— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) September 19, 2013
Thomas Reese declares, “I have never been prouder to be a Jesuit or prouder of my church or more surprised by the Spirit”:
For Francis, three words sum up the mission of Jesuits today: “Dialogue, discernment, frontier.” On the last point, he quoted Paul VI’s speech about the Jesuits: “Wherever in the church—even in the most difficult and extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches—there has been and is now conversation between the deepest desires of human beings and the perennial message of the Gospel, Jesuits have been and are there.”
Reading this interview gave me greater insight into my Jesuit vocation and into our Jesuit pope. What is clear is that he does not think like a classicist who sees the world in unchanging categories. He is a story teller like Jesus, not a philosopher. He thinks in narrative not philosophical principles. He thinks like a pastor understanding the history of the church but wanting to move with God’s people confidently into the future. He trusts that the Spirit is alive and well in the people of God.
James Martin nods:
Pope Francis is comfortable with gray. In the interview, he speaks out against what he calls a “doctrinal security” and offers a gentle critique of those who “stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists.” Pope Francis asks Catholics to move away from a church that “locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” Instead he invites Catholics, and invites the church, into the world of uncertainty, which is where most of us live anyway.
This is the world into which Jesus walked: the real world, in which people experience uncertainty and confront the need to make decisions. It is the milieu of the everyday believer. Jesus entered this world in the first century, and the church must be comfortable in that same world today.
Martin Longman feels odd praising the pontiff:
Pope Francis isn’t changing any doctrine with these kinds of remarks, but he is making a rather clean break with his two most recent predecessors, whose tone and emphasis was much more in tune with the Reaganite Right in this country. … I can’t say for sure how this new pope will influence American politics, but as a liberal I can say that it is a relief not to feel like the Vatican is fighting on behalf of my political opponents anymore. That’s not a comfortable feeling.
K-Lo glosses over the content and praises the tone:
The Francis factor, so to speak, is his focus on opening doors. How will anyone be open to Catholicism if they cannot get past knowledge of some of the prohibitions, without knowledge of the context, without invitation, without a love that compels them radiating from Christians? … That’s very much the Evangelical Catholicism George Weigel talks about, using that same Emmaus-road image, by my quick read. It’s the call of the Catholic to know Christ and make Him known, to set hearts ablaze. In this interview and by his daily witness and words, that’s what this pope is witnessing to, fascinating the world — which may misunderstand at times, as he reproposes some fundamentals and open doors of introduction and renewal.
Damon Linker throws some cold water:
[H]owever much those remarks signal a shift from the rhetorical style of popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, progressive Catholics need to understand that the change is, and is likely to remain, a matter of words.
Consider what the pope did not say. He didn’t say that homosexual acts are morally permissible. He didn’t say that abortion can be morally acceptable in certain (or any) circumstances. He didn’t say anything to indicate he was interested in revisiting Pope Paul’s 1968 reaffirmation of the church’s ban on artificial contraception. He didn’t imply that he’s interested in revising the church’s strictures against married priests. He certainly didn’t indicate an openness to permitting the ordination of women. 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.
Tim Stanley nods, adding, “Some will see this as rewriting doctrine, especially those who exist outside the Church and have absolutely no intention of ever joining”:
The Pope has called for a rejection of a focus on “issues”. But, ironically, it’ll be liberals obsessed with “issues” who pay attention and embrace his message – all those folks who for years have been campaigning for the Catholic Church to jettison Catholicism and embrace women priests, homosexuality, contraception etc. The folks who loathed Benedict – people who willfully interpreted his words as ultra-conservative and who now interpret Francis’ language and hopefully liberal. In particular, those who loathe the traditional Mass will thrill at his warning that it must not develop into an “ideology”. No it must not. It hasn’t. It never will. Frankly, on this issue, I genuinely don’t know what my Pope is talking about.
That last sentence rings true, doesn’t it?