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On Human Nature, Pope Francis Coming Contribution | KFP Articles
On Human Nature, Pope Francis Coming Contribution PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:18

In 2005 when John Paul II passed away many in the Church were calling him a great defender of the human person.  This came as no surprise to me as I was familiar with his philosophical anthropology and emphasis placed on personalism.  There is no doubt that any great Catholic thinker must have a proper understanding of human nature to guide his flock. Many are commenting on Pope Francis' love for the poor and disabled and placing his opinions on the liberal-conservative axis but few are grasping the roots of his philosophy.  This is also true when it comes to ecumenism,  he is either a "liberal' and going to marginalize Catholic doctrine or a "conservative" and going to harm relations to other faiths.  This is where understanding Pope Francis' connection to Communion and Liberation (CL) will help. Msgr. Giussani, the founder of CL, was in many ways another great defender of human nature.  The first book in his trilogy, The Reliious Sense, was devoted to understanding human nature as made in the image of God and common among all men of all faiths.  In yesterday's comments to representatives of the Churches, Ecclesial Communities and other religions Pope Francis made a point that contains the same language found in Giussani's writings:

We know how much violence has been provoked in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the need to witness in our societies the original openness to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this we feel the closeness also of those men and women who, while not belonging to any religious tradition, feel, however the need to search for the truth, the goodness, and the beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in the careful protection of creation.

Pope Francis ties us to other faiths and non-believers through our common human nature.  Inherent in the human heart is the original openness to transcendence, that desire to know and love God.  When we encounter a person open to dialogue and discovery of the wonder of reality and creation, of God's involvement in this world, we encounter another child of God created in His image and seeking answers to the same questions.   Pope Francis's ability to deeply respect his fellow man, persons of other faith traditions is profound but does not contradict his emphasis on the primary role of Christ.  Now, I am not aware of Pope Francis's theology and to what degree he agrees with the approach of Msgr. Giussani but we can look to CL to better understand how this dynamic can be handled.  Fr. Julian Carron, the current leader of CL, in a presentation given in 2011 helped clarify the relationship between the Religious Sense and faith:

What does it mean to tackle The Religious Sense from within the faith? We're accustomed to understanding "religious sense" as a simple premise to faith, and therefore it seems almost useless to us, once we have reached faith, as if it were a staircase for going up to the next floor: once we've gone up, we can do without the stairs. No! Not only is a constantly alive religious sense needed for Christianity to be acknowledged and experienced for what it is–as Fr. Giussani always reminded us, quoting Niebuhr: "Nothing is more unbelievable than the answer to a question that is not asked,"3 or that we don't ask any more–but, in the second place, it is precisely in the encounter with the Christian event that the religious sense is revealed in all its original importance, reaches a definitive clarity, is educated, and is saved...

...during a conversation, referring to the text of The Religious Sense, Fr. Giussani wondered, "Why were we the ones to write a book about the religious sense? […] Because we encountered Jesus and, looking at Him and listening to Him, we have understood what was inside us: 'Whoever knows You, knows himself,' St. Augustine said. […] Because in order to know the religious sense and develop the religious sense we had to encounter someone: without this 'master' we would not have understood. Thus I can say to Christ: 'You are really me.' I can say, 'You are me' to Him because, listening to Him, I have understood myself, whereas those who try to understand themselves by reflecting on themselves get lost in a thousand paths, a thousand ideas, a thousand images."

That is a beautiful reflection on our human nature and the importance of encountering Christ.  I look forward to seeing where Pope Francis takes our dialogue on human nature. 

In good CL fashion, I'll leave it there and open this to discussion in the combox.  Please share your thoughts.


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