By Sandro Magister at L’Espresso:
The official presentation at the Vatican press office, on Monday April 9, of “Gaudete et Exsultate” – the third apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis after “Evangelii Gaudium” and “Amoris Laetitia” – was a completely useless exercise, in terms both of the worthlessness of the things said, which were not even put into the routine bulletin, and of the insignificance of those who said them: the vicar of the diocese of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, the former president of the Italian branch of Catholic Action, Paola Bignardi, and the journalist Gianni Valente, the latter a close friend of Jorge Mario Bergoglio since before he was elected pope. All three with the air of having done no more than to read in advance the document they had to illustrate, without knowing anything else about it.
To make up for this, however, the director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, stepped in immediately to fill in the blanks of the official presentation.
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.
In “Gaudete et Exsultate” there is nothing that Bergoglio has not already said and written, even long ago. And Spadaro furnishes the index of this:
– the first big interview of Pope Francis with “La Civiltà Cattolica” in August of 2013;
– the idea of the “holiness of the door just down the way,” borrowed from the French writer Joseph Malègue, dear to Bergoglio;
– some passages of “Evangelii Gaudium,” the agenda-setting text of this pontificate;
– the “Reflexiones sobre la vida apostolica” written by Bergoglio in 1987;
– the presentation made by Bergoglio in 1989 of the book “My ideal of sanctity” by the Argentine Jesuit Ismael Quiles, who was his professor;
– the maxim “simul in actione contemplativus” of the Jesuit Jerónimo Nadal, one of the first companions of Saint Ignatius of Loyola;
– the book “Discernimiento y lucha espiritual” by the Jesuit Miguel Ángel Fiorito, the spiritual father of the young Bergoglio, who wrote the preface to this in 1985;
– the maxim of Saint Ignatius that is so precious to Francis: “Non coerceri a maximo, contineri tamen a minimo divinum est” (Not to be constrained by that which is greatest, to be contained in that which is smallest, this is divine);
– the concluding document of the general conference of the Latin American episcopate in Aparecida in 2007, of which Bergoglio was the main architect;
– and finally, various morning homilies of Francis at Santa Marta.
But on this basic backdrop, with the general theme of the “call of everyone to holiness,” Pope Francis arranged to weave in a bunch of his invectives – these too recurring in many of his previous writings and talks – against his critics and their objections.
On his objectors within the Church, Francis sketches in “Gaudete et Exsultate” a profile that is prejudicially dismissive.
They are those with the “funeral faces” who have an “obsession with the law, ostentation in the treatment of the liturgy, the doctrine, and the prestige of the Church.”
They are those who bend religion “to the service of their own psychological and mental lucubrations.”
They are those who conceive of doctrine as “a closed system, devoid of dynamics capable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives.”
They are those who close themselves off in a “tranquil and anesthetizing mediocrity,” made up of “individualism, spiritualism, becoming closed off in little worlds, dependence, systematization, repetition of prearranged frameworks, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, taking refuge in the norms.”
They are those who love “to get teary-eyed in a presumed ecstasy” and assert “a ‘dry cleaner’s’ sanctity, everything beautiful, everything just right,” but in reality “fake.”
They are, in two words, the modern “Gnostics” and “Pelagians,” a current version of these two ancient heresies.
In these invectives of Pope Francis against his objectors, is it possible to recognize any reference “ad personam”?
According to what Fr. Spadaro writes, the answer would be yes.
There is one passage, in paragraph 26 of “Gaudete et Exsultate,” that seems to wipe out two millennia of contemplative monasticism, male and female:
“It is not healthy to love silence and avoid the encounter with the other, to desire repose and reject activity, to seek prayer and underestimate service. We are called to live contemplation even in the midst of action.”
And this is what Spadaro writes, in making his exegesis of this passage:
“This is the Ignatian ideal, in fact, according to the famous formula of one of his first companions, Fr. Jerónimo Nadal: to be ‘simul in actione contemplativus.’ Alternatives like ‘either God or the world’ or ‘either God or nothing’ are erroneous.”
Attention. “God or Nothing” and “The Power of Silence” are precisely the titles of the two main books by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the most authoritative representative of a vision of the Catholic Church alternative to the one advocated by Pope Francis.
In addition to the invectives against his opponents, in “Gaudete et Exsultate” Francis also inserted some responses to criticisms made against him.
For example, in paragraphs 101 and 102, the criticisms of his way of handling the question of migrants:
“Some Catholics affirm that it is a secondary issue with respect to the ‘serious’ issues of bioethics. That such things should be said by a politician preoccupied with his success is understandable, but not by a Christian.”
Another example. In paragraph 115 the pope goes after those “Catholic media” that try “to compensate for their own dissatisfactions” by violating the eighth commandment: “Do not bear false witness,” just to “destroy the image of others without pity.”
Curiously, however, the day on which Francis put his signature to “Gaudete et Exsultate” was March 19.
Which was the feast of Saint Joseph. But it was also the final day of the “Viganò saga,” the most colossal piece of “fake news” fabricated so far by the pontificate of Francis, and moreover at the expense of his innocent predecessor, Benedict XVI.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)