A few of his comments follow. And, while Gregg is rightly critical of some of the clearly goofy stuff in the encyclical – goofy and, I think, dangerous in one point – he also states that there are good elements.
Despite its length, there’s little in this text that we have not heard Francis say before in one form or another.
Gregg is an expert on economics.
Also insufficient—and, alas, this has characterized Francis’s pontificate from its very beginning—is Fratelli Tutti’s treatment of economic questions. It seems that, no matter how many people (not all of whom can be characterized as fiscal conservatives) highlight the economic caricatures that roam throughout Francis’s documents, a pontificate which prides itself on its commitment to dialogue just isn’t interested in a serious conversation about economic issues outside a very limited circle.
There is plenty of room for constructive debate among Catholics about the role of the government, law, central banks, and other state institutions in the economy. Indeed, it’s never been my impression that Francis is hell-bent on a massive increase in state intervention to address any number of economic challenges. But the endless invocation of economic strawmen in papal documents and by prominent figures associated with Francis’s pontificate isn’t likely to create any confidence that most of those who have guided this pontificate’s reflections on economic matters have a genuine interest in any real dialogue with anyone who doesn’t fit on the spectrum between left-wing populists and your run-of-the-mill neo-Keynesian.
The dangerous point (my words):
Saint Francis and the Sultan
Fratelli Tutti begins by invoking Saint Francis’s famous encounter with Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt in the midst of the Fifth Crusade. It states that the saint told his followers that “if they found themselves ‘among the Saracens and other nonbelievers,’ without renouncing their own identity they were not to ‘engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake’.” Pope Francis then adds: “We are impressed that some eight hundred years ago Saint Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble and fraternal ‘subjection’ be shown to those who did not share his faith”
Francis of Assisi is portrayed as engaging in some sort of interfaith prayer breakfast. In fact, Francis went to the Sultan to covert him… knowing full well that he could be martyred. The saint engaged in exactly what his namesake says we must not do. Read frequent commentator here Fr. Thompson’s book on Francis. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography US HERE – UK HERE I have a post HERE about the meeting between Francis and the Sultan. HERE
When a figure who has huge megaphone, world-wide attention, and who claims a super high moral ground and authority completely distorts the facts of an historical event he risks not only his own authority but respect for the office he holds. That’s dangerous.
Finally, Gregg observes…
The more, however, that I read through Fratelli Tutti, the more I had the sense that this encyclical wasn’t just an elongated summation and elaboration of the pope’s thought. It also impressed me as a type of valediction for his papacy—one that may well have said all that it has to say. This doesn’t mean that Francis’s pontificate is drawing to a close. But Fratelli Tutti does bear all the marks of a capstone document. Whether it leaves a lasting impression on the Catholic Church is anyone’s guess.
I take you now back to the opening of Gregg’s piece:
One of the first things that will strike readers of Pope Francis’s new social encyclical Fratelli Tutti is its sheer length. At about 43,000 words in English (including footnotes), that’s more than the Book of Genesis (32,046) and three times the size of the Gospel of John (15,635).
Will Fratelli leave a lasting impression? It is possible that it will on the tens of people who are patient enough to read all of it. The sheer length of this document lessens the likelihood that it will make a big impact. Alas, this is part and parcel of the age of word processors and writing in the vernacular. Once upon a time, encyclicals were tight and focused and people read them. Then things changed and they got longer and longer and longer. Furthermore, the desire to say everything often results in saying everything inadequately.
Earlier today, I posted a serious misuse of St. Augustine in a footnote in Francis’ denial of the possibility of “just war”. Frankly, Francis’ language in Tutti is so hedged that he does NOT in fact make any sort of definitive statement against “just war”. For my part, his credibility is lessened with using Augustine that way.
One of the people who asked me if I would comment on Fratelli added with a twist of wry humor, “I hope you read it so I don’t have to.”