Pope Francis strikes again

Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) is creating headlines throughout the world only hours after its release. In the 51,000 word text, Francis lays out a new vision for the Church and its role in today’s society.

He’s done this is a less formal way throughout the first eight months of his papacy, but this document represents the first unified and complete communication of his vision.

Francis says that the primary mission of the Church must be evangelization in the modern world.

But he argues in this radical document that the Church has failed to do that due to complacency and a variety of missteps, including a cumbersome and over-centralized Church bureaucracy, excessive focus on doctrine instead of salvation, poor homilies and clericalism.

In short, Francis argues that the view that the problem “is out there” is the very problem. The outside forces of secularism, relativism and consumerism are hurting the Church, but the bigger problems of the Church are internal.

In fact, Francis argues, conversion must start with the papacy itself. He calls for a “pastoral conversion” in the papal ministry.

He also takes priests to to account. He says that the Church must not have priests who act as self-interested generals. Why? These ‘generals’ are leading defeated armies. A good priest, Francis argues, is a soldier in the trenches, who serves with his people and is present to their lives, their pains and their dreams.

Francis is clearly calling for a new path for the Universal Church, but more than that, he’s calling for a new conversation too. And all of us are expected to be a part of it.

John Thavis has a great summary of the document here. Be sure to check it out.

[UPDATE 9:51 AM]: Catholic News Service has come up with a nice list of quotes summarizing the pope’s words.

[UPDATE 10:37 AM]: Pope Francis on trickle down economics:

“[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.” [CH’s note: Wow!]

Breaking News: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz elected President of the USCCB

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville His Excellency JosepOn Tuesday morning, the USCCB elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky as president of the bishops’ conference.

He was elected on the first ballot with 125 votes, which is 53% of the total votes.

Here is a selection of his official biography:

Born on August 18, 1946, in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz earned bachelor (1968) and master of divinity (1972) degrees from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and a master’s degree (1976) in social work from the Marywood School of Social Work in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Archbishop Kurtz was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Allentown on March 18, 1972. Before becoming Bishop of Knoxville, Archbishop Kurtz served for 27 years in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in charge of social services, diocesan administration, and parish ministry. He was pastor of Notre Dame of Bethlehem Parish in Bethlehem, PA, from 1996 to 1999, and St. Mary Parish in Catasauqua, PA from 1988 to 1996, associate director and later executive director of the Catholic Social Agency and Family Life Bureau from 1976 to 1994, and diocesan coordinator for health affairs from 1991 to 1998. He taught at both Mary Immaculate Seminary and St. Pius X Seminary. Archbishop Kurtz received the distinguished title of monsignor in 1986

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good–who sponsors Millennial–released the following statement on Kurtz’s election:

We thank God for the election of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. With his long pastoral experience, he’s a man who is clearly capable of moving the bishops’ conference forward in the vision laid out by Pope Francis. During this time of great excitement and fanfare for the universal Church, the bishops of the United States have a unique opportunity to renew the American Church as a place of welcome for all God’s children and as a tireless protector of God’s gifts in the public sphere, particularly as a defender of the poor and the marginalized. We look forward to journeying together with him in the years to come.

As an organization, we once again renew ourselves in our dedication to the Church. During his inaugural homily, Pope Francis asked all of us to work together to be protectors of God’s gifts. With Archbishop Kurtz, the bishops of the United States and the entire American Church, we plan to do just that.

Pope Francis wants to hear your opinion

Yesterday, our extraordinary pope made more stunning news.

Several media outlets confirmed that Francis is seeking to poll lay faithful on crucial questions of the Church’s pastoral agenda, including outreach to the gay community and to divorced and separated persons.

The full approach of how this will be administered in the United States isn’t clear, but Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has decided to get the process started (full disclosure: I am a senior fellow with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which sponsors Millennial) .

In preparation for Pope Francis’ 2014 Synod on the Family, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has created a survey for American Catholics on the state of life within the Church.

Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions? Your responses will be forwarded to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and to the appropriate officials in the Vatican, including the Holy Father himself.

When you’re done, send the survey to a few friends. Let’s get as many people’s opinions as possible.

Pope Francis has made it clear: you are a valued member of the Church. As such, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good promises to do all we can to make sure your voice is heard.

Thank you for everything you do, and have a great weekend.

PS–please consider supporting Millennial and Catholics in Alliance’s efforts. Our work can only be done through your generous contributions.

[UPDATE November 1, 2013 3:01 PM]: Our survey is getting some nice media coverage from National Catholic Reporter and Religion News Service.

[UPDATE November 4, 2013 at 8:31 AM] The survey is now hosted at papalsurvey.com.

Breaking News: Francis requests parish-level participation in upcoming synod

It’s official: change has come to the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has stunned the world again. This time he is asking for parish-level feedback on some of the most divisive of Church teachings, including same-sex marriages, contraceptives and divorce.

Let me repeat that: the Pope and the Vatican want to hear from lay faithful across the world on their opinions about gay marriage, contraceptive use and divorce.

Buckle up, folks. The Second Vatican Council is just beginning.

Joshua McElwee from the National Catholic Reporter has the full story.

Fifty Years Later: Catholics Still Fighting for Racial Justice

This past weekend, I had the honor of representing Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Millennial at a panel entitled A Catholic Conversation on Race, Religion and the March on Washington

The event, co-sponsored by Catholic Democrats and Pax Christi USA and hosted by Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in DC, discussed the gritty reality of the Church’s response and non-response to racial and economic justice issues throughout the past fifty years in the United States.

Quite simply, it was an all star lineup.

Moderated by Ralph McCloud–the executive director of the Catholic Campaign of Human Development, panelists included Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, John Carr of Georgetown University and formerly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Sister Patti Chappell of Pax Christi and Donna Grimes of the USCCB.

The broad stroke conclusion I came away with was that the Catholic Church has been a co-worker in the racial justice movement, but at times has failed to be the prophetic voice that Christ calls us to be.

It is especially important as attempts begin across the nation to curb the voting rights of minority populations.

If our Church and its leaders put a tenth of the resources into civic and economic rights that it puts into the pro-life movement, we would forever change the fabric of American society.

Yes, we were there in 1963, and yes, we are here in 2013 fighting for racial justice. But our efforts must be redouble, refocused and refined.


Pope on gay people: ‘Who am I to judge?’

Pope Francis is shaking up the Monday morning news cycle with a long interview he gave aboard the papal plane overnight. The biggest news out of it: he is shifting the Catholic message on gay issues.

His most poignant comment was that he doesn’t ‘judge’ gay people and considers them ‘brothers.’

John Allen has full coverage over at NCR.

UPDATE [4:30 PM EDT]: I have obtained from sources close to the Vatican a full Italian transcript with a decent English translation of what the Pope said regarding homosexuality.

The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight

Ilse: I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question.  Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life.  I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question.  How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?

The Pope’’s Answer

Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation.  And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him.  We found none of that.  That is the answer.  But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one  looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus?, And then these things are published.  These things are not crimes.  The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime.  But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives.  When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh?  This is a danger.  This is what is important: a theology of sin.  So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ.  And with this sin they made him Pope.  We must think about fact often.

But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby.  Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay.  They say there are some gay people here.  I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.  They are bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”

The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter.  There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies.  This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!

Original transcript in Italian

(Ilse) Vorrei chiedere il permesso di fare una domanda un po’ delicata: anche un’altra immagine ha girato un po’ il mondo, che è stata quella di mons. Ricca e delle notizie sulla sua intimità. Vorrei sapere, Santità, cosa intende fare su questa questione? Come affrontare questa questione e come Sua Santità intende affrontare tutta la questione della lobby gay?

(Papa Francesco): Quello di mons. Ricca: ho fatto quello che il Diritto Canonico manda a fare, che è la investigatio previa. E da questa investigatio non c’è niente di quello di cui l’accusano, non abbiamo trovato niente di quello. Quella è la risposta. Ma io vorrei aggiungere un’altra cosa su questo: io vedo che tante volte nella Chiesa, al di fuori di questo caso ed anche in questo caso, si va a cercare i “peccati di gioventù”, per esempio, no?, e questo si pubblica. Non i delitti, eh? I delitti sono un’altra cosa: l’abuso sui minori è un delitto. No, i peccati. Ma se una persona, laica o prete o suora, ha fatto un peccato e poi si è convertito, il Signore perdona e quando il Signore perdona, il Signore dimentica e questo per la nostra vita è importante. Quando noi andiamo a confessarci e diciamo davvero “Ho peccato in questo”, il Signore dimentica e noi non abbiamo il diritto di non dimenticare, perché abbiamo il rischio che il Signore non si dimentichi dei nostri [peccati] eh?  E’ un pericolo quello. Quello è importante: una teologia del peccato. Tante volte penso a San Pietro: ha fatto uno dei peggiori peccati, che è rinnegare Cristo, e con questo peccato lo hanno fatto Papa. Dobbiamo pensare tanto.

Ma tornando alla Sua domanda più concreta: in questo caso, ho fatto l’ivestigatio previa e non abbiamo trovato. Questo è la prima domanda. Poi, Lei parlava della lobby gay: mah… si scrive tanto della lobby gay. Io ancora non ho trovato mi dia la cartella d’identità in Vaticano con “gay”. Dicono che ce ne sono. Credo che quando uno si trova con una persona così, deve distinguere il fatto di essere una persona gay dal fatto di fare una lobby, perché le lobby tutte non sono buone. Quello è il cattivo. Se una persona è gay e cerca il Signore e ha buona volontà, ma chi sono io per giudicarla? Il catechismo della Chiesa cattolica spiega tanto bello questo, ma dice,  Aspetta un po’, come si dice…e dice “non si devono emarginare queste persone per questo, devono essere integrate in società”. Il problema non è avere questa tendenza, no: dobbiamo essere fratelli, perché questo è uno, ma se c’è un altro, un altro, il problema è fare lobby di questa tendenza o lobby di avari, lobby di politici, lobby dei massoni, tante lobby. Questo è il problema più grave per me. E La ringrazio tanto per aver fatto questa domanda. Grazie tante!