Pope Francis had some provocative things to say in his first major piece of writing, released this week as “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
Along with a defense of traditional Catholic moral teaching, the Pope continues his argument about the reigning world system — the tyranny of the marketplace, writing, of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money.”
He also takes on the Church, and particularly pastors, for poor preaching that no one wants to listen to (more Scripture and more brevity would help, he writes), and calls for a new evangelization that is both more joyful and focuses more on the poor and warns of the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”
“We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts,” he writes. “Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide.”
The church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”
Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “church which is poor and for the poor.”
The poor “have much to teach us,” he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”
Charity. he says, is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,” the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”
Francis also criticizes forces within the church who seem to lust for “veritable witch hunts,” asking rhetorically, “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?” He also cautions against “ostentatious preoccupation” for liturgy and doctrine as opposed to ensuring that the Gospel has “a real impact” on people and engages “the concrete needs of the present time.”
He also rules out the ordination of women to the Roman Catholic priesthood, although he does call for “a more incisive female presence” in decision-making roles.
And on the issue of abortion, Francis writes the church’s defense of unborn life “cannot be expected to change” because it’s “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”