Is the Pope's 'new balance' message getting through?

Francis seems determined to re-focus the Church less on culture wars – contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and the like - and more on poverty and inequality. But has his message found a receptive audience in the States?

We in America are on the front lines fighting against the culture of death. Telling Americans that they are focused on the wrong things cuts the legs out from under all our efforts to turn our society from one in which death is the first option, and sometimes the only option offered, back to the understanding that human life is sacrosanct at every stage in life. And as importantly, that bad moral choices lead to “unwanted” babies and to poverty. That getting a decent education and job skills are what is needed not more social programs that just throw money at poor people. We should do all we can to combat poverty, by addressing the real issues involved rather than sideline them by making poverty a political football, and conflating issues, such as immigration reform, out of all proportion.

I believe we need to put poverty and immigration into their proper perspective. No one is threatening the lives of immigrant workers. There would be a rightful outcry if they were considered “inconvenient” or “not fully human” or in need of being eliminated like the unborn, the elderly and severely injured are now. We are in a battle for lives not just livlihoods. I can’t agree with those who think we should drop our efforts against the pro-death agenda. America’s culture is destroying itself through selfishness and despair because of it. I don’t think the pope has been given enough and/or the right information about what is going on in this country. If he had been he wouldn’t be telling us to focus on issues that cannot be solved by diverting action away from much more important matters.

From the linked article:

American-style economics aren’t necessarily the target of the Argentine-born pope’s criticism. “Americans must remember that the Holy Father is speaking to this worldwide audience,” [Cardinal Timothy Dolan] wrote.

Speaking about America/the West, I’d say the message has found a very receptive audience among pro-choice, pro-gay “marriage” Catholics, and secular society in general, because it encourages and lends them support (at least on a surface level).

I’d say the message has not found a receptive audience among orthodox Catholics for the reasons Della mentioned (it has cut the legs out from under the social issues etc).

I would say that his focus on poverty is a huge part of his popularity, so I think the answer is “yes.” He comes across as being nonjudgmental, and non-Christians seem to really like him for that reason. Catholics who are outspoken about gay rights, same-sex marriages, abortion and contraception tend to drive people away from the Church, unfortunately. It goes against all of the constantly trumpeted cultural Marxism which American society is saturated with through media. And to look at the situation with complete honesty, there is no way the Church can compete with the media on that score. But poverty and obscene wealth are vital subjects to people, and when the Pope speaks the truth on these subjects the tables are turned and the media is at a disadvantage. The media can lie and paint a rosy picture of American prosperity or American fairness, but American cities are over flowing with homelessness and it’s impossible for people to pretend the economy isn’t falling apart. And of course there’s widespread anger and dismay and frustration because of it, so I think the Popes words are falling on fertile ground. It’s possible that growing numbers of Americans are beginning to question their empty materialism, just because it’s so out of reach for many people now. I mean, it’s virtually impossible for a lone individual to survive on minimum wage, and most minimum wage workers are forced to use food stamps and whatever other kinds of welfare they’re able to get. I think criticizing the mafia and Wall Street and the Satanic banking system has certainly endeared him with some people. How many, I don’t know.:shrug:

Don’t so easily accept the premise of the article’s argument. I didn’t bother reading it, but I already have a problem with it because of the title. Who says that the Pope is emphasizing a “new balance?” Just because the Boston Globe thinks so, doesn’t make it real. So much of people’s perception of Pope Francis is shaded by how the media perceive him, as was the case with Benedict. Benedict was so much less right-wing than the media thought, and even devoted an entire encyclical to social justice issues.

What “new balance” is that, exactly? Bishops and priests and lay people have a moral obligation and solemn duty to proclaim the Gospel, which will look differently depending on the place and time in which it is being proclaimed. The Pope has repeatedly encouraged advocates of traditional marriage and defenders of the unborn to continue their advocacy in the public square. He himself has made strong statements about social issues. Much of the media seems to think that the Church is withdrawing from the fight because the Holy Father isn’t talking about social issues every day. Why do they think that? Because their vision of Catholicism is this kind of weird, hyper-sexualized moralism devoid of divine Truth. Benedict fought that vision as much as Francis, but because the prevailing media narrative was that Benedict was a wild-eyed right-winger, that message couldn’t get through. For whatever reason, Pope Francis has a very different image in the media, and that allows his Christocentric message to get through.

But that only goes so far. When the pope is called on to change things that can’t be changed, inevitably people will realize that the power of the pope only goes so far. That is already happening, of course. But I suspect that Pope Francis is much more concerned about equipping the laity and the priests to more articulately confront the evils of the day. What have we come to that we’re all relying on the pope to speak the truth about marriage and abortion as though he were the Church’s go-to media guy on these matters? Please. He is the vicar of Christ, yes, but let’s not be ultra-montanists. We’re all priests, prophets, and kings, and if the pope wants to tone down the voice of the papacy so that the voice of the faithful laity can be stronger and more forceful, then that is hardly a bad thing. Pope Francis’ apparent reluctance to talk a lot of these things should make all of us a lot more active in the public square advancing the Gospel message—what it should not do is make us all carp about the pope’s supposed dereliction of duty. Please. I love the pope and I love the papacy. But I don’t need the pope’s explicit encouragement or permission to engage in the pro-life apostolate that I’m called to.

Several are asking what the ‘‘new balance’’ is. It is an apt phrase for what the Pope wishes to propose. The idea is that all social issues (e.g. abortion, income-inequality, same-sex marriage) are related to a concept which he has often called the ‘‘Throwaway Culture.’’ It is this Throwaway Culture, in sum, that must be opposed, rather than each individual issue individually - as if they did not have an intrinsic relation.

In Evangelium Gaudium, for example, the Pope unites the concepts of virtues and doctrine, saying that they create an organic whole “Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied” (39, cf. Lumen Fidei, 48). He realizes that the media focuses only on a few concepts, thus ''the message… [is] distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects" (34); In this case, ‘‘secondary aspects’’ means any one issue, taken in isolation. The Pope proposes, then that we must present ourselves as opposing ‘‘a ‘throwaway culture’ which is now spreading,’’ and which is founded on ‘‘the denial of the primacy of the human person’’ (53, 55).

I do not think that this idea has been successfully communicated; the Pope, in fact, has fallen victim to the very media distortion that he warned against in section 34. Francis’ Throwaway Culture is, philosophically, almost identical with John Paul II’s Culture of Death, and Benedict’s Dictatorship of Relativism. It’s on the basis of a ‘‘new balance’’ on an overall mission of evangelization of culture that Francis proposes to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, economic-disperity, and all the rest. But he hasn’t done a very good job at making that clear.

This is an opinion piece that really does not belong in Catholic News.

The Pope himself said the quote “We have to find a new balance”, it was in one of his early interviews.

“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” Francis said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

I fundamentally deny the idea that abortion is about “culture wars.”

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