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Last Word (maybe) on the Pope's Interview

I said this several days ago in a comment on the Caelum et Terra blog, and after a day or two decided that it's pretty much my considered opinion:

But really, I think we’re all, whatever our opinion of the remarks, making too much of them. They’re only remarks. As my wife said, he’s “sort of loosey-goosey when he talks”–he’s conversational, not a careful measurer of words, and more passionate than precise. As my wife also said, he has the style of a really good parish priest. Taken in that spirit, the interview is delightful and inspiring.

And that also applies to this new interview, which also contains some very good stuff and some eyebrow-raisers. Let's hope he has in mind some kind of distinction between evangelizing and proselytizing. 


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I have no idea what their exact definitions are, off the top of my head, but to me "evangelising" sounds positive and "proselytising" sounds negative.

That's just my gut reaction.

It's not just you, I think that's a generally accepted sense of the difference between the two. People who disapprove of evangelizing refer to it dismissively as proselytizing. What exactly did the pope mean? In the context, it's not clear, as he suggests that he doesn't want to convince the atheist to stop being an atheist.

In the letter from Pope Francis to that interviewer, which preceded this interview, Francis says this: "the Church is called to sow the leaven and the salt of the Gospel, and this is the love and mercy of God that reaches all men, pointing out the celestial and definitive goal of our destiny".

Is that evangelizing?

Sounds like it to me. Doesn't sound like proselytizing.

Just saw a link to this on Facebook. It includes this quote from a CDF document re "proselytizing":

"More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person."

I think I may have an insight into what is going on. I believe that Pope Francis is in fact intentionally chiding certain sectors of the Church for lack of charity in the promotion of their otherwise laudable cause, and for forgetting the priority of mercy, esp. toward those particularly in dire straights. I also think that the chiding is deserved in some, if not most cases, including in myself.

Those who think the chiding is long overdue are saying, "Yay! Yay! Listen to him!" Those who are among the groups being chastised (whether they individually deserve it or not) are saying, "But, but..."

However, as I learned the hard way as a father, it is not a good idea to chastise your children in public so as to humiliate them. It is much better to address defects in a more private, individual, personal manner.

The jabs in the Pope's casual remarks are indeed real jabs, and in many cases quite deserved. That they are being made for the world to see causes others who are less paternal to mock and deride.

I wonder whether the pope's actions are not a violation of the personalist norm. I think the purpose and intent is good; I think the method is counterproductive. If he wants us to focus on the positive message, he needs to stop writing in the way so as to call attention to the negative parts. It is a bit like a woman wearing revealing clothing and then saying "look at my face!" (I'm obviously writing as a guy.)

This is a provisional speculation on my part. I look forward to seeing where the huge holes are in my argument.

I can't do anything but speculate in response. It's clear that the chiding is being perceived, by both the "Yay, yay" and the "But, but" parties. But whether it's intentional or not I don't know. If it is intentional, it seems sort of snarky and not very papal.

I should point out that I'm not saying that a woman's "sexual values," as Pope John Paul II are her negative parts.

I just can't get anything right today; what I meant to say was "I should point out that I'm not saying that a woman's "sexual values," as Pope John Paul II calls them, are her negative parts."

Couldn't figure out what you meant at first, as I didn't take it that way. I just took it as an analogy for drawing attention to something and then complaining about the attention.

Those who think the chiding is long overdue are saying, "Yay! Yay! Listen to him!" Those who are among the groups being chastised (whether they individually deserve it or not) are saying, "But, but..."

I just try to take the remarks as generally as possible. My personal motto - something I strive for but don't always achieve - is "truth and love." One without the other is not helpful. Actually, love without truth isn't even love in most cases.

But the whole problem of talking about "not focussing on moral issues" is that that is the big heresy of our time. And because the people who hate Christ and His Church are attacking the whole thing, but especially the morals, it's hard not to look like you're only talking about morals, even if you say, 9 times out of 10, "God loves you."

As we observed elsewhere, the pope himself ran into this very problem where he gave an interview all about all the good things we believe and the media headlines were all about the gays and abortion. So if even he can't get the media to focus, we have no hope at all. Personally, I give up on such things and leave that side of it up to God. He is the one that does the converting anyhow.

I'm thinking I might just tune out now and not bother overmuch with reports of the Pope's speeches. I just loved Pope Benedict to bits (still do of course) but honestly, after the first few months of his papacy, I tended to spend less and less time reading about his remarks.

Also, when the proverbial hit the fan in our family a few years ago, I just lost all interest in so many things, and I discovered God walking even more closely with me day by day.

Somehow, the Church survived my lack of interest, which was very comforting. :D

I'm definitely going to cut back on reading what other people say about what the pope says. There is a lot of ugly and ignoble stuff going around, from traditionalists who are ready to declare him a heretic to social justice types who are eager to see the pope administer a good ass-kicking to politically conservative Catholics.

"the big heresy of our time." Yes, I think about that whole question a lot, and I think you're right. It's not necessarily the greatest evil in immediate terms--although one could argue that it is in at least some parts of the world. But it's more than just people behaving immorally, which they always have and always will do. It's an attack on the structures of morality, which is a lot more damaging.

Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the Bible and called it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.

Took out all the divinity parts, but kept the morals. How times change.

I think it was pretty common for 19th century post-protestant "freethinkers" to pride themselves on their moral uprightness, even contrasting themselves with those loose Catholics of France, Spain, and Italy. The self-righteousness is still there, but now it consists in having the approved political views.

Some interesting thoughts by John Allen at National Catholic Reporter:

Journalists who covered Bergoglio in Argentina report that he shunned the spotlight, and on those rare occasions when he did have to appear in public, he often came off as formal and, some would say, a bit boring. As pope, he's become a rock star. As archbishop and as president of the bishops' conference in Argentina, Bergoglio was careful and measured in his public declarations, while as pope he's letting it all hang out.

Back in April, I interviewed his sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio, and even she told me that something was different about her brother since he took over the church's top job.

Recently, I spoke to one of the cardinals who elected Francis (not an American, by the way), who had been received by the pope in a private audience. The cardinal told me he had said point-blank to Francis, "You're not the same guy I knew in Argentina."

According to this cardinal, the pope's reply was more or less the following: "When I was elected, a great sense of inner peace and freedom came over me, and it's never left me."

In other words, Francis had a sort of mystical experience upon his election to the papacy that's apparently freed him up to be far more spontaneous, candid and bold than at any previous point in his career.

That mystical experience is the one Pope Francis talks about in the interview in La Repubblica:

"...when the conclave elected me Pope. Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go way and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the 'Habemus Papam'."

If it is intentional, it seems sort of snarky and not very papal.

I can't help wondering if his reaction to "Are you having a go at me?" wouldn't be, "Oh, I meant myself. Whether it fits you is for you to decide."

Could be. For my part I think I'll just stop wondering about it. I really don't think every little word a pope says should get this kind of scrutiny.

That's fascinating, Marianne. This is going to be an interesting time, apparently. In a good way, I hope.

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