EG 51: The Criterion for Criticism Is What Weakens Evangelization

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneIn Evangelii Gaudium 51, Pope Francis reminds us that this document is not an exhaustive treatment of modern problems. That assessment is not something left to the view of a pope alone. It requires active and discerning bishops, pastors, and lay people.

51. It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but I do exhort all the communities to an “ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times”.[PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam 19] This is in fact a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.

And we see many aspects of modern life, not just in Western Culture, in which respect for humanity has literally gone off the rails.

Ignatian discernment is probably the Holy Father’s approach as he writes something like this:

We need to distinguish clearly what might be a fruit of the kingdom from what runs counter to God’s plan. This involves not only recognizing and discerning spirits, but also – and this is decisive – choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil.

What helps us? Teaching of Rome, but also groups of bishops:

I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magisterium have offered, as well as those proposed by the regional and national conferences of bishops. In this Exhortation I claim only to consider briefly, and from a pastoral perspective, certain factors which can restrain or weaken the impulse of missionary renewal in the Church, either because they threaten the life and dignity of God’s people or because they affect those who are directly involved in the Church’s institutions and in her work of evangelization.

Pope Francis’ criticism of modern economics comes from a different place than those who would in turn criticize him. EG 51 is quite clear in assessing those “certain factors” that “restrain” or “weaken” the effort of evangelization. Everything that follows in this document assesses how certain modern factors damage the proclamation of the Gospel. And that is a matter that secular economists and other commentators have even less expertise in determining. An economic system might well be the very model of universal success. But if it hampers the preaching of Christ, then Christians have a duty and obligation to criticize and oppose it.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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