From the Conclusion: “… as Pope Francis’ vision of communion is deemed not require the fruit of the Lord’s redeeming Sacrifice, perpetuated through time — the Sacrifice that is truly propitiatory and necessary for humanities ongoing reconciliation with God — my guess is that the Sacrifice is to be abolished. In time, perhaps, we will all just share bread.”
The encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” (FT) explores the universal scope of fraternal love addressed to every man and woman in today’s closed and intolerant world. Only an openness of heart can transcend differences of origin, nationality, colour, or religion (FT 3).
In the context of the Gospel, Francis’ thesis is that social friendship and human fraternity are achieved through loving neighbour as self (c.f., FT 59 & 61; Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39; & Luke 10:27). However, “Social friendship and universal fraternity necessarily call for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere” (FT 106). Hence, it is the good Samaritan who is proposed as a model citizen expressing fraternal love and thereby creating one family.
Effectively, this fraternal love we show and that builds a single family, comes about through a culture of encounter, dialogue, integration, and recognising the value and dignity of each person. And for Christians, “the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (FT 277). This is because from the Gospel arises, “Christian thought and for the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family, as a vocation of all” (FT 277).
Therefore, in the scheme of social friendship and human fraternity FT proposes that the Gospel is the Word that illuminates the dignity of all humanity, leading to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, therefore producing universal communion. And this is brought about by the phenomena of fraternal love. Curious, perhaps I do not fully understand.
One point we do need to understand however, is Pope Francis asserts that we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. The encyclical, therefore, is “is addressed to all people of good will, regardless of their religious convictions” (FT 56).
It is worth noting that Pope Francis has always been “concern[ed] with issues of human fraternity and social friendship. . . Fratelli tutti takes up and develops some of the great themes [about fraternity] raised in the Document I signed in Abu Dhabi where with Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb we declared that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters” (FT 5).
Clearly it is the mind of Pope Francis that “acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity” (FT 8). Paragraph 8 is quite telling as not only is the aim to gather all people together based on the idea of the dignity and worth of the human person, but also to create a utopia.
It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. “Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”. Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travellers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all (FT 8).
Francis himself admits to this utopian dream:
Recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian (FT 180).
Right at the outset we have the dream of — a utopian vision — of humanity caring for the planet and caring for each other. There is nothing of God’s kingdom as this belongs to those baptised into Christ and who, with the help of Christ (His grace, His Sacraments) through giving witness to Christ in their living are straining forward for the everlasting prize of eternal life.
It must be asked where is the problem of sin stated? And what solution does Jesus Christ offer us in today’s world according to Pope Francis. There is no mention of Sacrament, Eucharist, or Salvation! Did not Christ die for the forgiveness of sins, so what of the Paschal mystery and the Resurrection of our Lord? Surely the promise of the life to come provides us some hope? Maybe, just not for Pope Francis.
It must be asked, is this encyclical proposing a “form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” where the “deception . . . take[s] shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment” (CCC 675–676)? Is FT offering a political form of a secular messianism?
The “elephants in the room”
Perhaps the second hidden ‘elephant’ — the first being the lack of admission of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer of the human family — is the lack of awareness of what Christ’s love compels us to do. Saint Paul understood that as Christ died for all, we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. Precisely, he stated that he was compelled by Christ’s love to become an ambassador of Christ, bringing the message of reconciliation to the Christian community in Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:11–21).
So, not only has Jesus nothing exclusive to offer us and is in no way the whole solution to today’s problems, but fraternal love does not require us to preach the Good News of God’s kingdom. We all know this is in stark contrast to the Acts of the Apostles and every Christian thereafter. Another example is Paul’s clear witness to his faith and its consequences. We read, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21). Or let us recall the words of Saints Peter:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:38–41).
Further Quotes and Commentary
“Life exists where there is bonding, communion, fraternity; and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of fidelity. On the contrary, there is no life when we claim to be self-sufficient and live as islands: in these attitudes, death prevails”(FT 87).
Where is God in this? We draw life from communion with God, rather than each other. Contrary to what is taught in FT, Lumen Gentium (LG) asserts:
“As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ” (LG 3).
Life on a human level may be enriched by bonding, communion, and fraternity (FT 87) but eternal life comes to us through the Eucharistic Sacrifice as “the Eucharistic sacrifice . . . is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (LG 11). What is more, the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, where we commemorate and make present Jesus’ Sacrifice of His Blood being poured out for the forgiveness of sins, is what effects ongoing reconciliation with our Heavenly Father, and each other, in Christ. Eucharist is the source of not only forgiveness, but also communion — our being reconciled to God in the one worshipping ecclesial Body of Christ. This is what is meant by the text “the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about” by the celebration of Eucharist (LG 3). And this is the core problem in Fratelli Tutti’s proposed communion — it is not brought about by Christ’s redeeming grace.
In paragraph 149 Pope Francis seems to express a vision of universal communion. I have long ago studied philosophy so am rusty — is this belonging to Plato’s world of ideas, is this a form of Kantian transcendental idealism? Also, in this paragraph, where are ideas of being incorporated into Christ’s Body through baptism, imago Dei, and no salvation outside the Catholic Church for example?
“Each particular group becomes part of the fabric of universal communion and there discovers its own beauty. All individuals, whatever their origin, know that they are part of the greater human family, without which they will not be able to understand themselves fully” (FT 149).
Paragraph 277 on Christian identity is confusing and concerning! A universal vision of communion and salvation seems come from the “encounter with the sacred mystery of the other.” And if one can “drink from other sources” to achieve this, where is belonging to Christ and forgiveness of sin in Francis’ thinking? Specifically, where is it stated that “the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about” in the celebration of Eucharist (LG 3)?
“Others drink from other sources. For us the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From it, there arises, “for Christian thought and for the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family, as a vocation of all” (FT 277).
Last, paragraph 280 interprets Jesus Christ as a globalist!
“We cannot forget Christ’s desire “that they may all be one” (cf. Jn 17:21). Hearing his call, we recognize with sorrow that the process of globalization still lacks the prophetic and spiritual contribution of unity among Christians. This notwithstanding, “even as we make this journey towards full communion, we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity”(FT 280).
FT is a utopian vision of brotherhood that sees not the problem of sin nor the necessity of Christ for salvation. The Christian compulsion to love that seeks all to be reconciled to God in Christ, is absent. Disturbingly the encounter with the sacred (i.e., with Christ through faith and Sacrament) is usurped by the sacred mystery of the other!
The crucial point of FT is that communion (of a sinful, divided human race) can be achieved through human effort, which is absurd, as in no way can this fraternal communion be reconciled to God, the source of all unity and communion. However, as Pope Francis’ vision of communion is deemed not require the fruit of the Lord’s redeeming Sacrifice, perpetuated through time — the Sacrifice that is truly propitiatory and necessary for humanities ongoing reconciliation with God — my guess is that the Sacrifice is to be abolished. In time, perhaps, we will all just share bread.