Evangelii Gaudium

By Popular Demand, we have decided to discuss Evangelii Gaudium next (after a brief break).

So get reading: the English text may be found here.

I suggest we read the Introduction and Chapter One, then make some interim comments, then proceed etc.

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12 Responses to Evangelii Gaudium

  1. Ben Trovato says:

    Time has run away with me this weekend, and whilst I have read a part of this Exhortation, I have not finished it, and think that actually it makes more sense to have read the whole before commenting on any part of it.

    However, in the meantime, Mark Lambert has blogged on it; I think this serves as an excellent jumping off point for further comment, so suggest you read his post: http://marklambert.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/disagreeing-with-pope.html

  2. Ttony says:

    ML’s post is just as insightful as I’d have expected, but I intend to follow the plan! I’ve read the Intro and Chap 1 and am working on my comments so far.

  3. I’ve just managed to read the Introduction and Chapter 1 too. I look forward to seeing your comments Ttony. Thoughts/first impressions beginning to form in my poor head.

  4. Ben Trovato says:

    I’m still reading and thinking.

    In the meantime there is a bit of argy-bargy about the translation, which some of you may find interesting. See here: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?ID=697 and here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/samrocha/2013/11/correcting-a-correction-of-evangelii-gaudium-para-54/

    For what it’s worth, I think the translation is imperfect, but not as bad as claimed by Lawler. I can’t find a Latin text (which I would assume to be authoritative) yet. But the importance of a definitive text (and I would argue strongly for Latin, you will be amazed to learn) is clear!

  5. Ttony says:

    On a point of order: the catholicculture writer is exactly right in saying that “por si mismo” translates as “by itself”, and the patheos.com writer seems to be locking himself up to justify the English language version – it’s not the King James! I have no interest whatsoever in the economic argument so pass it by, but the language is clear.

    One of my first comments will be that this document is badly written and only adequately translated.

    • Ben Trovato says:

      As you probably realise, I am far more interested in language than in economics or politics. For what it’s worth, I put both translations aside and came back to the original Spanish after a few hours to translate it myself. Comparing my fresh translation with the two offered, mine was closer to the revised translation than to the official one. In particular, the two modifiers, ‘todo‘ and ‘por sí mismo‘ are both simply omitted in the original. Not a great piece of work – similar to the ‘dynamic’ translation of the liturgy we used to put up with: fine in a literary context, perhaps, where effect is more important than precision, but not in a context where precision is important.

      I will get around to commenting on the text itself soon…

  6. Ben Trovato says:

    I have just come across this: a professional Spanish translator’s re-working of the (undeniably poor) English translation. http://jmgarciaiii.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/evangelii-gaudium-or-i-cant-believe-im.html

    (It probably tells you something about me that I am finding the language issues so interesting to engage with…)

    • That’s just sound exegesis, surely – as medieval Biblical exegetes never tired of emphasising, we first need to lay down the literal sense with precision, otherwise the spiritual senses will be purely subjective reactions rather than legitimate interpretations. Same goes, mutatis mutandis, for any text. Would it have made things easier, do we think (and not just more approachable to the Latinists among us) if the whole thing had been composed in Latin from the outset?

  7. Ben Trovato says:

    I am off on my travels again today, so despite not having finished the Exhortation, I thought I would submit some initial reflections (other than on language) to get the ball rolling.

    I have been very interested in my own response as I read this text, as it has been pulling in two quite different directions.

    On the one hand, a part of me is saying that I am not quite sure why the Holy Father is saying what he is saying. Of course, I understand his project: to re-focus us on spreading the Good News of our Redemption by the Word Incarnate with joy to the whole world. But the contextual comments, about the Church’s need to move away from an over-emphasis on dogma, liturgy, and its own good order etc seem to be addressing a problem which I don’t see: in fact, I would tend to argue the other case – that the evangelisation of the world requires us to get the Church in good order. So part of me is reading this in quite a critical fashion: is this really the exhortation the Church needs at this time?

    But there is another part of me that is moved quite deeply. If I regard it as a personal exhortation – to me as an individual – then perhaps it hits the nail squarely on the head. I do need to re-discover the profundity of the joy of the Gospels. I do need to ensure that my concern for the current crisis in the Church does not get in the way of joyful evangelisation. Above all, I do need to get in direct contact with the poor and oppressed, not merely allow a few crumbs from my table to fall in their direction via charities…

    So I am concerned lest my critical reading is actually a personal defence mechanism to evade the radical call which the Holy Father is addressing to me, personally, with great accuracy. My first priority, therefore, must be to hear that call and pray for the grace to respond to it with generosity and joy.

    However, we are not called to suspend our intellects: so I am still curious to try to establish what the Holy Father is seeing in the Church that makes him think this is the message the Church needs most at this time, when it is different from my perception.

    But as I say, I have yet to finish the exhortation, and perhaps that will become clearer as I do.

    Slightly more analytic comments, based on the text itself in a bit more detail, may also follow once I return from my trip.

  8. Ttony says:

    When I lived in Madrid, there was a parish whose 12.00 Mass we would attend if we were to be lunching at a particular restaurant with friends. I always found it somewhat shocking that during the sermon, quite a lot of men used to go outside for a smoke and a chat. They knew they were fine as, usually, the priest used to cram five minutes of insight into half an hour of stultifying verbiage. This was (by a very long way) the worst example of something that I have come across countless times in the Spanish-speaking world: people in authority who speak and write as though they are being paid by the word. It’s not a style that I like, but it’s one I had to get used to, and the regular thought that crops up – “I wish he’d get a decent editor” – is as wasted as it is heartfelt.

    I must admit that my first attempt at EG left me cold, and with my attention wandering. It’s supposed to be like that in Spanish, not in English! But after another attempt, I have had a go through the Introduction and Part One and have come to some first conclusions.

    My first is that, like Ben, I am personally challenged by this Pope as by no other in my lifetime. As James Preece put it: “I always thought the “busy being a dad” card could get me out of anything” and Pope Francis is saying that I’m never so busy that I can’t love people more and do more for those who aren’t as well-off as I am. (There is an interesting question about why so many of us seem to be hearing this message in its simplest form for the first time, but that is taking us a long was from the text under study.)

    So the first, and the most important point, is in the Pope’s favour: he wants me to begin evangelising by evangelising myself, presumably because if Christ’s light is shining in me, it will act as a beacon to others. In this context, comments about the Church being obsessed by dogma and liturgy make more sense: Christ didn’t call me to study liturgical history: he called me to be perfect as He and His Father are perfect.

    This isn’t Pope Francis’ get-out-of-jail-free card, but it is an important and solid, and above all permanent, foundation for his papal ministry. Even if the structures he builds on it are wobbly, they are grounded in the Truth.

    One example from Part One: the idea that the role and authority of the national Bishops’ Conferences should be strengthened, and that they should take on issues of doctrine:

    “32 … The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

    In the context of his desire for a “conversion of the Papacy” and of his appreciation of the Diocese as the local Church under the Bishop who has been placed in charge of it, I can sort of see what this passage means, but, equally, I can see why a national Bishops’ Conference is profoundly different from the ancient patriarchal churches, not least because they are an artificial construction coming between the diocese and the ancient patriarchal Church of St Peter founded in Rome. And while local synods can certainly address the issues of particular moment in a particular place at a particular time, giving them a doctrinal authority will lead at best to disasters like the inclusion by a local Spanish synod in Toledo of the filioque clause into the Creed; and at worst the invention of new doctrines by national churches who want to live in the contemporary world: essentially copying Anglican practice.

    This is one section where unpicking three sentences seems to lead people like me immediately to a position in which we will be accused of the obsession with dogma criticised above – but how else should we react to so novel a notion flung out as though by a sower broadcasting seeds. If it is left unchallenged, it will become authoritative.

    Perhaps reading the whole piece will show me how in the end all these loose ends will come together, but I can’t help thinking that Pope Francis’ holiness and the simplicity of his evangelical cause gets bogged down when he opens his mouth or picks up his pen.

  9. cumlazaro says:

    I echo Ttony and Ben’s reading of the document as a personal exhortation. In general, I’ve found most of Pope Francis’ remarks fall into place if I think of them as addressed to me. If I don’t worry about what he’s saying in terms of doctrine, his views on neo-Thomism and natura pura etc etc, but just think of him as a pastor addressing me, then I recognize he’s pointing out deficiencies which I do need to do something about. (And if there are three of us who can find his remarks helpful on such a level, I suppose that does suggest it says something more generally about the Church.)

    Preamble done, I suppose it is that word ‘gaudium’ that springs out from the document. I think some of us have been worried that, in his apparent disconcern for structures, Pope Francis is attacking (eg) traditional liturgies. But if I think about bog standard NO parishes in Scotland (and I include mine in that) I don’t think there is very much in terms of joy going on. We worry about repairs. We worry about declining numbers and the reconstruction of parishes (ie closure) in the diocese. There isn’t very much to show that we have been given God in human form and eternal life. We should be a little more upbeat about it.

    Of course, the problem is what we then do. But actually, the spirit with which we do it is important and I read the Pope, certainly addressing the Pharisaism that can arise amongst Traditionalist Catholics, but perhaps predominantly addressing that bureaucratic greyness and milquetoast Primary school religion of niceness that doesn’t even begin to capture that burning joy of having God with us.

    On Bishops’ conferences, in principle, I can’t see anything wrong with them, IF they were truly on fire with joy. Given what we know of the state of the Churches in the UK, that vision seems unlikely to be met. But THAT’s the problem -the problem with the national Churches- and we can’t go on hoping that somehow Rome will rescue us from our own stupidities.

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