Evangelization Making Church Matter Scripture

A Change in Tone / A Change in Time

September 10, 2013

“Pope Francis’ blockbuster interview this week pointedly rejects a Church of “small-minded rules.” He said we cannot make the Universal Church a “nest for our own mediocrity.” He said a great many other things as well, including the comment that much of the Church’s civic discourse has become “obsessed” with homosexuality and gay marriage. And then there was the quote, “I have never been a right-winger.”

Whew. That got people talking in a big way. I haven’t had a conversation since that didn’t refer to it in some way. And the blogosphere and twitter-land have exploded with reactions and critiques in the past few days.

Just so my loyal readers aren’t confused, let me say this:

  • With respect to content nothing is different, though the liberal media widely opine there is.
  • With respect to tone everything is different, though conservative Catholic bloggers everywhere insist there isn’t.

The article and long interview is worth reading for yourself, aside from all the commentary.

As others have noted, one of the most important comments came in a single sentence: “We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes.”

Pope Francis recognizes that he stands at the threshold of a new historic period in the history of the Church.

Fifty years ago the Church witnessed the Second Vatican Council, which sought to readdresses and reengage the Modern World with the Gospel. Pope’s John and Paul were responsible for conducting the Council, Pope’s John Paul and Benedict with interpreting it authentically. It has been a period, not surprisingly, marked by much internal conflict and controversy, with factions pulling to the left and the right. It has been a period marked by a dramatic decline in membership and participation. Much more could also be said about this period, but what I think the Pope is saying is:  It’s over. It is coming to a close, and a new period is beginning. We don’t know what it’s called, history will decide. But it’s started and the Pope is leading the way, because that’s his job.

Perhaps it is presumptuous for a lowly pastor to comment on the Pope, but here goes anyway. I think this is a significant development in the life of the Church. I think we are witnesses to an historic shift. It is not a change in faith or morals, it is a change in tone. But don’t underestimate the power of “tone.” What the Church says does not change throughout history. How we say must. I believe Pope Francis is changing the tone, and this change in tone is what the “New Evangelization,” (which everybody talks about and nobody knows what it is) is all about. The New Evangelization is about a change in tone and that marks a change in time.”

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