Pope Francis' 'Rejoice and Be Glad'

New Papal Exhortation "adds to the ambiguities"

So Pope Francis has issued a new Apostolic Exhortation somewhat ironically entitled Gaudete et Exsultate: Rejoice & be glad, probably the last thing the vast majority of thinking Catholics feel under this Pontificate.

I didn't want to write a "hair trigger" response as soon as it was released, but instead waited for its content to sink in a bit and to have some sort of opportunity to ruminate on its contents.

It is very difficult to not simply dismiss the document out of hand, given how disastrous and poorly written Pope Francis' other missives have been. Others may be charitable enough to point out how, despite the chaos that has ensued, there are some good bits in some of the documents, as Dan Hitchens is at pains to point out here, putting Gaudete et Exsultate in context with Amoris Laetitia:
My admiration for the document [Amoris Laetitia] prevented me from worrying too much about the odd ambiguous sentence here or there. But the last two years have shown Catholics that it is precisely the ambiguities and silences and confusions that matter. And that experience has colored responses to this week’s apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad).
These same thoughts echo all over the internet.

The basic response seems to be that there are some bits that won't particularly offend Catholics (lots of commentators are describing these as "good" or "important", I can't agree, they're not particularly insightful in my opinion, they just don't jarringly contradict the Catholic faith quite as much as the bits that do), but other bits that seem to, once again, directly attack faithful Catholics.

Whether we like it or not it is beyond argument that Pope Francis himself has caused huge divisions in the Church -- not me or anyone else commenting on what he says and writes. I deeply wish it was not so, but to ignore the problems is to facilitate them, especially at this stage. Even when he writes something that should not be controversial like this exhortation, it seems he has to introduce a controversial element. In this instance, neo-pelagianism and neo-gnosticism, where he seems to be defending the controversial parts of Amoris Laetitia by lashing out at people who do not agree with him. He does this by appealing to a kind of jesuitical sophistry which is never clear and only hints. Moreover, the reaction of his close advisers on social media to criticism of the exhortation has led to speculation that much of it was "ghost written" by this men, not the Pope. Moreover, the adversarial nature of some of the document would lend further weight to this theory.

Indeed, the Vaticanista, Sandro Magister was quick to join the dots:
Fr. Spadaro, in fact, posted online that same day, on the website of his magazine - which is printed with the pope’s imprimatur - a presentation of his own, in four languages, of “Gaudete et Exsultate” that right from the title proclaims that it will reveal its “roots, structure, and significance.” And he did so with such abundance and precision of information as to make one think that if the initial compilation of the papal document was not his work, it wasn’t far from it.
The Pope says
Not infrequently, contrary to the promptings of the Spirit, the life of the Church can become a museum piece or the possession of a select few. This can occur when some groups of Christians give excessive importance to certain rules, customs or ways of acting. The Gospel then tends to be reduced and constricted, deprived of its simplicity, allure and savour. This may well be a subtle form of pelagianism, for it appears to subject the life of grace to certain human structures. It can affect groups, movements and communities, and it explains why so often they begin with an intense life in the Spirit, only to end up fossilized… or corrupt.
Once we believe that everything depends on human effort as channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminded us that the precepts added to the Gospel by the Church should be imposed with moderation “lest the conduct of the faithful become burdensome”, for then our religion would become a form of servitude. -Gaudete et Exsultate #58 & 59
Marriage, Holy Communion and indeed the whole Sacramental life of the Church was given to us by Christ, so was the Moral Law and so was the Natural Law. In Gaudete et Exsultate the Pope is stigmatising people who are questioning his agenda to reverse what John Paul II told us to do during his Pontificate. Obedience to the Ten Commandments is not a defect, it is not a museum to adhere to what Christ taught, it is Catholic.

If the Pope can defend his positions on the basis of Catholic doctrine then why not state them plainly so we can have an honest dialogue about them? Instead he never seems to do that, we are left guessing what he is hinting at!

Robert Royal agrees Gaudete et Exsultate is a defence of some of the pope's strange and problematic positions. We are living in a world of post truth, apathy and relativism and looking around at the Church I see, what we need is more certainty, better understanding, more truth, not less. I don't see the rigid bishops and priests the pope is constantly attacking, I see the exact opposite! Maybe it WAS a problem in Argentina in 1940, but can anyone show me where these things exist now?

Because this is such a non-problem, it makes everything thePope says and write look like a direct attack on certain members of the curia, for instance, Cardinal Sarah (appointed to the prefecture of the CDW by Pope Francis himself) in this exhortation. This is disastrous management!

As Royal points out in his column on Gaudete et Exsultate:
...for me, amidst the good insights, the pope seems to be wrestling with a world that perhaps once existed, but not very much anymore. His constant pressure here and elsewhere to turn people away from “abstract” theological knowledge or an excessively individual spirituality, towards an otherwise commendable love of God and neighbor, addresses, exactly, who these days?
It would be one thing if Catholic universities, seminaries, chanceries, charities, hospitals, relief agencies, religious orders, lay groups, etc. were bursting with people rigidly and reductively clinging to bare theological formulas – as Francis often seems to suggest. The reality, as even secular commenters recognize, is that we’re living in a post-truth, profoundly chaotic world, and Church. To seek stable principles in order not to be swept away by the tsunami of secularism and heterodoxy is not “rigidity,” but sanity.
I’ve said it before, but in our circumstances, Francis’ famous “field hospital” needs doctors who have studied real medicine. Otherwise, they may have a good bedside manner, but they can’t really cure anything.
There are worse problems than the Pope's irrelevant ramblings. At a time of great crisis, when babies are being slaughtered in their mother's wombs wholesale by global corporations, the Holy Father uses harsh language in Gaudete et Exsultate about Catholics “obsessing” and “insisting” about abortion. They will be once again desperately let-down, hurt and upset about his own insisting: that social questions such as poverty and immigration are life issues “equally sacred” compared with violent death in the womb and at the end of life. This position reinforced by Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate also contradicts what the Church has taught since legalised abortion became common.

Hitchens agrees that Gaudete et Exsultate seems to be "gesturing at the controversies around Amoris":
For instance, one recent debate concerns whether “discernment” can permit acts that the Church considers immoral. Could one discern, for instance, that one should continue committing adultery? The Catholic tradition says no, but some have used Amoris’s ambiguities to suggest otherwise. Gaudete could well add to the confusion. The document criticizes those who “tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace.” It insists that discernment “is not a matter of applying rules or repeating what was done in the past.” On one interpretation, these are harmless statements; but they could be twisted to mean that God’s grace doesn’t always enable one to give up adultery, or that “applying rules” (such as Church teaching on communion?) is a mistake.
Opponents of Church teaching make such tendentious readings all the time. Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, a member of the pope’s own academy on life issues, has argued that Amoris justifies contraception, despite Amoris’s actual words on the subject. Dissent does not need much help. It needs, first, an atmosphere in which Church authorities are reluctant to condemn error; and, second, enough ambiguity to gain a foothold. Gaudete, for all its strengths, adds to the ambiguities.
I found that the World Over Live's "Papal Posse" offered the best summary of the situation, (as usual):

Pope Francis' comments at the chrism Mass about truth really annoys me. As Fr Gerry says truth is not an idol. The Pope is clearly speaking about doctrines which are the remedy to idolatry. This is very, very troubling. The truth is not being defended, and that is the problem and Pope Francis is doing nothing to defend the truth, instead introducing ambiguity and relativistic positions into the Church which is the bulwark against relativism.

Gaudete et Exsultate, sadly, is another problematic, divisive and controversial episode in this pontificate.


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