November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET

Pope Francis: No more business as usual

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
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(CNN) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church - including at the very top  saying the church needs to rethink rules and customs that are no longer widely understood or effective for evangelizing.

"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," the Pope said in a major new statement.

"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures," Francis added.

The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is part mission statement, part pep talk for the world's 1.5 billion Catholics. Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've grown accustomed to his unconventional papacy.

"Not everyone will like this document," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author in New York. "For it poses a fierce challenge to the status quo."

And it's not just a verbal challenge, the Pope said on Tuesday.

"I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences."

Since his election in March, Pope Francis, the first pontiff to hail from Latin America, has made headlines by decrying the iniquities of modern capitalism, embracing the poor and people with disabilities and reaching out to gays and lesbians.

At the same time, the 77-year-old pontiff has sought to to awaken a spirit of joy and compassion in the church, scolding Catholic "sourpusses" who hunt down rule-breakers and calling out a "tomb psychology" that "slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum."

"An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!" the Pope said.

Officially known in Latin as "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the 85-page statement released on Tuesday is the first official document written entirely by Pope Francis. (An earlier document was co-written by Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.)

Although Francis sprinkles the statement with citations of previous popes and Catholic luminaries like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the new pontiff makes a bold call for the church to rethink even long-held traditions.

"In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated," the Pope said.

"Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

Such statements mark a sharp break from Benedict XVI, a more tradition-bound pope who focused on cleaning up cobwebs of unorthodoxy in the church.

By contrast, in "Evangelii" Francis repeats his calls for Catholics to stop "obsessing" about culture war issues and to focus more on spreading the Gospel, especially to the poor and marginalized.

READ MORE: The Pope’s bold new vision

The outside world, particularly its economic inequalities, didn't escape Francis' notice either.

In a section of "Evangelii" entitled "some challenges to today's world," he sharply criticized what he called an "idolatry of money" and "the inequality that spawns violence."

The Pope also blasted "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

“Meanwhile,” Francis said, “the excluded are still waiting.”

But the bulk of Francis' statement addresses the church, which, he said, should not be afraid to "get its shoes soiled by the mud of the street."

The Pope also hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called "wafer wars," in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. His comments could also be taken as another sign that he plans to reform church rules that prevent divorced Catholics from receiving the Eucharist.

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason," Francis said.

"The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

Even so, Francis reiterated the church's stand against abortion, defending it against critics who call such arguments "ideological, obscurantist and conservative."

"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," Francis said.

The Pope also reiterated previous rejections on ordaining women, saying the topic is "not open for discussion."

But that doesn't mean the church values men more than women, he said.

"We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," the Pope said.

Francis also said he expects other parts of the church to change, and called on Catholics to be unafraid of trying new things.

"More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving."

Francis didn't mention specific reforms, but he suggested that it could include changes at the very top of the church.

"Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy," he said.

READ MORE: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

The church's centralization, where all roads lead to Rome, and the "we've always done it this way" type of thinking have hindered Catholics' ability to minister to local people in far-flung places, Francis suggested.

"I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities," the Pope said.

Martin, the Jesuit priest and author, said he could not recall ever "reading a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating."

"The document’s main message is that Catholics should be unafraid of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel and new ways of thinking about the church."


The disfigured man in popular photos talks about the Pope's embrace 

Opinion – the Pope’s revolutionary message 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Francis

soundoff (2,437 Responses)
  1. robert

    Two many blaformus comments here! Its appalling!

    November 27, 2013 at 4:52 am |
    • adrifter

      Blaformus??? I hope that's a joke.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:55 am |
      • robert

        Blasformus. I got so fired up reading these comments that I typed two fast.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:58 am |
        • Karloff

          You still have it wrong.

          November 27, 2013 at 5:11 am |
        • northern heathen

          blasformus...hmm. Sounds like a gastrointestinal symptom

          November 27, 2013 at 5:21 am |
        • Beth

          And you are just making it worst. Its "too fast", not two. Although now you have two typos, so I guess that's correct. FYI, you aren't helping to combat the view that devout worshippers are just ignorant, emotion-driven hicks.

          November 27, 2013 at 5:44 am |
        • Skeptimist

          I'm guessing you write for Colbert, correct? That may be a bit too subtle for this crowd.

          November 27, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • jim g

      blaformus? LOL

      November 27, 2013 at 4:56 am |
      • Corky

        Thanks Grammar Nazi......

        November 27, 2013 at 5:06 am |
        • Karloff

          Better to be a grammar nazi than a member of the vile, sick, and criminal organization known as the catholic church.

          November 27, 2013 at 5:13 am |
        • ellas mcdaniel

          actually, grammar and spelling are two different things.

          HIs problem is spelling, not grammar

          November 27, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • Karloff

      What's appalling is all the child molestation that has gone in the catholic church for centuries.

      November 27, 2013 at 5:06 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Did you not notice the red squiggly line under the word? It indicates a misspelled word!

      November 27, 2013 at 6:00 am |
      • JimW Statesville, NC

        And if you go back and right click on that word it will give you a drop down list which probably contains the correct spelling...

        November 27, 2013 at 6:32 am |
        • truthprevails1

          I should have added that, thank you.
          I think robert needs to go back to grade 1, if he even made it past that and going on his poor grammar I'm guessing he didn't but they do say that poor education and religion go hand in hand.

          November 27, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  2. Patrick

    Now if we can only get the US State Dept to think this way so young people, women and artists who carried the Arab Spring aren't left swinging in the wind!

    November 27, 2013 at 4:51 am |
  3. SameOldSameOld

    A thousand (mostly) men don't touch themselves? Sheep, you are deluded!

    November 27, 2013 at 4:49 am |
  4. this board is HEAVILY censored

    If you don't have your tοnguе up the Pοοp's chute, it doesn't post.

    Nice of you "good Christians" to protect your vеrminοus, hypocritical leaders in this way.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:45 am |
    • akmac61

      Considering the tone of this comment by you, any censorship is likely due to your content, not the site.

      November 27, 2013 at 5:03 am |
  5. SameOldSameOld

    Steven Pinker, esteemed Harvard Psychology Professor and Cognitive Scientist, said: "Faith means to believe in something with no good reason, thus faith cannot tell us anything about what we should do or ought to do; for both of these require reasons, and the moment you are speaking about reasons you are committed to reason and logic and not faith."

    Chew on this statement, sheep!

    November 27, 2013 at 4:44 am |
    • Snow

      I'd say it was the blind leading the blind, SameOldSameOld.

      Noticed his syllogistic formula: He makes a statement, then concludes something else, without stating his assumption. Logically invalid.

      Even as a half-formed argument, however, it's possible to disagree with it. By the rules of logic, one is allowed to disagree with a supposition. And his supposition that "faith means to believe in something with no good reason" is obviously, transparently false. It's not possible for a person to do *anything* without some reason - whatever it be. And that reason is likely to be definite - since a person can return to it repeatedly.

      So basically all that dimwit is doing is defining terms that support his conclusion, then asserting how right he is. Perfect for not-so-bright college students in a classroom. Pathetic to anyone with a half a brain who isn't constantly struggling to defend their atheism.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:57 am |
  6. Theseus

    The Pope of church is correcting and changing the behavior the church that he is the leader of? Oh religion, what a tangled web you weave.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:44 am |
  7. all talk - NO ACTION WHATSOEVER


    November 27, 2013 at 4:43 am |
  8. SameOldSameOld

    You fools! The mafia has been controlling the Vatican for decades – it's why you can only use cash at the Vatican. With great intentions, Francis won't be able to change sheitz. And no, the Vatican folks won't stop touching themselves. Once you accept this reality, you'll realize that god's existence is irrelevant, I.e. if there were one.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:42 am |
  9. BOsmells

    I don't think you know what socialism is.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  10. bill

    That's the Pope for ya'. Infallible in every way!

    November 27, 2013 at 4:38 am |

      Yes, we are only human! We made mistake but if you lift up your heart to God and respect all religions. You will have a solace mind and no maligning other religion.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:49 am |

    The people doesn't believe in God will be punish. i look forward for the Pope Francis changes. My faith in God and as a Catholic save my life and my family for all despare.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • jim g

      childish religious garbage.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:37 am |

        Angel spirit will to HEAVEN, i hope you remember that!

        November 27, 2013 at 4:45 am |
    • SameOldSameOld

      go f yourself like the rest of the Vatican folks!

      November 27, 2013 at 4:40 am |
    • sam stone

      we cannot fear punishment from a being in which we do not believe. if you find comfort in your beliefs, that is fine.

      November 27, 2013 at 5:33 am |
  12. jim g

    And, the catholic church is the same immoral and criminal organization it has been for centuries.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:29 am |

      Jim g, If i were you i would not spelled any words coming from nasty mouth but to rather respect in any religion.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:35 am |
      • jim g

        i have no respect for the catholic church. it is GARBAGE. religion is for those who need adult fairy tales and have refused to grow up.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  13. ohmamabear

    No business as usual? From the picture I thought he was throwing in the towel.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:25 am |
  14. Ben Valelei

    " Woe to you who mock or say bad things about the pope. Do not do it because I AM waiting for an APOLOGY from him. " declares The LORD.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:23 am |
    • jim g

      religious garbage. lol.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:34 am |

        Rethink your FEEBLE SENSES! The world doesn't create over time, it takes days and years. But who created the World? Is God? so, your beliefs is NO God! People doesn't believe on Pope pretcher through God will be destroy at anytime given. Just in the Blink of an eye.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  15. strumbore

    I'm a born-again atheist, and haven't read very deeply into the new pope, but I think his ascension was a very positive transition for the church on the whole. Still, I am very frustrated with the foolish, knee-jerk warnings against "consumerism" as the cause of social tension. Consumerism, to liberals, isk akin to avarice–the ceaseless need to have more. It would make sense for a person embracing a lifestyle of avarice (wherever snobbish political activists decide to draw that line lately) to feel unfulfilled, but that is not an excuse for others to be contemptful.

    If anything, society needs to come to terms with *respecting* the value of a dollar, understanding that it is *earned*, not taken or spread around (not in the private sector, at least). You make a contract, you do your job, you do it WELL, you make more money. If you don't, some people are ***-****s and your only choice is to be indispensable or sue for violating said contract.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:23 am |
  16. SecrtSqurl

    "Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric," the Pope wrote.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • Worker Bee

      I wonder if he's planning to sell off all of the Church's priceless art, gold, jewels and the rest of their mighty assets and pay wages to all the workers in the world who survive by earning money by producing consumer goods?

      Yes, there is worker abuse and wastefulness, so we need to fix the ills there, and recycle, and come up with more Earth-friendly products. Dissing consumerism is not economic wisdom.

      November 27, 2013 at 5:01 am |
  17. James Hall

    Let there be no doubt, the Pope is a socialist.
    Will conservative billionaires now spend a $billion dollars attacking the Pope as a dangerous anti-American radical to counter his growing popularity and influence with American Catholics especially Latino voters? You can count on it. The Pope was talking very specifically about billionaire right wing propaganda financiers like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers. They are the personification of evil and everybody knows that but now none other than the Pope has emphatically confirmed it as fact. When the Pope says you are evil you're reputation is crap and Murdoch and his propaganda machine called FOX news is pure evil and pure crap.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:21 am |
  18. Ben Valelei

    The Pope and his priests killed Jesus without knowing because God hid that truth from them at the time. God then had been waiting for The Pope today to acknowledge and apologize to Him for that Great Sin. So before The Pope preaches about all other rubbish. His job now is to get on his knees and say sorry to God for killing Jesus and call all his priests to do the same today.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:15 am |
    • Stateng

      How in the word did the pope kill Jesus? Jesus lived 2000 years ago and was turned over to the Romans by Jewish priests. This was by design too. What are earth you talking about.

      November 27, 2013 at 4:24 am |
      • Ben Valelei

        Dont reply to me if you are not The Pope.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:30 am |
        • Stateng

          I thinking the mental ward is wanting you back. They have a nice straight jacket for you.

          November 27, 2013 at 7:01 am |
      • Ben Valelei

        you are not the pope so you have no understanding

        November 27, 2013 at 4:40 am |
        • sam stone

          you are not the pope either, pen-day-ho

          November 27, 2013 at 5:37 am |
        • Ben Valelei

          Yes I AM not the Pope. I AM the messenger for the Pope. I AM the prophet who was sent to warn the Pope. And the Pope can not open his mouth and say that he is a prophet. I CAN.

          November 27, 2013 at 5:42 am |
  19. BO

    The Catholic church is a JOKE.

    November 27, 2013 at 4:12 am |
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About this blog

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.