In dialogue with a French sociologist and writer, Pope Francis (Happiness in This Life, 2017, etc.) reveals some of his recent episcopal and ecumenical concerns.
Four and a half years into his seat at the Holy See, Francis has revealed a number of concerns that have caused some division among the ranks of the Catholic faithful. He is a critic of rampant capitalism, for example; as he tells interlocutor Wolton, “the liberal market economy is madness.” Francis is strongly critical of inequality on the one hand and the soul-wearying quest for money on the other. Though he is far from writing off the West, too, Francis sees the future of the church in developing countries and particularly in Africa, from which he has been filling the higher ranks of the organization in Rome. Still, as these conversations reveal, Francis is essentially conservative within the larger confines of doctrine. He finds roles for women in the church but isn’t quite ready for the idea of women in the priesthood, and though he believes that a good-hearted atheist is better than a bad-hearted Christian, he draws plenty of lines (“tolerance is an outmoded word”). Wolton’s questions are usually very much longer than Francis’ replies (Q: “The Catholic Church has a considerable historical and philosophical legacy on the question of relations with the other, with coexistence, with dialogue….You should open up more. Without necessarily engaging in evangelization!” A: “Yes, we can do that”), and the pontiff is frequently gnomic (“tradition, when it becomes an ideology, is no longer tradition”). The mixed-in homilies and addresses to churchly audiences do not always seem to fit in, logically speaking, with the surrounding proceedings. However, the book is a good state-of-the-moment snapshot of some of the things occupying Francis’ mind, many of which are likely to play out in various ways in the larger Catholic community.
Catholic readers will find Francis’ words to be of great interest—and, for the pre–Vatican II crowd, perhaps controversial.