NEWS:  January 29, 2014
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
INTERNAL CONTRADICTIONS IN EVANGELII GAUDIUM   -  Pope Francis has characterized himself as a loquacious man of surprises. He loves to talk and astonish his audiences in order to increase his popularity. So, besides his homilies at St. Martha’s Chapel, where every day he addresses different burning topics, he is multiplying his interviews with magazines or newspapers and increasing meal conversations with heretics or Jews, adding a lot of extra texts to the already heavy load of the “doctrinal” papal production of his predecessors.

A Pope who does not stop talking, producing an enormous number of texts

Indeed, John Paul II produced so many texts that his pontificate became known as “papelorum progressio” (the multiplication of papers) in a jocose play of words on the title of Populorum progressio (the development of peoples), an encyclical of Paul VI. JPII, however, seems a timid apprentice in the mass production of papers when compared to Francis.

As a consequence, the quantity of new texts on what Francis is saying and doing in different doctrinal and symbolic fields may be disorienting for the Catholic public, especially when he is moving in fast speed.

To avoid this general disorientation, I believe that we counter-revolutionaries, instead of trying to analyze everything he is doing, should scrutinize the only official document issued so far by the present day Pope, which is Evangelii gaudium (EG). Following this policy, I continue my report on the shortcomings of this document in order to make clearer who Francis is and the value of his teaching.

4. Internal inconsistencies

In the last article, I analyzed some points regarding EG’s form: It broke the progressivist tradition (1); it failed to quote one single document of the Catholic Magisterium previous to Vatican II (2); it introduced a “slang” unbefitting to papal dignity (3).

Today, I will continue to study errors of form in EG by showing some of its internal contradictions. Let me remind my reader that I am using the English translation of EG posted by the Vatican on its website.

A. Clarity versus confusion

When Francis stipulates norms on how priests should evangelize, he says:

Simplicity has to do with the language we use. It must be one that people understand, lest we risk speaking to a void. Preachers often use words learned during their studies and in specialized settings which are not part of the ordinary language of their hearers. These are words that are suitable in theology or catechesis, but whose meaning is incomprehensible to the majority of Christians. … Simplicity and clarity are two different things. Our language may be simple but our preaching not very clear. It can end up being incomprehensible because it is disorganized, lacks logical progression or tries to deal with too many things at one time.” (§ 158)

No one can deny that this is sound advice for homiletics. It is, moreover, a valid principle for written texts that endure forever: verba volant, scripta manent (spoken words fly away, but texts remain forever). One would say that this principle of clarity and simplicity in expression also applies to papal documents. Pope Bergoglio himself rightly acknowledges it when he admits, “I am called to put into practice what I ask of others.” (§ 32)


Like characters in mythology, Francis incurs his own condemnations

We are puzzled, however, when he proposes a first principle for achieving “progress in building a people in peace, justice and fraternity.” As Francis goes on to spell it out, he presents an almost incomprehensible text. These are his words:

A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, ‘time’ has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.” (§ 222)

This text is so abstract, involves such unexplained philosophical concepts about what produces the plenitude of a being and its limitations, as well as the not-so-accessible distinctions and relations between time and space, that it cannot be understood by the common Catholic to whom this document is addressed. I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that this paragraph is undecipherable, even by scholarly, educated readers. It is empty language that means nothing.

Since Francis had explicitly recommended the opposite to Catholic preachers in § 158, we cannot help but see that he falls into a blatant contradiction.

B. Ideals versus realities

Another of his Hegelian principles to build peace and fraternity in society is this:

So a third principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas. This calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, …empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real …

“Ideas – conceptual elaborations – are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis. Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism and nominalism, capable at most of classifying and defining, but certainly not calling to action. What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason. Formal nominalism has to give way to harmonious objectivity. Otherwise, the truth is manipulated, cosmetics take the place of real care for our bodies.
” (§§ 231, 232)

This is a violent anathematization of ideas and ideals. Not only is philosophy - the world of ideas - banned from the Francis’ horizon as a futile ploy to fool people with “cosmetic” illusions that do not fill their stomachs, but also ideals are proscribed as unrealistic propositions that mask reality, such as “angelic purity” and “empty rhetoric.”

A two headed fountain

EG sends contradictory messages on ideals

Notwithstanding, in different places of his document Bergoglio champions ideals, dreams and utopias.

For example, when he establishes the goal for his papacy of destroying the previous face of the Catholic Church, he refers to this ideal as a dream: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything…” (§ 27)

Utopia is also praised in this text: “People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself.” (§ 222)

Further on, he describes a utopia when he imagines the Gospel will accomplish the ideal of ending poverty and bringing us to the universal brotherhood desired by Communism and Freemasonry. He writes: “The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at the table in God’s kingdom.” (§ 237)

His ideal of an ecumenical unity also is shaped as a utopia: “Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that ‘they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21). The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions … We must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face.” (§ 244)

Thus, we have another set of contradictory positions assumed by Jorge Bergoglio in EG. First, he attacks ideals as unrealistic solutions for our present-day problems. Then, he presents ideals, dreams and utopias as the most noble and ultimate goals to impel men to action. How can these positions be explained except as another contradiction?

C. Do-not-study doctrine versus study

Mixed orientations are also given by EG regarding the need to study Catholic doctrine to engage in good evangelization.

First, there are violent attacks against the study of doctrine as it was always done in the Catholic Church. For example:

A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.” (§ 94)

Francis continues to exhibit his hatred for those who defend the traditional teaching of the Church:

In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation 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. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few.” (§ 95)

When Francis gives advice on how to make a good homily, he also repudiates doctrinal, moral and exegetic preaching:

Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. … A preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire, or one which turns into a lecture on biblical exegesis, detracts from this heart-to-heart communication which takes place in the homily …” (§ 142)

One does not need to be a genius to understand that Francis’ message is not in accord with the Church’s past teaching on sound action: See, judge and act, which translates: One must first study, then judge the reality according to these criteria, and finally act.

Grimaces of Pope Francis

A lack of consistency in his writings and of dignity in his gestures never seen before in a Pope

After giving this first general orientation against the need for study, Pope Bergoglio goes on to say the opposite. Indeed, he now praises the study of doctrine and exegesis. For example, in the following text:

This attitude of humble and awe-filled veneration of the word [of God] is expressed by taking the time to study it with the greatest care and a holy fear lest we distort it. To interpret a biblical text, we need to be patient, to put aside all other concerns, and to give it our time, interest and undivided attention. We must leave aside any other pressing concerns and create an environment of serene concentration.” (§ 146)

A little later, he praises the “knowledge of its [the word of God’s] linguistic or exegetic aspects.” (§ 149)

Francis further affirms: “The study of the sacred Scriptures must be a door opened to every believer. It is essential that the revealed word radically enrich our catechesis and all our efforts to pass on the faith.” (§175)

These conflicting orientations in Bergoglio’s document are truly astonishing. It is hard to believe that such an unscholarly penned Apostolic Exhortation was signed by a Pope…

D. EG is not a social document versus it is a social document

Another inconsistency is that in one place Francis affirms that EG is not a social document: “This is not the time or the place to examine in detail the many grave social questions affecting today’s world, some of which I have dealt with in the second chapter. This Exhortation is not a social document …” (§ 185)

However, of the five chapters of EG, two are principally aimed at social themes - chapters II and IV. Moreover, as far as I recall, it is to date the most violent papal social document against Capitalism and the Western way of living, and shall be known as the most radical expression of the post-concilar social doctrine for a long time to come.

E. Other contradictions

Due to the need of transcribing quotes to prove my points, this article became twice as long as normal. For this reason, I will simply summarize other points of contradiction of form in EG. They include:
  • In § 24 it affirms that the goal of the Catholic “is not to make enemies,” but in § 132 it claims to initiate a “new apologetics.” As it is known, Catholic apologetics means the defense of the faith against the attacks of enemies.

  • In § 15 it affirms that the Church does not grow by proselytizing; but in § 24 it affirms that evangelization is always concerned about its fruits, which is the essence of proselytizing, i.e., bringing more people to the Church.

  • It admits that the Church is a teacher (§§ 34, 36, 42, 139, 182), but on the contrary affirms that the Church is a disciple (§ 40) who must be taught and evangelized by the poor (§ 198).
I believe that if a young professor at a university were to submit a document with so many fundamental and contradictory affirmations, he would be strongly recommended to re-write his paper to avoid being fired. Now, we have a Pope who signs EG and proposes that it be followed by the entire world...

These many contradictions in EG lead us to two conclusions:
  1. They stand as testimonies to the carelessness and lack of seriousness of Pope Bergoglio, who either wrote this document or just signed it;

  2. They constitute a sad landmark of what he is doing to destroy, by the way of facts, the papal power of teaching.
With the exposition of these lacunas, I close the first part of my study, which was an analysis of EG’s form. An analysis of its doctrinal content still remains on the slate, which I intend to pursue in one or two articles to come.