This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 4 June 2015 to 13 June 2015.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

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Regina Caeli

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dry_landscape_258900With just days to go before the release of Pope Francis’s highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, a draft copy has suddenly appeared on the Internet.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What are the basic facts about this encyclical?

An encyclical is a teaching document issued by the pope. Encyclicals are among the more solemn and thus more authoritative papal documents.

This one is called Laudato Si (“Be praised”)—a line from the Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi.

It is Pope Francis’s second encyclical. His first was Lumen Fidei, which was largely drafted by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Laudato Si is thus the first encyclical prepared entirely at Pope Francis’s initiative.

It is devoted to ecology and related themes, and it is scheduled to be released on Thursday, June 18th.

 

2) Who leaked it?

Veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister leaked it on the web page of his newspaper, L’Espresso.

For reasons explained below, we will not be quoting from the document, though since it is already all over the Internet and has now become part of this story, we will link Magister’s original story, which includes a pdf of the document in Italian.

Magister’s original story is here.

 

3) What was the Vatican’s reaction?

The Holy See Press Office quickly issued a statement that said:

An Italian text of a draft of the Pope’s Encyclical “Laudato Si’” has been published. Please note that it is not the final text, and that the rules of the Embargo remain in place. We ask journalists to respect professional standards, which call for waiting for the official publication of the final text.

 

4) What is “the Embargo”?

This refers to a journalistic practice in which advance copies of texts are made available to journalists and others to enable them to prepare commentary in advance of the public release of a document.

The practice of letting them see advance copies of texts allows them to read them, digest them, and provide more accurate reporting and commentary than if they got the text at the time of its official release and had to read and report in haste.

Or that’s the theory.

Prior to the official release, such advance copies are said to be “embargoed,” meaning that reporters, etc., are not to publish things based on them until the time the document is officially released, at which point the embargo is lifted.

Movie reviews work the same way: Critics are frequently invited to advance screenings or sent “screener copies” so that they can have their movie reviews prepared by the day the movie is released, as a service to the public. They are not usually supposed to publish their reviews before the day of release, though.

 

5) Is breaking an embargo considered bad?

You bet. It’s a breech of trust with the people who gave you the embargoed text.

I’ve had embargoed texts of various documents any number of times (even years before the final text was released), and I’ve never broken an embargo.

I was shocked to learn that a respected Vaticanista (i.e., journalist covering the Vatican) like Sandro Magister had leaked this one.

Even if he thought he was leaking a pre-final version of the text (which is not clear from his original story), it’s an astonishing breech of journalistic ethics, and his name will likely be mud at the Vatican for some time.

 

6) How did Magister get the text?

This is unknown at present. In his article, he refers to the text having a “troubled” history and alludes to the first copies that the Vatican publishing house made having been pulped (destroyed) because of various places where they needed to be corrected.

It is possible that someone rescued one of the copies meant to be pulped and gave it to Magister. If so, he may have gotten it from a lower level person, such as a worker tasked with arranging for the copies to be pulped.

On the other hand, they could have come from someone higher placed.

If Magister’s text came from the batch that was pulped then that could explain why the Vatican Press Office said that it wasn’t the final version.

On the other hand, Magister may have been given a copy from a different batch, after some corrections were made. In any event, the Holy See Press Office says it isn’t the final copy.

 

7) How different will the final version be?

There is no way to know until Thursday.

Assuming that Magister is correct that a batch was pulped, this may have been due to nothing more than typos that needed to be corrected.

It is not at all uncommon for publishers to pulp runs of a publication that have typos which are caught at the last minute, assuming that the typos are significant enough. In my own experience with publishers, I’ve seen it done.

On the other hand, there may be more than typo fixes. This could happen, for example, if Pope Francis asked for certain editorial changes to be made and then, in the editorial process, these fell through the cracks and their absence was caught only at the last minute.

 

8) Why was the text leaked?

Without knowing who leaked it, there is no way to tell.

If it was a janitor who plucked a copy from a batch that were on their way to be shredded, it may simply have been that he knew Magister would be interested in a scoop and he wanted to be part of an exciting story (or possibly even be paid for his efforts).

Such an employee may not have read the text and there may be no larger agenda on his part.

On the other hand, if a person of higher stature leaked it—someone who had been entrusted with working on the text and read the content of the document—then there might be a deliberate intention to undermine the encyclical and its message.

 

9) How could the leak undermine the encyclical?

Part of the point of having an official release, with a press conference and everything, is to create on opportunity to get the document off on the best footing.

The media hops on it all at once, creating something of a saturation effect in different news channels, and the Holy See has the chance—via the press conference and associated materials given out to the press—to frame the story its way.

For a text to appear early can let some of the air out of the official release, and it can allow the text to be framed in ways contrary to the spin that the Holy See wants put on it.

In this case, because we have a pre-final draft, it will also cause attention to zero-in on the changes that were made between this draft and the final one, which may cause people to speculate about why those changes were made and what significance they might have (if they’re just typos or edits that were accidentally omitted and later caught: not much).

Further, this event raises the specter of the VatiLeaks scandal, in which Benedict XVI’s own butler was funneling private Vatican documents to the press as part of his own agenda.

This event raises the question of whether there are additional leakers—or new leakers—who are in some way seeking to undermine Pope Francis.

 

10) Does the encyclical say anything supporting the idea of manmade global warming?

Yeah, but we knew it would, anyway. Previous statements coming out of the Holy See had made that clear. We didn’t need the leak to tell us that.

I won’t quote from the leaked version, but since it is out there and people are commenting on it, I can report that this isn’t a huge theme in the document.

A machine translation of the Italian original clocks in at around 42,000 English words. Of those, the word “warming” occurs four times, and the phrase “climate change” occurs 14 times.

So it’s not a huge theme. The vast bulk of the document is devoted to other things.

 

11) Does the encyclical oblige Catholics to believe in manmade global warming?

I’ll have more to say about this once the final, official, English version is out, but the short answer is no.

The idea that the planet is getting warmer and the idea that we are responsible for that are both empirical propositions that belong to the domain of science.

As a result, they are matters of science and not of faith.

There is even a place in the draft (no. 188), where Pope Francis makes the point that the Church does not pretend to settle scientific questions.

The Church has the responsibility to urge appropriate responses to what the best science available has to say on matters impacting mankind and the world under man’s care, and Pope Francis thinks that present science is sufficiently in favor of manmade global warming to urge cuts in greenhouse gasses, but if you think that the best science points in a different direction, you are not bound in faith to believe a particular scientific viewpoint.

 

12) Is the encyclical critical of the secular environmentalism that we hear so much about in the media today?

Yes. Again, not quoting it and keeping things at the level of general themes, the draft document is expressly critical of aspects of environmental ideologies that are incompatible with the Christian Faith.

This includes ideologies that would reject the unique place of mankind in creation.

The draft criticizes anti-human and pro-abortion ideologies, which often go hand-in-hand with secular environmentalism.

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 28 May 2015 to 9 June 2015.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “We need to build up society in the light of the Beatitudes, walking towards the Kingdom with the least among us.” @Pontifex 4 June 2015
  • “In the Sacrament of the Eucharist we find God who gives himself.” @Pontifex 9 June 2015

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francis-reading

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 May 2015 to 2 June 2015.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Letters

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Christians are witnesses not to a theory, but to a Person: Christ risen and alive, the one Saviour of all.” @Pontifex 28 May 2015
  • “Lord, grant us the awesome gift of meeting you.” @Pontifex 30 May 2015
  • “The light of the Gospel guides all who put themselves at the service of the civilization of love.” @Pontifex 2 June 2015

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 April 2015 to 26 May 2015

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “There are times when God is silent, a silence which cannot be understood unless we gaze upon Christ crucified.” @Pontifex 21 May 2015
  • “Lord, send forth your Holy Spirit to bring consolation and strength to persecuted Christians. #free2pray” @Pontifex 22 May 2015
  • “Let us invoke the Holy Spirit each day: He guides us along the path of discipleship in Christ.” @Pontifex 23 May 2015
  • “We can observe the Fourth Commandment by loving visits to our aging grandparents.” @Pontifex 26 May 2015

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francis-readingRecently I’ve received several queries about a video message that Pope Francis sent to an ecumenical gathering in Arizona.

A Zenit news story implied that the pope stated that Jesus doesn’t care what kind of Christian you are.

But that’s not what he said at all.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What were the circumstances of the video?

An ecumenical gathering was held in Phoenix, Arizona last Saturday (May 23), and the organizers—the John 17 Movement—had invited Pope Francis to attend.

He didn’t, but he did send a video message—mostly in Spanish.

You can read the full text of the message (in English) here.

 

2) What did Zenit say about the message?

The Catholic news agency Zenit did a piece reporting on the video message, which you can read here.

The piece was headlined

Pope to US Christian Unity Event: Jesus Knows All Christians Are One, Doesn’t Care What Type

At one point, the text of the story reads:

Francis pointed out that Jesus knows that Christians are disciples of Christ, and that they are one and brothers.

“He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care!” Francis said. “They are Christians.”

UPDATE: Zenit has issued a corrected version of the story here.

 

3) Did Pope Francis actually say that Jesus doesn’t care what kind of Christian a person is?

No. The Zenit story is flatly incorrect.

Both the headline and the passage quoted above mistake the pope as speaking about Jesus when he is actually speaking about the devil—that is, he is saying that the devil doesn’t care what kind of Christian you are.

Here is the relevant passage from the pope’s remarks:

Division is the work of the Father of Lies, the Father of Discord, who does everything possible to keep us divided.

Together today, I here in Rome and you over there, we will ask our Father to send the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and to give us the grace to be one, “so that the world may believe”.

I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps.

But there is someone who “knows” that, despite our differences, we are one.

It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom.

He knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care! They are Christians.

As you can see, Pope Francis establishes a chain of referents for the pronoun “he” (in “He doesn’t care”) that repeatedly identifies the individual in question as the devil.

Jesus is not even mentioned except in the phrases “the Spirit of Jesus” and “disciples of Christ.”

 

4) Would it be a problem if the pope had said that Jesus doesn’t care what kind of Christian you are?

If intended in the absolute sense, yes. That would be a form of the error of indifferentism—the idea that it doesn’t matter what religion you are.

God is a God of truth, and so the truth of one’s religious beliefs matters to him.

 

5) Why does the pope describe his remark as something “that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps”?

Presumably because it’s an unfamiliar thought for many.

The idea that the devil stirs up persecution of Christians without respect to their particular affiliation, precisely because he knows that they are all Christians, is not something that one commonly hears—particularly in an age when many people aren’t even comfortable talking about the devil.

I can imagine any number of modernist theologians taking exception to this thought. That, of itself, could result in it sounding controversial.

 

6) Why did he say it might sound “even heretical, perhaps”?

The most likely explanation is that this is a touch of hyperbole, or exaggeration to make a point.

The pope is speaking informally, and his words have to be understood accordingly.

In Catholic theology, the term “heresy” has a precise, technical meaning: The obstinate post-baptismal doubt or denial of a truth that must be believed with divine faith (i.e., God has revealed it) and with Catholic faith (i.e., because the Church has infallibly defined it as such).

Since he is speaking to an ecumenical group that consists largely or principally of non-Catholics, he cannot expect them to interpret the word “heretical” in the technical, Catholic sense.

This is further confirmed by the fact that there would be no grounds on which to criticize his main proposition–that the devil stirs up persecution against Christians because they are Christians–as heretical in the technical sense. God has not revealed that the devil does not persecute Christians of all stripes because they are Christians, and the Church has not infallibly defined that God has revealed this.

As a result, the pope isn’t using the term “heretical” in its technical sense. He’s speaking informally and hyperbolically.

Properly speaking, his proposal not only isn’t heretical, it doesn’t even sound heretical.

In rhetorical terms, the function of including the statement is to draw a line under what he is about to say, to call attention to it and invite people to think about it rather than passing over it quickly.

 

7) Is there anything problematic about his statement that “despite our differences, we are one”?

No. He acknowledges both that Christians have differences (true) and that, despite these differences, we also are in another sense one (also true).

Elsewhere in his message, he says:

We will search together, we will pray together, for the grace of unity.

The unity that is budding among us is that unity which begins under the seal of the one Baptism we have all received.

It is the unity we are seeking along a common path. It is the spiritual unity of prayer for one another.

The idea that Christian unity is rooted in our common baptism is a commonplace of Catholic theology.

He also acknowledges that, despite being one in a sense he has already alluded to, we are also seeking “the grace of unity” and that this unity is “budding” (meaning: an incomplete reality).

He is thus seeking to acknowledge both the things that unite and divide Christians.

 

8) Doesn’t the devil hate all human beings?

Yes, but he hates Christians in a special way, because we love and serve Christ.

 

9) How does the pope see the growth of Christian unity unfolding?

He says:

This [the “ecumenism of blood,” our common persecution by the devil] must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.

I am convinced it won’t be theologians who bring about unity among us. Theologians help us, the science of the theologians will assist us, but if we hope that theologians will agree with one another, we will reach unity the day after Judgement Day.

The Holy Spirit brings about unity. Theologians are helpful, but most helpful is the goodwill of us all who are on this journey with our hearts open to the Holy Spirit!

The pope thus sees Christians working to grow closer to each other through prayer, dialogue, goodwill, and openness to the Holy Spirit.

He sees theologians as being able to play a helpful role in this, but he does not envision Christian unity being fully restored in this age simply because of Christian theologians getting together to talk.

Instead, Pope Francis is focusing on practical ways that Christians can “strengthen our bonds of brotherhood” and “shorten the distance between us” in the here and now.

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 April 2015 to 19 May 2015.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Dear parents, have great patience, and forgive from the depths of your heart.” @Pontifex 14 May 2015
  • “It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself.” @Pontifex 16 May 2015
  • “God is always waiting for us, he always understands us, he always forgives us.” @Pontifex 19 May 2015

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 June 2014 to 12 May 2015.

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “When we cannot earn our own bread, we lose our dignity. This is a tragedy today, especially for the young.” @Pontifex 7 May 2015
  • “Let us learn to live with kindness, to love everyone, even when they do not love us.” @Pontifex 9 May 2015
  • “Why is it so difficult to tolerate the faults of others? Have we forgotten that Jesus bore our sins?” @Pontifex 12 May 2015

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clouds

Sometimes people make it sound like the Catholic understanding of how to get to heaven is really complex.

It’s not.

While you can go into any of Christ’s teachings in a lot of very rich detail, he made sure that this one can be understood even by a child.

I can summarize it in two sentences:

(Click here to watch the video online.)

The two sentences are these: To come to God and be saved, you need to repent, have faith, and be baptized. If you commit mortal sin, you need to repent, have faith, and go to confession.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. And we can show each of these things from the Bible.

The need to repent is shown by the fact that, right at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus began preaching the gospel, saying “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).

The need for faith is shown when the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes that “Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

And the need for baptism is shown when St. Peter flatly tells us: “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).

So that’s what you need to do if you want to come to God and be saved: Repent, have faith, and be baptized.

If you do these things, you’ll be in a state of grace, and as long as you remain in a state of grace, you’ll go to heaven.

But we still have free will, and we can still turn our backs on God and fall from grace, to use St. Paul’s phrase (Galatians 5:4).

St. Paul is very clear about the possibility of us committing mortal sin. He tells us: “Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

To turn away from God and commit mortal sin is the opposite of repenting. So when we fall into mortal sin, we need to turn back to God—to repent again.

We also need to have faith.

And then we need to go to confession. This is something Jesus indicated just after he rose from the dead. He came to his disciples, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23)

So Jesus empowered his ministers to forgive or retain sins. In order for a priest to know whether he is to forgive or retain a sin, he needs to know about the sin and whether we have repented of it. That means we need to go and tell him these things, and so we have the sacrament of confession.

_drama-of-salvationSo that’s what you need to do. To come to God and be saved, you need to repent, have faith, and be baptized. If you commit mortal sin, you need to repent, have faith, and go to confession.

It’s all thoroughly biblical.

If you like the information I’ve presented here, you should get my book, The Drama of Salvation. It provides more information about this and many other aspects of salvation—a subject that affects where you and I will spend eternity.

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mark-under-development

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered my commentary and study guides on the Gospel of Mark from Verbum Bible Software.

Enough pre-orders have been received that the set is now “under development,” as the label by the green status bar shows.

What that means is that they’ve raised enough money in pre-orders to pay for the process of converting the manuscripts into their format, so all of the cool Bible-study functionality will be there when you open the book in Verbum.

They’re doing the conversion now.

The kind folks there called me up as soon as they reached the “under development” stage and let me know the good news.

They were excited about it, as we set a record on this one. Products  often linger in the pre-publication phase for months or even years while the needed pre-orders are accumulating.

We did it in four business days, which is the fastest it’s ever happened for Verbum. Yay!

So thank you to everyone who ordered, and congratulations on setting a new record!

Seeing the reaction to this set has been very encouraging for me, and it’s gotten me back to working on the next commentary, which is on next year’s Gospel: Luke. (It’s already about half done.)

By the way, even though they have enough pre-orders to be converting the Mark set, it’s still available at the pre-publication price of $19.99 (which, to my mind, is a steal, since you’re getting almost 500 pages of Bible study materials!). That price will go up in the future, but you can still pre-order it for that price at the moment.

Thanks again, everybody!

Here are the order links:

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE COMMENTARY ON MARK AND THE TWO STUDY GUIDES FOR $19.99

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT VERBUM AND SAVE 15% WHEN YOU USE THE PROMO CODE “JIMMY1”

 

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