... But if I am asked what is the overall impression left by this Exhortation, I have to say that it is very much “this-worldly” oriented. It points horizontally, not vertically. The inner life of the Godhead is not much spoken of. When the Father is mentioned, it is always in the context of the love of the neighbor whom God loves in Christ. Unlike Benedict in Spe Salvi, there is little attention given to “eternal life.” When Francis mentions the “kingdom of God,” he does not, as one would expect, cite Augustine. He mentions actual cities and is rather surprised by them. When Augustine talked of “the City of God,” he said that it began among us, but could not be achieved in this world. No existing city would ever be this Kingdom. Augustine, with good reason, was leery of the ambitions of the cities of this world.[Hat tip to JM]
... What concerns Francis, if I might put it that way, is the second great commandment. He obviously does not deny the first, the love of God. But Francis’ attention is given to God’s love as it exists among us. But he thinks not enough response is given to it....
Pope Bergoglio is much more oriented to modernity, to modern culture, than the previous two popes. He cites John XXIII, and sometimes Paul VI, though he certainly cites John Paul II and Benedict—and de Lubac, Guardini, Newman, Bernanos, and the various documents of episcopal conferences. He is open to modern science. He is aware of skepticism, relativism, and atheism, but he has a certain sympathy for their adherents.
... What Pope Francis seems to be doing in this Exhortation is, as it were, to present an alternative to modernity within modernity. This alternative is itself inner-worldly. That is, the emphasis is on the effects of Christianity as it truly ought to be lived in the here and now.
... But at bottom, what this Exhortation seems to be is, indeed, an answer to classical modernity that, when spelled out, does everything modernity hopes for, only better and more securely because it is rooted in the real nature of man and is open to the gifts that have come to us in revelation. The Pope’s impatience has its charm. It also has its dangers. After all, most men who have ever lived on this planet have lived in very imperfect circumstances....
So while the function and inspiration of the Church is surely to stand for joy and fulfillment in this life, it never forgets that we save or lose our souls in the societies in which we live, whatever their condition. Some societies are better than others. And we are fortunate if in our lifetime we have lived in one of the better ones. One does not know this—“who are we to judge?”—but it is quite possible that more souls reached their transcendent end from the gulags and concentration camps than from the fashionable addresses of our culture....
Saturday, December 14, 2013
James Schall on the Pope's worldly hopes
James V. Schall, S.J., "Pope Francis' Missionary Church" (Catholic World Report, December 13, 2013):
Pertinacious Papist at 12:17 PM