In the first chapter of his important new book, Pope Francis’s “Paradigm Shift”: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church?, José Antonio Ureta points out the lack of certainty about the Pope’s interpretation of Church teachings, using Francis’s own words.
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On the first anniversary of his accession to the papal throne, Pope Francis reaffirmed this thesis in an interview with the director of Corriere della Sera: “I have never understood the expression ‘non-negotiable values.’ Values are values, and that is enough, I cannot say that one of the fingers of a hand is less useful than another.”1
His first encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, gives an overview of contemporary life and the challenges facing the evangelizing action of the Church. Pope Francis put the “new balance” into practice by speaking extensively and emotionally of exclusion economy, the idolatry of money, social inequality, secularism, and urbanization. He mentions abortion and the family only in passing, and in a subdued fashion.2
The Argentine pope has undeniably made occasional pronouncements in defense of the right to life, marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and parental rights. Their frequency and efficacy though, seem to be measured with an eyedropper. Moreover, they are countered by actions that erase much of their pastoral effectiveness.
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Mr. Ureta’s book explores the conflicts and uncertainty that Pope Francis has raised throughout the Catholic World. It is a startling and disturbing assessment that should be read by every person who is concerned about the direction that the Church is taking. You can purchase the book through the TFP web site or download it at no charge by using the link below.
- Ferruccio de Bortoli, “Benedetto XVI non è una statua: Partecipa alla vita della Chiesa,” Corriere della Sera, Mar. 5, 2014, http://www.corriere.it/cronache/14_marzo_04/vi-racconto-mio-primo-anno-papa-90f8a1c4-a3eb-11e3-b352-9ec6f8a34ecc.shtml. Even the analogy in this quote is incorrect as physiotherapists claim there is indeed a hierarchy in the usefulness of the hand’s fingers. “Hierarchy of the fingers – Thumb: It has always been considered as the hand’s most important finger. It intervenes in both force pressures and precision tweezers…. Index: It is a primordial element in fine, multiple-fingered pressures…. Middle: It is of little importance from a functional point of view when it is distal, except for writing and applying spherical pressure…. Pinky: It is essential in applying all pressures…. Ring finger: It is the least disturbing in amputations.” Jean Delprat, Solange Ehrler, Michel Romain, Jacques Xenard, “Estudio de la prensión,” Encyclopédie Médico-Chirurgicale, https://fr.scribd.com/document/106460939/05-Estudio-de-La-Prension, first published as “Bilan de la préhension,” Encycl. Méd. Chir. (Paris: Editions Scientifiques et Médicales Elsevier), Kinésithérapie-Médecine physique-Réadaptation, 26-008-D-20, 2002, 16 p.
- The same idea was taken up in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, published on the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of his Petrine ministry. In paragraph 101, Pope Francis writes, “The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate…. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.” In paragraph 102, he reiterates, “We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children.” Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, Mar. 19, 2018, nos. 101–2, https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html. (My emphasis.)