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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

About Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic
exhortation titled: "Evangelii Gaudium"

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About "Evangelii Gaudium:"

Its title, when translated from Latin to English, means "The Joy of the Gospel."

It is an apostolic exortation. This means it is a document issued by the Pope whose purpose is to encourage people "... to implement a particular aspect of the Church's life and teaching." In this case, "... the principal theme involves the need for a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to the entire world." 1

The full text is available online at the Vatican web site in PDF format. See: http://www.vatican.va/

Its length is about 51,000 words and takes over 5 hours to read.

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Comments by Susan Humphreys:

Pope Francis has released his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”. I haven’t picked up a copy yet. I will get a copy next time I get into a town with a Big Book Store. I have only read the excerpts placed on internet sites by devout Catholics and others. 2,3,4

I was bothered by what I read but couldn’t at first put my finger on what was troubling. In general the focus seems to be on spreading the “Gospel” message -- the Kyrgma -- to the poor. The emphasis seems to be about increasing the numbers, the quantity not the quality of the membership. And I don’t mean quality in wealth or social status but in overall goodness of the current members as well as future members.

What is the Kyrgma? Pope Francis says:

"In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal...On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over, ‘Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life to save you, and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you’."

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1. When I woke up this morning, after sleeping on it, I realized that for me, there were four major problems with what he is saying.

He seems to be turning the “winning of souls” for Christ into a numbers game, sort of a competition between Catholics and the Baptists and Mormons -- both of whom do a lot of proslytyzing in door to door evangelization, and in their “Mission” work).It is about who can boast of saving the greatest numbers of souls.

When I lived in a small town in northern New Mexico the Baptists would come through town and hold a revival, many would turn out for the event, Baptists and Methodists and even some Catholics. It was, after all, the only show in town and was a fun time, it often included a free meal, and provided a great place to catch up with friends and neighbors. The Baptists would be thrilled and go away thinking they had made a great impact and count all of those people as souls won for Christ and for the Baptist message in particular.

Then a month later the Mormons would come to town with a free meal and great show and the same folks would turn out again—it was the only show in town that month. The Mormons would go away happy and the people in town would return to their regular church the following Sunday.

I have no proof but I suspect the same has happened all around the world where one Mission group after another travels through the impoverished areas of third world countries, offering “free” meals, and other services IF the folks will listen to their message.

One old man once said to me, “I will sign their pledge, it is no skin off my nose, it means nothing, my consent isn’t freely given.”

In the "sheep and goats" section of Matthew 25, starting with line 31 and going through the rest of the passage, people aren’t evaluated on the final judgment day by the number of souls they saved but by their day-to-day actions -- how they treated their fellow humans.

2. I think Pope Francis understands -- but his message doesn’t convey the same concept -- that the best way to teach is by example, by your day to day actions, how you treat everyone, not just the poor or suffering, but everyone you meet, or do business with. As an example he says:

"It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission.

In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time."

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois is the Bishop that preached the exorcism against those “unclean spirits” and “powers of darkness” and the “diabolical legions” that he claims have taken possession of those who support marriage equality. Why would anyone want to join his church and become just like him? He appears to be a man frightened of and hateful of homosexuals and the people that support their rights and their dignity as human beings. He doesn’t seem capable of accepting the fact that good people can disagree with him and his church’s position on this issue. Instead he has to demonize his opponents in an attempt to prove his own virtue and the superiority of his position. They are controlled by the Devil we are following God’s laws.

I have had fundamentalist Christians in this area wonder why I can’t just accept Jesus as my savior. These are the folks that call women who get abortions murderers and stand outside Planned Parenthood centers harassing the women that enter. They are the ones that call themselves pro-life but support the death penalty and see no contradiction in their position. They are the ones that are against any form of Universal Health Care as one man put it, “if they want health care they can get a job.” They are……well I don’t need to go on I am sure most of you can add plenty of other examples.

Why would anyone want to become a Christian and be just like them?

3. He doesn’t seem to grasp (nor might I say do the Baptists or Mormons) that:

*Bribery as is often done with “mission” work—those helped are required to listen to the gospel message or to sign a card pledging their life to Christ in order to receive the help or as payback for receiving the help, A good example, since this is the season for giving, is an organization “Operation Christmas Child” that collects toys for children at Christmas then includes “evangelical tracts, sermons, and written prayers—even a pledge card that the receiving children sign to become ‘God’s child’ ”  See reference 4 below. True altruism has no strings attached, no quid pro quo, no expectation of rewards for the do gooder.

*Fear—threats of eternal damnation in the fires of hell if they don’t accept the “right” message, attend the “right” church, follow the “right” rituals, get Baptized in the “right” way, follow the letter of the law/s….simply don’t work for most people.

I received a card in the mail from someone who objected to my latest Letter to the Editor of my local paper where I reminded people that:

“We need an active federal government that looks after the welfare of our people—clean air to breathe and water to drink, public roads for transportation, safe products for our use—food, drugs, children’s toys and sleepwear, to name a few. Not just a government that protects our borders and our freedom as Republicans claim. Because our freedom and security is dependent upon the wellbeing of all our people.”

On his card he listed:

“Three Immutable Truths. 1. Obey God’s economic laws and you will receive rewards. Disobey them and you will receive the consequences. 2. Obey God’s health laws and you will be healthier and happier. (obviously no need in his mind for health insurance) 3. Obey God’s spiritual laws and you will go to heaven. Disobey them and you will go to hell.”

Bribery and fear. Join the right church and you will be wealthy, healthy and saved! Don’t and suffer the consequences!

*Adrenalin rush/sexual flush/ecstasy of fiery sermon, beating drums, music--magnificent classical or boys choirs or gospel choirs, thundering organs or the current pop culture bands and singers, incense, to overwhelm the senses and elate the spirit, doesn’t produce lasting results. Once the adrenalin rush/sexual flush/ecstasy the high of the moment wears off it is back to business as usual—there has been no real change in the person’s attitudes or in their life.

4. Going back to that Krygma:

“Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life to save you, and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”

No where in that do I read, but he will love you ONLY if you believe the right beliefs, join the right church which is the Holy Catholic Church!

Protestants and Catholics share many of the same flaws, problems with their theology and thinking. I don’t want people to think these are problems just with Catholicism.

Is Bribery and Fear and the High of the adrenalin rush and sexual flush really the best or only way to spread the Gospel, the message that God and Jesus love you? Or are their tactics sending the opposite message, I and God and Jesus will love you IF you join the right (which is my) church?

Personally my Krygma says, “Jesus Christ, and the Buddha, and Lao Tzu, and Confucius, and Plato and Aristotle, and the writers of the Upanishads, and Mohammed, and the entire host of great Thinkers (past and present) love me, have given their lives to enrich mine, they live with me to enlighten, strengthen and free me—in the combined wisdom of their words lies my salvation.

I end up with the impression that far too many Christians don’t really believe their own message. They insist that all they have to do to be “saved” is to be a believer. YET, they act as though their salvation is dependent upon their chastising, bullying, and zealous persecution of those that don’t believe or that don’t accept their particular doctrines. It’s as though their belief is dependent upon whether others accept their beliefs.

As though TRUTH is determined by a popular vote, the group with the highest number of votes (souls saved) is the winner.

Many insist that God is perfect in every way, all seeing, all knowing, all wise, all loving, all powerful. YET they insist God hates homosexuals and condemns their loving committed relationships as unworthy or inferior to the relationships of heterosexuals. This wise and perfect God can’t understand the teachings of other religions or see the basic goodness in people of other faiths or people of no faith or realize that different people might benefit from different teachings—the path followed may be different but the final destination is the same for everyone. They want God to forgive them their trespasses but to refuse to forgive the trespasses of their enemies—that He will punish them instead. They can’t imagine that God could be intelligent enough to realize that teachings and laws proscribed for a small 1st Century tribal group living in the backwater area of the Roman empire might not be appropriate and might need to be changed for 21st Century culturally diverse groups with different needs and pressures.

Many seem to think that neither God nor the rest of us can see the contradictions between their words and their actions. In “Evangelii Gaudium” Pope Francis mentions women and the priesthood. “ Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open for discussion….” “Signs” are “symbols”, the only meaning they carry is what we choose to give to them. The “Spouse” can also refer to the wife, and women we know have sacrificed as much, if not more than men. The Pope is drawing an arbitrary distinction that is inconsistent with his stated principles.

The Catholic Church insists that marriage is for the purpose of procreation as prescribed by natural law and thus any form of birth control is impermissible. YET they violate natural law all the time with the use of vaccines and medical procedures designed solely to keep us from being held hostage by or succumbing to natural laws. Consistancy in their arguments isn’t one of their strong suits.

Pope Francis also refuses to denounce the church’s teachings against homosexuals and marriage although he makes it obvious that he doesn’t support the persecution of homosexuals. There comes a time when you have to be willing to go “out on a limb”, “put up or shut up”, “take a stand even if it puts you in an uncomfortable position”, and simply do what is right (call for changes in Church doctrines not just changes in attitudes)-- practice what you preach or quit preaching!

Many seem to think that God can be fooled, by their proper acts of devotion (going to the right church, performing the right prayers or rituals), by their zealotry in defending the faith or in enforcing the rules/laws/morals of their faith upon others, or by their “good deeds”.

Many don’t comprehend that “good deeds” (great bequests of land or money, public acts of humility—such as kissing the feet of a handicapped child for a media photo op, or public acts of contrition or devotion, public proclamations of faith/principles, missionary work to the poor) aren’t the same as your day to day words and actions:

  • how you treat (the consistency, justness, honesty, fairness, respectfullness—or the contradictions, hypocrisy, bigotry, manipulation, coercion, deception, lies, of your words and actions)

  • everyone (the poor, the suffering, the rich, the happy, the sorrowful, the homosexual, the person of another faith or of no faith, the person you do business with and the employees who take care of your business……),

  • each and every day MATTERS.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jimmy Akin, "Pope Francis’ new document, Evangelii Gaudium: 9 things to know and share," National Catholic Register, 2013-NOV-26, at: http://www.ncregister.com/
  2. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100247936/pope-francis-reveals-his-r...
  3. http://insightschoop.typepad.com/2004/2013/11/a-helpful-summary-of-the-apostolic-echo...
  4. http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/evangelii-gaudium-summary-pope-francis.html
  5. http://americanhumanist.org/news/details/2013-11-being-good-for-goodness-sake-why-o....

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Originally posted: 2013-NOV-30
Latest update: 2013-NOV-30
Author: Susan Humphreys

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