People expecting renewal and reform for its own sake, or along the lines of modern political currents are totally misreading this pope. Continuing our examination of Evangelii Gaudium, we do read of a seismic shift from self-preservation in a hostile world, to a flexibility that will bear abundant fruit for the mission of Christ:
27. I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with him. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”.[JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in Oceania 19 (22 November 2001)]
Let’s recap that list of things–non-trivial to be sure–that require adaptation:
- ways of doing things
- times and schedules
To what end? Pastoral activity, that is what we do within church structures should be more inclusive. Pastoral workers–another term I believe is interchangeable with the more traditional/biblical disciples–draw that “constant desire” to the orientation of mission.
It makes sense that an extrovert like John Paul II would see introversion as a potential problem in the focus of reform.
A church’s sense of change, after all, should be aligned with Christ’s sense of self-sacrifice. Women, for example, are certainly oppressed. But there is a significant different between victims in the wide world and as a matter of church administration just as there are degrees of Christian persecution, say, in the Middle East compared to the courtrooms of the West. That would be my sense of what Pope Francis is driving at here.