16 October 2013

Reading Francis through Paul

In his recent remarks to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelization, His Holiness favorably cited to the encyclical of Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975).

That led me to read this encyclical, which is an exhortation to evangelization. It is long but there are some very interesting paragraphs, in light of current events, that bear close reading. I will post in two parts.


Excerpts from Evangelii Nuntiandi, part one:

16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her. It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people - whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude - continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: "Anyone who rejects you rejects me."[44] And how can one wish to love Christ without loving the Church, if the finest witness to Christ is that of St. Paul: "Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her"?[45]


58. ...In other regions, on the other hand, communautes de base come together in a spirit of bitter criticism of the Church, which they are quick to stigmatize as "institutional" and to which they set themselves Up in opposition as charismatic communities, free from structures and inspired only by the Gospel. Thus their obvious characteristic is an attitude of fault-finding and of rejection with regard to the Church's outward manifestations: her hierarchy, her signs. They are radically opposed to the Church. By following these lines their main inspiration very quickly becomes ideological, and it rarely happens that they do not quickly fall victim to some political option or current of thought, and then to a system, even a party, with all the attendant risks of becoming its instrument....

61. Brothers and sons and daughters, at this stage of our reflection, we wish to pause with you at a question which is particularly important at the present time. In the celebration of the liturgy, in their witness before judges and executioners and in their apologetical texts, the first Christians readily expressed their deep faith in the Church by describing her as being spread throughout the universe. They were fully conscious of belonging to a large community which neither space nor time can limit: From the just Abel right to the last of the elect,[85] "indeed to the ends of the earth,[86] "to the end of time."[87]

This is how the Lord wanted His Church to be: universal, a great tree whose branches shelter the birds of the air,[88] a net which catches fish of every kind[89] or which Peter drew in filled with one hundred and fifty-three big fish,[90] a flock which a single shepherd pastures.[91] A universal Church without boundaries or frontiers except, alas, those of the heart and mind of sinful man.

65. It was precisely in this sense that at the end of the last Synod we spoke clear words full of paternal affection, insisting on the role of Peter's Successor as a visible, living and dynamic principle of the unity between the Churches and thus of the universality of the one Church.[93] We also insisted on the grave responsibility incumbent upon us, but which we share with our Brothers in the Episcopate, of preserving unaltered the content of the Catholic faith which the Lord entrusted to the apostles. While being translated into all expressions, this content must be neither impaired nor mutilated. While being clothed with the outward forms proper to each people, and made explicit by theological expression which takes account of differing cultural, social and even racial milieu, it must remain the content of the Catholic faith just exactly as the ecclesial magisterium has received it and transmits it.


Jane Chantal said...


I have never ceased being grateful to Paul VI for Humanae Vitae; now it seems there is more to be grateful to him for.

Deo Gratias.

Steve Calovich said...

The Abbe de Nantes on PPVI and Humane Vitae-

As for classifying Paul VI and John Paul II as though they were of the Right, that is a total error. They are of the Left because of what is closest to their heart, their utopia of a “civilization of love” to be promoted here and now, a utopia where all is limitless freedom, dignity, responsibility and self-expression “for every man and all men.” Such a utopia was bound to enjoin the highest moral demands, matching the grandeur of their idea of Man and no sparing of the horses!

Paul VI, more a demagogue than a Utopian, posed himself the abstract question of whether artificial means of contraception were contrary to the natural moral law. At the end of three years, he was still none the wiser. He consulted masses of people, but all in vain. The yes and the no were so well balanced in his Hamlet-like mind that he remained totally undecided. When at last he was forced to answer, he pronounced that absolute condemnation, that terrible “no” which contradicted his years of uncertainty. The world was waiting for his oracle as people wait for the results of bets placed on Saturday afternoon. Heads or tails? It was heads, and so all the illusions cultivated about the Church, the Council and the Pope were shattered in one go. So much so that the whole of morality and religion were up for questioning.

A proclamation via the media to millions of indifferent modern pagans that the pill was banned would make the entire planet bristle with hatred and contempt. And again, outside that context, such an announcement banning the pill made to lukewarm Catholics, incited by the conciliar Church to an intense, obsessive and totally unrestrained love life, could only provoke them to abandoning the sacraments, to indifference concerning the state of grace and, before long, to forgetting God altogether. The masses cannot be thrown into a state of perpetual lust without impunity. To incite their lust and then to forbid them the indispensable contraceptive or abortive complement is derisory. O foolish clergy! You cannot forbid the one without forbidding the other.

Humanae Vitae was published on 25 July 1968, as though it were a law of such importance that it had to be placed on the highest level of his pastoral concern and had to be applied by each and everyone immediately without any other consideration. In a climate of relaxed morality and religious indifference, such a prohibition could not but appear shocking to all the recycled Christians, and crushing for them to put into practice without further ado.

It would have been preferable that the Magisterium modulate the expression, the promulgation and application of this ban. For what is involved is none other than “casuistry”, that marvel of human and supernatural wisdom, thanks to which laws do not crush souls, but enlighten, strengthen and lead them there “with cords of humanity”. But do not ask Utopians and demagogues to condescend to casuistry!

21 December, 2012 20:56

Jane Chantal said...

Mr. Calovich:

I remain grateful to Paul VI for Humanae Vitae, which (predictably) did make most of the so-called “developed world” bristle with hatred and contempt -- but hardly the entire planet. That is why the "developed world" is currently still striving to convert an emormous segment of the planet’s population to the contraceptive mentality.

It is true that had John XXIII responded immediately and forcefully to the FDA’s green-lighting of “the pill” in 1960, proponents of contraception would have had much less time to sharpen their poisoned rhetorical knives. There's nothing to be done about that now, but we nevertheless can be grateful for the message that Humanae Vitae gave, and continues to give, to Catholics and to the entire World.

It's very possible that I've misunderstood your remarks -- but if you mean to suggest that the Church ought to have put forward a "soft" policy toward contraception, I can only say that I'm glad that such a deal with the Devil was not made. The Anglican Church made that bargain in 1930, and we can see the result.

thetimman said...


I think the Abbe de Nantes' remarks quoted by Mr. Calovich are more esoteric. Anti-contraception, and blaming the process of drafting Humanae Vitae after an angst-ridden calling of opinions from the world and getting everyone's hopes up that the Church would cave.

It is pretty far down the rabbit hole in my opinion.

I think the takeaway for any non-sedevacantist is this: a weak Pope cannot change doctrinal truth; this is the impossibility that the guarantee of the Holy Ghost gives. You should continue to be happy about the holding of Humanae Vitae and forget about the process.

It is like a lawyer relitigating a past case. Profitable in the mind, maybe, but useless in the courtroom.

I hesitated to allow the comment because I hate links cited in comments. But, I posted it in the end for benefit of the discussion.

Some traditional Catholics like to cite the Abbe de Nantes as an authority. Most don't. I never got it.

If he is right about the general situation, sedevacantism is the play. I can't go there. The link in Mr. Calovich's comment is barely about Humane Vitae. In fact, the connection, apart from being a link in the history of Pope John Paul I as charted by the murder theorists, is tenuous at best.

That isn't to say that it would surprise me to find JPI was murdered. Call it likely, maybe. It is just that I have so many conspiracies to follow, I have to pick and choose. Right now, this one isn't on my plate.


Steve Calovich said...

Not a "soft" policy on contraception, but something less than the severe whiplash approach was surely possible. I thought it was an interesting take on the method of introduction that most people don't know about. No need to roll out metaphors on this one.

I don't know why the word sedevacantist came up either. The Abbe's group includes Frere Michel de la Sainte Trinite who did the absolute best research and series on Fatima that has ever been done. And they were the only ones to come to the Shroud of Turin's defense, shortly after the C14 results labeled it a forgery. It was the Abbe de Nantes after all, that did his best to talk Marcel Lefebvre out of going into schism in the first place.