The vast majority of the Catholic commentariat will be discussing the pope’s new apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, which was officially released today. The topic of the exhortation is “The Call to Holiness in Today’s World.”
Imagine trying to learn about holiness from the fellow who insists on telling us that hell doesn’t exist, that adultery isn’t really adultery, that the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted to call God a liar, that we can use contraception despite it being a serious sin, that robbing graves is perfectly fine, and so on. This is the same man who tells us that gossip is “terrorism” but nevertheless mocks faithful priests, scorns the faithful who are concerned with following Church teaching as “rigid” or “Pharisees” or “Neo-Pelagians” or “doctors of the law”, fires three priests working at one of his most important dicasteries without cause, publicly accuses sexual abuse victims of calumny without even meeting with them to hear their concerns, all while touting his own humility. (He is in fact so frequently engaged in insulting people that he has inspired a compendium of his many unique barbs and epithets.)
I am very far from being a saintly man. So far, in fact, that I wonder if I can ever bridge the wide chasm between who I am and who I need to be. But if there is any man on this planet less capable of helping me to find my way there than, as one priest-friend of mine calls him, “that man in Rome”, I can’t imagine who he’d be. A wolf cannot be trusted to lead the sheep to safe pastures — especially when he is garishly decked out in the garb of a shepherd.
Therefore, to be perfectly blunt, I’m in no hurry to read this latest missive, which, at nearly 20,000 words, is absolutely sparse compared to his previous writings, but over four times longer than my patience will allow. I know I will most likely be forced to discuss it at length over the coming months, but I’m putting it off. For now, I would much rather spend my time writing about things that have some meaning in our lives beyond the latest papal outrage of the day. It is exhausting to keep up with his constant, clamoring demand for attention, like the incessant clanging of a gong.
It will no doubt contain certain passages of authentic Catholic wisdom, which will be used by papal positivists to bludgeon those critics who will zero in on the “drops of poison” Pope Leo XIII warned us about. I’m already hearing from friends and colleagues who, in a spirit of mortification (or perhaps morbid curiosity) are already poring over the thing, and they say it’s riddled with all the same kind of cringeworthy word salad, problematic theology, and needless degradations we’ve come to expect from our papal chastisement. As the brilliantly satirical mind behind the Twitter account of the “Vatican Postmaster” informed us last night:
When it come to the environment, Pope Francis lead by example. He so concerned about recycling, he make entire Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate out of recycled homilies and insult. Nothing go to waste.
— Vatican Post Office (@CaproEspiatori) April 8, 2018
The one passage I know I can recommend, pointed out to me by a European friend who got hold of an early copy, is this:
161. Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. “Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
Thank you, Holy Father. I appreciate your acknowledgement of our work — although, I do wonder where you think the devil lives, what with hell not being a real place.
At any rate, for those who are braver than I feel today and wish to get started on reading the exhortation, you may do so here.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.