Pope Francis: We need ‘creativity of the Gospel,’ not ‘a defensive Catholicism’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Pope Francis addresses bishops, priests, religious, seminarians, and catechists in St Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava, Slovakia, Sept. 13, 2021. / Papal trip pool.

Bratislava, Slovakia, Sep 13, 2021 / 05:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told Slovakia’s Catholics on Monday that the Church should respond to secularization with the “creativity of the Gospel,” not “a defensive Catholicism.”

Speaking to clergy and lay people in St. Martin’s Cathedral in the capital, Bratislava, on Sept. 13, the pope encouraged Catholics to draw inspiration from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who translated the Bible into the Slavonic language.

“Isn’t this what Slovakia also needs today? I wonder. Isn’t this perhaps the most urgent task facing the Church before the peoples of Europe: finding new ‘alphabets’ to proclaim the faith?” he asked.

“We are heirs to a rich Christian tradition, yet for many people today, that tradition is a relic from the past; it no longer speaks to them or affects the way they live their lives.”

“Faced with the loss of the sense of God and of the joy of faith, it is useless to complain, to hide behind a defensive Catholicism, to judge and blame the bad world. No, we need the creativity of the Gospel.”

The 84-year-old pope, who is making his first international trip since undergoing surgery in July, looked at ease as he delivered his address in the capital’s largest church, located beneath the imposing Bratislava Castle.

Slovakian bishops, priests, religious, seminarians, and catechists listened on headsets to a live translation of the speech, which the pope delivered in Italian, frequently stopping for off-the-cuff remarks on everything from the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky to the importance of short homilies.

He said: “This is the first thing we need: a Church that can walk together, that can tread the paths of life holding high the living flame of the Gospel.”

“The Church is not a fortress, a stronghold, a lofty castle, self-sufficient and looking out upon the world below.”

“Here in Bratislava, you have a castle and it is a fine one. The Church, though, is a community that seeks to draw people to Christ with the joy of the Gospel — not the castle. She is the leaven of God’s Kingdom of love and peace in our world.”

He said that the Church must strive to be humble, like Jesus.

“How great is the beauty of a humble Church, a Church that does not stand aloof from the world, viewing life with a detached gaze, but lives her life within the world,” he said.

“Living within the world, let us not forget: sharing, walking together, welcoming people’s questions and expectations. This will help us to escape from our self-absorption, for the center of the Church … is not the Church.”

He continued: “We need to become immersed in the real lives of people and ask ourselves: what are their spiritual needs and expectations? What do they expect from the Church? It seems important to me to try to respond to these questions.”

He offered three words to help guide Catholics: freedom, creativity, and dialogue.

He noted that many people were afraid of freedom, saying: “We would rather get along by doing what others — perhaps the masses, or public opinion, or the things that the media sell us — decide for us. This should not be. And today so many times we do the things that the media decide for us.”

He recalled the biblical episode in which the Israelites asked if they were better off living in servitude in Egypt, with a guarantee of onions, than wandering exhausted in the desert.

He also referred to the story of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece “The Brothers Karamazov,” who rebuked Jesus for giving humans freedom, insisting that what they needed was bread.

He said: “Sometimes in the Church too this idea can take hold. Better to have everything readily defined, laws to be obeyed, security and uniformity, rather than to be responsible Christians and adults who think, consult their conscience and allow themselves to be challenged. That’s the beginning of casuistry, all regulated…”

“In the spiritual and ecclesial life, we can be tempted to seek an ersatz peace that consoles us, rather than the fire of the Gospel that disturbs and transforms us. The safe onions of Egypt prove more comfortable than the uncertainties of the desert.”

“Yet a Church that has no room for the adventure of freedom, even in the spiritual life, risks becoming rigid and self-enclosed. Some people may be used to this. But many others — especially the younger generations — are not attracted by a faith that leaves them no interior freedom, by a Church in which all are supposed to think alike and blindly obey.”

He continued: “Dear friends, do not be afraid to train people for a mature and free relationship with God. This relationship is important.”

“Perhaps this will give us the impression that we are diminishing our control, power, and authority, yet the Church of Christ does not seek to dominate consciences and occupy spaces, but rather to be a ‘wellspring’ of hope in people’s lives.”

The pope urged bishops and priests to be attentive to their flock’s need for freedom as the country undergoes rapid changes.

“For this reason, I encourage you to help set them free from a rigid religiosity,” he said. “Get out of this, and let them grow free.”

“No one should feel overwhelmed. Everyone should discover the freedom of the Gospel by gradually entering into a relationship with God, confident that they can bring their history and personal hurts into his presence without fear or pretense, without feeling the need to protect their own image.”

“To be able to say: ‘I am a sinner,’ but to say it sincerely, not beat our chests and then continue to believe we are righteous. Freedom.”

“May the proclamation of the Gospel be liberating, never oppressive. And may the Church be a sign of freedom and welcome.”

Pope Francis recalled receiving a letter from a bishop complaining about the pope’s representative in his country.

The letter said: “We were 400 years under the Turks and we suffered. Then 50 under communism and we suffered. But the seven years with this nuncio were worse than the other two.”

The pope commented: “Sometimes I wonder: how many people can say the same about the bishop they have or the parish priest? How many people? No, without freedom, without fatherhood, things don’t work out.”

After reflecting on the need for creativity, Pope Francis appealed to clergy to limit homilies to around 10 minutes — a point he has made frequently since his election in 2013.

The spontaneous appeal prompted the audience to applaud. When the noise died down, the pope observed that the clapping had begun among a group of nuns, who, he joked, “are victims of our homilies.”

Emphasizing the need for dialogue, the pope referred to an episode in the life of the Slovakian Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec, who died in 2015. When he mentioned the cardinal’s name, he drew another strong round of applause.

The pope said: “He was a Jesuit cardinal, persecuted by the [communist] regime, imprisoned, and sentenced to forced labor until he fell ill. When he came to Rome for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, he went to the catacombs and lit a candle for his persecutors, imploring mercy for them.”

“This is the Gospel. This is the Gospel. It grows in life and in history through humble and patient love.”

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  1. Based upon Francis’ exegesis of Gospel thirst and the meaning of the Eucharistic Christ, we would do well to defend the Gospel and lay all hermeneutically confused creativity to rest. We Gospel-believing Catholics have no need of warped reality and mistruths.

  2. Did not Christ say that He did not come to destroy the Laws but to fulfill them?

    A sense of spiritual adventure???

    How else to understand this pontiff…other than he is calling us to be of the world in a quest to evangelize just exactly what?

  3. As man is continually subject to the effects of Original Sin, “finding new alphabets” will inevitably translate into finding new forms of existentialism, unless it is tethered to eternal truths. Without rejecting the intent of Vatican II, this trust in man at least from Vatican II onward, seems so naive. For example, do the majority of Catholics view Friday as a day of corporate self-sacrifice, unless directed to authoritatively?
    Once more from Pope Francis, the proposal of an apparent dichotomy between the dynamic, creative sharing of the gospel “versus” obligatory beliefs and behaviors binding one to that gospel, conveniently condensed into paragraphs (dogma).
    I’m reminded of a past parish priest who in his homiletics would illustrate the difference between liturgical worship and impromptu worship. A child does not think daily of new, creative ways to tell her mother that she loves her. Those timeless words express it more perfectly than any invention of words.

  4. “For this reason, I encourage you to help set them [Christ’s sheep] free from rigid religiosity. Get out of this, and let them grow free” (His Holiness). Let them freely wander over hill and dale, into ravines, down precipitous steep precipices, into foreboding dark forests. Enough of this archaic Apostolic tradition in all its rigidity. Tradition as of now, read Traditionis Custodes, is to be catalogued and preserved for scholastic reference in the Vatican Archives. That, for you “To be able to say: ‘I am a sinner,’ but to say it sincerely, not beat our chests and then continue to believe we are righteous. Freedom” (His Holiness). You priests! You bishops! Let me explain further. Why weigh your parishioners and yourselves down with self righteous repentance, the confessional, the illusion of being rectified by God’s gracious forgiveness? Be bold. Be a sinner and feel free to love it! And, what is more, who said wolves smile deceptively and clothe themselves in wooly white? Little Red Riding Hood? Likely a traditionalist.

    • I always read your comments with admiration Father, and sympathize with your exasperation. For myself, I find it mystifying that there is still a reluctance by many to face the reality that we not only do not have a pope who possesses a Catholic mind and a Catholic world view, and who, despite rehearsed pretentions, is profoundly ignorant of history, especially pertaining to the nefarious history of Islamic aspirations, but we have Catholics who fail to understand that Francis is the logical result of decades of sin denial in the Church.
      Even in his closing Eucharistic Congress Mass homily, Francis presented his simplistic world view of a progressivist dichotomy. Those who resist new ways of thinking are parochial and rigid and implicitly evil even if their values are rooted in “old Christianity.” Those who embrace what is popularly acclaimed as progress are inherently virtuous. It is no longer shocking that the world’s most notorious abortionists are routinely welcomed to the Vatican to educate the disciples of Francis’ new Catholicism on “more important matters than abortion.”
      The observation is commonly noted that the critical factor in his election was the observation he made at the conclave about the Church being on permanent mission. Well what child candidate for first communion does not know this, or could not express it? The only difference is the child would understand that “mission” is not a cause for global tyranny and syncretism.
      It takes a group of todays bored cardinals to fawn over a man expressing a self-evident Catholic truism without sober thought to what else they were getting. The same cardinals who swayed back and forth to trash music at the Youth Synod, the cardinals who failed to raise a voice against the idol goddess Pachamama, and who failed to single let alone many voices in horror at the practice of burying children alive among Francis’ vaunted primitive tribes.
      The same cardinals who leave it to only a foursome to formally question a pope for an honest response of whether he believes there are any exceptionless negative precepts to the natural law and do not care that the entire moral edifice of a two thousand year witness is damaged, along with human souls and vulnerable lives, through his non-response.
      Lesser prelates have developed a habit of failing to condemn unspeakable abominations or struggle to decide whether they have to consult with “experts” to tell them if raping a child is a really bad thing to do. Such is the state of the Church.
      When Pope John defied the desire of the Blessed Mother to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima in 1960, it only previewed the Vatican’s spit-in-the-face-of-God arrogance when it finally revealed a deceitful truncated version that did not include descriptions of contemporary discord over immutable doctrine. And why not, given a climate that gave us a Pope who has openly acknowledged his disbelief in absolute immutable truth.
      This Sunday’s readings included James’ unambiguous repudiation of the Luther’s corruptions of Christianity, many centuries before he even invented them, yet Francis boldly recycles them. Thus, we are enjoined to have mercy for the unrepentant sinner with a complete absence of irony of not even asking the question of where is the mercy for the victims of sin, victim abandoned families when a man runs off with his secretary to give her “loving comfort” in the new morality of Francis that endorses no-fault “family irregularity.” Does no one lie to themself anymore? The only cultural insights AI contributes to Catholic life were to create new pickup lines for philanderers at singles bars. Doesn’t papal cheap talk about the poor factor into thought about broken families?
      Discernment, discernment, discernment, a bludgeon catchword obsessively abused by Francis, like he abuses the word gospel as a leftist mantra, but discernment is a word that used to mean choosing between goods in service to God, yet is now used as a means for rationalizing evil. It takes one generation for a nation to abandon its freedom, and it takes one generation of moral entropy and ecclesial softmindedness and cowardice to sell out Catholic witness and have the Church join the world as an accessory to mass murder.

      • Mr. Baker, You have bravely truthfully painted the picture of us miserably aware of the mess we’re in. I believe you could have written much more, but the thought tired or nauseated. My hour at adoration keeps me sane as does a daily dose of Rosary. They barely help. I cannot get anything more than Eucharist from the penitential hour I spend at the NOM in order to receive the dear Child of my hopes and dreams. May God bless you and yours.

  5. We read of “…a faith that leaves them [the young] no interior freedom, by a Church in which all are supposed to think alike and blindly obey.” But, why this conflation of the deceptions of the world, suddenly, to a commentary on the Church???

    Surely the semi-literate and therefore incoherent ghostwriters of His Holiness still mean that the personal conscience is more of a sanctuary than a “fortress”….surely, they mean “the sanctuary [!] of man, where he is alone with God whose voice echoes within him” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 16), as cited in Veritatis Splendor, n. 55). Surely, this is what they actually mean and think they say…

    Because, then this from the unread Veritatis Splendor–“In their desire to emphasize the ‘creative’ character of conscience, certain authors no long call its actions ‘judgments’ but ‘decisions’: only by making these decisions ‘autonomously’ would man be able to attain moral maturity [“a mature and free relationship with God”]. Some even hold that this process of maturing is inhibited by the excessively categorical position adopted by the Church’s Magisterium in many moral questions; for them, the Church’s interventions are the cause of unnecessary CONFLICTS OF CONSCIENCE” (n. 55, italics in the original).

    Needs more work–whether freedom creates the truth, or whether “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

    • You rightly ask, “why this conflation of the deceptions of the world, suddenly, to a commentary on the Church???”

      Because the semi-literate and incoherent ghostwriters are simple doppelgangers of their ghost host. The deceptions of the world and in the Church are one and the same.

      Today (9/16) the pope tweeted: “We have severely harmed the Earth, our common home. Yet we have reasons for hope. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

      Jesus’ Church has died and is buried. The pope either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. One day it will resurrect, but this pope will likely be far and long gone then. As will we.

  6. “[S]emi-literate and incoherent therefore incoherent ghostwriters of His Holiness . . .” Amen.
    But doesn’t the buck stop with Francis?

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