FIVE WAYS IN WHICH POPE FRANCIS HAS FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGED HOW WE SEE THE CHURCH
In his four plus years, Pope Francis has had a profound impact on the church. True, he has not changed the church’s position on birth control, celibacy, women priests and gay marriage, but he has fundamentally changed how we see the church in five ways as outlined by Fr. Thomas Reese.
(1) the pope has called for a new way of evangelizing. He tells us that the first words of evangelization must be about the compassion and mercy of God, rather than a list of dogmas and rules that must be accepted…. His message is the message of the Gospel – it is about the Father’s love for his people and their responsibility to love one another….
(2) Pope Francis is allowing open discussion and debate in the church. He is not scandalized by disagreements, even over doctrine. It is impossible to exaggerate how extraordinary this is. Only during Vatican II was such a debate possible…. During the last two papacies, dissent was roundly condemned and suppressed. The theologies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI could not be questioned…. Under Francis, synodal participants were encouraged by the pope to speak their minds boldly and not worry about disagreeing with him….One no longer hears of theologians being investigated and silenced. This is extremely important if theology is to develop and deal with contemporary issues in a way that is understandable by people of the 21st century.
(3) Cardinal Burke and the pope’s critics are right; the pope is presenting a new way of thinking about moral issues in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. He is moving the church away from an ethics based on rules to one based on discernment…. Under this approach to moral theology, it is possible to see holiness and grace in the lives of imperfect people, even those in irregular marriages. Rather than seeing the world as divided between the good and the bad, we are all seen as wounded sinners for whom the church serves as a field hospital where the Eucharist is food for the wounded rather than a reward for the perfect….
(4) the pope has raised environmental issues to a central place in the Catholic faith. He recognizes that global warming may be the most important moral issue of the 21st century. In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, the pope tells us that ‘Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience….’
(5) the pope has moved to reform the governance structures of the church. True, reform of the Roman Curia has proceeded slowly, but it is happening….More importantly, he is trying to change the culture of the clergy, moving them away from clericalism to a vocation of service. He wants bishops and priests to see themselves as servants of the people of God, not princes. Most important for the protection of his legacy, he has broken with tradition and seized control of the process for appointing cardinals….He has reached into the college of bishops for cardinals that reflect his priorities and values. This increases the chances that his successor, elected by these cardinals, will continue his agenda and not roll back the changes that he has made.”
SUPPORT POPE FRANCIS
While the Holy Father may not be moving as quickly as some of us would want, let us take pride in what Francis has accomplished. When he comes under attack, we have chosen to offer him our support. Go now to www.WeSupportPopeFrancis.net to sign two letters in support of Pope Francis: the first “Pro Pope Francis,” begun in Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czechoslovakia and the second “Pro Pope Francis,” begun in Spain. Pope Francis has gained the love and respect of so many – both Christians and non-Christians around the world.He has reached out across international and ecumenical borders. He has encouraged young people to “make some noise” and has urged all of us to “bother our pastors.” He has said to the LGBT community: “Who am I to judge?” He has envisioned the governance of the Church as an upside down pyramid with the people at the top. He has created a Dicastery for the laity opening the way for the Faithful to have a greater role in the Church.He is seriously opening thee possibility of married clergy.
GRATEFUL FOR YOUR ONGOING SUPPORT
We are grateful for your continued support and are fully aware that, unless we the People speak out, reform of our Church will never happen. As you consider making an end-of-the-year donation, we would appreciate any support you may offer. CCRI is fully committed to these series of Forums of the People of God and all contributions we receive this year will go toward this cause.
As we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new, let us continue to pull together to work for the reform of our Church. While it may seem that Pope Francis is moving slowly, he is clearly advancing the Church purposefully toward a more welcoming, inclusive, and merciful Communion of us all. Although there are members of the hierarchy who speak out against him accusing him of heresy, all the more reason that he needs our ongoing support and why we appreciate your personal and financial support in our ongoing work to bring about reform in our Church. As our Jesuit adviser, Gaston Roberge, reminds us: “Alone, the pope cannot change the Church. A pope for the people needs a people for the Pope.” Much is happening in 2018 to bring about needed renewal in our Church.
Wishing you every blessing for this New Year,