Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a bold new document – in Vatican parlance an “apostolic exhortation” – called Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel.”
In this document, he sets out an exciting new vision of how to be a church. In all my years as a Catholic, I cannot remember a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating. Frankly, reading it thrilled me.
To me, it seems that with each new homily, address, interview, general audience message and letter, Francis is challenging himself – and us – with three questions, each of which flows naturally from the other:
First, why not look at things from a new perspective? Second, why not be open to doing things in a new way? And third, why not have a new vision for the church?
And what is Francis' vision for the church?
It is to be a joyful community of believers completely unafraid of the modern world, completely unafraid of change and completely unafraid of challenges. Not everyone will like this document. Some may find it frightening. For it poses a fierce challenge to the status quo – explicitly: “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way,’ ” he writes in a section titled “Ecclesial Renewal.”
The document’s overall message is that Catholics should be unafraid of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel and new ways of thinking about the church. In fact, such new ways are essential if we are to spread the Gospel at all. This may sound like boilerplate talk expected in a document on the “New Evangelization,” but it is not; for in the document Francis identifies areas of petrification in the church, areas where he wants to see real change.
This is not to say that the Evangelii Gaudium seeks to overturn traditional church teachings. Instead it seeks to overturn the way that we have done things, and to be fearless in doing so. For example, while he reaffirms the church’s inability to ordain women as priests, he also invites the church to think about their place in the church in new ways, to imagine “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life."
Over and over, the Pope takes aim against such longstanding roadblocks to growth as “complacency,” “excessive clericalism,” and even Catholics who act like “sourpusses.” (That’s the official English-language translation.) About that last roadblock, he says that there are Christians whose lives are like “Lent without Easter.”
Nor does the Pope have patience for people who are “tempted to find excuses and complain.” Essentially, he contrasts this dourness and pessimism with the joy of living a life centered in Christ and focused on the hope of the resurrection. It is a hope-filled, positive and energetic view of the church actively engaged with the world.
Evangelii Gaudium is difficult to summarize, so wide-ranging is it. Ironically, something that would at first appear to be a narrow topic – how to spread the Gospel today – offers Francis the latitude to address many topics in his trademark open style. The exhortation moves easily from a discussion on joy as a requirement for evangelization, to how “personal dialogue” is needed for any authentic invitation into the faith, to the difficulty of being a church when Catholics are “warring” against one another, to the need for priests and deacons to give better homilies, to an overriding concern for the poor in the world – the last being a special concern of the Pope.
To that end, some will be surprised that Francis champions an idea that has lately been out of favor: the church’s “preferential option” for the poor. “God’s heart has a special place for the poor,” the Pope says. But it is not enough simply to say that God loves the poor in a special way and leave it at that. We must be also vigilant in our care and advocacy for them. Everyone must do this, says the Pope.
“None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.” And in case anyone misses the point, after a critique of the “idolatry of money” and an “economy of exclusion,” the Pope says: “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.”
What’s more, this does not mean simply caring for the poor, it means addressing the structures that keep them poor: “The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed.”
This joy and confidence needed to tackle these challenges – both inside and outside the church – is rooted and grounded in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that “personal encounter” with Jesus trying to spread the Gospel is useless. We must have what he calls a “constantly renewed experience of savoring Christ’s friendship and his message.”
Most Catholics will, like me, read the letter with enthusiasm. But some Catholics have criticized the Pope for trying to change too much in the church – even though no dogma has been altered. A few Catholics are not only beginning to critique him, but even worse, fear him. Change seems to be something to fear. As one of my Jesuit friends used to say, playfully, “I’m against change; even change for the better!” But the church must change if it is to grow – not in its core beliefs, but in the way that it lives out and shares those beliefs.
My advice to Catholics would be: Read the entire document. Take your time. Be generous with it. Let it excite you. Pray with it. And be open to the Holy Father’s call to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”
Finally, as Jesus said, “Fear not.” We can change the way we do things in the church – the spread of the Gospel demands it. So be confident in God’s desire for the church to grow and change. Besides, as Francis says, “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand.”
At one point, Francis uses a famous quote from Pope John XXIII, who noted at the opening of the Second Vatican Council that many doubted things could change for the better. Too many people at the time – 1962 – were predicting doom and disaster for the church and for the world. But John disagreed. “We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster.”
Evangelii Gaudium is Francis’ own ringing response to prophets of doom.
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is editor at large of America magazine and author of "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything." This article will also appear on America’s blog “In All Things.”
Prison and lawsuits Dorothy
amazing isn't it brethren? our heathen infidels blame their god because their biblical god is sending them to hell.
yellow fingered smoking girl is looking up to me
Hell not nice place for xhildren
And he shall reign forever and ever
When I was 7 my mother married a gay transgendered lesbian who loved dogs. I mean he really loved dogs. We took him to a Hindu priest and he got worse
I fell into gold mine
When I was a priest, many gay atheists converted under my ministry. Most became priests and highly intolerant of gay atheists.
Two lesbian gypsies became nuns and hated gay men until they passed away
One lesbian soviet communist became a baptist preacher, married, had 6 kids all turned out to be capatilist hogs
Hope and Change. Sound familiar? John the 23rd said Vatican II was going to be great and it is a total disaster. Some parishes near Dublin Ireland had near 90% attendance at Mass in the 1970's, now they are at 3 to 5%. Total number Nuns in the 1970, in the US, was 179,000 now there are 51,000 with numbers dropping fast. SADLY, I COULD GO ON!
SOMEONE Please show me why we are 'doubling down' on that failure. Blindness? Stupidity?
The same has happened in other sects. It had nothing to do with Vatican II.
Why CAN'T I blame Vatican II? So goes Christ's Church so goes the world.
Congratulations from a Mormon to Catholics. You have a great Pope! I always admired Pope John and I think Pope Francis May be his equal in other ways. He really seems to understand the joy and happiness that comes from the teachings of Jesus.
Pope Francis is going to redefine the Catholic Church, and his influence will redefine other aspects of Christianity (which needs to grow some legs).
The Christian Right has become an organization for Tax Evasion, and not for the COMPLETE vision Jesus left us with. I look forward to Pope Francis' influence.
Pope has really BAD vision better get his eyes checked and who is in control ?
Hint not some god(s)
ACLU Sues, Claiming Catholic Hospitals Put Women At Risk
December 02, 2013 4:42 PM
I used to be Hungarian bar tender. Now, drink beer and half drunk atheist, no dues and lots of pretty boys
I 'was' born a Catholic.......and, lived the life of a Catholic. We married at ages 18 and 20; we had 9 children and 2 miscarriages, in 10 years. The 'Rhythm Method' of birth control did not work for us; eventually, my OB said that "maybe" I ovulated more than once a month (and, he wasn't joking). They were very difficult delivers... our last son lived 18 hours; I was told I could still get pregnant, not carry to full-term – baby would die and I might, also. What a position for "practicing" Catholics to fine themselves in! We spoke with many priests – all said "if" we used birth control... we would go to hell.
There wasn't much choice left for us.... I wanted to be around, to help to take care of our large family. My husband was sterilized (because it involved so much less recovery-time for him, than if I had it done).
We began going to a neighborhood Bible study.....and, via a Billy Graham TV Crusade... we were "born again". We left the Catholic Church...... and, have gone to just about every kind of denomination and non-denominational church assembly. We will go wherever we feel the Lord speaking for us to go; we are *open* to His leadership in our lives.
I know, now... that when I was a Catholic... I was extremely "self-righteous".........I would show-off my large family, in our local Catholic Church: I felt vry proud... looked-down at other people, with their small families. I've repented of all this, and much more..... now, I am right with God: I know how much He loves me and the entire world. And, that same love pours out of me........to others. There's a Scripture "God is in you, of a truth." So, the love that comes out from me... comes directly from my heart...it is He who is LOVE. (It requires nothing of me....... simply yielding to His will.)
Ignoring the fact that you were indoctrinated into the RCC cult at an early age without your consent, your real trouble began when you "spoke with many priests." You've shed one cult – you should be able to get out of your current one and be completely free of religion, for which there is not a single bit of actual evidence to support the most basic supernatural belief.
Hot Air Ace......there is actually much to support belief in God and I mean real belief. I will give you just one. The bible says, that is God says of himself (and I am paraphrasing right now)..."you will know I am God because I will Tell you what will happen before it happens" And He does. The equivalent of just one prophecy is say there was a manuscript under lock and key since 1801 say in England that was written in 1801 by a person who claimed to know the future and wanted to prove it to a specific future generation. Let us say that generation was ours in 2006. We open the manuscript box and there are two envelopes, one labeled prophecy #1 open this first. This prophecy says that the new president to be elected in 2008 in our former colony now known as the U.S.A. will be (and the name and 1000 other exact details of his person, political life and administration events, family, etc. etc. are given and where a date is useful, it gives the date of event)......and it ends with " now make a copy of this manuscript and put the original back in the box and don't open it for 10 years. At the end of ten years you are to open the box and you may open prophecy #2 which will give you the instructions to collect 10 billion dollars of 2016 U.S. Dollars, tax free. To say the least this is rather intriguing so you decide to follow your copied manuscript point by point for the fun of it. Every point, all 1000 happen/occur exactly as predicted, exactly. In 2016, would you spend the airfare to go back to England to take a glance at prophecy 2? This, Hot Air Ace, is exactly what you are fighting against. You know not what you are fighting against. Now you know. Do you really think every Apostle (except John) preached the same gospel in far flung areas, had a horrible martyrs death in far flung places based on delusions? I am speaking of true Christianity now, which is a tiny fraction of what is out there. But with a heart desire for the truth of God you will be led to it by the Holy Spirit.
Lorraine, Thank you for sharing your story. It is hard to admit errors in pride and repent. I think the church needs to hear and react to women's voices more. Women don't need to kill themselves to have families of 10 or 12 any more- we are not in a population crisis. Women have carried the load of taking care of people and cleaning needs of the church
Hot air- there is a narrow gap between religion and cult. I'm glad we live in an age that allows you to be outside of either. The benefits of meditation and prayer can be personal and profound and have shaped society in good and bad ways since the dawn of civilization. Science is based on absolute truths- it is impossible to prove a negative, so you can not say with 100% certainty that there is no God. As you are allowed to reject religion, so others are allowed to embrace it.
Where it comes into a political arena, I personally believe it is wielded as weapon for fear mongering and outright lies– policy should be based on real information and provable data. Policy should also stay out of personal views.
Every religion fits the definition of cult – too bad if they can't handle the negative connotations of being a cult.
I never claimed that there are no gods. I believe that the probability of there being any gods is so low that it is virtually zero. I put the probability of the god of The Babble existing to be even smaller.
the big mistake of this religion are the teaching the people all againts the laws of the god and cheating all the people, that do this or that and you have a thousand blessed to the god,,,, but if you are asking the god what is no any member can explain,,, this is means that this religion has no connection to the god ? because a people who accepting the god as her worker GOD are introduce herself and he give the story of universe why have a universe,,
This new Pope is all that and a bag of chips, but as long as he treats women as second class citizen, and sees them as inferior to men during the Mass, I will not acknowledge him.
So you have a problem with your bible, not the pope.
how about corinthians 14:34-35.
It says pretty clearly that women are not allowed to speak in church. I hope that if you believe in this god, you better keep your women folk quiet during the ceremonies....they can ask you later if they have something.
You means that book that was put together in the middle ages from old manuscripts of various writings and traditions of other religions and folklore and set up in the way that they wanted their world view to be so as to control the masses.
The Catholic Church has done a lot of good in the world, regardless of what some on this blog would like to admit.
And they have done a lot of evil, and continue to do evil. Why should we overlook the evil?
We certainly shouldn't. When did I say that we should?
You didn't. It was just a question.
I'm sorry. I misunderstood what you were saying.
Sorry to interrupt a serious point== Bender found religion? Robot hell may be my favorite musical episode ever.
So you support them regardless of the fact that they have protected pedophiles?? So you don't give a damn about the innocent children!
Why are you putting words in my mouth?
You speak of how good they are but yet you miss the pedophilia cover-up which in itself takes away from any good. Anyone who truly cares about children should be seeing the cover-up as being more vital.
I have admitted that was going on.
I assume you are catholic. If yes, are you actively advocating to your cult's shamans that the RCC must come clean on child abuse at every level or are you meekly sitting on the sidelines?
I agree that they should. Doesn't mean that i can't bring up the good they have done.
You didn't answer the question.
How much extra good does the RCC have to do to make up for past and current evil?
Can the RCC be credible and successful given how they have handled and continue to fumble handling child abuse?
In regards to the first question, I'd say no. In my opinion, nothing they could do would make it up to the victims.
Can they be credible? Hard to say yes but they can still do some good in the world.
The Catholic Church has done a lot for society.
I don't care what they have done that is good, until they turn over all the pedophiles for prosecution they don't deserve recognition.
Why are you jumping everyone in the one category? That's not very nice.
There are people in the church who dedicate their life for good who never did anything that you said.
Sure but they are complicit in the cover-up. If they were such good people they would do the right thing and help ensure the monsters harming the innocent children are turned over to the police for prosecution...why support an organization that protects pedophiles?
Not everyone in the church knew that was going on. I wouldn't support that decision.
Would you report it to the police if you knew a priest was doing this?
The is nothing new, Fr Jesuit.
The message of the Gospel is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is no new way of looking. Revelation ended with the last Apostle. Comprenedo?
The bible has changed many times over the last 2000 years, depending on what the men in power needed. And it is being proved more and more contradictory and impossible with every passing year.
We know that the earth isn't flat, it's not the center of the universe, we didn't all come from one set of humans, snakes and donkeys don't talk, there wasn't a worldwide flood and an ark with two of every animal and people don't come back to life, just to name a few.
Do you follow all dietary laws? wear four cornered garments? or do you sin by wearing a poly-cotton blend at your local red lobster? Skipping over the bible wasn't "THE BIBLE" for a few hundred years after Jesus died and he didn't write or choose the books.
Even God and the devil change, progress in the Bible. Evil is just a snake at Eden, but Evil temps Jesus in the desert by quoting scripture. Gods covenants also change from 'an eye for an eye' (which was better than killing the whole village) to 'love thy neighbor' in Jesus. Grow expand.
I hope, next time he touches an afflicted person, like the man with the extensive neurofibromatosis, they are instantly miraculously healed...the blind seeing , the lame dancing, the dumb singing, the deaf hearing, lepers cleansed and the dead raised. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, ANYONE who believes in me will do the things I have been doing'...."
The world needs to see the Vicar of Christ fulfilling these words...and now with CNN's help, what a wonderful way to prove the words and person of Jesus Christ to be true.
So I hope, every member of the Church of Rome will use their faith to see their Bishop doing these things before a world groaning waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.
Th-umping passages from John's gospel is basically worthless. For example, the inauthenticity of John 14:12 is reviewed by Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 535-540. Also, keep in mind that John 14:12 only appears once in the NT making it a single attestation and failing therefore one of the major items of rigorous historic testing.
All of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.
From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,
"Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......
"Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus. "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous," and date it to 90-100."
"The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."
And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,
"Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "
See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html
Sorry there is nothing new that the Pope is challenging the Church of Rome to do..everything that he has written is what should have been the minimum the Church was doing from the beginning. The article is not an exhortation to new things, but an exhortation to repentance.
I am thankful for a Roman Pope who is prepared to base his sermon so liberally on the words of Jesus .
As the Father said to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration,'This is my Son whom I love ,listen to Him.'
Indeed , the miracle would be the Church of Rome, finally having a pope that exhorts listening to Jesus as this one does.
Every bible believer based on actually studying the bible knows there would be no such thing as a pope if the words of Christ and the bible were followed...there would also be no such thing as Sunday keeping, mass, confession to man, indulgences, purgatory, limbo, prayers to dead people, penance, Mary as other than a purely human mother of Christ, etc, etc. When the bible is buried under a mass of senseless (in terms of scriptural truths) traditions and teachings all that is produced is a world loving church whose adherents know that they have no personal barrier against sin in thought word or action and must rely on fables for some sense of eternal hope which is not there. Until one understands the cross of Christ and the simple plain bible statement "the wages of sin is death" (not one or a million Hail Marys, Our Fathers or whatevers; not $1 or 10 trillion in offerings or bought candles, etc., etc., in other words nothing but eternal death) , there is no hope. Dear people, the bible-the word of God- is the answer for those seeking the peace that only comes through Christ. Truly the Catholic church is Satan's masterpiece of deception. It is for all those who want to be saved by their own works or who want to be saved in sin. My prayer is that every one reading this is encouraged to Gods word. Sorry for the rather hard, plain language.
too much angry of the GOD to this religion , the roman catholics ,because this is a killer of her son
What? You're saying Catholics killed Jesus? That's a new one...
It is business as usual – the church really did not help.
And the pope tweeted to pray he should of tweeted send water or money maybe.
While at least $300 million has been pledged by nations around the world to help survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, a billion-dollar non-government organization, has responded to the disaster by sending 1,000 bibles and 12,000 rosaries to survivors, according to CBS News. Additionally, the Pope tweeted for Catholics to pray for the typhoon
victims. His message was retweeted 30,000 times.
Not sure where you get your information, but Catholic churches and dioceses all around the world have given a TON of financial aid and direct support to victims of the typhoon. A simple google search can show you that in seconds.
Atheist Billboards Declare Prayer, Bibles Not Helping Disaster Victims
Posted on: November 25, 2013
Jonathan is right. I found this story in 30 seconds.
But what did the pope tweet – what a joke.
The Vatican gave 150k in aid. Catholic charities probably gave millions.
But what has this cost the tax payers ?
Politics – ACA – Maybe the biblical stand on procreation and the 40 some private (for profit) companies suing the gov.over the day after
Two different issues. The Catholic Church should still receive praise for donating the aid.
Pennies from heaven I guess !
Off topic but appropriate for the occasion:
"Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West, From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest; When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board The old broken links of affection restored, When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more, And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before, What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye? What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? -"
John Greenleaf Whittier
Jesus himself posed a "fierce challenge to the status quo." You're right, James Martin. It is in every gospel. Francis is simply doing, "What would Jesus do?"
Actually he didn't. He was one of about 20 or so apocalyptic preachers, all who did miracles, and preached the "end times". He was quite ordinary, as a matter of fact, (until he pulled that stupid stunt in the temple, and got himself killed for it).
Not to mention that the logic of the theology behind Christianity, which requires a savior to clean up the mess caused by a faulty "creation", is very suspect: a god screwed up?
Allegedly did miracles
Mrs. Butterworth, if what you said were true, then the fact that his followers still believed in him after his death, along with the fact that his following grew and grew, would both be completely inexplicable.
Congratulations, you've just proved that Mohammed is a true prophet also. Care to rethink your criteria?
too late for that! They should have been doing that 2 millenium ago. Instead they've proved themselves to be the man of sin of 2 thes 2. Apostates responsible for "a turning away from the faith" – responsible for untold death & suffering in the name of God! The result of their apostasy is billions of so called adhearents that have no idea what's in the bible!
So the pope is doing what Jesus would do? Do you think Jesus would have conspired to hide pedophiles and ruined the lives of thousands of children?
Post my first note please
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.