The Message Of Francis


How E.J. Dionne Jr. understands the Pope:

As the leader of a church that has so long been viewed as dogmatic, hierarchical, and traditional, Francis bids to turn himself into a model of a kind of mystical humility that combines a spirit of moderation with intellectual openness and a radical understanding of what the primacy of the spiritual over the material means. Benedict issued a stern warning against a “dictatorship of relativism.” Francis seems worried about something else entirely.

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing,” he has said. “Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­ — they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”

Thus is his one “dogmatic certainty” — a thoroughly undogmatic universalism more interested in shattering barriers than erecting them. It’s a very new approach to religion in the modern world, rooted in the oldest of doctrines.

(Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)