Some of the heartening things Pope Francis has said

Sandro Magister has an interesting piece on Pope Francis’ honeymoon with the media.  He lists a number of otherwise controversial remarks that were largely met with discreet silence.   Here’s his list:

It is a popularity that acts as a screen for the other more inconvenient things that he does not neglect to say – for example, his frequent references to the devil – and that if said by others would unleash criticism, while for him they are forgiven.

In effect, the media have so far covered up with indulgent silence not only the references of the current pope to the devil, but also a whole series of other pronouncements on points of doctrine as controversial as they are essential.

On April 12, for example, speaking to the pontifical biblical commission, Pope Francis reiterated that “the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be solely an individual scholarly effort, but must always be compared with, inserted within, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church.” And therefore “this entails the insufficiency of any interpretation that is subjective or simply limited to an analysis incapable of accommodating within itself that overarching sense which over the course of the centuries has constituted the tradition of the whole people of God.”

This salvo of the pope against the forms of exegesis prevalent also in the Catholic camp went practically unnoticed, amid the general silence of the media.

On April 19, in his morning homily, he lashed out against the “great ideologists” who want to interpret Jesus in a purely human vein. He called them “intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And of beauty we will not speak, because they do not understand anything.”

In this case as well, silence.

On April 22, in another morning homily, he said forcefully that Jesus is “the only gate” for entering into the Kingdom of God and “all the other paths are deceptive, they are not true, they are false.”

With this he therefore reiterated that indispensable truth of the Catholic faith which recognizes in Jesus Christ the only savior of all. But when in August of 2000 John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published precisely on this the declaration “Dominus Iesus,” they were bitterly contested from inside and outside of the Church. While now that Pope Francis has said the same thing, everybody quiet.

On April 23, the feast of St. George, in the homily of the Mass with the cardinals in the Pauline Chapel, he said that “the Christian identity is a belonging to the Church, because to find Jesus outside of the Church is not possible.”

And this time as well, silence. And yet the thesis according to which “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus,” which he has reaffirmed, is almost always a herald of polemics. . .

 

I am loving Pope Francis’ homilies and am especially heartened by his talk of the devil, of Jesus as the only gate and so on.

 

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13 Responses to Some of the heartening things Pope Francis has said

  1. I hear that the Pope Emeritus Benedict is coming back to live in the Vatican! Now here was the RCC’s most premier Christian theologian in my life time at least! Btw, he too knew the devil was very real! However, I am not sure about the theological exclusivity of Christ as Lord & Savior? Noting the statement in Vatican II (the pastoral of the GS… Gaudium et spes) about the possible salvation of those who live and stay in other non-Christian so-called religions! Btw, I would somewhat not place conservative Judaism here, at least fully so. (Note, Rom. 9: 4-5 / Rev. 1: 7)

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Fr. Robert,

      You wrote: However, I am not sure about the theological exclusivity of Christ as Lord & Savior? Noting the statement in Vatican II (the pastoral of the GS… Gaudium et spes) about the possible salvation of those who live and stay in other non-Christian so-called religions!

      There is no doubt that forgiveness of sin, and thus salvation, comes only through the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. This is, and has always been, the clear teaching of the Catholic Church, and indeed, the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed don’t admit any other possibility. As to the person of Cardinal Joseph Ratziner/Pope Benedict XVI, look at the documents formulated under his direction such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification promulgated by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on 31 October 1999.

      Norm.

      • @Norm: Yes, I actually have both of these (the CCC), and the Joint Declaration On Justification, my copy is the 1997 (Final Proposal). I am Lutheran friendly myself, and have guest preached at several different Lutheran Churches over the years. But of course there are good and not so good Lutheran Churches!

        And I have been reading Ratzinger for many years myself (back to the early 90s). He is without doubt something of an Augustinian Catholic-Christian and theologian. See too Scott Hahn’s book: Covenant and Communion, The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, (2009, Brazos Press), a must read for Ratzinger fans! But, again, I don’t see the biblical and theological expressions for much of the issues in the pastoral of the Gaudium et spes in Vat. II, especially the idea that one can be in good standing in a non-Christian religion, and find salvation at the end, without faith in Christ most specifically!

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Fr. Robert,

        You wrote: But, again, I don’t see the biblical and theological expressions for much of the issues in the pastoral of the Gaudium et spes in Vat. II, especially the idea that one can be in good standing in a non-Christian religion, and find salvation at the end, without faith in Christ most specifically!

        We never know, on this side of glory, what happens in a person’s dying moment. Some — indeed, those who have a deep desire to know the Truth even if not presented it in a manner that would have permitted them to recognize it — may well see the beatific vision and embrace our Lord in that moment when they no longer have ability or opportunity to communicate the fact to us. The Christian scriptures certainly do not rule out such possibilities.

        But in any case, there is no doubt that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that all who share the eternal reward of heaven are there precisely because Jesus died, and rose, for their salvation.

        Norm.

      • Sorry Norm, to me this is most certainly begging the question and issue of the GS from Vat. II, at least on this issue! But of course I am a Reformed Christian and neo-Calvinist on soteriology (salvation). Again, we are back to what is the Gospel? And this is always problematic for the GS!

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  3. Btw, not so much on these “threads”, but the question of the authority and depth of Vatican II, and most especially the pastoral of Gaudium et spes, is quite alive today is certain Catholic theolog’s! I won’t press it here, but I don’t see certain Roman Catholics addressing it? But even our friend “Ioannes” is aware here!

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Fr. Robert,

      Okay, here goes.

      >> An ecumenical council can establish doctrine to be “infallible” only in a type of document called a “dogmatic constitution.” The only documents of this type promulgated by the Second Vatican Council are Lumen gentium on the church and Dei verbum on divine revelation. One can debate from now until doomsday whether either of these documents really says anything novel or simply state explicitly what one could have deduced from prior documents, but they are intrinsically “infallible” in their entirity in any case. The pastoral constitutions Sacrosantum concillium and Gaudium et spes address primarily matters of discipline and pastoral action rather than doctrine, and thus by their nature do not bear the council’s stamp of infallibility.

      >> The various other “declarations” and “decrees” are not intrinsically “infallible” by their very nature, but they are significant in so far as they express the “mind of the council” regarding what’s said in the two dogmatic constitutions and thus provide the council’s guidance for proper understanding thereof. Thus, for example, what’s said about non-Catholic Christians in Lumen gentium must be understood in a manner consistent with the decree Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism in case of any ambiguity or doubt. With respect to matters of discipline, the “declarations” and “decress” generally are best understood as expressing the policy or intended direction of the magisterium, subject to amendment in response to changes in the respective situations.

      I hope that this is clear!

      Norm.

    • @Norm: Thanks, but I have read the “Lumen gentium” and the Dei verbum” too! And the whole of the Vatican II Council is a “Pastoral” Council in itself! In fact what you have shown is that the Council is not what is supposed to be, i.e. the authority and teaching of the Apostolic Church Catholic, if it is not a sacrosanct in itself! But then, the RCC has not really sought to define this fully either, thus the constant problems with Vat. II! > Sadly everyone seems to have “their” interpretation of it! But then really, how are Catholics to define so much of it? Even R. Catholic theologians don’t agree here!

      *And btw, one of the big myths, is that the pastoral (discipline, etc.), is somehow separate or lower than the doctrinal! (see, 1 Cor. 5 / Acts 15) In the end, and especially now, it is the Word of God that is our lasting and final authority, (2 Tim. 3: 16, etc.).

      • So no, hardly “clear”!

      • Stephen K says:

        Father Robert, I can’t help feeling there’s some discussion here at cross-purposes between yourself and Norm, or, if not, that there is a way of cutting the Gordian knot that any talk of ‘extra ecclesiam’ and ‘infallibility always seems to raise.

        Let us start with Deborah’s initial references to things Pope Francis has been saying (I’ve seen a you-tube of one of them): e.g. that it’s not possible to find Jesus outside the church, or not belonging to the church, and so on. Now I’m sure that Pope Francis is not about thinking that Jesus is dispensable in the economy of salvation, or that the Roman Catholic Church is not all about working at the Pentecostal schema of grace, so this is the sort of thing you might expect. But what is he trying to emphasise here? At one point in one oration speaking to cardinals he appears to identify the church as hierarchical. How appropriate is that for the hierarchs listening to him! I wonder if Pope Francis was not simply trying, like Paul, to be the pastor to all groups within the church; i.e. trying to affirm his brother-leaders, making them feel their original vocation is still valued. (I saw the faces of some of them – some seemed glum, or sober, anxious, at any rate, to my mind, serious. Perhaps they are tired, besieged, apprehensive). Is Pope Francis trying to reclaim some kind of narrow pre-GS soteriological jurisdiction? I don’t think anything so far, not even these particular references, suggest that, or at least, need not suggest it. Therefore, perhaps the media is silent because it is waiting for him to be less ambiguous: maybe they’re learning that restraint might lead to a better story in the end!

        And that when he speaks of needing to be in the Church he is saying you need to be in the Roman Catholic Church is not at all certain. On the contrary, he said it was not about having “an identity card”! He may indeed have a larger idea of the Church in these contexts, that is, the church that is the Spirit and grace working, that the Roman Catholic church can and may manifest, and in other places.

        This brings us to GS, because this sort of image and vision of the Church is articulated in it in places. I think of Chapter 22: “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. …..We ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”

        The Council did not say everyone would “hasten to the resurrection” but that everyone – and that includes the vast majority who either never heard or never understood or never experienced the Gospel as a Christian – may be joined in the church, for what is the church except the paschal mystery in people’s lives?

        For this reason, Father Robert, I do not think it is ultimately useful – indeed I think it is a sterile exercise, spiritually speaking – to play off GS against LG or even a Mirari Vos on grounds of magisterial character. Dogma-shmogma. Rather, what is the essence that is trying to be articulated? There may several. But one surely is that none of us ever encounter or experience or meet the idea or spiritual reality of Jesus, incarnation, redemption except by others and that means Pope Francis is saying nothing more simple or more worth-while remembering than that.

      • Stephen K says:

        To clarify my last sentence, I was trying to say I think Pope Francis should be understood as saying something that is simple (i.e. not tangled or hard to understand) and something that is worthwhile remembering (i.e. not a cliche or more of the same.)

  4. @Stephen: Thanks to write, but I must confess that your post has said little, again biblically & theologically to the points I have brought forth (as too other Roman Catholic theolog’s, though of course I am no longer Roman Catholic, for many years now), as to the Pastoral of Vatican II itself! Again, note the Pastoral but always the theological nature of Vat. II, fully!

    Btw, I am not a fan of Pope Francis myself! Though as I have written several times, I am of old Benedict-Ratzinger to degree, the/a Roman Catholic theologian himself (in our time)! And here I just don’t see “Francis” much at all, i.e. as a theologian.

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