It’s my nature, for better or worse, to shoot from the hip all-too-often, but I deliberately forced myself to take some time to reflect before commenting on Evangelii Gaudium in any great detail.
Before highlighting specific points, however, I must first say that I’m struck by the degree to which this exhortation is not so much “Apostolic” in tone as it is “Bergoglian.” It reads far more like a journal comprised of personal reflections than as an instrument of the papacy wherein the Vicar of Christ intends to encourage the children of the Church in the ways of the Faith.
If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality… (EG 208)
Setting aside the richness of this reference to individualism, there’s little pretense being made here; this document is very much the pleading of the man Jorge Bergoglio, and in this one must grant that he is entirely consistent.
If nothing else, the experiences of the last eight months have amply indicated that Jorge Bergoglio did not so much become pope as the pope became Jorge Bergoglio.
Sure, every Roman Pontiff brings his own gifts and experiences to the papacy, but who can deny that the storyline of this pontificate, at least thus far, is Jorge Bergoglio Goes to Rome, and it has been this way from moment one.
Consider, by way of contrast, the elevation of Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti to the papacy in 1846, a cardinal who was widely considered a liberal and who was even the subject of unsubstantiated rumors of having joined the Freemasons.
As Pope Pius IX, his pontificate became an expression of the Petrine Office, the Office did not serve simply as a platform for expressing him, and he left to the Church such lasting gifts as the Syllabus of Errors and Ineffabilis Deus, dogmatically defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We must fast and pray that a similar transformation will take place with Pope Francis as well.