Pope Francis issued a blueprint for his papacy Tuesday that emphasized the Gospel’s call to find joy in the risen Christ instead of “unbridled consumerism” and other temptations.
In the teaching document, Francis pulled together the priorities he has laid out in eight months of homilies, speeches and interviews and put them in the broader context of how to reinvigorate the church’s evangelical zeal.
Here’s are excerpts of his Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel), along with comments from local Catholic theologians:
Capitalism and the economy
Francis: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
“… Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion … expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Eileen Burke-Sullivan, Creighton University: By referencing the fifth commandment, Francis is emphasizing the sinfulness of economies that lead people into poverty with no way out. He is calling on Christians to reconsider how they spend money in a society that feeds on consumerism. The pope is saying that instead of buying that third or fourth TV for your home, donate money to a homeless shelter.
Sister Aline Paris, College of St. Mary: Francis is saying people are caught up in consumerism and will not find happiness in a new car or cellphone. You will find peace in Jesus Christ.
Francis: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. … It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty.”
Burke-Sullivan: Francis makes clear that abortion is a sin, but also puts the issue in context of human dignity. The unborn must be cared for, but so must the poor, the addicted and others who are vulnerable.
Paris: Some Catholics have thought that during his papacy Francis has watered down the church’s position on abortion. This document is more proof that he has not. He will be unbending on that issue.
The Catholic Parish
Francis: “While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if (the parish) proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’ This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few.”
Burke-Sullivan: Francis wants pastors to recognize and work with all members of a congregation, whether it’s older people or college students. The pope wants parishes that are adaptable and thrive, even when new immigrant groups move in.
Paris: A parish is where families and individuals build community, but congregations also must look outward. A parish should provide missionary outreach to the poor and the vulnerable, such as running a food pantry and working on immigration reform. We go to church not just to be nurtured, but to go out and help others.
Compassion and the church
Francis: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. … I do not want a church concerned with being at the center and then ends up by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”
Burke-Sullivan: The pope wants a church showing compassion and mercy, not constantly hammering people with rules.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.