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Pope Francis' 'Mess'
National Review ^ | 8/1/2013 | Raymond Arroyo

Posted on 08/04/2013 5:24:23 AM PDT by Servant of the Cross

Engaging with the secular world has risks — but the potential for real rewards

Pope Francis has lost none of his ability to surprise. On his seven-day journey to Rio he eschewed traditional security protocols (which allowed a crowd to mob his traffic-trapped mini-Popemobile), wandered into Rio’s slums, accepted drinks from strangers on the street, and just for the fun of it added a meeting with young people to an already packed schedule. At the impromptu July 25 meeting, in the Cathedral of San Sebastian, Francis delivered off-the-cuff remarks that capture not only his wish for the young, but the essence of his papal approach.

“What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day?” Francis said. “I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! . . . I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Francis’s papal style is so different from the piercing intelligence of Benedict XVI or the philosophical theatricality of John Paul II that it is almost jarring. The new pope is at once blunt and simple — much like those receiving his message. And the “mess” that Francis has encouraged, the unpredictable “mess” that he has incorporated into his papacy, only makes him more attractive to people in and outside of the pews. A non-Catholic woman who had heard me comment on the pope weeks earlier stopped me at the gym the other day. “I like this pope,” she said. “I’m not one for organized religion, but I believe this Pope Francis lives what he says.”

Truth be told, so did the last two popes. I knew them personally, and I can vouch for that. But the fact is, people perceive that Francis is somehow more authentic because he has made it a point to publicly underscore his message in both word and deed. He has himself become the message.

Kissing babies, shaking hands from the back of a Fiat, sharing gestures of friendship with the poor and disabled — all are meant to convey an openness to people on their own terms. Pope Francis is urging his Church and all her members to go out and reach individuals in their needs. He told his bishops as much in Rio: “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!” Francis said. “It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away . . . go and look for them in the nooks and crannies of the streets. . . .”

During his return flight to Italy, Pope Francis engaged with those “farthest away” (at least in terms of access): the media. Venturing into the back of the papal plane, he convened a spontaneous press conference, fielding questions from reporters on board for 80 minutes.

After speaking of mercy and Christ’s forgiveness toward the repentant, the pope took a question about the “gay lobby” at the Vatican. Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service reports: Pope Francis said it was important to “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby. A gay lobby isn’t good.”

“A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?” the pope went on. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.”

In the aftermath of the in-flight presser, the Huffington Post raved, “Breakthrough: Pope Okay with Gays.” The pope, indeed the Church, has always been “okay” with all sinners (just check out the membership). That does not mean that the Church approves the actions of all her members, straight or gay. Despite the media reports, the pope is in no way altering Church teaching. He is merely quoting the Catechism and, in his laid-back manner, affirming the long-held teaching of the Catholic Church. Having read several transcripts of his comments in context, I think the pope is saying that once a gay person repents and “is seeking God,” presumably in chastity, he is not to be judged or marginalized. How this could be misconstrued as an innovation or a “breakthrough” is bewildering. Though it is a tonal shift, to be sure.

The entire episode reminds us that papal handlers do have their place. As cumbersome as they are, and as much as they distance the pontiff from his people, handlers can protect the pope from this sort of misinterpretation. Vigorous off-the-cuff expressions have their place, but so do unambiguous, vetted statements — especially when dealing with a media unversed in Church teaching.

Pope Francis in the aftermath of World Youth Day may have gotten the “mess” he desired. Such is the cost of a full-throttled engagement with a secular culture. But as long as people are talking, as long as Francis maintains the spotlight on the saving message he is trying to impart, perhaps his “mess” is worth it — and even beneficial.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Current Events; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: popefrancis
Raymond Arroyo, news director of EWTN, puts some perspective and context to Pope Francis' recent spontaneous press conference.
1 posted on 08/04/2013 5:24:24 AM PDT by Servant of the Cross
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To: Salvation; NYer

ping


2 posted on 08/04/2013 5:24:45 AM PDT by Servant of the Cross (the Truth will set you free)
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To: Servant of the Cross
"... I believe this Pope Francis lives what he says.”

Truth be told, so did the last two popes. I knew them personally, and I can vouch for that.

I think that Pope Francis's way of living what he believes seems more accessible to "the man on the street." If a person believes that makes Pope Francis more sincere than Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul, or Pope Pius X, that's a poor understanding ... but weak understanding is one of the characteristics of our time.

3 posted on 08/04/2013 5:31:05 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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To: Tax-chick
... but weak understanding is one of the characteristics of our time.

Yep. I blame government schools. And unfortunately, you must reach 'the man on the street' where he is.

4 posted on 08/04/2013 5:36:49 AM PDT by Servant of the Cross (the Truth will set you free)
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To: Servant of the Cross

In much of the world, access even to government schools is difficult. Iirc, basic literacy is declining overall.

Pope Francis, in my opinion, is trying to reach simple people in their simplicity, with obvious, ground-level expressions of divine and human love.

“The harvest is plentiful,” as the Lord said, and it’s reasonable to believe that the fruit of this type of evangelism will be more abundant than an emphasis on persuading the self-proclaimed elites whose minds are clouded by their attachment to sin.


5 posted on 08/04/2013 5:41:54 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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To: Tax-chick

He has to be more careful how he puts things. It should have been no surprise that the “Who am I to judge” comment would immediately be misinterpreted and cause confusion among all but those Catholics who have the best understanding of their faith; and those aren’t the ones he needs to reach most.


6 posted on 08/04/2013 5:54:23 AM PDT by GOP_Party_Animal
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To: GOP_Party_Animal
He has to be more careful how he puts things.

A lot of people say that, including Mr. Arroyo in this article. However, I don't think planning everything around the response of the worst-intentioned audience is really necessary or apostolic.

Not that Pope Francis asked me, anyway ...

7 posted on 08/04/2013 6:16:10 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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To: GOP_Party_Animal; Tax-chick

No matter what he says, they’ll find a way of twisting it to suit. Even if he said nothing at all then they’d say “Pope refuses to answer questions...what is he hiding?”


8 posted on 08/04/2013 7:23:39 AM PDT by livius
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To: livius

Exactly.


9 posted on 08/04/2013 7:26:48 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Ask me about the Weiner Wager. Support Free Republic!)
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