EXCLUSIVE: Interview on “Fratelli Tutti” with Bishop Athanasius Schneider

AS – Pope Francis here uses the expression “Fratelli tutti” (all Brothers) in a way that is clearly different from St. Francis. For St. Francis, “all brothers” are those who follow and imitate Christ, i.e. all Christians, and certainly not simply all men, and even less so the adherents of non-Christian religions. We can see this in looking at the fuller context from which these words are taken:

Let us all, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd who to save His sheep bore the suffering of the Cross. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution and shame, in hunger and thirst, in infirmity and temptations and in all other ways; 1 and for these things they have received everlasting life from the Lord. Wherefore it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that, whereas the Saints have practiced works, we should expect to receive honor and glory for reading and preaching the same” ( Admonitions , 6).

Indeed, St. Francis did not “smooth over the faults of any, but smite them, nor flattered the life of sinners, but rather aimed at it with stern reproofs. Unto great and small alike he spoke with the same firm spirit” ( Legenda Maior , 12, 8) Pope Francis presents St. Francis as though he had been a supporter of the diversity of religions. The scope of St. Francis’s visit to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt, however, was not to show “his openness of heart, which knew no bounds and transcended differences of religion” ( Fratelli Tutti , n. 3). Rather, its precise aim was to preach to the Sultan the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One must regret that Pope Francis reduces St. Francis in Fratelli Tutti to a man who “sought to embrace everyone” and as an example of “a humble and fraternal ‘subjection’ to those who did not share his faith” (n. 3).

I read the interview, and he is right that the Pope kept this mostly on the natural level. Personally, I would have also hoped to see some additional emphasis on say, the doctrine in CCC 845. But, both the natural truth of the unity of the human family and the supernatural reconciliation in Christ are both consistently found in Tradition and the Pope was up front that he was not intending to cover it all–he made his focus clear. I don’t think we should presume the limiting of the scope to be a negation of other truths outside that scope. And it is certainly good for the Pope’s brother bishops to remind the faithful of these higher truths if they are tempted to abandon them.

I do think Bishop Schneider is mistaken to oppose this acknowledgement of natural brotherhood and the duties that flow from it to the duty to evangelize, which he seems to do by contrasting the Pope’s use of St. Francis with St. Francis’ evangelizing. Quite from being opposed, they are necessarily related. This natural universal brotherhood impels a Christian to solidarity, not just in material things, but also in the sharing of spiritual goods and the concern for one’s brother’s eternal welfare by raising that brotherhood to the next level. The Pope certainly doesn’t propose an opposition between them in this encyclical. But since this connection was not addressed much in the text, I think the Bishop would have been better off here talking about how they are connected.

I think the Archbishop is echoing Pope Benedict XVI…

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: Dialogue cannot substitute for mission

“The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people,” retired Pope Benedict wrote. “‘But does that still apply?’ many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. ‘Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?’ The counter-question is: ‘Can dialogue substitute for mission?’

“In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality,” the retired pope wrote. “The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

“It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine,” he wrote.

St. Francis was on a mission.

Which Archbishop?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.