EG 41: Communicating Accurately

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneWhy is Pope Francis concerned about how the message is heard? It’s not a worry unique to him. Other popes had similar concerns.

41. At the same time, today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness. “The deposit of the faith is one thing… the way it is expressed is another”.[JOHN XXIII, Address for the Opening of the Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962): “Est enim aliud ipsum depositum fidei, seu veritates, quae veneranda doctrina nostra continentur, aliud modus, quo eaedem enuntiantur”.] There are times when the faithful, in listening to completely orthodox language, take away something alien to the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ, because that language is alien to their own way of speaking to and understanding one another. With the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity, we sometimes give them a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian. In this way, we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance. This is the greatest danger. Let us never forget that “the expression of truth can take different forms. The renewal of these forms of expression becomes necessary for the sake of transmitting to the people of today the Gospel message in its unchanging meaning”.[JOHN PAUL II, Ut Unum Sint  19]

A believer is under a different obligation than a non-Christian, a non-Catholic, or an inactive or uncatechized Catholic. People who are intentionally obtuse about Church teaching as they claim a faithfulness, are under a different obligation: listening then self-examination, then discernment.

There certainly are situations in which entirely orthodox language has been widely perceived as unchristian–note Cardinal Dolan’s recent remarks on bad PR over gays and lesbians.

Evangelii Gaudium is available online in a number of formats.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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