THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON POPE FRANCIS
THE 99 LOST SHEEP
Phil Lawler's piece is very important in clarifying Pope Francis'
style, which sometimes unsettles conservatives. But I see
Pope Francis as a great pope, doing and saying and teaching
the right things, according to our orthodox Catholic faith.
He is just the right pope to respond to the Spirit’s
call to the New Evangelization in this third millennium.
Please note the two paragraphs below that I have highlighted
in red. This is precisely what I have been saying for some
time now, and this is why God has given us in CFC-FFL the
way back to rapid and massive evangelization, which has always
been our calling. This is LCSC.
Because of the “controversial” remarks of Pope
Francis, many liberals are rejoicing and many conservatives
are worried. They need not be.
How about you and I? Do I make you uncomfortable with the
new leadings that I truly believe come from the Holy Spirit?
Do you reject them outright because they are not in accordance
with your thinking? Do you then begin to speak behind my back,
rather than taking up the matter with me? Do you then spread
the poison of dissent, rather than trying to work with me
to unite and strengthen our community in the coming great
work? Do you grumble and bring people down rather than lifting
God has blessed CFC with so much, restored us to our authentic
charism through CFC-FFL, and now gives us the privilege to
truly become a servant to the Church and be able to accomplish
the mission originally given to us. There are radical changes,
but “radical” is a true Christian’s middle
Shall we now go out to try to reach all those lost sheep?
The key to understanding Pope Francis: the 99 lost
Phil Lawler / September 20, 2013 3:40 PM
If the Pope’s main responsibility is to keep us all
comfortable, then Pope Francis is failing miserably.
that’s not really the Pope’s job, is it?
the past several weeksand more than ever in the past
24 hours, since the release of the Pope’s blockbuster
interview in America in America-- friends have been complaining
that the Holy Father has a tendency to say things in a way
that could cause confusion. He makes statements that the media
can easily distort, they say. And they’re undoubtedly
there’s a precedent for that way of speaking. Jesus
made people uncomfortable. The Lord’s words and gestures
were often misinterpreted, and his critics found it easy to
put things in an unfavorable light. Jesus ate with tax-collectors
and sinners, they charged; He didn’t show sufficient
respect for the Law. Now the Vicar of Christ is subject to
similar accusations. Somehow it fits.
it be better, really, if the Pope limited himself to statements
that could not possibly be distorted? Should he stop trying
to make subtle distinctions, or making new observations about
controversial topics? That would be a form of self-censorship:
shaping the message to suit the media. Far better, I think
for the Pope to speak frankly, telling the truth in and out
of season, letting the chips fall where they may.
the media will distort the message. They will pretend, as
far as they can, that Pope Francis has changed the fundamental
message of the Church. But sooner or later that ploy will
fail, because the Pope will say something directly contrary
to the message the media have attributed to him.
this case, it didn’t take too long. The ink wasn’t
dry on all the stories alleging that the Pope wanted to hear
less talk about abortion, when the Pope himself delivered
a blistering indictment of the “throwaway culture”
that denigrates the value of human life. “Every unborn
child unjustly condemned to be aborted has the face of Jesus
Christ,” the Pope told a group of doctors today.
who read the Pope’s interview carefully, rather than
relying on sensational and simplistic interpretations, realize
that he did not say anything terribly new. His style of speech,
his approach to issues, is unfamiliar. But the content of
his message is the familiar teaching of the Catholic Church.
enough, some of the Pope’s critics recognized that he
had not endorsed the changes in doctrine that they longed
for. The Washington Post acknowledged that the interview contained
no new teachings. Damon Linker, writing in the New Republic
, sounded forlorn as he observed: “The interview contains
no sign that the Pope is willing to budge on any of the items
on the progressive Catholic wish-list of reforms.”
we have an odd phenomenon: While the Pope is allegedly trying
to downplay unpopular Church teachings, the very critics of
those teachings are emphasizing them! Dissident Catholics
are anxious to exploit the Pope’s words, to argue that
we no longer need to oppose legal abortion and same-sex marriage.
But critics of the Church are, in effect, reining in the dissenters,
reminding them that the Church still does oppose abortion
and homosexual activities. One way or another, as Pope Francis
observed, the teachings of the Church on these issues are
cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage
and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis
said (emphasis added).” He did not say that we should
be silent. Later he added that “it is not necessary
to talk about these issues all the time(emphasis added again).
The Pope’s key observation fell between those two sentences,
when he said: “But when we speak about these issues,
we have to talk about them in a context.”
is the context, thennot the controversial issues themselvesthat
concerns the Pontiff. He does not want the Church to hammer
away on points that are already well known. He sees a problem
of diminishing returns. The people who are disposed to accept
the Church’s teachings are already convinced; those
who are hostile to those teachings are no longer listening.
We need to find new ways to reach them.
we can reach them, the Pope promises, if we return to the
fundamental truths of Christian faith. “A beautiful
homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation,
with the proclamation of salvation,” he told his Jesuit
interviewer. Someone who accepts the essential truth of the
Gospel, someone who sees the route to salvation, might then
be open to hearing more about Catholic moral teaching. On
the other hand, those who disregard the essentialsthose
who have come to see the Church as merely a political structure,
imposing old rulesare unlikely to be persuaded by one
more iteration of the arguments.
the way, some of my friends have argued, with ample justification,
that the Pope is simply wrong to say that the Church has spoken
out too often about abortion, homosexuality, and contraception.
In fact, my friends observe, bishops and priests have been
conspicuously silent on those issues. That is sadly, undeniably
true. Yet still the Pope has a point. Bishops and priests
do not constitute the Church. We are the Churchyou and
I, as well as the bishops and priests and religious. Have
we, you and I, sometimes taken pleasure in denouncing an evil,
when it would have been more effective, and more charitable,
to say something about God’s merciful love? I, for one,
plead guilty to that charge.)
this a radically new message? Not at all! Pope Benedict XVI
frequently said that the faith is not a matter of accepting
intellectual propositions, but a matter of making a commitment
to Christ. Pope John Paul II admonished the faithful that
our job, as missionaries in a secular world, is to help our
neighbors “see the face of Christ.” This remains
the fundamental challenge of evangelization: to bring people
to Christ. With the help of grace, their behavior might change
after they embrace the faithnot before.
why are so many faithful Catholics upset by what the Pope
has said? Because he has abandoned Church teaching? No. Because
he has said something very new? No. Many of my friends, I
fear, are disturbed because the Pope’s approachhis
cajoling tone, his irenic line of thoughtmight give aid
and comfort to the enemy. Yet that’s dangerous for a
Christian, isn’t itto think of people as enemies?
now we all know peoplefriends, neighbors, relatives,
colleagueswho have procured abortions, or who are active
homosexuals, or live in irregular marital situations. How
do we treat these people? Too often, I fear, we try to ignore
them, or at least ignore their problems. We could do better.
how can we help them? It will not help, in most cases, to
keep telling them that their behavior is immoral. They have
tuned out that message. But maybe, with patience and prayer,
we can help them to recognize the grace of God, to see the
power of the Gospel, to accept the message of mercy that Pope
Francis emphasizes at every opportunity. A friend may be willing
to confront his own sin, as soon as he realizes that a loving
God is ready to forgive him.
few weeks ago I wrote in this space to support John Allen’s
suggestion that Pope Francis should be known as the “Pope
of Mercy.” Let me now sharpen that suggestion, by pointing
to one statement that strikes me as the hermeneutical key
to understanding the pastoral approach taken by this surprising
June, in a talk to an ecclesiastical congress of the Rome
diocese, Pope Francis recalled the story of the Good Shepherd,
who leaves his 99 sheep to search for one that is lost. Then
he suggested that in today’s secular culture, the shepherds
of the Catholic Church confront a very different problem.
“It’s the 99 who we’re missing!” he
said. “In this culture, let’s face it, we have
only 1. We are the minority!”
pastor of a Catholic church has several challenges that he
must approach simultaneously: encouraging good Catholics to
become better Catholics; encouraging indifferent Catholics
to become good Catholics; encouraging lapsed Catholics to
become active; and encouraging non-Catholics to enter the
Church. Ordinarily the pastor works first with the active
Catholicswith those who are already in the pewshoping
to form a cadre that will help him evangelize others. That
was certainly the approach taken by Benedict XVI, who testified
to the power of a “creative minority” in the Church
and in the world.
Francis, however, sees a need for a more drastic approach.
The sheep are leaving the fold; the 99 are already lost! So
he has devoted his first attentions to the outsiders; he speaks
constantly of bringing the Gospel to those “on the periphery.”
As a young Jesuit, he wanted to be a missionary. As things
turned out he never served in distant lands, but he brought
a missionary outlook to his work in Buenos Aires, and now
he has brought it to Rome.
to the point, Pope Francis has brought his missionary outlook
to you and to me. He wants us to join him in the task of bringing
the Gospel to the “periphery,” telling our neighbors
about God’s infinite mercy, proclaiming the joyful news
of salvation. He’s asking us to do things that, frankly,
we are not always comfortable doing.
Yes, the Pope makes me uncomfortable. As well he should.
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