Pope Francis: Choose Love and Justice, Not Legalism

One of the great temptations for any organized religion is legalism, in which the particular rules delineated by the religion and their strict enforcement become the focus of the faith, while the animating principles and mission of the faith lose their preeminence. This is particularly true of the Catholic Church, which has central authority, Canon law, a catechism, and other mechanisms that are particularly helpful for those with legalistic ambitions. This temptation is not simply for the hard of heart or those who are absurdly hypocritical, but often one that is faced by those who rightly value virtue and pursue it in many ways in their own personal conduct, those who value the Church and want others to embrace the faith.

Of course, Jesus Christ’s direct and persistent critique of this legalistic mentality, of putting laws before love, inevitably puts such efforts on shaky ground. We should not be surprised then that Pope Francis has frequently echoed the words of Christ in encouraging us to resist this temptation, including his recent reminder that love and justice are more important than attachment to the laws:

“This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the doctors of law. And it’s this path from love and justice that leads to God.  Instead, the other path, of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the laws, leads to closure, leads to egoism.  The path that leads from love to knowledge and discernment, to total fulfillment, leads to holiness, salvation and the encounter with Jesus.   Instead, the other path leads to egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, to that so-called holiness of appearances, right?”



Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “The Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”


Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “We look at the sky, there are many, many stars; but when the sun rises in the morning, the light is such that we can’t see the stars. God’s mercy is like that a  great light of love and tenderness. God forgives us, not with a decree, but with his love, healing the wounds of sin.”


Around the Web (Part 1)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Who cares about the value of work? by EJ Dionne: “One of last week’s most important and least noted political events was the introduction of the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Murray favors a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, but she also has other ideas that would help Americans at the bottom of the income structure to earn more.”

Chinese parents, trapped in one-child web, give babies away on Internet by Reuters: “Baby trafficking has been encouraged by the one-child policy and a traditional bias for sons, who support elderly parents and continue the family name, leading to the abandonment of girls. Even as China starts to relax the one-child policy, allowing millions of families to have a second child, it still penalizes people who flout the rules.”

The Christian Penumbra by Ross Douthat: “For believers, meanwhile, the Christian penumbra’s pathologies could just be seen as a kind of theological vindication — proof, perhaps, of the New Testament admonition that it’s much worse to be lukewarm than hot or cold. But it’s better to regard these problems as a partial indictment of America’s churches: Not only because their failure to reach the working class and the younger generation is making the penumbra steadily bigger, but because a truly healthy religious community should be capable of influencing even the loosely attached somewhat for the better.”

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: 25 Years of Image by Dan Wakefield: “Though I pray in some form or other every day I had not for a while thought of doing what Henri had asked—no words, simply sitting quietly and asking to be in the presence of Jesus. I did that yesterday, and I felt a great peace.”

Paul Ryan + Immoral Budgets = Public Service Award from a Catholic university? by John Gehring: “Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have been challenged in recent years by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prominent Catholic theologians, a “Nuns on the Bus” tour and respected anti-poverty experts. When your guiding ideology seems to be making life harder for the working poor and coddling the super rich with more tax breaks, you better expect some moral scrutiny along the way.”

Icons of faith who said ‘yes’ by OSV Newsweekly: “OSV staff highlights four saints who answered God’s call no matter what.”

To the Edges by Erin Cline: “My grandmother taught me that God’s love is made visible in the world not in grand pronouncements, but in the simplest things done out of love.”

Catholic Church blasts Venezuela for ‘brutal repression’ of protesters by Reuters: “Venezuela’s Roman Catholic Church accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Wednesday of ‘totalitarian’ tendencies and ‘brutal repression’ of demonstrators during two months of political unrest that has killed several dozen people.”

The Faces of Food Stamps by Maya Rhodan: “These people could be your neighbors, your co-workers, or the person standing behind you at the supermarket.”



Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Year Later, the Pope Benedict Most People Forget by John Gehring: “The Benedict legacy often forgotten today amid the understandable euphoria over Pope Francis is a significant contribution to the Church’s social justice tradition.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict by Michael Sean Winters: “Benedict’s pontificate was seminal in critical ways. His theological writings on the environment were more profound, and more urgent, than those of any other world leader, and surely the environmental crisis we continue to invite will be one of the most challenging crises humanity has ever faced.”

An economic school has led to gridlock in Washington by EJ Dionne: “When it comes to government policy, the Austrian economists paved the road to paralysis.”

Raising the minimum wage is the right idea for the right by EJ Dionne: “Conservative politicians really need to ask themselves: If they refuse to raise the minimum wage and at the same time insist on cutting health care and wage-support programs, are they not consigning millions more of their fellow citizens to lives of poverty? Most Americans reject this view, and that includes most conservatives who believe in work, family and personal responsibility.”

A Srebrenica moment in Syria? by Nicholas Burns: “Putin will never reach a ‘Srebrenica moment’ on Syria. That leaves the rest of us to consider once more — how many more lives will be claimed by Syria’s ceaseless civil war before we are finally shamed to stop the killings?”

Front Left Corner of Heaven by Terrance Klein, America: “Because heaven is all about love, nothing but love can lead us there.”

Praise these Special Olympians by Michael Gerson: “People with intellectual disabilities are largely invisible in the global development agenda, but they should be its cutting edge.”

Beware of Pope Francis by Timothy Shriver: “When he embraced the young man with severe disabilities, he was calling on the world to change its approach to how we value human life by putting the most vulnerable at the center. To do so, each of us needs to become more vulnerable ourselves. That’s not easy or  comfortable.”

The Tea Party and the Hammock Theory of Poverty by Greg Sargent: “Some Republican lawmakers do seem sincere about charting a new course on poverty. But the party agenda remains in thrall to a set of ideas that remain largely the province of a small tea party minority, and are not nearly as widely held among Republicans overall.”

Yes, progressives can embrace Downton Abbey!  by Morning’s Minion: “The old order—unequal and unjust as it might have been—was nevertheless based on the notion that we are not simply autonomous individuals following our own destinies and our own desires. Rather, it was based on the firm principle that we are bound to society and to each other by reciprocal rights, duties, and responsibilities.”

What liberals can learn from the author of The Culture of Narcissism by Damon Linker: “Perhaps the most controversial element of Lasch’s argument, then no less than now, was his assertion that the Left’s advocacy of the sexual revolution was in fact a betrayal of both women and the working class. Whereas the family was once a ‘haven in a heartless world’ (to cite the title of the book in which Lasch first advanced the claim), the sexual revolution encouraged its near-total assimilation into the capitalist order of consumption and exchange.”