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. Penel9

    I have long believed the Catholic Church has been unfaithful to its own flock, in particular, on birth control. I'm Methodist but am glad for Pope Francis's bright spirit toward making the world a better place and hope he continues with his courage to balance doctrine and the real complexities of the 21st C.

    December 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      Agreed. So.

      December 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I am Jew. Hope so to

      December 5, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  2. Randel

    Conservatives hate people that edify Jesus.

    December 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  3. Randel

    I like Francis.

    December 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  4. devent

    the existence of this and of CNN is the proof of the valdity of the dialectical theory of Hegel,the intellectual exchange of ideas will create a resultant force that will rectify or clarify and solidify our precepts and belief for the future of humanity.and all of this is willed and guided by God.Unity of faith in God is the objective.Its the commonality of faith and not the differences .Thats how i interprete the Popes ideas.The internet is now here for that purpose.any duplication of previous post is just added emphasis on this landmark idea.and not on alzhaimer

    December 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  5. devent

    the existence of this and of CNN is the proof of the valdity of the dialectical theory of Hegel,the intellectual exchange of ideas will create a resultant force that will rectify or clarify and solidify our precepts and belief for the future of humanity.and all of this is willed and guided by God.Unity of faith in God is the objective.Its the commonality of faith and not the differences .Thats how i interprete the Popes ideas.The internet is now here for that purpose

    December 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Logical default

      Exactly. The pope knows that Christianity is dying and won't survive in the long term unless they merge it with the other faiths based on common faith, rather than petty differences in how they practice beliefs. In this intelligent technological society you can't hide from science forever. Either evolve or be left behind.

      December 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  6. jennifer

    “The Roman Catholic Church, has become: like ‘the sinking oil tanker’, that has sunk to the bottom, spilling-out ‘black sludge’ everywhere. Because the spirit of theantichrist is so strong within that ‘collective organization of people’, then, they are ‘fully immersed’ in the ‘black waters’.”
    (-Jesus, Sunday, June 3, 2012)
    Testimony Of The Two Witnesses . Com ….there IS a COMET coming so it would be WISE to READ “Holy Water and the Sacraments”

    December 3, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  7. Thalia

    America needs to replace their absolute Love for consumerism (buy buy buy) and Love for money with Love for God.
    This is why you see so many mass murdering, depression and so much greed that causes economic collapse worldwide.
    The farther you drift from God the sicker you get and society gets.

    December 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  8. Former Xtian

    Wow a pope that actually makes sense and wants to get with the times. He's right, it's not about literal interpretations and rituals, it's about doing good deeds for others. That has taken a back seat for quite a bit of Christians these days due to obsession with dogma and outdated rituals that don't even make sense.

    December 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  9. Thalia

    The reason the pope (God bless him) is speaking so passionately is because we are facing dire times, which will determine our humanity and destiny. He is trying to help everyone so it's best everyone listens to him.

    December 3, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Only members of the RCC cult need listen to Pope-A-Dope. When he gets his own backyard cleaned up (turns over all pedophile priests and their protectors to civilian authorities, for example) and demonstrates that his cult members actually listen to him and follow their cult's rules (by significantly recducing the hundreds of thousands of abortions his members get each year, for example), I might pay more attention. Until then, he's just another delusional believer shaman in pretty clothes.

      December 4, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  10. Roger Branning

    Rush is evil. Pope Francis is my religious leader. I will what he says and does. Rush is just a bully who like to hear himself preach for the capitalist..

    December 3, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • Joao

      "Rush is evil"? really? I don't much like him either, but he is less loud than previously, a reasoned? argument. Why hate/judge him for it. Hear him out; take part in discourse, no cursing.

      December 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  11. Wayne "The Truth Hurts" Keefer

    In other words, your going to tell me what I want to hear and then bend me over pope. I believe you have the same plan as Mr Obama.
    The catholic church is just like politics take everyone's money is the only plan. he lives in a house filled with gold and he's gonna talk about greed, he has no room to talk. everyone better open their eyes and look around the people have nothing, and this man has a golden house. they must be running low on cash to buy more gold for the house that's why he's talking trash about other faith's.

    December 3, 2013 at 5:14 am |
  12. sassy3000

    Rush IS NOT going to hell. Shame on you idiots for saying such childish garbage! This little Pope isn't God. He is JUST a man. Second, King David was rich as was King Solomon. They were NEVER punished for being rich! Only for being led astray from the ONE TRUE GOD!
    Capitalism is NOT evil. Jesus NEVER said Money is the root of all evil, HE SAID 'The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil". BIG DIFFERENCE!
    Those who game the system are bad people who should go to jail. Those who run their businesses honestly (as MOST DO) are not evil and the money THEIR BUSINESS earns is THEIR MONEY, NOT YOURS! You are NOT poor because someone else is rich! That thinking is beyond stupid!
    The real problem people have with the rich is that SOME people are GREEN-EYED JEALOUS MONSTERS WHO ARE ENVIOUS OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE! That IS A SIN!
    Socialism is evil! It DOES NOT WELCOME GOD BECAUSE GOD WANTS US TO BE FREE, TO MAKE OUR OWN DECISIONS! Socialists pukes don't! They are power hungry control freaks who want to be able to dictate what you eat, drink, wear, drive, think, what job you may have etc! YUCK! Only a really weak-minded fool would embrace such AN UNGODLY ARRANGEMENT!

    December 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • newyorkjsw

      Everything good, Rush L will and must hate. His entire scam to morons who listen is NON TRUTH and Bitterness.
      He knows many people dont know anything and are very bitter and angry.. thus his gets rich off of them!!

      December 2, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • neved

      Dear Sassy3000,

      December 3, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • neved

      the attributes of a succesfull capitalist is ruthlessness in pursuit of profits .soft heartedness to them is failure.the get more money in the hardships of most clients.during biblical times without modern media and coomunications ,facts are hidden to most people.now its different ,we can feel the miseries of our specie,and all life forms.so we began to develop concern for everyone,the pope is only one of us.but he is the most influential religious leader.

      December 3, 2013 at 2:39 am |
    • neved

      i am a capitalist myself,but not the big ones,but caring for others is personal,the caring human is beyond money.

      December 3, 2013 at 2:59 am |
    • gtstommy

      Sounds like you've got a lot of anger towards things not quite understood. No worries, we all have our buttons. But, you're right Capitalism is not evil, it's simply an economic idea as is socialism. Also, I agree that there are plenty of good-hearted, God-fearing people in this world who have become economically successful. But, after that I begin to disagree.

      Although some of the wealthy people in this world got that way from their own ideas/resources/etc. few to none of them did it without the help of workers making far, far less. No one who actually got wealthy without help from family, got that way without exploiting some level of working class, unless they invented something, an idea, or revolutionized an industry. Those folks are quite rare, and hardly figure into this equation. My point is, a vast majority of those who have "made it" have done so on the backs of others. Willing or not. At no other point in American (I live in America, I assume you do as well) history has this point been more prevalent, all economists and indications agree that since the mid '90's middle and lower class wages have stayed relatively stagnant, while those of the wealthier classes have skyrocketed.

      Also, for you to assert you know which money will be blessed and which will not be is borderline foolishness. I don't mean to attack you, just making a point. Our God is beyond our comprehension, you nor I can really know his intentions. Jesus said to, "render unto Caesar..." which, to me, indicates that paying taxes is not a sin, but an obligation to being a good citizen. Not to mention, overall tax rate to GDP is lower now than in 1950, so I don't really perceive a socialist agenda sweeping our nation, despite what is said about Obamacare, ha!

      Anyway, the socialist movement (not to mention Marxist, which is what Rush called the Pope) is not about conformity, but rather equality. Maybe not the best in practice, but the original intent was not all bad. But, luckily we have moved on. To be fair, though, all reactionary ideals are based in some sort of conformity, uniformity, and control, both left and right. True freedom is not found in gov't of any kind, b/c in all gov't's you have those who control and will do all it takes to maintain the control.

      The love of money is the root of all evil. The joy of money is sharing it. Maybe if we did more of that, we could have even less gov't 🙂 Have a good night!

      December 3, 2013 at 3:25 am |
    • Roger Branning

      Rush is evil. Pop Francis is my religious leader. I like what he says and does. Rush is just a big mouth for the capalists.

      December 3, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • Former Xtian

      Capitalism encourages love of money and greed. When short term profits are more important than human life and our future as a species, it becomes a major problem. Jesus was a hippy who encouraged empathy and tolerance.

      December 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Dugglcious

    Oboy, for denouncing the Pope as a Marxist, Rush Limbaugh is going to Hell now. He'll like the fact that there is no climate change. The place is eternally very, very, very hot. I recall another religious leader who didn't think worshipping profits was all that great either. Jesus somebody. Liberal dude. Stood up for the poor. Forgot the last name.....

    December 2, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Hell does not exist for non-believers

      Can't Rush engage in some type of religious ritual or repent so that he avoids going to Hell?

      Alternatively, if Rush declares himself to be a non-believer, Hell no longer exists for him.

      December 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  14. Simon

    Joe Not yet a human being, and therefore not murder.

    December 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
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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.