The Church Is No Expert…

by | Oct 2, 2020 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change

You might be surprised by who said: “the church is no expert”!

But first, let me tell you about my mother.

She was no expert

  • in English. It was her second language.
  • in constitutional law. But she was proud of her oath of citizenship.
  • in the subjects I was taught in school. But she certainly made sure I was doing my homework.

But she was an expert who could smell when the oil in the pan was hot enough to put the breaded thin slice of veal into the pan for her wonderful Wiener Schnitzel.

Of the many things she was expert in, most importantly, she was an expert teacher in the school of life. She sometimes would comment about having a diploma from the “school of hard knocks.” She did not always get her words right. But she got her values right. She was the teacher who instilled in me values that I still live by.

These memories flooded back when I read Pope Francis’ the Church is not an expert. I thought of him as the custodian and spokesperson of Gospel values today.

The church is no expert

Pope Francis this week completed a 9 week series of reflections on healing our world in this time of so many pandemic related crises. He began the series by reflecting on the role of the church in physically confronting the pandemic:

“Although the Church administers Christ’s healing grace through the Sacraments, and although she provides healthcare services in the remotest corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or the cure of the pandemic. She helps with the sick, but she is not an expert.”

He calls upon experts and political leaders to engage with not only the physical but also the social ills of the pandemic. So, as the one entrusted with the “good news” and the wisdom of the gospels, he continues,

In the next few weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing questions that the pandemic has brought to the fore, social ills above all. And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, of the theological virtues and of the principles of the Church’s social doctrine.

We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses.

It is my desire that everyone reflect and work together, as followers of Jesus who heals, to construct a better world, full of hope for future generations (see Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, 24, November 2013, no. 183)

Nevertheless, over the centuries, and by the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed several social principles which are fundamental (see The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church160-208), principles that can help us move forward in preparing the future that we need.

I cite the main ones which are closely connected:

  • the principle of the dignity of the person,
  • the principle of the common good,
  • the principle of the preferential option for the poor,
  • the principle of the universal destination of goods,
  • the principle of the solidarity, of subsidiarity,
  • the principle of the care for our common home.

These principles help the leaders, those responsible for society, to foster growth and also, as in the case of the pandemic, the healing of the personal and social fabric

Going out on a limb…

On the feast day of his namesake St. Francis, Pope Francis will borrow his words to release another major encyclical… Fratelli Tutti.

He will write of things that have been on his mind. Earlier this year he wrote,

“In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.” —Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi Blessing, March 27, 2020

Given what he has said I think we have a good idea of what he will say.

I personally will make time to pray over his reminders as we build “a new normal.”