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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/4/20

Pope Francis Reprises His Favorite Tunes

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Pope Francis South Korea 2014.
Pope Francis South Korea 2014.
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) October 4, 2020: In Pope Francis' lengthy new encyclical, he literally addresses "All Brothers" of St. Francis of Assisi -- by opening his encyclical with the Latin words "Fratelli Tutti" that St. Francis once used to address his brother Franciscans - but, for good measure, Pope Francis also says that he is addressing "all people of good will" as well (paragraph 6).

Pope Francis' 2015 eco-encyclical was widely read - and widely praised. By contrast, I do not expect that his new encyclical letter will be as widely read or as widely praised. In it, the pope reprises many of his favorite tunes, figuratively speaking. Moreover, this new rendition of his favorite tunes is rather lengthy.

The document includes eight chapters, with 287 numbered paragraphs, followed by 288 numbered end-notes - many of which contain specific references to his own previous statements. But all biblical quotations are followed immediately with in-text parenthetical documentation. The chapter headings and major subheadings are all-caps, but the minor subheadings are caps and lower-case letters.

If you want to, you can print out your own ninety-five-page copy in English at the Vatican's website:

In Chapter Two (paragraphs 56-86), Pope Francis includes an extended meditation on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which he quotes in its entirety from Luke 10:25-37.

However, thanks to Covid-19, Pope Francis has now learned a new way to express something he wants to say. For example, in Chapter Three (paragraphs 87-127), he says, "Radical individualism [one of the pope's favorite old tunes] is a virus [new word for him] that is extremely difficult to eliminate, for it is clever [an attribute he has also, at times, attributed to Satan]" (paragraph 105). The poe also uses the term virus elsewhere. Clearly, he is talented in adapting and expanding his blame tunes to fit the times and circumstances.

Elsewhere in Chapter Three, Pope Francis says, "I would like especially to mention solidarity, which "'as a moral virtue and social attitude born of personal conversion, calls for commitment on the part of those responsible for education and formation'" (paragraph 114; he is quoting himself here from an earlier document).

Now, when I was in the Jesuits (1979-1987), I encountered the term conversion as the term used by the Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) to refer to intellectual conversion, religious conversion, and moral conversion in his landmark philosophical masterpiece Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 5th ed. (University of Toronto Press, 1992). However, it strikes me that Pope Francis is extrapolating way beyond Lonergan's moral conversion when he refers to solidarity "'as a moral virtue and social attitude.'" Granted, the pope's far more differentiated conceptualization of solidarity "'as a moral virtue'" is not necessarily contradictory to Lonergan's moral conversion.

But the thought-world of Roman Catholic theology is filled with all kinds of heady thoughts - many of which Pope Francis deploys very articulately in his new encyclical. Perhaps he himself personally lives in accord with those heady thoughts to the best of his ability. Good for him. More power to him.

But I have to wonder about the praise-and-blame tunes that he so skillfully constructs out of the admittedly large number of heady thoughts in the Roman Catholic thought-world. I know, I know, as the pope, he is supposed to be the teacher-in-chief, so to speak, of the Roman Catholic faithful - and perhaps of other interested persons of good will.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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