Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cdl Burke on the Pope’s radical call to the new evangelization

Originally posted: 2014-02-21 in L’Osservatore Romano
During a recent visit to the United States, I was repeatedly impressed by how deeply Pope Francis has penetrated the national conversation on a whole range of issues. His special gift of expressing direct care for each and all has resonated strongly with many in my homeland.

At the same time, I noted a certain questioning about whether Pope Francis has altered or is about to alter the Church’s teaching on a number of the critical moral issues of our time, for example, the teaching on the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, and the integrity of marriage and the family. Those who questioned me in the matter were surprised to learn that the Holy Father has in fact affirmed the unchanging and unchangeable truths of the Church’s teaching on these very questions. They had developed a quite different impression as a result of the popular presentation of Pope Francis and his views. 

Clearly, the words and actions of the Holy Father require, on our part, a fitting tool of interpretation, if we are to understand correctly what he intends to teach. My friend and colleague at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, put it this way in a recent article in this newspaper: “The Holy Father instructs with his words, but effectively teaches through his actions. This is his uniqueness and his magnetism” (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, [ore] 13 December 2013, p. 7). In other words, Pope Francis is exercising strongly his gift for drawing near to all people of good will. It is said that when he manifests his care for a single person, as he does so generously whenever the occasion presents itself, all understand that he has the same care for each of them.

With regard to his manner of addressing the critical issues, the Holy Father himself has described his approach, when he stated: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time” (“The Pope’s Interview”, ore, 25 September 2013, p. 14). In other words, the Holy Father wants, first, to convey his love of all people so that his teaching on the critical moral questions may be received in that context. But his approach cannot change the duty of the Church and her shepherds to teach clearly and insistently about the most fundamental moral questions of our time. I think, for instance, of the Holy Father’s words to the participants in the second annual March for Life in Rome on 12 May of last year, or of his Twitter message to the participants in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on 22 January.
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