ROME — Why has Pope Francis given so many interviews after having initially said he preferred not to give them? In this March 7 interview with the Register, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro helps to shed light on what events in August 2013 led to the Holy Father giving his first major interview to La Civilta Cattolica, which Father Spadaro edits, and the Pope’s decision to give subsequent interviews.
Father Spadaro also explains how his new book, My Door Is Always Open, should help readers to understand better the Pope’s words and his Jesuitical approach. The volume is the complete set of interviews between Pope Francis and Father Spadaro and is being billed as the “most convincing and persuasive guide” to Pope Francis’ vision. This interview took place at the launch of the English translation of the book at the British Embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
How much is there in this book that we haven’t read in the interview he gave you last year?
There is much more, because it’s not just the words I transcribed for La Civilta Catolica and [syndicated to] other Jesuit magazines; there are more words that I have published with his permission, of course. He reviewed the text again.
Sometimes, it’s very hard for a magazine to publish very long interviews, and we spoke in a “Jesuit language,” so I couldn’t transcribe everything he said because I would have had to explain too many things. For such an interview, published in a magazine, I could only select some things. In this book, I publish the entire dialogue, so it’s an expanded version. I also add all of what we said and what happened, as well as an extended commentary, because I realized there were some points where a commentary was necessary for understanding better what he meant.
What new things in the book strike you as the most interesting?
Well, Pope Francis’ way of making decisions, because it’s very Jesuitical. He speaks in a very Jesuitical language, so we have to explain it. He doesn’t make decisions balancing reasons. He makes decisions by discernment, so praying and trying to feel the Spirit, trying to be inspired, balancing the emotions of the spirit, not reason or logic. It’s a completely different way of proceeding, a different way of thinking. So I explain what this means in the book.
Does this perhaps explain why, initially, he said he never gave interviews, but now he has given six?
That was a surprise for me.
Does it have to do with this discernment process?
Exactly. When I asked him for an interview, he initially said “No.” I explain this very well in this book. Then he stared at me, took his time and said: “Well, I can do that. You can write down some questions, and I can give you answers by sending you a letter.” So we decided to get together; we got together in Rio during World Youth Day, and I gave him the questions in the morning. I still remember that morning, after Mass. Then after Rio, he called me on the phone again, saying: “I read your questions, and I realize it would be much better if we talked. So come over here, and let’s talk.” So it was a discernment, it was a process, and I felt the process. That was amazing.
What do you say to critics who say these interviews that he is giving are really just causing confusion and easily get misinterpreted, like the latest one he gave to Corriere della Sera and the issue of civil unions? Should he take more time and write his answers down instead?
Well, he was very open, and at some point, I even felt scared because I realized how open he was. So I tried to be very loyal to what he said, and I asked him to read everything carefully, change whatever he liked, and so on. At that point, he said: “No, we have to do that together.” And in writing the book, I try also to explain his way of thinking, because it’s not the same way of thinking that we’re used to seeing. So it’s very important, in order to understand well what he said, to read also what he says and what I write in this book; and also the commentary I write, where I try to explain the context.
What is your own personal opinion about these interviews?
It depends. I’m a journalist, so I can’t judge other journalists. I think we have to be very careful in understanding his words. I just read the last interview he gave to Corriere della Sera, and I can say it was very well done: I recognized his voice.
Do you have plans to do more interviews with him?
I don’t think so, but what happened — and I put this in the book — is that he called me after some months, asking me to be present for his conversation with the general superiors of male religious [in November]. It was very interesting, because he said: “Actually, I don’t want to give talks; I want to listen, to just talk with them, hear questions and give answers. So can you come over and take notes?” I said, yes, of course. I was there for three hours, and it was amazing. So I gave him my transcript, and we revised everything; we talked over the phone. We revised the text, and, for him, it was okay. He just asked for a footnote in a book, and so, in a sense, it was another interview. In this book, we published the complete version in English of this interview, this conversation.
Could this happen again?
I’ve no idea; I cannot say.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
ZENIT publishes below the first English translation of Pope Francis’ interview with Ferruccio de Bortoli that appeared today in Corriere della Sera. The text has been published by kind permission of the newspaper’s director.
“In an Interview with Corriere della Sera, Bergoglio Talks About His Revolutionary First Year at the Head of the Church”
“The Truth is that I Do Not Feel Nostalgia for Argentina”
By Ferruccio de Bortoli
One year has gone by since that simple “good evening” that moved the world. The lapse of 12 very intense months is not able to contain the great mass of Francis’ novelties and profound signs of pastoral innovation. We are in a small room in Saint Martha’s. The only window looks out onto a courtyard that opens a miniscule angle of blue sky. The Pope appears suddenly through a door, with a relaxed and smiling face. He is amused by the various recording devices that the senile anxiety of the journalist placed on the table. “Do they all work? Yes? Thank goodness.” The assessment of this year? No, he doesn’t like assessments. “I only do an assessment every 15 days, with my confessor.”
Holy Father, every now and then you call on the telephone those who ask you for help. And sometimes, do they not believe it’s you?
Holy Father: Yes, it’s happened to me. When someone calls it’s because he wants to talk, has a question to ask, advice to request. When I was a priest in Buenos Aires it was easier. And I have kept that custom. It’s a service, it is expressed like that. But it’s true that now it’s not so easy to do, given the quantity of people who write to me.
Do you remember any one of those contacts with particular affection?
Holy Father: An 80-year-old widow who had lost her son wrote to me. And now I give her a call once a month. She is delighted. I do the [role of a] priest. I like it.
In regard to your relations with your predecessor, Benedict XVI, have you ever asked him for advice?
Holy Father: Yes, the Pope Emeritus isn’t a museum statue. It’s an institution we’re not used to. Sixty or seventy years ago, the figure of the Bishop Emeritus didn’t exist. That came after Vatican Council II and now it’s an institution. The same has to happen with the Pope Emeritus. Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others. We don’t know that. He is discreet, humble, he doesn’t want to bother. We spoke about it and together we came to the conclusion that it would be better if he saw people, that he come out and participate in the life of the Church. Once he came here on the occasion of the blessing of the statue of Saint Michael the Archangel, then for a lunch in Saint Martha’s and, after Christmas, I returned the invitation to participate in the Consistory and he accepted. His wisdom is a gift of God. Some would have liked him to retire to a Benedictine Abbey far from the Vatican. And then I thought of grandparents, who with their wisdom and advice give strength to the family and do not deserve to end in a retirement home.
We think that your way of governing the Church is like this: you listen to everyone and then you decide alone – somewhat like the Father General of the Jesuits. Is the Pope a man who is alone?
Holy Father: Yes and no, but I understand what you wish to say to me. The Pope is not alone in his work because he is supported by the advice of many. And he would be a man alone if he decided not to listen to anyone or to pretend that he listened. However, there is a moment when one must decide, when one must sign, in which he remains alone with his sense of responsibility.
You have innovated, criticized some attitudes of the clergy. You have revolutionized the Curia, with some resistance and opposition. Has the Church already changed as you wished a year ago?
Holy Father: Last March I had no plan to change the Church. I was not expecting, let’s put it this way, this transfer of diocese. I began to govern, trying to put into practice everything that had emerged in the debate among the Cardinals of the different Congregations. And in my actions I hope to count on the Lord’s inspiration. I’ll give you an example: there has been talk of the spiritual situation of people who work in the Curia, and then they started to make spiritual retreats. More importance should be given to annual Spiritual Exercises. All have a right to spend five days in silence and meditation, whereas before in the Curia they listened to three homilies a day and then some continued working.
Are tenderness and mercy the essence of your pastoral message?
Holy Father: And of the Gospel. They are the heart of the Gospel. Otherwise, one doesn’t understand Jesus Christ, or the tenderness of the Father who sends Him to listen to us, to cure us, to save us.
But was this message understood? You said that the “Francis mania” wouldn’t last long. Is there something of your public image that you don’t like?
Holy Father: I like to be among the people, with those who suffer, and to go to the parishes. I don’t like ideological interpretations, a certain mythology of Pope Francis. When it is said, for instance, that I go out from the Vatican at night to feed beggars on Via Ottaviano – I would never even think of it. Sigmund Freud said, if I’m not mistaken, that in all idealization there is an aggression. To paint the Pope as if he is a sort of Superman, a sort of star, I find offensive. The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps peacefully and has friends like everyone else. He is a normal person.
Do you have nostalgia for your Argentina?
Holy Father: The truth is that I have no nostalgia. I would go to visit my sister, who is sick, the last of five of us. I’d love to see her, but this does not justify a trip to Argentina: to call by phone, that is enough. I do not think I’ll go before 2016, because I have already been to Latin America, to Rio. Now I have to go to the Holy Land, to Asia, and then to Africa.
You have just renewed your Argentine passport. You are still a head of state.
Holy Father: I renewed it because it had expired.
Were you annoyed that they accused you of being Marxist, especially in the United States, after the publication of “Evangelii Gaudium”?
Holy Father: Not at all. I never shared the Marxist ideology because it’s false, but I knew many good persons who professed Marxism.
The scandals that perturbed the life of the Church fortunately are now in the past. On the delicate topic of the abuse of minors, philosophers Besancon and Scruton among others, asked you to raise your voice against fanaticism and the bad faith of the secularized world that doesn’t respect childhood much.
Holy Father: I wish to say two things. The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way. And, following that way, the Church advanced a lot, perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.
You say that “the poor evangelize us.” The attention given to poverty, the strongest mark of your message, is taken by some observers as a profession of pauperism. The Gospel doesn’t condemn wealth. And Zacchaeus was rich and charitable.
Holy Father: The Gospel condemns the worship of wealth. Pauperism is one of the critical interpretations. In the Medieval Age there were many pauperist currents. St. Francis [of Assisi] had the genius of placing the subject of poverty in the evangelical journey. Jesus says that one cannot serve two masters, God and money. And when we are judged at the end of time (Matthew, 25), we will be asked about our closeness to poverty. Poverty removes us from idolatry and opens the doors to Providence. Zacchaeus gives half of his wealth to the poor. And those whose barns are full of their own egoism, the Lord, at the end, will call to account. I think I expressed well my thought on poverty in “Evangelii Gaudium.”
You identify in globalization, especially financial, some of the evils that humanity suffers. However, globalization brought millions of people out of poverty. It brought hope, a rare sentiment that must not be confused with optimism.
Holy Father: It’s true, globalization saved many people from misery, but it condemned many others to die of hunger, because with this economic system it becomes selective. The globalization that the Church thinks of does not look like a sphere in which every point is equidistant from the center and in which, therefore, the particularity of peoples is lost. It is, rather, a polyhedron, with its different facets, in which each nation keeps its own culture, language, religion, identity. The present “spherical” economic globalization, especially the financial, produces one thought, a weak thought. And the human person is no longer at its center but only money.
The subject of the family is central for the activity of the Council of Eight Cardinals. Since John Paul II’s Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio”, many things have changed. Great novelties are expected. And you said that divorced persons must not be condemned – that they must be helped.
Holy Father: It is a long path that the Church must complete, a process that the Lord wants. Three months after my election, I was submitted the topics for the Synod, and we decided to discuss what Jesus’ contribution is to contemporary man. However, at the end – which for me is a sign of the will of God — we decided to discuss the family, which is going through a very serious crisis. It’s difficult to form a family. Young people no longer get married. There are many separated families, whose common life plan failed. The children suffer a lot. And we have to give an answer. However, we have to reflect a lot on this, and in depth. This is what the Consistory and the Synod are doing. We must avoid staying on the surface of the topic. The temptation to resolve each problem with casuistry is an error, a simplification of profound things. It’s what the Pharisees did: a very superficial theology. And it is in the light of this profound reflection that particular situations will be able to be addressed seriously, also that of the divorced.
Why did Cardinal Walter Kasper’s report in the last Consistory (an abyss between the doctrine on marriage and the family and the real life of many Christians) generate so much division among the Cardinals? Do you think that the Church will be able to go through these two years of toilsome journey to come to a broad and serene consensus?
Holy Father: Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation, which will soon be published in German, in which he addresses five points, the fifth of which is that of second marriages. I would have been more worried if there hadn’t been an intense discussion in the Consistory, because it would have been useless. The Cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented different points of view, which are always enriching. Open and fraternal debate makes theological and pastoral thought grow. That doesn’t frighten me. What’s more, I look for it.
In the recent past, it was customary to refer to “non-negotiable values,” especially on questions of bioethics and sexual morality. You haven’t used that formula. Is that choice a sign of a less prescriptive style, more respectful of individual conscience?
Holy Father: I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”
Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.
How will the role of women be promoted within the Church?
Holy Father: Casuistry doesn’t help in this case either. It’s true that women can and must be more present in decision-making posts of the Church. But I would call this a promotion of a functional type. And with that alone, one doesn’t advance much. Rather, we must think that the Church has the feminine article, “la”: it is feminine by origin. Theologian Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this topic: the Marian principle guides the Church by the hand of the Petrine principle. The Virgin is more important than any Bishop and any of the Apostles. The theological reflection is already underway. Cardinal [Stanislaw] Rylko [president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity], together with the Council of the Laity, is working in this direction with many expert women.
Half a century after Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” can the Church take up again the topic of birth control? Your confrere, Cardinal [Carlo Maria] Martini [the late Archbishop of Milan] believed it was now time.
Holy Father: It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae”is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod.
Science evolves and redraws the ends of life. Does it make sense to prolong life in a vegetative state?
Holy Father: I’m not a specialist on bioethical arguments, and I’m afraid of being mistaken in my words. The Church’s traditional doctrine states that no one is obliged to use extraordinary methods when someone is in his terminal phase. Pastorally, in these cases I have always advised palliative care. On more specific cases, should it be necessary, it’s appropriate to seek the advice of specialists.
Will your trip to the Holy Land lead to an agreement of intercommunion with the Orthodox that Paul VI, fifty years ago, almost signed with [Patriarch] Athenagoras?
Holy Father: We are all impatient about achieving “sealed” results. But the path of unity with the Orthodox means above all walking and working together. In Buenos Aires, several Orthodox came to the catechetical courses. I usually spent Christmas and 6 January together with their bishops, who sometimes even asked the advice of our diocesan offices. I do not know if the story is true that Athenagoras told Pope Paul VI that he proposed that they walk together and send all the theologians to an island to discuss among themselves. It’s a joke, but it is important that we walk together. Orthodox theology is very rich. And I believe that they have, at this time, great theologians. Their vision of the Church and collegiality is marvelous.
In a few years the greatest world power will be China with which the Vatican has no relations. Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit like you.
Holy Father: We are close to China. I sent a letter to President Xi Jinping when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. The relationships are there. They are a great people whom I love.
Why, Holy Father, do you never speak about Europe? What is it about the European project that does not convince you?
Holy Father: Do you remember the day when I spoke of Asia? What did I say? (Here the reporter ventures to give some explanation, collecting vague memories only to realize that he had fallen for a nice trick). I have not spoken about Asia, or Africa, or Europe. Only about Latin America when I was in Brazil, and when I had to receive the Commission for Latin America. There hasn’t yet been a chance to talk about Europe. It will come.
What book are you reading these days?
Holy Father: ‘Peter and Magdalene’ by Damiano Marzotto on the feminine dimension of the Church. A beautiful book.
And you’re not able to see any good films, another of your passions? “La Grande Bellezza” won an Oscar. Will you see it?
Holy Father: I don’t know. The last movie I saw was Benigni’s ‘Life is Beautiful’. And before I had seen Fellini’s ‘La Strada’. A masterpiece. I also liked Wajda…
St. Francis had a carefree youth. I ask you: have you ever been in love?
Holy Father: In the book The Jesuit, I recount when I had a girlfriend at the age of 17. And I mention it also Heaven and Earth, the volume that I wrote with Abraham Skorka. In the seminary, a girl made my head spin for a week.
And if you do not mind me asking, how did it end?
Holy Father: They were things of youth. I spoke with my confessor about it [a big smile].
Thank you Holy Father.
Holy Father: Thank you.
[Translation by ZENIT]
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will continue to have a number of pressing engagements during Lent, but next week he will participate, as is tradition, in the annual weeklong spiritual exercises with the heads of Vatican departments.
The retreat normally takes place in the Vatican, but, consistent with St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, this year it will take place far from familiar surroundings.
At 4pm on Sunday afternoon, after reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father and Curial heads will leave the Vatican by coach and embark on a 45-minute journey to Ariccia, a small, picturesque town in the Castelli Romani district, close to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
The retreat itself will take place in the Pauline residence, Casa del Divin Maestro, a popular retreat center, surrounded by woodland and close to Lake Albano.
Prior to becoming pope, Francis had always taken part in retreats at a distance from his own home, according to the Vatican. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Holy Father’s Jesuit order, recommends in the 20th annotation of his Spiritual Exercises that a participant on retreat will “benefit himself the more he separates himself from all friends and acquaintances and from all earthly care.”
The saint stresses that, from this isolation, “three chief benefits, among many others, follow.” The first is that the separation helps to “serve and praise God, our Lord,” and this “merits no little in the sight of his Divine Majesty.”
The second is that, being thus isolated, “and not having his understanding divided on many things, but concentrating his care on one only, namely, on serving his Creator and benefiting his own soul, he uses with greater freedom his natural powers, in seeking with diligence what he so much desires.”
The third chief benefit, he says, is that “the more our soul finds itself alone and isolated, the more apt it makes itself to approach and to reach its Creator and Lord; and the more it so approaches him, the more it disposes itself to receive graces and gifts from his Divine and Sovereign Goodness.”
In a message to the Italian Federation of Spiritual Exercises this week, the Pope said a good course of spiritual exercises helps those who participate in them to develop an “unconditional adherence to Christ” and to “understand that prayer is the irreplaceable means of union with him crucified.”
First Anniversary During Retreat
After arrival in Ariccia on Sunday, at 6pm, the Pope and the assembled officials will celebrate vespers, listen to an introductory meditation from the retreat leader, Father Angelo De Donatis, an Italian priest who once served as spiritual director of the Roman Seminary, and participate in Eucharistic adoration.
The rest of the days contain the following routine: 7:30am Mass, 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am meditation, 12:30pm lunch, 4pm meditation, 6pm vespers and Eucharistic adoration and then 7:30pm supper.
During the week, all papal audiences, including the weekly general audience, are suspended. On the final day, Friday, March 14, the day begins with Mass, followed by a meditation before departure for the Vatican at 10:30am.
The Pope will be on retreat when the Church celebrates the first anniversary of his election on March 13 (the Vatican has produced an online book of pictures and memorable quotations of Francis’ first year here).
His message for Lent appeals to the whole Church to “bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ.”
Once back in the Vatican, the Pope will resume his Lenten engagements. He will recite the Angelus on the Second Sunday of Lent, March 16. At 4pm, he will make another pastoral visit to his diocese, this time to the Roman parish of Santa Maria dell’Orazione.
The rest of the month will be filled with papal and general audiences and the Angelus. But on March 29, the Pope will preside over a penitential liturgy at 5pm in the Vatican basilica, and on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 6, he will visit another Roman parish, yet to be announced.
Holy Week Schedule
The Holy Father will then lead the Church into his second Holy Week as pope. He will preside over the Palm Sunday Procession and Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 13 and celebrate the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday, April 17. It has not been announced yet by the Vatican if he will wash the feet of prisoners, as he did last year.
On Good Friday afternoon, he will celebrate the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica and lead the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum at 9:15pm. The Easter vigil Mass in the basilica will take place at 8:30pm on Easter Saturday, April 19. On Easter Sunday, he will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square at 10:15am, followed by his Easter address urbi et orbi (to the city of Rome and the world) on Easter Sunday from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica at midday.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Many of the faithful have become uneasy over reports speculating that the Vatican may change the Church’s approach to its teaching on the indissolubility of marriage — and in particular the status of divorced and remarried Catholics.
In an email interview with the Register, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed the concern. The newly named cardinal also discusses his work as prefect, concerns among some Catholics that politics is increasingly emphasized over salvation in the Church’s preaching and the beneficial aspects of liberation theology.
Your Eminence, how will being a cardinal help you in your work as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?
There are two central liturgical moments of the consistory that are, as you may imagine, still fresh in my mind: when the new cardinals were created and, the following day, Mass with the Holy Father.
The Holy Father’s homilies on both occasions are marked by his wisdom and zeal for the Church. On [Feb. 22], he challenged my brother cardinals and me, saying: “The Church needs your courage to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth.” And I feel that challenge to witness to the truth of the Gospel in a particularly special way as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In his homily the following day, Pope Francis said: “Dear brother cardinals, may we remain united in Christ and among ourselves! I ask you to remain close to me, with your prayers, your advice and your help.” Obviously, these words were directed to all the cardinals, but being united to the Pope takes on a special significance for those who work in close collaboration with the Holy Father in the Curia.
I think, therefore, these would be the two aspects of being made a cardinal that bear most specially on my role at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: being united to the Holy Father in an uniquely binding way and also the call to be faithful to the Gospel, even usque effusionem sanguinis [unto the shedding of blood].
What is the most important priority for you at the moment, in terms of defending doctrine?
If you will allow me, there are three presuppositions in your question I would like to qualify.
First of all, you talk about “the most important priority for you.” I think it is important to point out that my role of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not dependent upon my priorities. This role has been entrusted to me by Pope Francis, and I carry it out in the service of the Pope and the universal Church. Moreover, as Pope Francis himself has said, in his recent address to the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “your dicastery is known for its practice of collegiality and dialogue.” The work of the CDF is the fruit of many people working in collaboration in the communion of the Church and in the service of the Holy Father.
Secondly, you talk about a “priority.” This way of speaking is open to misunderstandings, as if there is a single issue or point of doctrine that must be addressed. In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has affirmed the “harmonious totality of the Christian message.” He stresses that “all of the truths [of the Catholic faith] are important and illumine one another” (39). Although, depending on circumstances, certain questions come more sharply into focus, nonetheless, the priority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the integrity, the wholeness, of the Gospel message.
Finally, you talk about “defending” the Church’s teaching. This is important, but the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as laid out in Pastor Bonus, is also “to promote” the Church’s teaching.
In synthesis, then, the priority for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote, to make better known and to foster a deeper understanding of the fullness of the Church’s teaching. In this way, the congregation performs a service to the Church, because, in promoting the integrity of the faith, it helps to bring to light the inner beauty and attractiveness of what God has, in his generosity, given to us in Jesus Christ.
Some are concerned that changes will be made with regards to the Church’s teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics. Can you reassure the faithful that the changes will be pastoral rather than doctrinal?
I would like to answer this question in three parts.
First, I am grateful that your question gives me the opportunity to clarify an important point. The idea that doctrine can be separated from the pastoral practice of the Church has become prevalent in some circles. This is not, and never has been, the Catholic faith.
Recent popes have been at pains to stress the personal lived reality of the Catholic faith. Pope Francis has written, “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI, which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 7). Within this personal relationship with Christ, which embraces our minds, our hearts, the totality of our lives even, we can grasp the profound unity between the doctrines we believe and how we live our lives, or what we might call the pastoral reality of our lived experience. Opposing the pastoral to the doctrinal is simply a false dichotomy.
Second, we have to be very careful when we talk about Church teaching. If by “change,” one meant denying or rejecting that which has gone before, then this would be misleading. I would prefer to talk about the “development” of Church teaching. The Church does not invent for herself that which she teaches. The teachings of the Church are rooted in the person of Christ, in the mystery of God’s self-revelation.
It may be that, in the course of time, the Church comes to a deeper appreciation of this mystery. It may also come to pass that new circumstances in human history throw a particular light on the implications of this mystery. But, because it is always rooted in the same mystery of Christ, there is always continuity in what the Church teaches.
Third, specifically on the issue of the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics being admitted to Communion, I would refer you to the article I published in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 25, 2013. However, I would like to reiterate several points I make there. First, the teaching of Christ and his Church is clear: A sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Second, those persons whose state of life contradicts the indissolubility of sacramental marriage cannot be admitted to the Eucharist. Third, pastors and parish communities are bound to stand by the faithful who find themselves in this situation with “attentive love” (Familiaris Consortio, 84).
The Church’s concern for her children who are divorced and remarried cannot be reduced to the question of receiving the Eucharist, and I am confident that, rooted in truth and in love, the Church will discover the right paths and approaches in constantly new ways.
There seems to be a growing sense that other aspects of Church teaching might be changed. Why, in your opinion, is there this feeling?
Sometimes it is necessary to distinguish between reality and its presentation in the media. In particular, the secular media often misunderstand the Church. Unfortunately, the media often applies the mindset of secular politics to the Church.
A newly elected leader of a political party might change or reverse that party’s policies. This is not how it works with the pope. When the pope is elected, his mission is to be faithful to the teachings of Christ and his Church. He may find new and creative ways of being faithful to these teachings, but for the pope, the deepest reality is the continuing fidelity to the person of Christ. If the media has created misplaced expectations, then this is unfortunate.
Others have also claimed that the Church has focused too much on politics instead of the salvific aspects of doctrine, leading to the adoption of socialist principles. Do you think this is true? And is this a concern of yours?
I would want to stress that salvation and the just ordering of society are not mutually exclusive concerns. On the contrary, Gaudium et Spes teaches us, “Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on. […] [A]lthough we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.” How we live in this life is, therefore, intimately related to our final end.
Moreover, I think it is certainly false to say the Church has ignored the issue of salvation. In fact, far from being ignored, just this question has been addressed in Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi. There are cultural reasons, as diagnosed in this encyclical, that tend to obscure the true nature of Christian hope.
Our present culture tends to base all its hopes for the future on purely human ingenuity and activity, and this emphasis obscures the truth that salvation is not the fruit of man’s technical ingenuity; rather, it is won for us by Jesus Christ. This is the authentic teaching of the Church.
Confronted with the strident voices competing for our attention today, we Catholics must be more especially attentive to the authentic teachings of the Church.
You’ve supported a certain kind of liberation theology in the past. What aspects of it can the faithful embrace?
If one reduces liberation theology to a purely secular political ideology, then you deform and undermine its character as theology. For this reason, some aspects of liberation theology were rightly criticized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1984, in its instruction Libertatis Nuntius. The categories of liberation theology are fundamentally theological and Christian. Although, in the secular world, the term “liberation” has many different nuances, for a Christian theologian, this term can never be removed from its scriptural roots. It was this Christian understanding of freedom that was emphasized in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s instruction of 1986, Libertatis Conscientia.
In the Bible, liberation most profoundly means the freedom from the forces of sin and death won for us by Jesus Christ. True Christian freedom is, therefore, not license; it is freedom from sin, the freedom to become the children of God. Sin always undermines our humanity, and sin’s ultimate fruit is death; that is, the destruction of our humanity. Whereas, our destiny as children of God involves the full realization of our humanity and in fact the lifting of our humanity to a new and more privileged way of existing.
Liberation theology was born in the context of Latin America and born out of the question: How can we talk about God in the face of suffering, premature death and the continual violation of the human dignity of the poor in South America? It, therefore, addresses the question of human dignity in the light of the dehumanizing forces of unjust economic oppression. These forces, precisely because they are dehumanizing, are, in the light of the redemption won for us in Christ, revealed not just as purely secular evils, but also as opposed to God’s will for his children.
In so far as liberation theology concerns itself with that liberation brought to us through Jesus Christ — what St. Paul calls “the freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) — it is of enduring interest to the Church.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — The most senior U.S. official in the Roman Curia has said Pope Francis is seeking to remove obstacles to Christ so the faithful can redouble their efforts for the New Evangelization in the face of a “galloping de-Christianization” in the West.
In a Feb. 21 article in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, firmly denied media perceptions that the Holy Father plans to change the Church’s teaching on important moral issues of our time.
Instead, he said, the Pope was placing these non-negotiable truths in the context of nurturing a relationship with Christ, from which they can become more “generously embraced.”
Writing in his capacity as president of the advisory board of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a Rome-based pro-life think tank, Cardinal Burke said he felt compelled to write after a recent trip to the United States.
“I was repeatedly impressed by how deeply Pope Francis has penetrated the national conversation on a whole range of issues,” he explained. “His special gift of expressing direct care for each and all has resonated strongly with many in my homeland.”
But he also noticed a “certain questioning” about whether the Pope was intent on changing the Church’s teaching on “critical moral issues of our time,” such as the “inviolable dignity of innocent human life and the integrity of marriage and the family.”
A perception had developed that was “quite different” to the reality, he said, and he attributed it to “the popular presentation of Pope Francis and his views.”
Noting that the Pope “clearly” needs a “fitting tool of interpretation” if we are to understand correctly what he intends to teach, the cardinal said it is important to recognize Francis’ gift for drawing near to all people of goodwill and showing his care for each individual person.
Moral Teachings Reaffirmed
Many Catholics, especially in the pro-life movement, were unsettled by Francis’ comments made in La Civilta Cattolica last year, in which he said “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” He said that these issues must be talked about “in context,” and they do not need to be addressed “all the time.” The Holy Father insisted that an individual’s relationship with Christ must come first.
Cardinal Burke assured in his article that the Pope “cannot change the duty of the Church and her shepherds to teach clearly and insistently about the most fundamental moral questions of our time.” Moreover, he highlighted the times the Pope has warned against a “throwaway culture” and identified the victims of such a culture as the “most fragile human beings: the unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people.”
Francis, he continued, has also reaffirmed the Church’s “perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage,” and the cardinal recalled a recent address the Pope made to the Apostolic Signatura, in which he stressed the “effective connection” between the way the Church evangelizes and the way it administers justice.
“Pope Francis has clearly reaffirmed the Church’s moral teaching, in accord with her unbroken tradition,” Cardinal Burke said, but stressed that he “first wishes to have people set aside every obstacle which they imagine to prevent them from responding with faith.”
“The Holy Father, it seems to me, wishes to pare back every conceivable obstacle people may have invented to prevent themselves from responding to Jesus Christ’s universal call to holiness,” he asserted. “We all know individuals who say things like: ‘Oh, I stopped going to church because of the Church’s teaching on divorce’ or ‘I could never be Catholic because of the Church’s teaching on abortion or on homosexuality.’”
“The Holy Father is asking them to put aside these obstacles and to welcome Christ, without any excuse, into their lives,” Cardinal Burke continued. “Once they come to understand the immeasurable love of Christ, alive for us in the Church, they will be able to resolve whatever has been troubling them about the Church, his Mystical Body, and her teaching.”
An Invitation to All
The cardinal said persons “hardened against the truth” will read the Pope’s approach differently, claiming the Holy Father wants to change Church teachings that today’s secularized culture rejects. The cardinal also said their “false praise” mocks the fact that Francis is Successor of Peter and that the Pope “rejects the acceptance and praise of the world.”
“It is not that the Holy Father is not clear in his opposition to abortion and euthanasia or in his support of marriage as the indissoluble, faithful and procreative union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal Burke said in L’Osservatore Romano. “Rather, he concentrates his attention on inviting all to nurture an intimate relationship, indeed communion, with Christ, within which the non-negotiable truths, inscribed by God upon every human heart, become ever more evident and are generously embraced.”
And he said that in “seeking to put the person of Jesus Christ at the heart of all of the Church’s pastoral activity, the Holy Father is following closely the teachings of his predecessors in the See of Peter.”
Cardinal Burke pointed out that one should not “be silent about fundamental truths of the natural moral law,” but instead recognize that their proclamation “is always an essential dimension of the proclamation of the Gospel.” He also underlined the importance of the call to repentance in order to accept the mercy of God.
Noting that proclaiming the moral law provides an “essential service” to the Church’s mission of evangelization, the cardinal said Pope Francis’ pontificate should therefore be seen as a “radical call to redouble our efforts for the New Evangelization.”
Christ must be at the center, and, quoting Francis, he said the cross must be present if such evangelization is to be authentic.
“In the face of a galloping de-Christianization in the West,” Cardinal Burke said, “the New Evangelization, as Pope Francis underlines, must be clearly grounded in Christ crucified, who alone can overcome the world for the sake of its salvation.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — Administering the sacraments to remarried divorcees figured highly in the extraordinary consistory on the family last week, but no decisions were made on the issue, the Vatican said.
In a statement on the second day of the two-day meeting in the Vatican’s Synod Hall, Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See Press Office director, said there were broad-ranging and detailed discussions, but “no decisions or pronouncements” were made on the issue.
Church teaching on this sensitive topic, which some fear may be altered during the Extraordinary Synods on the Family in October and in 2015, was addressed “from the perspective of canon law,” Father Lombardi said. He also said the cardinals spoke about the procedures for annulment “with a view to their improvement and simplification.”
“There was neither tension nor anxiety in relation to this matter,” Father Lombardi stressed, “but, rather, a positive approach characterized by discernment and a concerted search for the best way to combine fidelity to the words of Jesus with Divine Mercy and attention to specific situations, always with great sensitivity.”
He repeated that a single direction should not be expected of the consistory, but, rather, an encouraging introduction to the path of the October Synod on the Family, which, by working with this breadth of vision, will be able to advance the Church’s pastoral response to the heartfelt hopes held by many in this area.
The Feb. 20-21 gathering, attended by about 150 cardinals, began with an introduction from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, who pledged the support of the cardinal fathers “with a vision of faith and hope” in this “complex period in human history.”
During the consistory, the Pope and the College of Cardinals raised a special prayer for the many Christians suffering persecution. They also recalled the difficult situation in Ukraine and prayed that all violence would cease immediately and harmony and peace would be restored.
‘Fundamental Cell’ of Society
In his opening address, Pope Francis recalled that the family is the “fundamental cell” of society and a “reflection of the Triune God.” He said the consistory’s reflections should “always keep in mind the beauty of the family and of marriage, the greatness of this facet of human life, so simple and at the same time so rich, made up of joys and hopes, strife and suffering, like all of life.”
Furthermore, he said the intention was to “deepen the theology of the family and the pastoral ministry that we must undertake in these current conditions” and that the cardinal fathers would do so “without falling into the trap of ‘case studies,’ as this would inevitably lead to a lowering of the level of our work.”
Noting how the family is today “regarded with disdain and maltreated,” the Holy Father said it was important to recognize “how beautiful, true and good it is to form a family, to be a family today” and how “indispensable” it is for the life of the world and the future of humanity.
“We are asked to make evident God’s luminous plan on the family and to help married couples experience this with joy in their existence, accompanying them in many difficulties, with a pastoral ministry that is intelligent, courageous and full of love,” he said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave the keynote speech that occupied almost the entire first morning of the consistory, followed by questions and discussions that followed in the afternoon.
The text of the cardinal’s speech has not been published, as it was intended for use within the context of the meeting by participants only. But Father Lombardi stressed it was “in harmony” with the words spoken earlier by Pope Francis. He approached the issue of the family from “an extremely positive point of view” and underlined how the family can be seen as a “small domestic church” and a “privileged route to evangelization.”
Father Lombardi said the speech did not address all themes related to the family, nor did it anticipate the upcoming synod, but was “a form of ‘opening.’” It focused on the “rediscovery of the Gospel of the family” and covered the “structures of sin within the family,” as well as the family “in the Christian order of redemption.”
Cardinal Kasper also referred to the question of remarried divorcees, considering the theme “in depth and in a structured, nuanced fashion,” Father Lombardi said. The cardinal reiterated that in this area it is necessary “to bring together pastoral care with the inseparable duo of faith and the words of Jesus and an understanding of Divine Mercy.”
He also referred to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s work on this issue, when he asked if, beyond rigor and laxity, the sacrament of penance could perhaps offer the path to accommodating difficult situations. Cardinal Kasper also recalled Pope Francis’ address to the prelates of the Roman Rota at the beginning of this year, in which he spoke about the validity of marriage, when he affirmed that the legal and pastoral dimensions are not in opposition.
Father Lombardi said by emphasizing that the cardinal accorded great importance to the “law of gradualness” or the “advancement towards new forms in exploring in depth the mystery of redemption in Christ and in understanding the Gospel law of truth.”
John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
In the discussions that followed, the Vatican said cardinals approached the concept of the family according to a Christian anthropological perspective in the context of a secularized culture, which presents a different concept. But Father Lombardi said the reflections “did not take place in a climate of complaint, but, rather, of realism, observing the difficulty faced by Christianity in a culture that tends to go in another direction.”
John Paul II’s theology of the body was quoted on a number of occasions, as well as the encyclical Familiaris Consortio and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Preparation for marriage and matrimonial and family spirituality was also a focus for discussion. Throughout the entire consistory, 69 cardinals spoke on a broad range of themes regarding the family.
Father Lombardi said, “The assembly took place and concluded in an atmosphere of great serenity and satisfaction on the part of all those present for the breadth and depth of the presentations.”
In his concluding address, the Holy Father thanked those present and invited them to pray that the Lord accompanies the Church on this path during the first synod on the family as well as a second one in 2015.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis used his homily at a Mass for new cardinals to hold up a vision of holiness for the 19 new recipients of the red biretta, exhorting them to be docile to the Holy Spirit, to love their enemies and to answer the call to conversion.
During the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, he also stressed that each member of the College of Cardinals enters the Church of Rome rather than a royal court.
“A cardinal — I say this especially to you — enters the Church of Rome, my brothers, not a royal court,” the Holy Father told a packed basilica. “May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and partiality.”
He said their language should be that of the Gospel: Yes when we mean Yes and No when we mean No — and that their attitudes should be “those of the beatitudes and our way be that of holiness.”
“Let us pray once more: ‘Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit. All of us want to listen to the voice of the Spirit,” the Pope said.
Stressing that without the Holy Spirit all of our efforts are in vain, he exhorted the new cardinals to “make the effort to be converted, to experience a heartfelt conversion.” This is something that “all of us — especially you cardinals and myself — must do,” he said. “Conversion!”
Referring to the day’s Gospel reading from the Book of Matthew, Pope Francis reminded them to love their enemies and to “seek generously to do good to them.”
‘The Quicksand of Sin’
“My brother cardinals, Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table,” he said. “To do that, he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the cross. Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin and this way of holiness is mercy, that mercy which he has shown and daily continues to show to us.”
“To be a saint is not a luxury,” the Pope added. “It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord is asking of us.”
He stressed that Christians “do not aim to assert ourselves,” but, rather, “oppose arrogance with meekness” and “forget the humiliations that we have endured.” Guided by the Spirit of Christ, he urged the cardinals to be “channels” through which his charity might flow.
“This is the attitude of a cardinal; this must be how he acts,” he said.
The Pope also stressed the importance of “goodness, forgiveness, service” and not to neglect duties towards one’s neighbor. He urged the cardinals not to shut out their brothers or sisters, for then it is God himself who is not being welcomed.
“A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God’s service and given over to another use,” he said.
He closed by calling for unity in Christ and among themselves, and he implored the Holy Spirit, that they may be “ever more fervent in pastoral charity and filled with holiness.”
Always Bear Witness to the Truth
The Pope shared further instructions to the cardinals during the ordinary public consistory on Saturday, urging them not to conform themselves to a worldly mentality but instead to be courageous in proclaiming the Gospel and bearing witness to the truth at all times.
Following the thinking of the world results in “rivalry, jealousy, factions,” the Pope said, but the word of Jesus “purifies us inwardly” and enlightens our consciences “to unite ourselves fully with Jesus.”
As in his Mass homily the next day, he urged the cardinals to allow themselves to be taught by the Holy Spirit and be united in Christ. He also underlined how much the Church needs the cardinals’ cooperation, communion and gifts.
“The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth,” the Pope said. “The Church needs your prayer for the progress of Christ’s flock, the prayer that, together with the proclamation of the Word, is the primary task of the bishop.
“The Church needs your compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world. We want to express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution.
“The Church needs our prayer for them,” he continued, “that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good. And this prayer of ours extends to every man and woman suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions.”
Finally, he said the Church “needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our words, our hopes and our prayers: Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence and war.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI surprised many by also being present at the consistory. Pope Francis warmly embraced his predecessor, who was seated not far from the new cardinals.
Some have speculated whether Benedict XVI will attend the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27. His presence at Saturday’s consistory has certainly increased the probability that he will.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — The eight-member council of cardinals set up by Pope Francis to advise him on Church governance and reform of the Roman Curia has presented preliminary proposals to the Pope on economic and administrative reform at the Holy See.
The Vatican said the Holy Father is now free to “follow or to modify” the proposals, the fruit of two commissions he set up last year.
The reports were presented this week to the so-called “C8” council of cardinals during their Feb. 17-19 meeting in Rome — the third such meeting since the council began its work in October 2013.
The three-day meeting, which mostly took place in the St. Martha guesthouse, began with a thorough examination of the first report, drawn up by the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See.
Three representatives of the commission presented their findings to the cardinals on Feb. 17 — the results of eight months’ work. Their report was further examined in the afternoon, but without the three representatives present.
‘Simplification and Rationalization’
The task of the commission of seven lay experts and one Curial official has been to study the organizational and economic health of the Holy See, in order to draft reforms of Holy See institutions. Their more specific aim has been “simplification and rationalization” of existing bodies and “more careful planning” of economic activities throughout the Vatican.
Some of the most serious cases of misconduct have taken place in this area in recent years, mostly associated with the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, an official charged with allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros ($30.8 million) from Switzerland to Italy, was an accountant at the APSA.
The office, created by Pope Paul VI in 1967, looks after properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function.
The commission has offered specialist advice and strategic solutions for improvement, so as to avoid the “misuse of economic resources” and to “improve transparency.” The body has also been working with the C8 to draft a plan for the reform of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus — John Paul II’s instruction on the general running of the Roman Curia.
Reforming the Vatican Bank
On Tuesday, the cardinals turned their attention to the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR). The cardinals heard from representatives of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion, which was also set up by Pope Francis last year.
The commission’s task has been to provide the Holy Father with an “exhaustive” report into the juridical standing and activities of the IOR so that it can be better harmonized with the mission of the Church and the Holy See. The report is also aimed at helping the process of reform.
Composed of five people, the commission includes two U.S. citizens, Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon and Msgr. Peter Brian Wells, who usually serves as the Vatican’s deputy chief of staff. Cardinal Raffaele Farina, who heads the commission, presented the work carried out so far.
The Vatican said the cardinals received the report with “great interest” and heard details about the current situation of the institute and the problems that it must face.
“Suggestions were offered for future changes, although no decisions were made following the hearing,” the Vatican said, adding that one of the key points was “the mission of the IOR in relation to the action of the Church in the world and not only from the perspective of economic performance.”
The IOR has had a checkered history: It most famously became embroiled in a banking scandal in 1982, and, between 2009 and 2012, it was subject to a money-laundering investigation, although the allegations were never confirmed. In 2012, IOR’s then-president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was unceremoniously ousted. The true reasons behind his dismissal remain murky at best, and the episode is still a mystery, even to those directly affected.
On Wednesday, the commission representatives, the C8 and the so-called C15 council of cardinals set up by John Paul II to oversee Holy See finances and the governorate of Vatican city state, met in the Sala Bologna of the apostolic palace. Representatives from two commissions briefly presented their reports.
The C15 will hold its ordinary meetings Feb. 24-25 to discuss the matters within its remit. The Vatican said the final day of the C8 meeting was for “communication, information and coordination.”
Cardinals ‘Worked Intensively’
Holy See Press Office’s director, Father Federico Lombardi, said the C8 cardinals “worked intensively” over the three days and have taken a “number of questions” into consideration as well as “formulated proposals to be presented to the Holy Father in various fields.”
He added that it will now be up to the Holy Father “to follow or to modify these proposals, but the council has completed its task.”
The Holy See spokesman stressed it is important to bear in mind that the two commissions’ aims are different but that they “both fit into the contextual reality of the Holy See.” For this reason, he said, the Holy Father wishes to obtain “an overall view with regard to the reorganization of its governance and structures.”
The next C8 meetings will begin the day after the canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII, April 28, and will last for three days. The fifth meeting is scheduled for July 1-4.
The Vatican says much work is still to be done and stressed the cardinals “have in no way completed their reviews of the different dicasteries of the Holy See,” a major next step in the reform process.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ forthcoming document on ecology is likely to put the human person at the center and draw attention to the connection between environmental problems and poverty, according to a Church expert on theology and the environment.
Father Paul Haffner, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and author of the book Towards a Theology of the Environment, believes such a document is urgently needed to correct many philosophical and theological errors that have crept into the environmental movement.
Although he says it is difficult to predict its contents, he believes it will “put the human person as central and focus also on the margins of society, those places where there are environmental problems because of poverty.”
On Jan. 24, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Holy Father had begun work on a “draft text on the topic of ecology, which could become an encyclical.” But he stressed that the project is in an “early stage, so it is too early to make any prediction about the timing of possible publication.”
He added that it is important to note that Pope Francis intends to put “particular emphasis” on the theme of “human ecology,” a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI to describe “not only how people must defend and respect nature but how the nature of the person — masculine and feminine, as created by God — must also be defended.”
Following in Benedict’s Footsteps
Since his election last year, Pope Francis has frequently shown concern for the environment, following the example of Benedict XVI. The pope emeritus was sometimes labeled the first “Green Pope.” He persistently called for the safeguarding of creation, arguing that respect for the human being and nature are one. He also instructed that solar panels be installed on the roof of the Paul VI hall at the Vatican and signed the Vatican up for a project that offset carbon-dioxide emissions.
From the beginning of his pontificate, many have seen Pope Francis’ choice of papal name — St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology — as indicative of his concern for the environment. In his inaugural Mass homily, he called on everyone to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
His later comments on the subject also give clues about the forthcoming document’s probable content. On World Environment Day last June, he stressed the need to “cultivate and care” for the environment, saying it is part of God’s plan that man “nurture[s] the world with responsibility,” transforming it into a “garden, a habitable place for everyone.”
Mankind, however, is driven by “pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation,” he said, adding, “We do not ‘care’ for [the environment]; we do not respect it; we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for.”
He regretted that people are losing the “attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation” and said the implications of living in a horizontal manner is that “we have moved away from God; we no longer read his signs.”
And as Benedict had often done, Francis concluded by linking human ecology with environmental ecology, issuing a strong challenge to rethink the culture of waste and to oppose a lack of ethics in economy and finance. “I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation,” he said, “to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable [mentality], to promote a culture of solidarity” and of living alongside others, especially on the margins, as opposed to individualism.
The Pope most recently repeated his concerns in his annual speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Jan. 13. Noting the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November, he warned against “greedy exploitation of environmental resources” and quoted the popular adage: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature — creation — is mistreated, she never forgives.”
Correcting the Errors of ‘Ecologism’
Environmentalists have welcomed news of the future document, and some hope it will cause a “paradigm shift” in the Church’s approach to the issue.
But this is the danger, according to Father Haffner, who feels secular society and the green movement are at risk of misinterpreting the Pope’s comments and believe he will subscribe to their worldview.
“We always have, as I say in my book Towards a Theology of the Environment, to distinguish between ecology as a science and ‘ecologism’ as an ideology,” he said. “Ecologies that seemingly begin with the program of saving man’s environment quickly run their logic to the point where the environment takes absolute priority over man.”
Father Haffner said this ideology “easily takes root in Darwinist circles,” where man is seen to be the product of purely natural forces.
“Part and parcel of this pernicious view is the erroneous claim that man is simply one of a very large number of species, all equally valuable and enjoying the same rights,” he said, adding that one ideology which is widespread in environmentalist circles “is the myth about overpopulation.” Furthermore, he said, often those who exaggerate the effect of climate change “are also the same ones who want population control and all that entails.”
He also noted other errors, which include “considering Earth or the cosmos as a gigantic living organism” — a view held by the former priest, theologian and ecologist Leonardo Boff — “or the errors of those with a pantheistic view of creation.”
Father Haffner would like to see the new papal document “correct the many and various philosophical and theological errors which have crept into green thinking, as I have done in my book, and also to make clear that the ecological problem is but one of many symptoms of a society which lives without God, without Christ.”
“Care for the environment was a natural way of life in the medieval monasteries,” he pointed out. “To recover the integrity of creation, we need a renewed Christian culture.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent