Both/and is Catholic, not either/or, says Pope Francis

June 11, 2016

Cross-posted from La Stampa

“It’s heresy to say: This or nothing. Jesus teaches us a healthy realism”

At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Pope Francis said we need to free ourselves from a rigid idealism that is not Catholic and does not allow us to reconcile ourselves; “it is often impossible to achieve perfection but at least do what you can”

Pope Francis celebrates mass in the St. Martha House chapel.

The Church does not teach it. In fact it is not Catholic. It is “heretical” to preach the concept of “either this or nothing”. We need to rid ourselves of a rigid idealism that does not leave room for reconciliation. This was the message Francis sent out at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, during which, the Pope focused on the “healthy realism” that God teaches his disciples. Furthermore, the Pope emphasised that people of the Church who do the opposite of what they preach, bring great harm to the people of God, Vatican Radio reports.

Francis’ homily was inspired by Jesus’ exhortation in today’s Gospel passage: “your righteousness [must] surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law”. The people, the Pope remarked, are “a bit lost” because “the teachers of the law were not coherent” in their “testimony of life”. Christ, therefore, invites us to overcome all that and “move up”, grow. He quoted the first Commandment: “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour”. He then highlighted that those who get angry with their own brother will be subjected to divine justice. Because insulting a brother is a “sin”, it is like “killing” him and “slapping his dignity in the face”.

Referring to the children present at the mass, Francis told adults “not to worry, because the preaching of a child in church is more beautiful than that of a priest, a bishop or a Pope”. He urged them to let children be free, as they are “the voice of innocence that is good for everyone”.

The Son of God asked “these disoriented people” to look “up” and move “forward”. At this point, Francis criticised the counter-testimony of Christians: “How many times do we in the Church hear these things: how many times! ‘But that priest, that man or that woman from the Catholic Action, that bishop, or that Pope tell us we must do this way!’ and then they do the opposite. This is the scandal that wounds the people and prevents the people of God from growing and going forward. It doesn’t free them. In addition, these people had seen the rigidity of those scribes and Pharisees and when a prophet came to give them a bit of joy, they (the scribes and Pharisees) persecuted them and even murdered them; there was no place for prophets there. And Jesus said to them, to the Pharisees: ‘you have killed the prophets, you have persecuted the prophets: those who were bringing fresh air.’”

What Christ desires is “generosity and holiness” in people of all times and places. There is only one way to achieve these two things: “Going out but always up. Going out, upwards”. “This frees us from the rigidity of the laws and from an idealism that harms us.

Francis warned: “Jesus knows only too well our nature and asks us to seek reconciliation whenever we have quarrelled with somebody. He also teaches us a healthy realism,” the Pope clarified, “saying there are so many times “we can’t be perfect but carry out at least what you can do and settle your disagreements.”

“This (is the) healthy realism of the Catholic Church: the Church never teaches us ‘or this or that.’ That is not Catholic.”

“The Church says to us: ‘this and that.’ ‘Strive for perfectionism: reconcile with your brother. Do not insult him. Love him. And if there is a problem, at the very least settle your differences so that war doesn’t break out.’ This (is) the healthy realism of Catholicism. It is not Catholic,” he stressed, “(to say) ‘or this or nothing:’ This is not Catholic, this is heretical.”

“Jesus always knows how to accompany us, he gives us the ideal, he accompanies us towards the ideal, He frees us from the chains of the laws’ rigidity and tells us: ‘But do that up to the point that you are capable.’ And he understands us very well. He is our Lord and this is what he teaches us.”

Pope Francis concluded by reminding how Jesus exhorted us to avoid hypocrisy and do what we can and at the very least avoid disputes amongst ourselves by reaching an agreement.

“And allow me to use this word that seems a bit strange: it’s the tiny sanctity of negotiations. ‘So, I can’t do everything but I want to do everything, therefore I reach an agreement with you, at least we don’t trade insults, we don’t wage a war and we can all live in peace.’ Jesus is a great person! He frees us from all our miseries and also from that idealism which is not Catholic.”