Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thoughts on Francis, Evangelii gaudium, and the New Evangelization

Getting tired of being asked "So, what do you think of Pope Francis' endorsing gay marriage?" and that sort of mis-characterization? The questions come as barbs from marginal catholics who do support such aberations, from marginal protestants who just enjoy taking a jab, and from serious seekers who are truly hurt and scandalized in their search for truth by such nonsense.

To the former, who are not sincerly seeking Truth, the reply can be simple; a "Where did you hear that?" or perhaps even better, a "So what?" which might lead to a deeper consideration (but that is doubtful). the smug delivery of the barb is hard to overcome where Truth is not welcome.  It is the latter ones that the reply does indeed stretch to a new evangelization; putting in Truth so that the Way leads to Life rather than death.

I won't point the finger entirely at the media, although this is their specialty, they don't have to work nearly as hard to spin things as they did with Benedict XVI, who rarely gave them an opening (remember the hypothetical question about condoms when he went to Africa that was trumpeted to the world as a change in fundamental moral teaching?). No, our dear Holy Father seems to have a way with words, to the continuous delight of the media!

So it is that the Holy Father is very interested in the New Evangelization; enough to write an Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium.  It is here that I am in complete agreement with him; that infused and enthused by the Love of God, our efforts to share that Love should overflow from God's abundance! "The world loves a lover" is nothing new, love draws to itself, because we are made for love.   Jesus said, "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." God's enemies in their turn love their vice and thus draw the weak away from grace.

In Evangelii gaudium we find:

35. Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing.

But we have to balance this with Leo XIII's Testem benevolentiae nostrae, better known as the condemnation of "Americanism":

The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. The Vatican Council says concerning this point: "For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them." —Constitutio de Fide Catholica, Chapter iv.

We cannot consider as altogether blameless the silence which purposely leads to the omission or neglect of some of the principles of Christian doctrine, for all the principles come from the same Author and Master, "the Only Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father."—John i, 18. They are adapted to all times and all nations, as is clearly seen from the words of our Lord to His apostles: "Going, therefore, teach all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world."—Matt. xxviii, 19. Concerning this point the Vatican Council says: "All those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed."—Const. de fide, Chapter iii.

Let it be far from anyone's mind to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down. Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ. There is nothing closer to our heart than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it, but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ.

So if we return to the work of Pope Francis in Evangelii gaudium:

39. Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed.

So in summary, I would say that The Way must include The Truth if it is to lead to The Life.

now, back to the reading... !

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