Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pope Francis had a reason for his jeremiad

Right after all those no-nos I’ve just presented, Francis offers a “Yes!” It’s very simple: “Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ.”  He means in community and he is speaking to those of us who are online right now.
... some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction.
He knows we are afraid. Yet he insists:
The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us.
To Francis, true faith “is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others” and “the revolution of tenderness.”

Most meaningful to me, in addition to the well-worn advice to see Jesus in others (difficult to follow often enough), is the little gem advising “to suffer in the embrace of the crucified Jesus whenever we are unjustly attacked or meet with ingratitude, never tiring of our decision to live in fraternity.” How much better than anger, rancor and bad blood! Just envision Jesus on the cross saying he knows how that feels.

OK, so here comes the surprise. In that last post I skipped over a bit before getting to what the newspapers reported about the document I am analyzing.

The headlined stuff wasn’t the first thing in this document in any case, but I didn’t think the critique of the world by a man whose position is in many ways removed from it would make sense without first laying out Francis’ internal critique of the Church and the noes that have to begin being said internally.

Most importantly, he said those newsy things in the context of the joys of the gospel and its news of new possibilities for human relationship.

So here are his noes for society at large:
  • No to an economy of exclusion
  • No to the new idolatry of money
  • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
  • No to the inequality which spawns violence
 Exclusion is meant in the sense of access to the essentials of life in dignity.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.
There is little that is new here to anyone with a cursory familiarity with the gospel or the last hundred years of papal social teaching.

Jorge Bergoglio knows something about walking the walk. After all, as a Jesuit he took vows of lifelong chastity, poverty and obedience. Those vows turn upside down the socially approved goals of sex, money and power.

Next: How Francis thinks of the Church ...

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