As I noted earlier, in his apostolic exhortation released today, Pope Francis writes:
The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life “related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good”.
183. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? They themselves would have found this unacceptable. An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.
I didn’t think to title a post “St. Francis, Mother Teresa vs. the HHS Mandate” — or title it like I did this one – until I saw a headline on a National Journal newsletter asking “Does the Pope Hate Republicans?” It came in alongside some Planned Parenthood/Feminist Majority/fellow-abortion-industry-travelers e-mails reviving “war on women” nonsense because some family businesses want to operate as the people of faith they are.
The main point of Pope Francis’s document today is you’ve got to be real countercultural witnesses if you call yourselves Christian. You’ve got to live faith.
As I write, the president of the United States is speaking to an audience at Dreamworks in California about how “freedom is good for business” and how he is only about “kindness.”
At some point, our words have to have meaning again, or our laws no longer will. The pope’s trying to help, by urging Christians to be for real, to be joyful, to be beacons of Christ’s love and mercy in the world, helping people to see they are sons and daughters of a loving Father who does not leave them alone.
Today’s obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross.
83. And so the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!
The administration’s position seems to be, “If you like your conscience, you can keep it to yourself.” (hat tip: MM). And as he gives thanks for Will and Grace and Modern Family (how soon we forget Ellen?), I’m not even sure that’s his position. He equates redefining marriage with the civil-rights movement. One side is good; one is evil. Today on MSNBC, commentators jumped right from the abortion-drug appeal news to marriage: Next those crazy religious folks are going to want to opt out of gay marriage.
Well, actually . . . but let’s take a few steps back. Who are we and why are we here? What are our obligations to one another? Some archbishops in the U.S. – Chaput and Gomez come to mind – talk of a need for a new anthropology. That’s what Pope Francis is going for: greeting people where they are, as we encounter them, with mercy. With justice, too. But drenched in mercy.
It’s a poverty to see this merely ideologically.