Fratelli Tutti: seeking the common good

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Pope Francis’ latest encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti is, as we might have anticipated, a reflection on our times. Its timing was fortuitous, bridging the inarticulate hostility of the presidential debate and Joe Biden’s decision to forego negative campaigning in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. The burden of the encyclical is to commend fraternity and social friendship and deplore selfishness and hostility in the response to the crisis.

Main image: Pope Francis (Catholic Church England and Wales/Flickr)

The first words of the encyclical are part of a quotation from St Francis of Assisi, in which he commends a fraternity that crosses all boundaries of distance and culture as central to his followers. Social friendship — which refers to the privileging of respect for persons and so for the common good over individual interests in social, economic and institutional relationships — flows from an attitude of fraternity.

St Francis has deeply influenced the Pope, who took his name, has attended gatherings of religious leaders in Assisi to pray, and signed this encyclical there. Francis of Assisi, who had a deep sense of God’s presence in nature, also undertook a dangerous journey to meet the Sultan in Egypt and dissuaded his Friars from dispute when meeting Saracens. In an encyclical initially intended to focus on the fraternal relationships between religions, exemplified in the common statement Pope Francis signed in Abu Dhabi with Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the association with the saint was apposite.

As the encyclical developed, Pope Francis expanded its scope to reflect on the COVID-19 crisis and on the dangers and opportunities created by the need to respond to it. Stylistically, the change of focus makes for a baggy elephant of a document. The influence of Francis of Assisi, however, hangs over it. He was contemplative, radical in his poverty and his association with people who were poor, was a standing reproach to the greed and violence of his own society, and had an influence out of proportion to his social standing.

The encyclical begins by examining the signs of a lack of fraternity in society that contribute to a closed world. The list is long and comprehensive, including the erosion of human rights, the dominance of ideologies of economic self-interest over the common good, the treatment of refugees, the poisoning of public conversation and communication, and the many forms of discrimination. All these evils find expression in disrespect for vulnerable human beings.

The moral compass of the document is then provided by an exposition of the Parable of the Good Samaritan with its emphasis on practical friendship for the wounded stranger. The love that looks to the good of the other represents a counterpoint to the attitude that underlies the dehumanising signs of a closed world, and a bridge to an open world. Pope Francis describes this bridge of fraternity in terms of the central principles of Catholic Social Teaching, recently elaborated in his recent General Audience: respect for human beings for their intrinsic value and not for their use, solidarity based on their social nature and the primacy of the common good.

These principles are then drawn on in the body of the document to propose a better way to deal with the aspects of public life which the CV crisis has shown to be at risk. It encompasses relationships between nations and particularly the need to open closed borders that hurt refugees and minorities, and to strengthen international conventions and institutions to make possible the remission of debt. It calls also for a reform of political life based on respect for persons, respect for law and for human rights, and attention to the common good rather than to individual and sectional interests. All these things call for a culture marked by the search for truth and openness to others. They must also be built on a commitment to peace, the rejection of war and capital punishment, and the encouragement of processes of forgiveness and reconciliation within societies.

 

'The tone of the Fratelli Tutti is urgent. It echoes the vision of a world at the crossroads where the path we take will decide whether the inheritance that we leave to our grandchildren will be wasted or saved.'

 

The encyclical opens up little new ground in its argument, except perhaps in the priority it gives to the common good over private interest in the ownership of goods. It reflects the emphases of Pope Francis’s life and writings, with a passionate assertion of the dignity of each human being and the respect owed to and expected from each other and society, and an equally passionate denunciation of the greed, violence and inequality that threaten the future of the world. Its detailed analysis of the world situation merits a close reading.

The tone of the Fratelli Tutti is urgent. It echoes the vision of a world at the crossroads where the path we take will decide whether the inheritance that we leave to our grandchildren will be wasted or saved. The way in which we set about rebuilding society in the face of coronavirus will be crucial. Its outcome will depend on the choice we make between individual greed and the commitment to the common good. Given the evidence that many governments throughout the world are attempting to return to tried and failed economic and social models, urgency is appropriate.

The apparently limited space given to the environment in the encyclical deserves mention, given Pope Francis’ constant insistence on its importance. In fact, the broader understanding of integral ecology evident in Laudato Si’ to include social and institutional relationships flows easily into the emphasis in Fratelli Tutti on social friendship. The document also emphasises attention to the world outside ourselves, the friendship to it imaged in the stories of Francis of Assisi, and the need to maintain this attention and altruistic care in all human relationships — institutional and transnational as well as personal and local. The perspective adopted here could enrich reflection on the environment.

In this cantankerous time the emphasis on fraternity in public conversation and advocacy will surely be welcomed. The encyclical strongly endorses the human rights of people made vulnerable by society — of women and children, of racial minorities, of refugees, of the aged and others. It views the public conversation about rights as one of engagement and persuasion in seeking the common good, not as a closed and adversarial struggle between allies and enemies. That at least would be an improvement upon the public discourse to which we have become accustomed.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Pope Francis (Catholic Church England and Wales/Flickr)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis, encyclical, Laudato Si, COVID-19

 

 

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Pope Francis's writing reflects his pastoral and gentle approach to his calling as not only the leader of the largest denomination of the Christian faith but as a world leader. He takes these roles seriously. I've read the chapter of "Fratelli Tutti" concerning the story of the good samaritan. Francis mentions the oldest texts of the bible, as well as the NT, in connection with embracing the foreigner. The good samaritan is about the stranger on the road and our care for the stranger/foreigner, where we are placed in that story. Christ, too, is the stranger is our midst. I intend to read more.
Pam | 07 October 2020


I spent yesterday reading the encyclical. Your description “baggy elephant of a document” is apt. I found myself struggling through a polysyllabic jungle, wondering when it would end. His messages were important, but only a few idle retirees like myself will have the leisure to read them. And what’s the idea of behind continually quoting himself?
OldG | 08 October 2020


Thank you for your thoughts Fr Andrew. Do you mind if I concentrate just on Chapter 7 of FT? “Just War” Part of the seventh chapter, then, focuses on war: “a constant threat”, that represents “the negation of all rights”, “a failure of politics and of humanity”, and “a stinging defeat before the forces of evil”. Moreover, due to nuclear chemical and biological weapons that strike many innocent civilians, today we can no longer think, as in the past, of the possibility of a “just war”, but we must vehemently reaffirm: “Never again war!” The total elimination of nuclear arms is “a moral and humanitarian imperative”. Perhaps a better suggestion given Long Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima would be to rid the world of nuclear reactors which invariably leak the older they get spreading poison radiation world wide. Refuse to accept SA becoming a nuclear waste dump for a few shekels. Further "With the money invested in weapons, the Pope suggests instead the establishment of a global fund for the elimination of hunger (see Par 255-262)." Perhaps a threshold suggestion might be that the church sell of the Vatican treasures and much of its business ventures and international real estate and use those funds to commence the process. Stop using church funds to buy retiring Bishops expensive retirement homes. Death penalty "Francis expresses just as clearly a position with regard to the death penalty: it is inadmissible and must be abolished worldwide. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity” – the Pope writes – “and God himself pledges to guarantee this” (Par 263-269). My opinion is we should reinstate the death penalty as advocated by Imran Khan, especially for so called "religious" who violate children and say they have done nothing wrong. It seems to me the Vatican has become a refuge for skulking pedophiles, and they have no place in this church. "There is emphasis on the necessity to respect “the sacredness of life” (Par 283) where today “some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed”, such as the unborn, the poor, the disabled and the elderly (Par 18). Unfortunately Statute has overridden wishful thinking. Abortion on demand, forced sterilization of the Uighur women. Legalized euthanasia exists in Victoria and its champion was a catholic who adheres to the tenets of the BRI. It is said politics and religion dont mix, but they do. CCP (for example) is a devotee of all the practices that Francis rails against. In short FT is an ideological ethical wish list, but first, its author needs to clean up his own Vatican back yard.
Francis Armstrong | 08 October 2020


Pope Francis is a very wise man. It is interesting, Jesus telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans were despised as their second class 'illegitimate' cousins by the Jews. How could someone like this be an exemplar? Jesus showed that, through God's will, he could be. St Francis visited the Sultan during the Fifth Crusade when Egypt was invaded. The Muslim World has been invaded recently by the West. Very good the Pope consulted with the Sheikh al Azhar on certain matters. It shows Pope Francis, like Jesus, has a wider perspective. It is once again a case of the New Wine bursting the Old Wineskins, as well it should. My own belief is that genuine Christianity and genuine Islam are coming together. What a wonderful thing and how well it portends for the world, threatened as never before by the arrayed forces of atheistic materialism.
Edward Fido | 08 October 2020


The title of the Holy Father's new encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti", just as the choice of his papal name, is a tribute to St Francis of Assisi and a further announcement of the orientation and emphasis of Pope Francis' ministry. As a member for several years of a Franciscan parish, it struck me how strongly the man who became known as "Il Poverillo" influenced St Ignatius Loyola, even to the point of the early post-Manresa Ignatius seeking to imitate Francis in his mission to the Holy Land - even, if necessary, to a martyr's death there. A further thing my direct involvement with the Franciscans taught me was the inadequacy of the popular contemporary impression that their Founder was a sort of a-dogmatic hippie environmentalist. Referred to distinguished Dominican scholar Fr Augustine Thompson's biography of St Francis, I discovered how the saint's famous dialogue with Sultan Malik-el Kamil was uncompromising in the expression of its purpose: Thompson recounts how when Francis was interrogated about the purpose of his visit to the Holy Land, the saint " . . . got immediately to the point. He was the ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ and had come for the salvation of the Sultan's soul." It was Francis's evangelical candour rather than politically correct diplomacy, it would seem, that earned the Sultan's respect and Francis's subsequent safe conduct in the realm. And, of course, the providence of the God who called him to help rebuild his Church.
John RD | 09 October 2020


John RD is quite correct: there was nothing heterodox about St Francis, who would've been out of place at Nimbin. There is also nothing heterodox about Pope Francis, who speaks from a completely orthodox Catholic perspective. As the Pope he commands the allegiance of over a billion Catholics and has immense respect in the Middle East. His meetings and interaction with the Shaykh al Azhar would have been seen as being on the same level as St Francis meeting Sultan al Kamil. Given his seemingly eccentric manner, it is possible al Kamil took St Francis for a Christian version of the great Sufis, who had enormous prestige in contemporary Islam. Al Kamil is known for treating Christian prisoners justly. According to Oliverus Scholasticus: 'Who could doubt such goodness, friendship and charity come from God?' When I talk of Christianity and Islam coming together, I'm not talking in a doctrinal sense but in a spirit of love and friendship. This is much needed in a modern world convulsed with hatred.
Edward Fido | 09 October 2020


Good point, OldG. If the Pope wants this encyclical to be widely read it needs to be easily readable. Pity that at the same time, the Vatican Curia officials yet again undermine the teaching authority of the Church with their latest idiotic ruling that baptisms are invalid if the words "We baptise" instead of "I baptise" are used! So, God is not going to accept a baptism if the correct "holy" words are not used! Still I suppose those officials have to look like they're doing something to justify their cosy sinecures.
Bruce Stafford | 09 October 2020


Thank you, Edward - I invariably find your insights interesting, informative, and well and fairly considered.
John RD | 09 October 2020


Such an unfortunate title! When will the institutional Church, from the Holy Father down, acknowledge the existence of women? We hold up over half the sky. We warm more than our share of pews in the churches. Hard to comprehend that, in 2020, we are still invisible. Language is important in shaping a culture. How difficult would it be to include women and to write, 'Brothers and Sisters'?
Maureen Helen | 09 October 2020


Edward Fido: “….not talking in a doctrinal sense but in a spirit of love and friendship.” How? Important claims of truth are identity. To disbelieve another’s important claim of truth is to disbelieve who/what s/he says s/he is. I know a transgendered who devoutly attends a Reformation church. If we ever got to the conversational level of ‘true’ ‘Christian’ friendship, ‘she’ would see in my eyes that I think ‘her’ material and spiritual doctrine not just to be factually mistaken but morally disappointing against the God whom ‘she’ loves. Therefore, scratch ‘true’, ‘Christian’ friendship for being an ecumenical ally on eggshells. For a Christian, if Muhammad encountered Gabriel in Mecca, ‘Gabriel’ was a demon. How, at the conversational level of ‘true’ friendship, is a Muslim supposed to take that look in your eye? How are you not supposed to have that look in your eye? Scripture models that the answer to “Who do you say I am?” has to be true. The person who asked that question commanded that his exclusive claim of truth be made known to a world which would hate his messengers because it hated him first. To adapt Saint-Exupery, what is ‘essential’ is made invisible.
roy chen yee | 09 October 2020


Roy I'm not quite sure God rejects on gender identity though I'm sure he does not tolerate child abuse by religious "celibates". After Pentecost he accepted all peoples. "When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations. But when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit! (Kontakion)". Pope Francis FT attempts to redress may things and he as a person is very inclusive. However it's aimed at politicians and world leaders as a Catholic manifesto and it doesn't set out how all these wrongs that exist in the world today are to be made right.
Francis Armstrong | 10 October 2020


I must confess to be somewhat nonplussed with your using your transgender Reformed Church acquaintance in your explanation of why you believe Islam to be a false religion, Roy Chen Yee. This person is not a Muslim and Islam has had nothing to do with where she finds herself now. This is a classic red herring. Islam is a genuine world religion and was the centre, like Christianity, of a great civilisation. There are many similarities - and real doctrinal differences - between the two religions. Horrible wars have been waged against the Muslim World by the nominally Christian one, such as the Crusades, the French conquests in North Africa in the 19th Century and the Invasion of Iraq in our time. Neither St Francis, nor the current Pope compromised their beliefs when meeting Muslims. They were and are interested in peace through our common humanity.
Edward Fido | 10 October 2020


Roy Chen Yee emphasises in inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue the necessity of truth at the heart of relationship. Friendship with Christ involves conversion : St Paul exhorts the follower of Jesus to "Have in you that mind which is in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5). The call to conversion is a defining feature of the Church's own calling and mission. In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI identifies the Church as most truly herself in drawing people to know and love Christ, in union with him in the community of the faithful. Christ's own ministry of word and action exemplifies respect for both truth and freedom. All are to hear the word, none is coerced into its acceptance. Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism (6) exhorts ". . . all Christ's faithful to remember that the more purely they strive to live according to the Gospel, the more they are fostering and even practising Christian unity. For they can achieve depth and ease in strengthening mutual brotherhood to the degree that they enjoy profound communion with the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit." Following Vatican II, Pope John II writes in Ut Unum Sint (I, 21). "This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called 'spiritual ecumenism'." Driving this most recent exhortation of Pope Francis' to a more fraternal world is his recognition of unity with Christ and his call as decisive for its advancement and salvation, evident in his upholding as witnesses to the truth of the Gospel St Francis, Blessed Charles de Foucault and others of goodwill who seek justice and peace.
John RD | 11 October 2020


There is interfaith dialogue and interfaith dialogue of a questionable sort, John RD. In these parlous times the latter sort of dialogue can be extremely dangerous. The US led Invasion of Iraq has had several adverse consequences, including the devastation of the Christian population in that country. Christians are an endangered community in the Middle East, where their presence predates that of Islam. Were Roy Chen Yee's comments comparing the 'demonic' origins of Islam to transsexuality to be published in the Muslim World, they would endanger lives. This would not equate to the martyrdom of de Foucauld, but be the result of needless inflammatory rhetoric. Roy was not being brave: he had nothing to lose. I think his logic was off and his words infelicitous in extremis. The prayerful 'silent witness' that speaks so loudly that John Paul 11 and you talk of is totally different to Roy's intellectual and verbal blundering. The latter is not a good look for Christianity.
Edward Fido | 12 October 2020


Francis Armstrong: “not quite sure God rejects on gender identity….” Thanks, Francis. 1. God hates sin, not sinners. God is infinitely merciful. Maccabees tells us that sins can be forgiven after death. There is the sin against the Holy Spirit which can never be forgiven. There is the demonstrated example of Lucifer as a soul which can see God and Hell and still refuse to ask for forgiveness (which is why it is theologically disempowering not to believe that a creature called the Devil exists and is not merely symbolic of the human tendency to be wayward), There is C.S. Lewis’ comment that the doors of Hell are locked from the inside. There is Tradition that the pain of Purgatory is as intense as Hell. What you get from these is that if a soul wants to be forgiven, it will. If it doesn’t, it will excommunicate itself, willingly, for an eternity of harshly felt privation. 2. The condition of gender-misidentification, of itself, isn’t sinful; claiming that it is consonant with the Mind of God is. But, like flag burning, there is a difference between the objective wrong of defying the ethic and the subjective motivation for approving the defiance.
roy chen yee | 12 October 2020


Edward Fido: “This is a classic red herring.” If a practising transgender, not just someone with a mental attitude of which he or she does not approve, says to a Christian, “I am not defying the Mind of our God”, the Christian will have to say, “You are.” If a Muslim tells you as a Christian, “Islam began when Muhammad encountered your Angel Gabriel in a cave above Mecca”, you will have to say, “If he did meet a spiritual entity calling itself Gabriel, it was an impostor.” In both cases, you have objectively impugned a core identity of the claimant. You are telling one that s/he is a rebel against her and your God and the other that the origin of his or her religion is not Abrahamic like yours. You could get along very well if, every time you met, you took care to discuss orchids. But, how is the practised evasion, so practised that you come not to notice it, like a frog in slowly warming water, truth? Anyway, you might want to think about various possible reasons for why a Muslim would feel more threatened by a Christian than would a Mormon.
roy chen yee | 12 October 2020


Edward Fido: “comparing the 'demonic' origins of Islam to transsexuality”: Transgenderism isn’t any more demonic than hoarding. It’s an attitude. Islam is ‘demonic’ because Muslim orthodoxy insists the entity that started the story was an angel. If Joseph Smith did meet an Angel Moroni, Christians would say that too was a demonic encounter. However, because Mormons are mainly Anglo whites, citizens of the preeminent nation of the world, held in high esteem and sharing the constitutional norms of their national siblings, and, as Western Europeans, heirs to a civilisation of political and economic dominance, they have the psychological self-confidence not to be bothered by Christian critiques. “The prayerful 'silent witness' that speaks so loudly….” Because it happens in a context. The frontman is softly effective if someone in the back is carrying a big stick which carries its own message. The force of the Great Commission is Hell. Christianity’s modern prominence is due to Constantine. Behind John Paul II in Eastern Europe was Ronald Reagan, not Jimmy Carter. Without a stick, this happens: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7824541/China-rewrite-Bible-Quran-reflect-socialist-values.html Edward, the Enemy doesn’t want to talk to you: he wants to change your insides.
roy chen yee | 13 October 2020


It appears, Roy Chen Yee, that you are using the classic broken record technique in your dialogue with me in that you repeat what you said in your first post addressed to me in your second. It's a bit like English visitors to the Continent, who think the locals understand English, shouting at them to make sure they get the point. I find your arguments highly contentious and your comparisons in incredibly poor taste. Neither St Francis nor the current Pope would, I am sure, use your particular form of apologetics, which I think have more in common with the material coming from certain sources in the USA. We disagree. That's that. Merely repeating your arguments won't cut the mustard and convince me that your understanding and its expression are the only acceptable ones.
Edward Fido | 13 October 2020


Roy, I find some of your analysis too clever by half. I wouldn't be speculating about the genesis and authenticity of Islam. As far as I know, Abraham had 2 sons, Isaac and Ishmael. The latter started the Muslim faith and the Quran, as far as I know, is a version of the old testament which - instead of Calling God Yaweh, they call him Allah. The two religions are actually incredibly close.
Francis Armstrong | 13 October 2020


Edward Fido: “I find your arguments highly contentious and your comparisons in incredibly poor taste. Neither St Francis nor the current Pope would, I am sure, use your particular form of apologetics, which I think have more in common with the material coming from certain sources in the USA. We disagree. That's that. Merely repeating your arguments won't cut the mustard and convince me that your understanding and its expression are the only acceptable ones.” My opinion is obvious and my reasoning is transparent. Your opinion is obvious. If you would care to make your reasoning transparent, I will be only too happy to read it. Opinion and reasoning are quite separate.
roy chen yee | 14 October 2020


Francis Armstrong: “I wouldn't be speculating about the genesis and authenticity of Islam. As far as I know, Abraham had 2 sons, Isaac and Ishmael. The latter started the Muslim faith and the Quran, as far as I know, is a version of the old testament which - instead of Calling God Yaweh, they call him Allah. The two religions are actually incredibly close.” If Jesus is THE truth, THE way, and THE life, how can it be other than that close is no cigar?
roy chen yee | 14 October 2020


Roy Chen Yee, I must say I find your contorted and sometimes wildly illogical thinking and comparisons couched in prolix bombastic verbiage hard to follow. Historically, Mormonism was seen as a Christian deviation. It is hard to get one's head round the fact Islam may not be a Christian heresy, as thought in the Middle Ages, but a separate revealed religion. Francis Armstrong seems to get that point. Someone else who did was the late Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, A J Arberry, who translated the Quran. He was a devout and lifelong Christian and never compromised his beliefs while seeing the validity of Islam in its own eyes. Seeing the validity of 'the other' whilst holding fast to one's own beliefs in firmness and courtesy is perhaps a better beginning to genuine dialogue than your extremely contorted and prolix approach. As a Christian apologist you sound much more like some extreme US evangelists than St Francis or the current Pope.
Edward Fido | 14 October 2020


Edward Fido: “separate revealed religion” “seeing the validity of Islam in its own eyes” The quote which began this conversation: "“"....not talking in a doctrinal sense but in a spirit of love and friendship." How?”” If we believe that Jesus is THE truth, THE way, and THE life, there is no contemporaneous revealed religion except Judaism. Hopefully, the others were human fictions, but if you’re going to claim that the entity that started your religion is one of ours, then, because we have no crossbench angels, yours must have come from the other side. There is a narrative that Islam was started by a caliph who needed an ideology and spun something around a long-deceased desert chieftain. A Christian can hope that that is the case because it will be a problem for Christians to explain why Yahweh would allow a demon to defraud some ordinary person of his times. As long as Muslims understand that pressing that claim as true puts us in the position (having no crossbench angels in our lore) of having to believe that their religion was fuelled by the demonic, we can skirt amicably, perhaps indefinitely. But, can you base true friendship on skirting?
roy chen yee | 15 October 2020


Evangelical Christians in America used to wear a wristband with the letters WWJD standing for 'What would Jesus do'. Jesus always faced the difficult questions. If he were confronted by a transsexual person, I think he would exercise great compassion, without in any way endorsing today's current gender theories or practice. As regards Islam, which came after him, I am not sure. It is interesting that Muhammad stated that if people had genuinely followed Jesus, there would have been no need for the Muslim revelation. It is an article of Muslim faith to believe in the Virgin Birth and the Virgin Mary is held in the highest regard as a woman, bar none, in Islam. The theory that there are three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which come from a common source and share some common beliefs but are separate entities, does have some validity.
Edward Fido | 15 October 2020


Roy, even though I find your contributions far from "verbal blundering", I do think that statements like "The force of the Great Commission is Hell", even in the context you supply, give some point to the association of your style here with that of poorly conceived and formulated polemical materials from the USA. "The force of the Great Commission" is surely the creative and salvific love of God? And ought not the revelation of God's love for the world in Christ be foremost in the preaching of the Gospel? For this reason, I suggest, St Ignatius Loyola places the Meditation on Hell after the First Principle and Foundation ("God freely created us so that we might know, love and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever", transl. Elder Mullan SJ) at the end of the first week of his Spiritual Exercises; and also why his Exercises end with the "Contemplation on the Love of God". From postings on other ES threads, I share your concern that mention of sin - especially original sin - and its consequences is almost automatically met in some ES posts with misplaced "Hobbesian" accusation, though I recognise in your realistic understanding of sin your belief in the power of God's grace, given in and through Christ, as its antidote.
John RD | 15 October 2020


I agree with Maureen Helen, women are once again mentioned only as an add on.
Helen Oxenburgh-Lowe | 15 October 2020


Edward Fido: “The theory that there are three Abrahamic faiths….” True (at least, for now) because the Church says so. I don’t know what Judaism thinks. After all, if Cain had had children, they could legitimately have called Adam grandpappy, even if they didn’t repudiate the deed of their father. But the non-repudiation would have meant something. For Christians, can the claim by Islam of Abraham as a father, but repudiating the Messiahship of Jesus, mean no more than the status of the prodigal who can return eventually to ‘father’? Christianity claims organic evolution from Judaism because Jesus is claimed to be the Messiah of Judaism. This Messiah’s Great Commission, on its terms, cancels every claimed manifestation of the supernatural as obsolete or untrue, but upholds every jot and tittle of the Law. There is, therefore, no visceral connection with Islam, as with Judaism. The prodigal returned to his father’s house as himself with no baggage. If Islam returns, it has to discard such an enormous baggage of canonical tradition that practically all of ‘itself’ would disappear. So, how many Abrahamic faiths, not now, but later, will there be? How do the mullahs talk to a pope who knows this?
roy chen yee | 16 October 2020


“How difficult would it be to include women and to write, 'Brothers and Sisters'?” Very? That’s not what the saint said. https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/wosf/wosf03.htm “6. Of the Imitation of the Lord. Let us all, brothers….” But the pope applies St. Francis to both genders only a few words later, changing the future without whitewashing the past. Perhaps those statues ought to be restored to their pedestals, so you have to change the future because you can’t whitewash the past. After all, every Catholic church you visit claims it has a very good purpose to keep a statue of a humiliated man on a cross.
roy chen yee | 17 October 2020


I find your reasoning far from 'transparent' Roy. Obscure in fact. You started to lose me when you did not compare like to like and then wandered off talking about 'sin' the way you did. Just because you go round in circles doesn't mean you are a Theological Big Wheel. Far from it. I recall the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey and the breathtaking clarity of his thought and expression. You have neither. There is no benefit to this non-dialogue. You remind me of Lucky in Waiting for Godot.
Edward Fido | 17 October 2020


Edward Fido: ”when you did not compare like to like….” The likeness is in the fact that when you disagree with the transgender’s claim to preserve your own integrity, you will be taken by him or her to be a phobic impugning his or her identity, and subsequent conversation in “love and friendship” will be very difficult. When you point out to the Muslim that borrowing Angel Gabriel for the Mecca cave leaves you in the position of having to say that the visitation must have been by an impostor, you will be taken to be a phobic impugning his or her identity, and subsequent conversation “in love and friendship” will be very difficult. So, it’s orchids or nothing but orchids are false and false is worse than nothing.
roy chen yee | 18 October 2020


Edward Fido: “Lucky….” It’s interesting that you have enabled a parallel of the monologue to the meeting of imam and pontiff. Beckett gives the monologue the outward form of gibberish to support what he wants his play to say. The meaning of the play is its doctrine. The form of a meeting between imam and pontiff may be the outward appearance of orchids, love and friendship, but doctrine is why the meeting is occurring. Beckett didn’t write the monologue as an optional extra to the performance. The words of the gibberish are meant to be heard because it serves the doctrine of the play. Orchids, love and friendship are meant to serve, not supplant, the conversation about doctrine. And the conversation will be very difficult if an angel is thought to have visited Muhammad. If Islam, like Christianity, has a paranormal tradition of visitations which attest to the truths of its texts, such as our Marian visitations which attest to the truth of our texts about Mary, then there is a real possibility that we will have to believe that something supernatural visited Muhammad, and that it wasn’t our Gabriel.
roy chen yee | 19 October 2020


Roy, you ask can one base true friendship on skirting? I would answer that true friendship is based on a common humanity and bugger your contorted theologies if they get in the way of that.
Ginger Meggs | 19 October 2020


“contorted theologies if they get in the way….” Excellent timing, Ginger Meggs. I was reading a few minutes ago something in my inbox about what you might call a contorted theology and what should be done about that: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/the-era-of-farrakhan. The relevant sentence in the article is “As for The New York Times, we look forward to the forthcoming magazine issue devoted to explaining that Farrakhan, and not Martin Luther King Jr., was actually the lead character in the fight for racial justice in America, in a series of essays to be given out next year in public schools.” The people who need to know about contorted theologies so they can build a better world are our schoolchildren and they need to know the reasons why such theologies are contorted. You might remember my last comment to you about the difference between an opinion and a reason. Please feel free to explain why you think my theologies are contorted. Incidentally, serendipitous timings is one reason why I, and many others, I think, believe that theology is as real as science.
roy chen yee | 20 October 2020


No Roy, I’m not going to play your games. You expressed an opinion that friendship could not bridge disparate theologies. I expressed an opinion that true friendship is based on a common humanity. Your response ignored my opinion and went off down another of what I have previously referred to as a rabbit-hole. I am not the first to critique your style. Several of your follow-religionists have already done so in this other threads. Roy, if this is where your understanding of Catholic theology leads you then I feel truly sorry for you.
Ginger Meggs | 21 October 2020


Ginger, I don't think Roy Chen Yee is playing "games" - the issues he addresses are ones of serious consequence for the Christian faith and the world, and his evident willingness to engage in them is admirable, as his his ability. At times I've had to read through some of his postings more than once, but that is more attributable, I think, to my obtuseness at the time than to the point(s) he's making and their relevance. I can't say I find his style offensive. And I do think Roy's request here quite apposite, fair and reasonable.
John RD | 22 October 2020


Roy, re: your "close but no cigar" comment about Jesus being the truth, the way and the life. Agreed. That's what we as Catholics believe - that Christ came to fulfill the teachings of the old Testament. Despite the fact that Islam has not incorporated the New Testament into the Quran, their acceptance of Jesus is extensive. The Quran mentions Jesus, or Isa, 25 times, but differently each time. The Quran explains that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (19:20–21) and is “high honored in this and the next world” (3:45–47). Thus, he is called Isa ibn Maryam, or Jesus son of Mary. The Quran also refers to him as ruh min Allah (“Spirit from God”), mushia bi’l baraka (“the Messiah—someone blessed by God”), kalimah min Allah (“Word from/of God”), and rasul (Prophet-Messenger) of God. The Quran honors Mary, the mother of Christ, more times than the New Testament. It also says that Christ will return again and defeat the anti-Christ, or Satan. Religion is pretty simple Roy. Their version of the Old Testament, the Quran, is holy and valid.
Francis Armstrong | 22 October 2020


Interesting perspective, Roy, that "theology is as real as science" when, unlike God made science, theology is entirely a man made matter of opinion and personal interpretation which cannot be proved by experimentation.
john frawley | 22 October 2020


If method is a defining feature of science, as many from Thomas Aquinas to Alister McGrath, Idreos Professor in Science and Religion at the University of Oxford and highly respected critic of Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion" argue it to be, then theology qualifies - both science and theology involve systematically rational engagement with reality, and both require the formulation and testing of their hypotheses and interpretations to arrive at conclusions; although the experimentation involved varies, given the different data from which they proceed as intellectual disciplines; theology, too, unlike science, properly conducted, involves religious faith.
John RD | 23 October 2020


If recent press reports are correct, the next foray into philosophical humanist Marxist opinion may be in justification of same sex marriage disguised conveniently as civil union.
john frawley | 23 October 2020


Hello Maureen and Helen, hope you are well. I too agree that women are only there as an afterthought. That’s because Francis is a conservative. After nearly eight years as pope he has done nothing progressive. Done nothing about gender equality, done nothing on clericalism, nothing on Vatican corruption (we should not expect too much on that one – it’s been that way for seventeen centuries). He refused to cooperate with the Royal Commission on providing requested Vatican documents. And, made a complete fool of himself on child abuse denial-ism in the Chilean Church. As for his noble statement on universal love, John Lennon does better with Imagine. It’s to music, the lyrics and poetry are better, and it is all said in a few minutes. Of course, John did plagiarise from Rabbi Jesus’s sermon on the mountain. Francis’s apologists – they see what they hope to see – say it’s all the fault of the “bad” people around him. I do not accept that! He appointed them and the buck stops with him. The apologists also say that Francis does not want to risk splitting the Church. They mean well but they are wrong. The Rabbi Jesus Story is in the depths of profound change. The biggest risk is to not take a risk. Besides, I do not see what is so un-Christian about the direction of the German Church (which Francis is mugging) in attempting to come to terms with Modern Society. But, we need not despair. In the Gospel of Mark it is the three women who witness the death of Jesus and witness the empty tomb. If the fear-crippled old men in the Vatican refuse the spirit of the women’s movement to re-fresh the Church it will be their loss. The Grand Story will be told by others in other ways.
Fosco | 23 October 2020


John Frawley: “theology is entirely a man made matter of opinion and personal interpretation which cannot be proved by experimentation.” Science encounters reality to heal. Doesn't theology? https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/exorcism-is-a-ministry-of-joy-light-and-peace-new-guide-says-70338
roy chen yee | 23 October 2020


Roy. "Science encounters reality to heal. Doesn't theology?' It seems to my limited understanding and lack of theological tutoring that theology rarely encounters reality and often leads to more distress than healing!!
john frawley | 24 October 2020


In a recent article, "Why morality matters: Restoring the common good in a time of social division", Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argues that we are living in an age when individual groups with special interests are concerned only with the wellbeing of their group and propagating its message so failing to identify with society at large.He urges the need for a shared morality which unifies all people without which "we are left as anxious individuals, lonely, vulnerable and depressed struugling to survive in a world that is changing faster than we can bear." The current challenges of the covid19 pandemic and the challenges to be faced as the climate crisis worsens make solidarity and empathy vital for the survival of our species.
Mary Samara-Wickrama | 24 October 2020


Mary, we already have a universal morality called "the natural law", rationally developed over millennia and consistent with the Decalogue. Against the background of WW2 atrocities and abominations, this very public law underpinned the original charter of the UN. Not surprisingly, it comes under attack from several sources today, not least from philosophical nominalists and postmodernists. It's not hard to find, though, even if enmeshed in a maelstrom of relativistic media 'static': we have only to take the time to look into ourselves as humans and reflect on what we can discover about our being, and its diamond absolutes about what is necessary for human flourishing.
John RD | 25 October 2020


I would have titled the book: "Tutti Noi" = "All of Us".
AO | 26 October 2020


Hello AO, hope you are well. I would have titled it "tutti frutti" - it's just marketing. A few years ago Francis made one of his noble statements on the role of women in the so called catholic church; in the same week he allowed the ex communication of a rebel Melbourne priest for saying much the same. Christianity is undergoing the profound spiritual death talked about in Exodus, the Book of Job and the Gospel of Mark's death and empty tomb of Rabbi Jesus. Francis and fellow Vatican-ites are not going this way. They cannot: institutionalized belief is a burden to be "surrendered" somewhere in the "desert".
Fosco | 31 October 2020


Hello Fosco. The thing is, Jesus came to abolish power in all its human manifestations. He would not have chosen to be as weak as he chose to be, were this not true. There are many different voices now. Like Cardinal Vigano calling this Pandemic a 'pseudo pandemic', in a recent video of his. Many are seeking power, of some kind. I feel Covid has given us new eyes to see with, again. Perhaps the Pope should hold up the Crucifix more often, for all the clergy and laity to see. A reminder of the spiritual/physical death you mention. A/this time in the desert. The church as Job. Most importantly: A reminder of the cost of the One who founded His Church. His Church, in the first place. And how and why.
AO | 04 November 2020


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