The pope's appreciation of theologians means that "Evangelii Gaudium" holds promise for women and the campaign for women's ordination -- despite its specific rejection of women priests (104). This is because virtually no theologians or scripture scholars find credible the reasons advanced for restricting ordination to males. Even the pope's Exhortation suggests the contrary. No sooner does he reject women priests than he falls into the traditional language of "holy mother church" (e.g. 139). The pope writes ". . . the church is a mother, and . . . preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child." Do you detect the dissonance here -- of males alone being allowed to speak as a woman?? Sooner or later that penny will drop.
The pope's promotion of the "sensus fidei" (119) holds similar promise for changes in church teaching on contraception. According to the pope, "God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith -- sensus fidei -- which helps them to discern what is truly of God." For theologians, sensus fidei means that when the bishops, theologians and laity agree on a matter of faith or morals, their agreement represents the work of the Holy Spirit. On the question of contraception, previous popes have cut the laity and theologians out of the equation entirely. In the spirit of Vatican II, the pope's words promise to include them once again. Theologians and laity overwhelmingly agree that church prohibition of artificial contraception needs reversal.
In his Exhortation, the pope shifts away from just war theory to complete pacifism (239). He devotes a whole section to the rejection of war (98-101). Moreover, he identifies inequality as the cause of violence and war. He writes, "Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve . . . weapons and violence rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts" (60). What if the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics took the pope's words to heart?
All of this represents the work of the Holy Spirit -- the same Spirit that today's reading from John's gospel describes as descending upon the just-baptized Jesus. John the Baptist describes Jesus as the gentle "Lamb of God." The Spirit is pictured as a dove -- the symbol of peace.
Like John the Baptist on Jordan's banks, Pope Francis is calling the faithful to "Behold the Lamb of God" imitating Jesus' identification with the poor and his gentle non-violence.
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