Francis’ Four Guiding Postulates include: “Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced.”

Juan Manuel de Rosas (17th Governor of Buenos Aires Province 1835 -1852)

“What is Francis doing?”

This is a question I get again and again in my mailbox.

I am at a loss.

This morning, however, it occurred to me that we might return to Francis’ “four postulates” which he included in his programatic document Evangelii gaudium.   You will remember them:

  • time is greater than space
  • unity prevails over conflict
  • realities are more important than ideas
  • the whole is greater than the part

Some speculate that he got these from his reading of Romano Guardini.  However, Juan Carlos Scannone’s ‘El papa Francisco y la teologia del pueblo’ (in Razón y Fe. 86) and Tracey Rowland (Catholic Theology US HERE – UK HERE) and others have uncovered the true source: a 1834 letter of the 19th c. Argentinian dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793– 1877) sent to another Argentinian caudillo [a type of personalist leader wielding political power], Facundo Quiroga (1788– 1835).

How might one in a swift and reductive way apply these to what is going on?    First, “wait them out”.  Second, “let there be chaos – eventually things will sort out, in a Hegelian way”.  Third, “lived experience trumps expressions of doctrine – eventually doctrine must adapt, in a Hegelian way, to lived experience.”  Fourth, “if there is a group that is not conforming to the larger group’s needs, reject them – in a Rawlsian way the whole remains the whole even if you lop off a few limbs.”

However, if you review Evangelii gaudium – as I am sure you do – you will find explanations of these four postulates.

What does Francis sign off on with EG?

“Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. But if we remain trapped in conflict, we lose our perspective, our horizons shrink and reality itself begins to fall apart. In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.” (no. 226)

“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.” (no. 227)

Face the conflict head on!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Francis, The Drill and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. DonL says:

    In my ninth decade of living (thank you Lord) and if there is one thing I have learned (often at great expense) it is to face problems as quickly as they arise–just when that knot in your stomach tightens, a voice in your head yells, “oh no” and your breathing is corrupted.
    But, the key to that is simple; one must first be wanting the problem to be fixed, not just go away.

  2. Mallu Jack says:

    If the Holy Father impeccably followed these words (on solution of conflict), he would have handled the dubia differently.

  3. Late for heaven says:

    It reminds me of some dialog from the Johnny Cash movie Walk the Line:

    June, that stuff will just work itself out.

    No, it does not work itself out. People work it out for you… and you think it works itself out.

  4. Malta says:

    @Mallu Jack: VERY good point. Francis ignored the dubia; that’s not sticking to one’s principal of facing conflict. Anyone can rehash sound philosophical principals but not live them. And they’re not even Francis’ ideas, yet he presents them as his own. JPII and BXVI came up with brilliant ideas of their own, Francis can’t.

  5. PetersBarque says:

    “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” PF says one thing and does another. I am left dumbstruck in the wake of this contradiction.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    While our imperfect human nature often leads us to craft eloquent defenses when accused, that is not always the path God wishes us to take. Some Catholic Saints who maintained silence when falsely accused:

    St. Macarius the Great, one of the Desert Fathers and founder of the monastic community of Sceete.

    St. Dominic Savio

    St. Gerard Majella

    St Roch

    Additionally, a counterintuitive process similar to that of Pope Francis was employed by the founder of the Dominicans, St. Dominic de Guzman. Dominic had a unique way of resolving arguments. He would throw all the books about the debated issue into a fire and it was his belief that the errors would burn up while the truth would survive without scorch.

    Our task in this truly troubled time is to pray, attend Mass, receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, receive the Sarament of Penance (as Fr. Z often counsels) and hold fast to the Faith and the Church Our Lord established and entrusted to St. Peter and his successors.

  7. PetersBarque says:

    Well said, Gerard, the key word being, “falsely.” The current situation cries out for more than a response that only serves to evoke the question: is this silence or (more) secrecy?

  8. Pharisee says:

    “What’s Catholic about it?”

    I find this question is useful in deciding the worth of any religious writing.

    The less they mention The Lord God, The Lord Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, angels, miracles, penance, asceticism, Calvary and the Four Last Things, the more you can ignore them.

    I also surmise that the demonically influenced, and the demons themselves, won’t talk about these persons or topics either.

  9. snegopad says:

    Bravo! thats it— exactly….

    Excuse me,but there is also to ask the question about mental health and intelligence…..both may be in connection with Holy Spirit and Wisdom…

  10. Il Ratzingeriano says:

    There is a fifth postulate that may prove to be decisive in the present conflict: a subpoena prevails over silence.

  11. MaryL says:

    We have to ask – but what actually has Pope Francis achieved? – that all these abusers and cover-ups Bishops and Cardinals have been exposed! I am not yet ready to write Pope Francis off.

  12. Gerard Plourde says: While our imperfect human nature often leads us to craft eloquent defenses when accused, that is not always the path God wishes us to take.

    If the silence stokes the scandal and the uproar, then is it in fact the path God wishes us to take?

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    He is a pope, he does not have the option to remain silent. This can in no way be compared to a situation where a saint may remain silent when falsely accused. I am rather stunned at the comparison. Make that utterly stunned.
    He has a job. His actual role is to pass along the Catholic faith intact, to defend the Deposit of Faith. We are so beyond that, we’ve all but forgotten the faith and the fact these men are constantly tearing it up, now we are just trying to figure out what to do with the men of the church who are actively sodomizing boys or our seminarians or each other, and who apparently intend on continuing just that, and who are indignant we dare to question that intention.
    He does not have the option of silence. Not only are his actions entirely lacking in any shred of papal leadership, neither he nor any of these men demonstrate one molecule of concern for anyone besides themselves, not Christ, not the victims of abuse past, present or future, and certainly not us. He has the responsibility to not only talk but commit to action. That he does not means he is counting on short attention spans and a media that will cover for homosexuals, all of them.
    It won’t work. Not this time.
    He has made it completely clear what he is made of. We need to face it, ugly as the truth is.

  14. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Anita Moore,

    If the example of the saints I cited is any indication, then yes. If there is proof either way, it will surface independently. A denial by Pope Francis leaves us merely with a he said/he said dilemma without any objective way of discerning the truth. God will not allow that to happen with His Church. Our Lord Himself, while on this Earth, has assured us that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” What he has entrusted to Peter and his successors will not be destroyed by human hands.

    Our task is, as I have said, to pray and have faith in God.

  15. jaykay says:

    “realities are more important than ideas”

    Yeah, and the rotten “reality” of Leftist ideology came up hard against the wall of actual reality in 1989… and the Idea of freedom brought down the Wall.

  16. PetersBarque says:

    What stokes scandal and uproar is a culture of secrecy amongst men who were called to shepherd the flock, not abuse and scandalize the flock and then put up smokescreens to hide their sins against them. Yes, of course, we should always pray and have faith in God, but the Church Militant is called to defend the Bride of Christ, not sit on the sidelines ringing our hands while her lovely face is being soiled by the very ones called to protect her purity.

  17. acountrypriest says:

    Not a big fan of Austin Ivereigh, who is sometimes ideological in his commentary, but he offers an interesting alternative explanation for the Holy Father’s silence, which also derives from his previous writing. Pope Francis, writing well before his election to the papacy:

    “In moments of darkness and great tribulation, when the knots and the tangles cannot be untangled or straightened out, nor things be clarified, then we have to be silent. The meekness of silence will show us to be even weaker, and so it will be the devil who, emboldened, comes into the light, and shows us his true intentions, no longer disguised as an angel but unmasked.”

    For all our sakes, I hope this is the true motive, and that the Holy Father will soon act with supernatural outlook, hatred of evil, and love for God and His Church.

  18. tzard says:

    re: “What is Francis doing?”

    I have a theory – a gut reaction based on personal experience. I’m not a doctor.

    Pope Francis may have Alzheimer’s.
    Also, not only are some around him protecting him, but some are also at the same time using him.

    Also, hearing loss can also mimic some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, if the person pretends he hears but doesn’t really. But forgetting about a document is more like dementia. He’s 81.

  19. Spinmamma says:

    Dear Gerard Plourde There is wisdom in much of what you say, but I would point out that, as regards the matters brought up by Archbishop Vigano, this is not a he said/ he said. There are documents that would support or undermine the accusations of Vigano. These documents are either in the possession of or under the ultimate control of the Vatican. The Pope’s failure to mention these documents in any way, even to say they are being collected for review, does not reflect well on him. Because there are (or were) records regarding these things I do not view Pope Francis’ silence as humility or saintliness. Rather, at this point it appears more to be arrogance along the lines that he does not have to answer to anyone. His very recent statement regarding the ills of plastic in the ocean, while ignoring this dreadful scandal, makes it appear he is fiddling as Rome burns.

  20. TonyO says:

    I heartily applaud the bishops who have written – and made public – that Pope Francis must investigate Archbishop Vigano’s assertions and publish the results.

    And if he was complicit, even by inaction, he must resign. Period. No if’s, but’s, or anything.

    But so must a number of other bishops. Too long have the bishops in this country kept silence about what was going on. I am not talking about the bishops who covered up what was going on in their own dioceses. I AM TALKING ABOUT BISHOPS IN NEIGHBORING DIOCESES WHO DIDN’T SPEAK OUT.

    I am a layman, somewhat observant of Church matters, but in no way “connected” into diocesan circles. But I have been hearing FOR 3 DECADES about abusive bishops. About the bishop of Hawaii who in the late 80’s or early 90’s who sought out priests who had been kicked out of their home dioceses for perverse behavior. About Archbishop Weakland. About Cardinal Mahoney. About a seminary that was called “the fag factory”. You can guarantee that if I heard about these things, then people who were well-connected enough to be made bishop knew 1000 times as much. Indeed, they must have known enough to ACT on that knowledge and to force matters. To publicize matters.

    And they didn’t.

    Yes, we must hold the abusive bishops and the directly complicit bishops to account by getting rid of them. But we must also hold to account the bishops who knew and didn’t say anything. Maybe not all of them must resign, but the ones like Wuerl must. And the others should be punished by lesser things. The ones who tried to do something but were squelched should be advanced and made cardinals and archbishops.

Comments are closed.