Guest post by: Jesus Florez
On April 2nd, 2019, The Holy See released to the public the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Christus vivit”. It comes as the culmination of the work started and conducted during the October 2018 ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops. Its topic was “young people, the faith and vocational discernment”. The document can be accessed in its entirety here.
As is the case with many other Catholics, I’m concerned about the direction in which Pope Francis is taking the Church. It should not come as a surprise for anybody who has been following this pontificate up close since the beginning. There are many things that our current Pontiff has said and done that are very disconcerting and quite frankly, alarming. That’s why I decided to share some of my thoughts and impressions on certain portions of “Christus vivit” that I perceive as being the most problematic and compounding of the doctrinal and pastoral crisis we’re experiencing in the Church today.
A caveat is in place at this point. I’m not a theologian nor do I make a pretense to be one. I’m just a lay Catholic faithful, a husband and father. I defer to far better qualified people like Erick Ybarra and Michael Lofton for theologically rigorous and incisive critiques (Erick’s work, for example, can be accessed here.
My piece runs as follows. I’ll quote paragraphs and fragments of paragraphs followed by short comments.
42 – “For example, a Church that is overly fearful and tied to its structures can be invariably critical of efforts to defend the rights of women, and constantly point out the risks and the potential errors of those demands. Instead, a living Church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality. A living Church can look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence. With this outlook, she can support the call to respect women’s rights, and offer convinced support for greater reciprocity between males and females, while not agreeing with everything some feminist groups propose. Along these lines, the Synod sought to renew the Church’s commitment “against all discrimination and violence on sexual grounds”.That is the response of a Church that stays young and lets herself be challenged and spurred on by the sensitivities of young people”.
I’m worried about the way many among the clergy will take these words, especially those that are still treating the matter of the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood as an open question. Let’s not be naive. Those who dissent from the tradition and the definitive judgement of the Magisterium will use the “rights of women” phraseology as an incentive to continue to further their agenda.
92 – In some host countries, migration causes fear and alarm, often fomented and exploited for political ends. This can lead to a xenophobic mentality, as people close in on themselves, and this needs to be addressed decisively”.
94 – In a special way, I urge young people not to play into the hands of those who would set them against other young people, newly arrived in their countries, and who would encourage them to view the latter as a threat, and not possessed of the same inalienable dignity as every other human being.
I’m going to say one of the most politically incorrect things of the 21st century. Islam is a threat. There, I said it.
Why did Pope Francis feel the need to use the word “xenophobic”? What did he hope to accomplish by that? I feel that this was highly inappropriate and unnecessarily combative. It baffles me.
As Michael Lofton said to me in a recent Facebook conversation, this idea of not welcoming all immigrants because we somehow believe that they are “not possessed of the same inalienable dignity as every other human being” is a canard and hard to take seriously.
162 – “But I would also remind you that you won’t become holy and find fulfillment by copying others. Imitating the Saints does not mean copying their lifestyle and their way of living holiness: “There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us”. You have to discover who you are and develop your own way of being holy, whatever others may say or think. Becoming a saint means becoming more fully yourself, becoming what the Lord wished to dream and create, and not a photocopy. Your life ought to be a prophetic stimulus to others and leave a mark on this world, the unique mark that only you can leave”.
“Imitating the Saints does not mean copying their lifestyle and their way of living holiness” Concerning this, I’d ask: why not?! Haven’t some been elevated to the glory of the altars to serve precisely as examples for us to follow?
172 – “University students can apply their knowledge in an interdisciplinary way, together with young people of other churches or religions, in order to propose solutions to social problems”.
Ok, I get it. We should be doing those things. But when will the proclamation of the Gospel and the necessity of being fully incorporated into the Church be made?
212 – “As for growth, I would make one important point. In some places, it happens that young people are helped to have a powerful experience of God, an encounter with Jesus that touched their hearts. But the only follow-up to this is a series of “formation” meetings featuring talks about doctrinal and moral issues, the evils of today’s world, the Church, her social doctrine, chastity, marriage, birth control and so on. As a result, many young people get bored, they lose the fire of their encounter with Christ and the joy of following him; many give up and others become downcast or negative. Rather than being too concerned with communicating a great deal of doctrine, let us first try to awaken and consolidate the great experiences that sustain the Christian life”.
Interestingly, the language is stronger in the original Spanish, “Calmemos la obsesión por transmitir un cúmulo de contenidos doctrinales, y ante todo tratemos de suscitar y arraigar las grandes experiencias que sostienen la vida cristiana” In Spanish, it reads that we need to restrain our “obsession” with doctrine. Pretty strong choice of words.
As a further and final comment, I make my own the words of a blogger from Spain: “El experiencialismo al extremo. La pregunta es cómo se transmite el kerygma y la experiencia cristiana sin doctrina. ¿Por señas? ¿Por ósmosis?” (Experientialism at its finest. How do you hand down the kerygma and Christian experience without doctrine? Sign language? Through osmosis?)