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Pope Francis and Jean Houston: Brother, Can You Paradigm?

By       Message Thomas Farrell       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 22, 2015: At the present time, Pope Francis (who is of Italian descent), the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from Latin America (Argentina), and the first pope to take the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (who was Italian).

In the article "A Humble Pope, Challenging the World" in the NEW YORK TIMES dated September 18, 2015, Jim Yardley quotes Ruben Rufino Dri, professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Buenos Aires, as saying, among other things, "His [the pope's] repositioning of the church is paternalistic. It is not a strategy for empowering it followers. This is by no means a revolution."

Perhaps Professor Dri is prepared to set forth his operational definitions of the terms "paternalistic" and "empowering." But Yardley's article does not happen to include Dri's operation definitions of those two key terms. I am not going to be so bold as to try to put words in Dri's mouth, so to speak, by setting forth my own operational definitions of those two key terms.

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But what exactly does "empowering" mean?

Was not St. Francis of Assisi "empowered"?

Was not St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, "empowered"?

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Is not Pope Francis "empowered"?

Is not Pope Francis trying to help Americans experience "empowering" on their own by visiting the United States?

Or is Pope Francis just visiting the United States to try to get non-Catholics to convert to Roman Catholicism and then contribute their money to the Roman Catholic Church?

No doubt the priest sex-abuse scandal and cover-up has contributed to the reduction of the number of practicing Catholics in the U.S. and depletion of the coffers of the American Catholic bishops.

Now, as a former Jesuit (1979-1987), I am prepared to discuss Jesuit spirituality. Disclosure: for many years now, I have not been a practicing Catholic. Today I describe myself as a theistic humanist, as distinct from a secular humanist.

In Jesuit spirituality, Jesuits, and others who may practice Jesuit spirituality, are trained to find God in all things.

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For an accessible introduction to Jesuit spirituality, see Fr. James Martin's book THE JESUIT GUIDE TO (ALMOST) EVERYTHING (New York: HarperOne, 2010).

Arguably St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) learned how to find God in all things centuries before St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Jesuit order.

Arguably finding God in all things involves the kind of human participation that the French Catholic philosopher Louis Lavelle wrote about at length.

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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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