I’ve been moving along through Evangelii Gaudium — savoring it, really — and will likely post a few more thoughts on it soon. Of course, the parts on economics are striking and the parts on evangelization are exhilarating. That the Pope sees the two topics as so crucially intertwined is both fascinating and terribly challenging to all of us who make up the Church, especially in the west, and the plain and often delightful language in which Francis presents all this makes that fact very hard to miss.
And so that’s why I find this, from Jeff Mirus at CatholicCulture.org, to be perhaps the single most stunningly inaccurate observation yet offered about the document (which he offers as the opening sentence of his commentary on EG):
There is only so much one can say about Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), before we come up against the fact that this is a post-synodal text from which only a relatively few people are going to benefit.
I admit I was initially flummoxed as to how Mr. Mirus could possibly be reading the same words I am in that document and yet write the ones above. The primary reason he offers for his conviction that the document will be so useless is that there is so much in it, on so many different topics (“covering everything from how to prepare a good homily to the implementation of Catholic social teaching,” Mirus observes). He calls EG “long and inevitably disjointed,” and it makes me wonder if he ever used these words to describe any of Pope John II’s famously long and loaded teaching documents, about which a good friend of mine (and JP2 enthusiast) once observed, “He thinks he always has to start at the beginning of salvation history and work through it with reference to whatever topic he is covering.”
In truth, of course, just about everything in Francis’s new document can pretty easily be categorized under two broad topics: evangelization and economic morality (which is born out by Mirus’s “good homily and Catholic social teaching” line), and I think the Pope makes it quite plain that they are both included because his intention is to consider our evangelizing mission within the economic-social context in which we must go about it. Indeed, that’s what makes Francis’s document so remarkably relevant to all of us.
One is tempted to think, then, that there’s more to Mr. Mirus’s desire to put the document aside than the fact that there’s too much in it. This becomes a little clearer with this line:
If you want to gain the main thrust of Pope Francis’ call to evangelization without laboriously reading an over-long and inevitably disjointed document, I recommend reading Chapter One (“The Church’s Missionary Transformation”) and Chapter Five (“Spirit-Filled Evangelizers”). These are the first and last chapters, in which the Pope is saying pretty much what he wants to say.
Funny how chapters one and five are the two that say the least about the injustices of our market economy. Hm. Perhaps those are things that Mirus pretty much wishes Francis had not said.
Take my advice and read the whole thing. You’ll find, as many have, that Francis has absolutely no difficulty saying pretty much what he wants to say. The problem is, what he has to say often is pretty much of a challenge to those who read it.