything of his fullness if we do not accept that God has emptied God’s self. Therefore we will not understand anything of Christian humanism and our words will be beautiful … but will not be words of faith. They will be words that resonate with emptiness.

“If we do not lower ourselves we will not see his face.” Again, it is hard not to recognize that these words came from, and were strengthened by, a heart saddened by some of what he heard at the synod, and in other meetings with bishops and, perhaps especially, curial officials, who are not known for lowering themselves. There are echoes of Gaudium et Spes #22 here as well, a text which always draws the Church away from worldliness and remains a kind of hermeneutical key to the entire body of conciliar texts.

The Holy Father identified some impediments to his vision, notably Pelagianism and Gnosticism. Of Pelagianism, he said, “Often it brings us to assume a style of control, of hardness, of normalcy. The norm gives to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. In this is found its force, not in the lightness of the breath of the Spirit.” Those three dead nouns – control, hardness, normalcy – go a long way towards explaining the various ailments that afflict the Church in the U.S. Think of the initial response to the clergy sex abuse scandal. Think of the way some prelates deal with those who challenge them. The pope urged the Italian Church to “Assume always the Spirit of the great explorers, that on the sea were passionate for navigation in open waters and were not frightened by borders and of storms. May it be a free church and open to the challenges of the present, never in defense for fear of losing something.” The words “not frightened” and “never in defense” again seem like a response to the naysayers at the synod, those who wondered why they were discussing issues that were “settled.”

On Gnosticism, the Holy Father said, “The difference between Christian transcendence and any form of gnostic spiritualism remains in the mystery of the incarnation. Not putting it in practice, not guiding the Word to reality, means building on sand, remaining in pure idea … which does not give fruit, which make sterile [God’s] dynamism.” Again, overtones of GS # 22. And the phrase “guiding the Word to reality” may be the keenest expression of Pope Francis’ understanding of ministry we have yet seen.

Reading the report, and seeing it as, in some ways, a reflection of the pope’s experience at the synod, I wondered why he did not add Jansenism to the list of impediments to his vision for the Church. Then it hit me: These were Italians to whom he was speaking, not Americans.

The Holy Father’s message to the bishops was the antithesis of clericalism. He said, “To the bishops, I ask you to be pastors. May this be your glory. It will be the people, your flock, that sustain you…As pastors may you not be preachers of complex doctrine, but pronouncers of Christ, dead and resurrected for us. Aim for the essential, the kerygma.” The first half of the quote indicates an end to the Reverse Caiaphas Syndrome, in which the whole people are sacrificed for the sake of one man, namely, a bishop unequal to his ministry. The second half, again, seems redolent of the Holy Father’s experience of the synod, which mistook the Church’s ethical norms for the essential, when it is the kerygma that is essential.

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10 comments on “Catholicism can and must change, Francis forcefully tells Italian church gathering/In Florence, Francis Re-Boots Evangelii Gaudium

  1. Did you catch the bait and switch?

    “The difference between Christian transcendence and any form of gnostic spiritualism remains in the mystery of the incarnation. Not putting it in practice, not guiding the Word to reality, means building on sand, remaining in pure idea …”

    No, Holiness, we are to “guide” reality to the Word, not the other way around. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” (John 12:32), and “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you …”

    Reality is the Word, to be real is to come to Him, not the other way around.

  2. BREAKING: Francis reveals contents of upcoming Apostolic Exhortation

    Louie November 10, 2015 Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II

    Earlier today, Pope Francis delivered an address to the Convention of the Italian Church held at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

    Though he did not specifically mention by name the Synod on Marriage and Family, much less the anticipated Apostolic Exhortation that it allegedly inspired, Pope Francis did reveal, or perhaps more accurately said, he confirmed, his upcoming plan of attack aimed at removing and all obstacles that might stand between unrepentant public sinners (and eventually even non-Catholics) and the Most Holy Eucharist.

    On a number of occasions during the address, the humble Bishop of Rome drew from the treasury of faith belonging to his most cherished go-to source for theological insight; himself.

    Quoting from Evangelii Gaudium, for example, he said:

    The humanity of the Christian is always outward-looking. … Please, let us avoid ‘remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe.’

    Here, Francis is referring to article no. 49 of that wondrous well of wisdom some 53,000 words deep; the same of which Cardinal Burke once famously remarked, “It’s a distinct kind of document, and I haven’t quite figured out in my mind exactly how to describe it. But I would not think that it was intended to be part of papal magisterium. At least that’s my impression of it.”

    Reading this portion of Evangelii Gaudium now in hindsight, one discovers a hint, given all the way back in November of 2013, of Francis’ intent to open wide the doors of Holy Communion to all comers in the name of mercy.

    Let’s take a closer look:

    Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. (EG 49)

    One notices yet again the humbleness of he who cannot help but quote himself. In spite of being truly tragic, it’s actually somewhat hilarious.

    That said, the key statement to be found here, however, is this: to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ…

    How exactly does the Church offer the life of Christ to her children most profoundly?

    In the Most Holy Eucharist, of course.

    Francis continued:

    I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (ibid.)

    Though it is hardly necessary for most readers, please allow me to translate these statements relative to the “pastoral practices” currently in question (at least in the minds of the revolutionaries):

    I want the Church to relax her procedures with regard to Holy Communion. Let not your consciences be troubled when the civilly divorced and remarried, the cohabitating, active homosexuals and other unrepentant public sinners are called forth to receive the Most Holy Eucharist; rather, be troubled when they are excluded! These people are starving! Did not Jesus say, “Give them something to eat”? Therefore, I will take steps to open wide the doors to Holy Communion for all!

    During his address given today in Florence, Pope Francis hammered on this theme further by engaging in one of his favorite pastimes; belittling so-called “traditionalists” (aka Catholics) saying:

    The first [temptation to be avoided] is that of Pelagianism, which leads the Church not to be humble, selfless and blessed. … Often it leads us even to assuming a style of control, of hardness, normativity. Rules give to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. In this it finds its strength, not in the soft breath of the Spirit. Faced with the ills or the problems of the Church, it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of outdated forms and conduct that have no capacity for meaning, even culturally.

    Did you get that?

    “Forms,” like the Traditional Latin Mass, and “conduct,” like approaching Holy Communion only when properly disposed, are “outdated” and without meaning; never mind religious meaning, hell, they don’t even have cultural meaning!

    Now, pay very close attention to the words that he chose to speak as he continued:

    Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts and uncertainties, but it is living, it knows how to disturb and to encourage. Its face is not rigid, it has a body that moves and develops, it has tender flesh; Christian doctrine is called Jesus Christ.

    When have we heard such commentary before?

    Well, for one, about two months ago when Pope Francis (who loves him some Pope Francis) sent a video message to a gathering of theologians in Argentina wherein he said:

    Doctrine is not a closed system, with no dynamics that generate questions, doubts, queries. By contrast, the Christian doctrine has a face, has a body, has flesh, His name is Jesus Christ…

    Yes, that’s right, the hilarity continues – he’s quoting himself yet again!

    Of far more importance for those who may be so naïve as to think that the Kasperian Proposal died at the Synod, however, one should note that Pope Francis is not only quoting himself here, he is also quoting Cardinal Walter Kasper.

    In a sit down with the Italian daily Il Mattino, “mafia club” member Walter Kasper (street name, “the Ghost”) said of those cardinals who had voiced opposition to his radical proposals concerning Holy Communion for the civilly divorced and remarried:

    They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops. They want to crystallize the truth in certain formulas … the formulas of tradition. None of my brother cardinals has ever spoken with me. I, on the other hand, have spoken twice with the Holy Father. I arranged everything with him. He was in agreement.

    This interview was given in September of 2014. That’s right, over one year ago; in the tumultuous lead up to the Extraordinary Synod.

    So, you see, when Pope Francis parroted Walter Kasper in suggesting that Catholic doctrine is “not a closed system” in his address given earlier today in Florence, there can be no doubt whatsoever that he is speaking with the matters addressed at the recently concluded Synod, and more specifically, his upcoming Apostolic Exhortation, in mind.

    So, did Francis give us anything concrete that might be considered insight into the document’s contents?

    Yes, he gave us quite a bit, saying:

    But then, you will ask, what must we do? What is the Pope asking of us? It is up to you to decide: people and pastor together.

    There you have it, folks; the upcoming Apostolic Exhortation will state precisely what Eugenio Scalfari reported to be the words of the pope:

    … for that which regards the admission of the divorced to the Sacraments … this is the bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.

    In his Florence address, Francis went on to address his desire concerning the role of the bishops:

    I ask the bishops to be pastors. Nothing more: pastors. May this be your joy: ‘I am a pastor’. It will be the people, your flock, who support you. … May nothing and no-one remove from you the joy of being supported by your people. As pastors, do not be preachers of complex doctrines, but rather announcers of Christ, Who died and rose again for us. Focus on the essential, the kerygma. There is nothing more solid, profound and sure than this announcement. But may it be all the people of God who announce the Gospel, people and pastors.

    Francis wants pastors who not only smell like the sheep, but who rely upon the sheep for support! So much for reliance upon Jesus Christ; the Good Shepherd to whom they are configured in order to teach, sanctify and govern in His name and with His authority.

    Expanding upon his vision of a quasi-democratic church, Francis continued (quoting himself and his address to the theologians in Argentina once more):

    May the Church be a leaven for dialogue, encounter, unity. Indeed, our very formulations of faith are the fruit of dialogue and encounter between different cultures, communities and claims. We must not be afraid of dialogue; on the contrary, it is precisely comparison and criticism that helps us to preserve theology from being transformed into ideology.

    These are the words of a dyed-in-the-wool modernist. Period.

    He is telling the bishops to avoid preaching the doctrine of the Church as it has always been preserved and preached, but rather to enter into Almighty Dialogue with the sheep in order to fashion new “formulations of faith.”

    Lest one harbor even a shred of doubt that Jorge Bergoglio is fully committed to inflicting upon the entire Church the tenets of modernism, this “synthesis of all heresies” wherein its adherents show forth “the reforming mania which possesses them [such that] in all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten” (Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis), note that Francis even went so far as to say:

    I would like a restless Italian Church, ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect. I wish for a joyful Church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies and caresses. May you too dream of this Church, believe in her, innovate freely.

    Rest assured, my friends, on this note, Jorge Bergoglio intends to lead by example: He simply will not rest until he has done everything in his power (i.e., abusing it) to innovate whatever he can, however he damn well pleases.

    Someone has to stop this maniac, but sadly it would seem that we have reached the point in this terrible crisis when even the best of men in Rome have not the faith to stand up and challenge him.

    Know this: Our Lord loves us too much to allow this madness to continue. At some point, God only knows when, He will allow something truly terrible to take place that will bring the entire human family to its collective knees, so that we might turn our gaze toward Him and be saved.

    No doubt, it will be painful beyond comprehension, but perhaps there are those reading this now who will live long enough to see the results:

    The elevation of truly Holy Father who will do as Our Blessed Lady has asked, opening the way for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart at long last.

  3. The Protesting Pope

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    BY MATTHEW KARMEL ON NOVEMBER 10, 2015 AT 1P5 BLOG (This post originally appeared at The Radical Catholic.)

    In the 500 years since its inception, the Protestant revolt has evolved from the erroneous opinions of a single mad monk into a thousand-headed hydra of heresy, with each head snapping at the other almost as frequently as at the Catholic Church itself. Nonetheless, the many heads have remained joined at one common point – a point which Protestant theologians such as Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer desired to see writ large on the flag of modern Protestantism: Ecclesia semper reformanda est, i.e. “The Church is always to be reformed.”

    Today, speaking to bishops and faithful gathered in Florence, Pope Francis made this profoundly Protestant thesis his own, quoting it verbatim.
    As disturbing as that may be, it was not the most unsettling part of Pope Francis’ speech. That honor goes to his diatribe against what is becoming a major theme of his pontificate, i.e. the “Pelagianism” he sees as infecting the Church. National Catholic Register‘s Edward Pentin reports:

    Pelagianism, the Pope told faithful gathered in Florence cathedral, “prompts the Church not to be humble, selfless and blessed. And it does so with the appearance of being a good.” Such an approach, he added, “brings us confidence in structures, organizations, in perfect planning because it’s abstract.”

    But often “it leads us also to take a controlling, hard, regulatory style,” he said. “The law gives to the Pelagian security to feel superior, to have a precise orientation. This is its strength, not the light of the breath of the Spirit.”

    “In facing evils or the problems of the Church,” the Pope went on, “it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that aren’t even able to be culturally meaningful.”

    Of course, we’ve heard Pope Francis speak on the subject of Pelagianism before. In fact, his barbed quip “self-absorbed promethean neopelagians” – aimed squarely at faithful Catholics of the traditional sort – has become something of a defiant self-appellation among the same. And that Pope Francis frowns upon any effort to restore the time-honored traditions of the Church – including her ancient liturgy – is not exactly news. So, what’s so unsettling about this speech?

    A combination of context and historical precedent.

    It was none other than Martin Luther himself who leveled the charge of “Pelagianism” against the Catholic Church on the eve of his own revolution. In his monograph entitledAugustine of Hippo and Martin Luther on Original Sin and Justification of the Sinner, Jairzinho Lopes Pereira of the University of Helsinki explains (p. 312):
    Complaints against the Pelagian trend of theology of his own time is recurrent in young Luther. One of the most striking is found in Operationes in Psalmos(1519-1521). What is worse, he stressed in this work, is the fact that there was a new form of Pelagianism; the one he was fighting. It was worse than any other because it was not declared. It was Pelagianism disguised as an orthodox doctrine. The Reformer regarded Pelagianism as the most dangerous and pernicious of heresies (Inter omnes autem gladios imiorum maximum et nocentissimum meo iuditio merito pelagianam impietatem censebimus) and the source of all sorts of idolatries (hic error fons est universae idolatriae). Not surprisingly, he identified it with the very human tendency to state human righteousness (iustitia hominis) to the detriment of that of faith (iusitia fidei).

    Augustine, Luther pointed out, fought Pelagians as declared heretics. He himself was fighting the very same heretical trend in men protected by the Church, under the skin of orthodox theologians. So Pelagianism, Luther stressed, is a timeless threat to Christian faith. […] After Augustine’s death the heresy rose; it not only did not find opposition, but also was openly allowed to rule within the Roman Church and universities. Nothing can be more dangerous, yet it remained in the Church, Luther claimed (pelagianos error vere omnium saeculorum error est, saepius opressus quidem, sed nunquam extinctus).

    Sound familiar?

    As one brave priest noted, the once-rhetorical question, “Is the Pope a Catholic?” no longer provokes laughter. Perhaps it is time to replace it with a more pointed question: “Is the Pope a Protestant?”

  4. Hey, Jorge, who gives a plugged nickel what you think or want? It is Christ, Jesus, Our Lord, who spoke through the Gospel that we follow. Your continued use of the “I” word tells us exactly what your agenda is – it is borne of a hatred for Tradition and the inspirations of the Evil One. How dare you not follow the words of the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians when he said: “Hold fast to the traditions you have received from us whether by word or our epistle.” Are you putting yourself above St. Paul who received revelation direct from Our Lord and Savior on the road to Damascus? If so, may Almighty God have mercy on your soul.

  5. Jorge Bergoglio said: “But often “it leads us also to take a controlling, hard, regulatory style,” he said. “The law gives to the Pelagian security to feel superior, to have a precise orientation. This is its strength, not the light of the breath of the Spirit.”
    “In facing evils or the problems of the Church,” the Pope went on, “it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that aren’t even able to be culturally meaningful.”

    We all know Bergoglio isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree when it comes to theology. But, IMO, he’s not retarded either. (Although sometimes given his words and actions one has to wonder)

    Bergoglio is a devout worldly modernist.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, and I draw no pleasure in saying this, but IMO I think Bergoglio, through his words and actions, whether he’s cognizant of it or not is a minion of Hell!

    One thing is for certain, he is no follower of the de-fide teachings of Christ, nor of His Catholic Church!!

  6. “Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives — but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened,” said the pope.

    Why is this Pope sounding each day more and more like the leader of a Protestant sect such as the Episcopalians?

    The basic truths of the Faith are in fact CLOSED.
    They were closed when God finished giving major revelation and that was with the Apostles.
    Sure doctrine can be explained more and more fully and the Church has for 2000 years been clarifying doctrine and denouncing heretical interpretations of the truths of the Faith, but doctrine is not an open system as His Holiness would be suggesting. Neither he, nor Kasper, nor Kung, nor O’Brien , nor any one of the countless heretics running loose in toady’s Church can add one jot or tittle to the Doctrine revealed by God.

    Can someone please get this Pope to stop opening his mouth? Almost everything he says is either heterodox, or capable of half a dozen interpretations – none of which is traditional!

  7. Quote: “Why is this Pope sounding each day more and more like the leader of a Protestant sect such as the Episcopalians?”

    Maybe because progressive modernism is a similar heresy?

    How about this Bergogliospasm: “Pelagianism, he explained, “leads us even to assuming a style of control, of hardness” stressing that “Christian doctrine is not a closed system.”
    “Before the problems of the Church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally.”
    www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/869/pope-is-readying-catholic-church-for-the-change-of-an-era-

    So Catholic orthodoxy perhaps no longer has “the capacity of being significant culturally”? Who decides which aspects of Catholicism are obsolete and no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally?

    There is a Chinese box and Russian matryoshka doll aspect to Bergoglio’s progressive modernism and Situation Ethics. The further you dig the more of Catholic doctrine and orthodoxy disappears. When you get to the bottom an old crazy hippie priest from Argentina jumps out with a crazy grin. “I’m the Pope and I get to throw Catholicism away!”

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