Austen Ivereigh on Evangelii Gaudium

Blogged by James on 28th November 2013

I've read on several blogs now about St Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and how people like me are going to be shocked, shocked I tell you!

Except of course we're not (or at least, I'm not) because we have actually seen the gospels and we do actually understand about the mercy of God, we've heard of forgiveness and we kinda noticed that Jesus seems kinda concerned about the poor.

No, I think the only people who will be suprised are the ones who the Church could change her teaching any time she likes and the only thing holding us back are those nasty people over there. The people who think that Pope Francis would churn out 47,000 words just to have a pop at traditionalists.

Personally, I'm reading this and I'm thinking "oh yeah, I could do that better, I hadn't thought of that" etc.. but if you want to really miss the point, try reading it with the assumption that any given parahgraph is aimed not at you, but at Those Nasty People Over There.

In other words.. try reading it like Austen Ivereigh..

Later (93-95) he critiques the “self-absorbed promethean neopalagianism” of self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy or traditional Catholicism who spend their time criticising fellow Catholics (“A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelising, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying”). He also criticises those who have “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”


Note that Pope Francis doesn't refer to "self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy" or "traditional Catholicism" at all.. but he does warn about "carefully cultivated appearances" and "a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution".

These paragraphs contain a warning for all Catholics to avoid an obsession with appearance at the expense of evangelisation and are just as much a warning to lefty Bishops Conference media quangos as they are to traditionalists.

When St Paul said "if I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." was he speaking out against knowledge and faith? Clearly not. It's the "but have not love" part he's worried about. Similarly with Pope Francis, he's not having a pop at people who care about liturgy and doctrine - it's the "without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people" bit that matters.

Pope Francis warns that "supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism" and you can point that one at traditionalists if you like... but do Catholic Voices not claim soundness of doctrine?  Do they not engage in an authoritarian elitism? The special club of the trained and approved vs the excluded self-appointed nobodies.

I'm reading Pope Francis' words and thinking "maybe he has a point, maybe I could do some things better, I wonder if I am doing enough for the poor". Meanwhile Austen sounds like the Pharisee in the temple saying "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men".

If you want to know which part of Evangelii Gaudium really shocks me, it's this:

No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas.


Yikes! I always thought the "busy being a dad" card could get me out of anything...

We could all be doing more for the poor, that's a given and I'm working on my own personal failings as I hope you are too, but please.. can we end the practice of using the poor as a human shield to defend heterdoxy.

Imagine a little kid chucking rocks through the church windows and smashing centuries old stained glass. A parishioner happens to be passing and says "hey! what are you doing?" to which the kid says "what are you? some kind of self appointed guardian? shouldn't you be more concerned about the poor?".

That's pretty much what is happening here.

The "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" card is as old as the hills. Yes, Jesus told people to care for the poor, but he also had no time anybody who would set love of the poor against love of Himself.

The poor are not a convenient tool to be used for point scoring at the service of particular ideologies within the Church, they are people and in my experience people are better served by beautiful liturgies than ugly ones and better served by the truth than by lies.

Using them as a stick to beat people who disagree with your claims that urging condom use is Catholic pastoral practice is, well, stooping pretty low.