Thursday, November 07, 2013

Response to Carl Olsen: Pope Francis Teaching "the New Evangelization"

Carl Olsen of CWR recently wrote: “To state what should be obvious, a pope in 2013 simply needs to be as precise and clear as possible. Fuzzy language, half-formed concepts, and failure to make important distinctions will eventually result in confusion and frustration. Do they also "give ammunition to the enemy," as at least three readers have insisted in e-mails? I think so, mindful that there are some folks who will misrepresent what the pope says, no matter how clearly, simply, and slowly he speaks. And Francis, it should be noted, has admitted (in the first interview), "I am a really, really undisciplined person." There comes point when the off-the-cuff remarks go from being "fresh" and "explosive" to problematic and puzzling, and that line was probably crossed, in my estimation, in the second interview. 
“This concern only increases with the breaking news that the pope's interview with 89-year-old journalist Scalfari was apparently carried out without a recording or even hand-written notes. As John Allen reports today, this led Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi to lamely refer to (in Allen's words) "a new genre of papal speech that’s deliberately informal and not concerned with precision." Does anyone in their right mind think that papal statements unconcerned with precision should be served up to readers who are, or at least should be, looking for reasonable precision and clarity from the Vicar of Christ—even in remarks made in informal settings?”
   One could perhaps remark that at an historical juncture as this when the crisis seems to be, according to Joseph Ratzinger as Cardinal and as Pope, the experience of God,[1] the problem is not really the precision of concepts but the experience of what is really real. It is apples and oranges, although there is a necessary complementarity of the two.  And as Benedict wrote in 2008 (Oct. 6), the really real is the Word of God, that is, the Person of Christ. To be precise where it is important to be precise, the problem is not a precision about objects, but the difference between Subject and object.
   And when the Subject we are talking about is a Trinity of Relations (Persons) Who can be known only by becoming like them by an exodus from the self (which is Christian prayer) the pope is giving us a most  startling lesson in the Theology of Theos (God) by his exuberant self-giftedness of racing through crowds to embrace the crippled, calling up atheists to speak giftedly and openly person to person with a stammering imprecision of language. He is showing us the way of the “New Evangelization.” He is showing us what “faith” is. De Lubac wrote in his “The Christian Faith:”
“When I believe in God, when I give him my faith, when in answer to his initiative I turn myself over to him from the bottom of my being, there is established been him and me a bond of reciprocity of such a kind that the same word, faith, can be applied to each of the partners: ‘The faith of the two parties, ‘writes St. John of the Cross with a certain audacity, speaking of the relationship of the believing soul with God. For what we have here indeed is ‘the encounter of two persons offering themselves to each other in a fullness of presence, a total engagement.’”[2]  And that self giving to God must be lived out among ourselves  since God has taken the same flesh as we all have.

[1] See his “New Evangelization” to Catechists 2000, Rome
[2] H. De Lubac, “The Christian Faith,” Ignatius (1986) 147-148.

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