Pope Francis: “The experience of fraternal sharing with those who suffer opens us to the true beauty of human life, which includes its fragility. In safeguarding and promoting life — at every stage and in any condition it is found — may we recognize the dignity and value of every human being from conception to death.”
Millennial writer Meghan Clark has a new post at America on Evangelii Gaudium. She writes:
“The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges” (218). In a simple sentence, Pope Francis summarizes the bedrock of Catholic social doctrine: human dignity, the common good and the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.
The full post can be read here.
The first extensive interview with Pope Francis since his election was published today in several Jesuit journals, including America here in the US. It’s long but great; read the whole thing. A quick scan led me to a few fantastic justice-related quotes. Here are five.
“Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.”
When we make important decisions as a church and as a society, we should be in touch with how those decisions will affect those who are the most vulnerable.
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of going to the edges of society and welcoming people in to the church community. And his powerful call to “always consider the person” emphasizes the dignity of every child of God, no matter what.
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
This quote is Pope Francis’ response to critics who say he has not talked enough about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He clearly believes in the Church teachings on these important areas, but that it’s important to lead instead with the basics. How in our own lives might we live the joy and love of the Gospel without going right to the hot-button issues first? Our relationship with Christ — as individuals and as a community — is primary, and the “moral consequences” flow from that relationship.
“The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”
Because of our belief in the equal dignity of every human person, we must be sure that groups that have been historically marginalized in the Church are welcomed and empowered. The last line of this quote is so important: “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.” How might we empower women in our parishes to take on leadership roles?
“When it comes to social issues, it is one thing to have a meeting to study the problem of drugs in a slum neighborhood and quite another thing to go there, live there and understand the problem from the inside and study it. There is a brilliant letter by Father Arrupe to the Centers for Social Research and Action on poverty, in which he says clearly that one cannot speak of poverty if one does not experience poverty, with a direct connection to the places in which there is poverty.”
Pope Francis again calls us to go to the edges. We cannot speak of poverty if we have not made a “direct connection” to places where poverty exists. Our faith sends us out from our churches and places of comfort to accompany those who are forgotten and oppressed.
This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.