Pope Francis on "Cultural Challenges" to the Gospel


Yesterday, the Vatican released the first major document penned solely by Pope Francis during his reign. The document (known as an "apostolic exhortation") takes its title (Gaudium Evangelii) from the "incipit" or first words of the exhortation in its official language. The phrase translate as "The Joy of the Gospel."

Pope FrancisIn one section of the lengthy work, the Holy Father reflects on specific "cultural challenges" confronting the mission of Christians in the modern age. Confronting these challenges, Pope Francis writes, is one of the ways Christians "evangelize" in today's world [emphasis added]:

We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise. On occasion these may take the form of veritable attacks on religious freedom or new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian. This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.

Francis goes on to expound on how this "widespread indifference and relativism" relates to our notions of marriage and family [emphasis added]:

In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances. In many countries globalization has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. This fact has been brought up by bishops from various continents in different Synods. The African bishops, for example... pointed out years ago that there have been frequent attempts to make the African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel...." [...] By the same token, the bishops of Asia “underlined the external influences being brought to bear on Asian cultures. New patterns of behaviour are emerging as a result of over-exposure to the mass media… As a result, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family."

FamilyFinally, Francis speaks directly of the "crisis" facing the family in the attacks brought against it around the world, and he does so in words clearly implicating attempts to redefine marriage:

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple....

You can read the entire monumental document online.