Among the strange principles of bergoglian philosophy, this novelty stands out: “unity is greater than conflict”. The consequences of this pseudo-principle are explained in Evangelii gaudium, which claims to indicate the course of Francis’ pontificate. In this document, we find expressions like “communion amid disagreement”, “friendship in society”, “multifaceted unity” and many others that, although deliberately ambiguous as Francis’ ideas and gestures have always been, nonetheless still permit an attentive observer to discern their true meaning.
En passant, it is noteworthy that someone who tries to appear as perfectly accessible to all — as a pastor who uses a telephone to reply to those who write to him, who devotes more time to greetings than to instruction when he meets pilgrims — prefers to keep one of the primary aspects of his doctrine shrouded in a nebulous mystery….
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn 14:6) said the Lord. Yet, in attempting to find “communion amid disagreement”, as Bergoglio teaches in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, he proposes the possibility of “ways” that lead to life, and not solely ‘the Way,’ which is Christ. Bergoglio also seeks a unity that is greater than conflict, but a unity based on a “friendship in society” and, therefore, one not centered on the Person of Our Divine Redeemer. Is he insinuating that a “friendship in society” disconnected from Christ be a ‘way’ superior to Christ, the Way? What does Francis’ friendship in society’ consist of? Does it consist of true friendship, of wishing the best for one’s neighbor, that is, the salvation of his soul? Or does Francis dream of a world where all enjoy the absence of war so as to more easily offend God as they please… and afterward suffer the torments of eternal hellfire? To us this does not seem to be a very a “friendly” manner for a shepherd to tend his sheep.
The unfailing Magisterium of the Church is always very clear, and offers us all that we need in this time of confusion.
When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!’ (Mt 5:9).
In this way it becomes possible to build communion amid disagreement, but this can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity. This requires acknowledging a principle indispensable to the building of friendship in society: namely, that unity is greater than conflict. Solidarity, in its deepest and most challenging sense, thus becomes a way of making history in a life setting where conflicts, tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity. This is not to opt for a kind of syncretism, or for the absorption of one into the other, but rather for a resolution which takes place on a higher plane and preserves what is valid and useful on both sides. (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 226-228, November 24, 2013)
Enter the various parts of our study
II – Do social conflicts, tensions and opposition really favor some kind of unity? Do these problems hold the secret to the solution?
III – Is Francis’ solidarity capable of making history and creating new life? Where is the new life that the world and history need?
I – Does the social dimension of evangelization imply disregard for the eternal truths in order to reach communion amid disagreement? What are the principles of unity taught by the Church for dialogue in conflicts?
Nowadays the kingdom is much spoken of, but not always in a way consonant with the thinking of the Church […] The Church’s task is described as though it had to proceed in two directions: on the one hand promoting such ‘values of the kingdom’ as peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood, etc., while on the other hand fostering dialogue between peoples, cultures and religions, so that through a mutual enrichment they might help the world to be renewed and to journey ever closer toward the kingdom. Together with positive aspects, these conceptions often reveal negative aspects as well. First, they are silent about Christ… (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptionis missio, no. 17, December 7, 1990)
To what extent should the Church adapt itself to the historical and local circumstances in which it has to exercise its mission? How is it to guard against the danger of relativism which would make it untrue to its own dogmas and moral principles? And yet how can it fit itself to approach all men and bring salvation to all, becoming on the example of the Apostle Paul ‘all things to all men,’ that all may be saved? (1Cor 9:22) […] But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 87, August 6, 1964)
But mark this well: unless the faithful remain bound together by the same ties of virtue, worship and sacrament, and all hold fast to the same belief, they cannot be perfectly united with the Divine Redeemer, the universal Head, so as to form with Him one visible and living body. “A whole faith,” says St. Leo, “a true faith, is a mighty bulwark. No one can add anything to it, no one can take anything away from it; for unless it is one, it is no faith at all” (Serm. 24, 6). To preserve this unity of faith, all teachers of divine truths—all bishops, that is—must necessarily speak with one mind and one voice. (John XXIII. Encyclical Aeterna Dei sapientia, no. 40–41, November 11, 1961)
“The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind” (Divin. Instit. Iv, 30. 11–12). (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no 11, January 6, 1928)
Even on the plea of promoting unity it is not allowed to dissemble one single dogma; for, as the Patriarch of Alexandria warns us, “although the desire of peace is a noble and excellent thing, yet we must not for its sake neglect the virtue of loyalty in Christ” (Epis. 61). (Pius XII. Encyclical Orientalis ecclesiae, April 9, 1944)
Let all remember that the flood of evil and disaster that has over-taken the world in past years was due chiefly to the fact that the divine religion of Jesus Christ, that provider of mutual charity among citizens, peoples and nations, did not govern, as it should, private, domestic and public life. If things have gone wrong on account of the desertion from Christ, public and private life must return to Him as soon as possible: if error has clouded the minds of men, they must return to that truth which, revealed from on high, indicates the right way to heaven: if hatred has brought them fatal results, they must return to Christian love which alone can heal their many wounds, and carry them over the crisis so filled with danger. (Pius XII. Encyclical Optatissima pax, no. 8, December 18, 1947)
The Church has the mission to announce to the World, which is looking for better and more perfect forms of democracy, the highest and most needed message: the dignity of man, the call to be sons of God. It is the powerful cry, which resounds from the manger of Bethlehem to the furthest confines of the earth at a time when that dignity is tragically low. (Pius XII. Radio message Benignitas et humanitas, no. 82, December 24, 1944)
The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit, the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)
Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom, must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)
For the apostles, who were commissioned to find out the wanderers, and to be for sight to those who saw not, and medicine to the weak, certainly did not address them in accordance with their opinion at the time, but according to revealed truth. For no persons of any kind would act properly, if they should advise blind men, just about to fall over a precipice, to continue their most dangerous path, as if it were the right one, and as if they might go on in safety. Or what medical man, anxious to heal a sick person, would prescribe in accordance with the patient’s whims, and not according to the requisite medicine? But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick, He does Himself declare saying, ‘They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Lk 5:31-32) How then shall the sick be strengthened, or how shall sinners come to repentance? Is it by persevering in the very same courses? Or, on the contrary, is it by undergoing a great change and reversal of their former mode of living, by which they have brought upon themselves no slight amount of sickness, and many sins? (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, III, 5, 2)
We say that the preacher must always preach opportunely, if he adjusts to the rule of the truth, but not to the false esteem of the listeners, who judge the truth as inopportune; because he who preaches the truth is always for the good opportune, [and] for the evil inopportune. ‘Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God’ (Jn 8:47). ‘How irksome she [Wisdom] is to the unruly! The fool cannot abide her’ (Sir 6:21). If one had to wait for an opportunity to speak only to those who wanted to hear, it would be only of advantage for the just; but it is necessary that at times he also preach to the evil so that they convert. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Second Epistle of Timothy, lec. 1, 2 Tim 4:1–5)
II – Do social conflicts, tensions and opposition really favor any kind of unity? Do these problems hold the secret to the solution?
How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no 9, January 6, 1928)
We write these things to you with grieving mind but trusting in Him who commands the winds and makes them still. Take up the shield of faith and fight the battles of the Lord vigorously. You especially must stand as a wall against every height which raises itself against the knowledge of God. Unsheath the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and may those who hunger after justice receive bread from you. Having been called so that you might be diligent cultivators in the vineyard of the Lord, do this one thing, and labor in it together, so that every root of bitterness may be removed from your field, all seeds of vice destroyed, and a happy crop of virtues may take root and grow. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 22, August 15, 1832)
But in this same matter, touching Christian faith, there are other duties whose exact and religious observance, necessary at all times in the interests of eternal salvation, become more especially so in these our days. Amid such reckless and widespread folly of opinion, it is, as We have said, the office of the Church to undertake the defense of truth and uproot errors from the mind, and this charge has to be at all times sacredly observed by her, seeing that the honor of God and the salvation of men are confided to her keeping. But, when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains: ‘Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.’ (Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, qu. iii, art. 2, ad 2m) To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Sapientiae christianae, no. 12, January 10, 1890)
Since the depravity and iniquity of certain men have reached such a point in our time that, of those who wander and deviate from the Catholic faith, very many indeed not only presume to profess different heresies but also to deny the foundations of the faith itself, and by their example lead many away to the destruction of their souls, we, in accord with our pastoral office and charity, desiring, in so far as we are able with God, to call such men away from so grave and destructive an error, and with paternal severity to warn the rest, lest they fall into such impiety, all and each who have hitherto asserted, claimed or believed that Almighty God was not three in persons and of an entirely uncomposed and undivided unity of substance and one single simple essence of divinity; or that our Lord is not true God of the same substance in every way with the Father and the Holy Spirit […] on the part of the omnipotent God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with apostolic authority we demand and advise, etc. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1880. Paul IV Constitution Cum quorundam, August 7, 1555)
To be watchful for purity of doctrine, the basis in building up the Christian community, is therefore, together with the proclamation of the Gospel, the primary and irreplaceable duty of the Pastor, of the Teacher of the faith. How often Saint Paul emphasized this, convinced as he was of the seriousness of the accomplishment of this duty (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-7; 18–20; 4:11, 16; 2 Tim 1:4–14). Over and above unity in love, unity in truth is always urgent for us. (John Paul II. Address for the inauguration of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Puebla, I, no. 1, January 28, 1979)
You know well that the basis of the spread of the sects is often a great lack of religious formation, consequently leading to uncertainty about the need to believe in Christ and to belong to the Church he has established. The tendency is to reduce religions and the various spiritual experiences to a least common denominator that makes them practically equivalent, with the result that everyone would be free to follow any of the various paths proposed to reach the goal of salvation. If, in addition, one adds the brazen proselytism which is the hallmark of certain particularly active and invasive groups of these sects, one understands right away how urgently necessary it is today to support the faith of Christians, and to give them an opportunity for ongoing religious formation to deepen their personal relationship with Christ. Your endeavours must give priority to preventing this danger, consolidating in the faithful the practice of the Christian life and fostering the growth of a truly fraternal spirit in the heart of each of your ecclesial communities. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Brazil on their ad limina visit, no. 2, January 23, 2003)
The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? […] A ‘being together’ which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 18, May 25, 1995)
I therefore say to you, dear friends of the Movements: act so as to ensure that they are always schools of communion, groups journeying on in which one learns to live in the truth and love that Christ revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the heart of the great family of his disciples. May Jesus’ exhortation ceaselessly re-echo in your hearts: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5: 16). Bring Christ’s light to all the social and cultural milieus in which you live. Missionary zeal is proof of a radical experience of ever renewed fidelity to one’s charism that surpasses any kind of weary or selfish withdrawal. Dispel the darkness of a world overwhelmed by the contradictory messages of ideologies! There is no valid beauty if there is not a truth to recognize and follow, if love gives way to transitory sentiment, if happiness becomes an elusive mirage or if freedom degenerates into instinct. (Benedict XVI. Message to the participants in the Second World Congress on Ecclesial movements and new communities, May 22, 2006)
If such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith. Only in this way will it be able to lead towards the unity of all Christians in ‘one flock with one shepherd’ (Jn 10:16) and thus heal that wound which prevents the Catholic Church from fully realising her universality within history. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Commentary on the Document. Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church, June 29, 2007)
Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him. (Code of Canon Law, Can.751)
Many offshoots of numerous heresies have already been formed from those heretics we have described. This arises from the fact that numbers of them— indeed, we may say all— desire themselves to be teachers, and to break off from the particular heresy in which they have been involved. Forming one set of doctrines out of a totally different system of opinions, and then again others from others, they insist upon teaching something new, declaring themselves the inventors of any sort of opinion which they may have been able to call into existence. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, I, 28, 1)
III – Is Francis’ solidarity capable of making history and creating new life? Where is the new life that the world and history need?
Indeed it is impossible to aspire to a new world while remaining immersed in selfishness and habits linked to sin. (Benedict XVI. Homily for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 10, 2010)
However, we must also recognize that the risk of a false irenism and of indifferentism — totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council — demands our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man; hence it is necessary to limit oneself to finding rules for a praxis that can better the world. And like this, faith becomes substituted by a moralism without deep foundations. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants in the plenary meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27, 2012)
This is important; the Apostle did not preach an “à la carte” Christianity to suit his own inclinations, he did not preach a Gospel to suit his own favourite theological ideas; he did not shrink from the commitment to proclaiming the whole of God’s will, even an inconvenient will and even topics of which he was personally not so enamoured. It is our mission to proclaim the whole of God’s will, in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But it is important that we teach and preach — as St Paul says here — and really propose the will of God in its entirety. […] Thus we must make known and understood — as far as we are able — the content of the Church’s Creed, from the Creation until the Lord’s return, until the new world. Doctrine, liturgy, morals, prayer — the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church — indicate this totality of God’s will. (Benedict XVI. Lectio divina for the meeting with the parish priests of the Rome Diocese, March 10, 2011)
According to the doctrine contained in the Constitution Dei Verbum, the Christian faith is a conscious and free response of man to God’s self-revelation, which reached its fullness in Jesus Christ. By what Paul calls ‘the obedience of faith’ (cf. Rom 16:26; 1. 5, 2Cor 10: 5–6) the entire man abandons himself to God, accepting as truth what is contained in the word of divine Revelation. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 1, June 19, 1985)
Conversion to Christ moreover is joined to Baptism not only because of the Church’s practice, but also by the will of Christ himself, who sent the Apostles to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them (cf. Mt 28:19). Conversion is also joined to Baptism because of the intrinsic need to receive the fullness of new life in Christ. As Jesus says to Nicodemus: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God?’ (Jn 3:5). (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, no. 73, September 14, 1995)
Today especially, among the many dissonant voices that spread confusion and doubt in the minds of the faithful, the Bishop has the serious responsibility to make things clear. The preaching of the Gospel is the greatest act of love for man, his freedom and his thirst for happiness. (John Paul II. Address to the Jubilee of Bishops, no. 5, October 7, 2000)
Yours is the responsibility of constantly identifying the features of a pastoral plan adapted to the needs and aspirations of God’s people, a plan which will enable all to hear ever more clearly the Good News of Christ and bring the truths and values of the Gospel to bear ever more incisively on the family, on culture, on society itself. The successors of the Apostles should never be afraid of proclaiming the full truth about Jesus Christ, in all its challenging reality and demands, since the truth has an intrinsic power to draw the human heart to all that is good, noble and beautiful. (John Paul II. Address to the Korean Episcopal Conference, no. 2, March 24, 2001)
Another plan for a continent-wide Synod will concern Asia, where the issue of the encounter of Christianity with ancient local cultures and religions is a pressing one. This is a great challenge for evangelization, since religious systems such as Buddhism or Hinduism have a clearly soteriological character. There is also an urgent need for a Synod on the occasion of the Great Jubilee in order to illustrate and explain more fully the truth that Christ is the one Mediator between God and man and the sole Redeemer of the world, to be clearly distinguished from the founders of other great religions. (John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, no. 38, October 10, 1994)
For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’ ( Rev 21:5; cf. 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 18, December 8, 1975)
To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other. (Vatican Council II. Pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 4, December 7, 1965)
Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 1 November 21, 1964)
Can there be, Venerable Brethren, a greater or more urgent duty than to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8) to the men of our time? Can there be anything nobler than to unfurl the “Ensign of the King” before those who have followed and still follow a false standard, and to win back to the victorious banner of the Cross those who have abandoned it? What heart is not inflamed, is not swept forward to help at the sight of so many brothers and sisters who, misled by error, passion, temptation and prejudice, have strayed away from faith in the true God and have lost contact with the joyful and life-giving message of Christ? (Pius XII. Encyclical Summi pontificatus, no. 5, October 20, 1939)
But while the preaching of the divine Word should never be interrupted in the Church, surely in these, our days, it becomes necessary to labour with more than ordinary zeal and piety to nourish and strengthen the faithful with sound and wholesome doctrine, as with the food of life. For false prophets have gone forth into the world, to corrupt the minds of the faithful with various and strange doctrines, of whom the Lord has said: I did not send prophets, yet they ran; I spoke not to them, yet they prophesied. In this work, to such extremes has their impiety, practiced in all the arts of Satan, been carried, that it would seem almost impossible to confine it within any bounds; […] For – to say nothing of those illustrious States which heretofore professed, in piety and holiness, the true Catholic faith transmitted to them by their ancestors, but are now gone astray wandering from the paths of truth and openly declaring that their best claims to piety are founded on a total abandonment of the faith of their father – there is no region, however remote, no place, however securely guarded, no corner of Christendom, into which this pestilence has not sought secretly to insinuate itself. (Catechism of Trent. Preface)
Therefore the whole and entire Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Ecclesia Catholica, no. II, December 20, 1949)