The Genius of Pope Francis and Evangelization

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Pope Francis has become one of the most talked about popes since Pope St. John Paul II. He’s also one of the most controversial popes of our era, but only because he speaks to a world that is focused on the political agenda – where everything breaks down into a political haze of Liberal vs. Conservative; Democrat vs. Republican; Left vs. Right. The Left touts him as their new mouthpiece for bringing a moral cause to their agenda. The Right accuses him of being a Marxist. He’s affectionately called the “Pope of the Left.” It’s a strange world we now live in where the leader of the Catholic Church – which is the most hated institution of the Left – has now become their hero. But Pope Francis is perhaps the world’s leading genius when it comes to evangelization and conversion.

I must admit, I identify primarily as Conservative. I’ve voted Republican in every election. I’ve championed their cause, stood up for their ideals, and argued for Conservatism my whole life. I’ve lived most of my life believing that Conservatism is the political ideal that most closely aligns with Catholicism, and therefore Truth. I’ve gone through life arrogantly thinking that I was approaching Truth with reason and logic. Whenever I would argue my case, what I believed to be logical arguments, only landed on deaf ears and turned people away. I grew frustrated with those around me who didn’t hold the same beliefs. I never treated them unjustly, but I definitely didn’t treat them with charity either, beginning to think that people were just too emotional to understand the Truth.

Boy, how arrogant does that sound?

Finding Charity

I never once stopped to think that perhaps it wasn’t my defense of the Truth, but rather my way of defending that was the problem.

It wasn’t until I started listening to Pope Francis that I began to see that what I was doing was trying to win people’s minds instead of winning their hearts as Christ had done. As Christians, we are called to bear witness to Christ, which we so often forget. After listening to and watching Pope Francis, I began to see that I wasn’t bearing witness to Christ at all. Pope Francis challenged my way of thinking about my Faith and how I was practicing it. I realized I was missing the most important virtue to practice, a virtue that Pope Francis extols the most – charity.

Most people think of charity and their first reaction is always that charity means sacrifice or the giving of some material item, but that is only one aspect of charity. As defined by the Catechism,

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment…When Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9, 12). §1822-1823

In a nutshell, charity is the practice of love – willing the good of another – and the results are joy, peace, and mercy. It is mercy that Pope Francis is focusing on when dealing with opponents of Catholicism and Truth. Mercy and charity are two often misunderstood concepts. It’s used as a cop-out in today’s society, or a get-out-of-jail-free card. In reality, these two words have been hijacked by relativists and modernists who would like us to believe that these words mean the acceptance of people’s sinful lifestyle. To them, Pope Francis is the ultimate hero, turning what they believe is a judgmental, totalitarian, and closed-door institution into an anything-goes, open-door institution. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Pope Francis isn’t changing Catholic doctrine. He isn’t making room for the acceptance of people’s sinful lifestyles. He is defending Catholicism with Scriptural charity and mercy. He is evangelizing by reaching out to the misguided, meeting them on their level, and lifting them up.

Non-judgemental Charity

Being the greatest of all virtues, charity is the form and practice of the virtues, binding everything together in perfect harmony, upholding and purifying our human ability to love and raising it to perfection (Catechism, 1827). Charity, and mercy by extension, is the acceptance of the sinner with due justice. It’s administering justice by leading the misguided to truth. Charity is benevolence and fosters reciprocity, remaining disinterested and generous (Catechism, 1829) Pope Francis is giving fraternal correction to the misguided constantly. To those who have misguided causes but good intentions, he is using beneficence and fraternal correction to lead them to Truth. For example, with Laudate Si he gives due justice to the environmentalist cause, which oftentimes has the vice of making the environment a god. However, instead of focusing on the vice and pointing out what’s wrong with environmentalism, Pope Francis acknowledges the importance of being good stewards of the earth and not squandering the gift God has given us. Yet, he doesn’t stop at the environment. He brings the cause further, aligning it closer to Catholic doctrine and emphasizing the importance of all God’s creation, including the life of the unborn. He includes the necessity to cherish and protect nature as is without changing it to fit our desires, and this includes the nature of society and family. This call to respecting nature and all God’s creation is causing people to question how one can respect the environment and yet go against nature with redefining family and also destroying the most vulnerable among us.

Similar to the environmentalist cause, Pope Francis is reaching out and engaging anti-capitalists. He acknowledges the danger of what he calls “unfettered capitalism.” He doesn’t discourage wealth, but instead warns against the tyranny of materialism and excess. He warns against capitalism devoid of God, where people are slaves to money and where profit is the ultimate goal. He makes us question what is more important, our wealth or our neighbor. He doesn’t attack wealth or personal success, but he does caution against making wealth and profits the ultimate goal, making money and progress into gods. He is reminding us that we belong to a community and we have a duty as members of society to help our neighbor and to not put material items and profit-making before our neighbor’s well-being even if that means sacrificing profits to do so. Pope Francis is reminding us to make ourselves the neighbor of those on the outskirts of society, loving them, our enemies, and the poor as Christ himself (Catechism, 1825).

Never once has Pope Francis strayed from Catholic doctrine. He has merely chosen a different approach to winning the hearts of millions across the world and thereby gaining converts. Pope Francis’ approach is through bearing witness to the virtue of charity. He is calling us to convert not by argument, debate, and preaching the Church – methods of which are not wrong, but sometimes not as effective. He is instead asking us to convert by bearing witness to Christ through the practice of charity and mercy. He is asking us to lead the world to the Church through Christ, not the other way around. He is showing us the power of charity, asking us to begin with the most important virtue in communicating with opponents and those of differing views, even within the Church. This is evangelization – to lead with uncompromising and non-judgmental charity so as to win people’s hearts and their minds.


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12 thoughts on “The Genius of Pope Francis and Evangelization”

  1. If the pope intends to convert people, who are they? Convert them to Who? Jesus. Then tell them that there is no salvation outside His Mystical Body. That is charity. Say it with great charity, but say it. That is the pope’s job, transmitting the deposit of Faith. That Catholic Faith, fundamentally, is necessary for justification. One must know it in order to live it.

  2. Genius? Do some research on the effect of Bergoglio’s policies on the state of the Catholic faith and practice in the Argentine diocese he left behind him. You might want to revise your rose tinted assessment. In any case, isn’t the disaster left by similar policies implemented by Protestant denominations in their Churches not enough to open your eyes?

  3. Balderdash! Conforming the Word to the World is not Evangelization. Christ Himself said to shake the dust from your sandals for those who will not listen. Mercy belongs to God, repentance is required. PF cannot change the Word and failed in his own diocese to ‘evangelize’, what a tiresome trope.

  4. It’s possible that he is a genius at conversion but we will need to see the evidence of that. We will have to see the fruit. Simply getting the left to like us more doesn’t amount to anything. Hopefully there will be fruit. Please note that many other denomination already say and do many of the things that the liberals in our church would like to do. And only bad fruit has come of it. Also simply not changing doctrine doesn’t mean a lot if you pastorally do not follow the established doctrine. So it is good that doctrine has not been changed but the letter of the law does matter not just the spirit. One other thing. Please note that Judas was also very charitable….he was quite concerned with the poor….one time at the expense of the glory of the Lord. (When he said to sell the perfume instead of anointing our Lord) Beware the charity of Judas. Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. I will obey him to the end. And I will continue to pray for him as he asks.

  5. I don’t think Pope Francis is converting many people. The world loves him because they have the impression he is going to conform the Church to their own political and ideological worldview. He seems to me to be preaching half the Gospel message. The Catechism says: “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.” (see, par. 1864). Pope Francis never seems to get beyond the first phrase, and he has developed a very un-becoming habit of harshly condemning – even excoriating – anyone who tries to finish the sentence.

  6. But Pope Francis is perhaps the world’s leading genius when it comes to evangelization and conversion.

    Well, perhaps Pope Francis is the world’s leading genius when it comes to quantum gravity, though I have to admit a total lack of evidence backing that suggestion, and such a claim requires evidence to back it up. If Pope Francis is a “genius when it comes to evangelization and conversion”, where are the converts? It is not a plus at all if people feel less hostile towards the Catholic Church because they think the “who am I to judge” statement means that continuing in sin is not really a problem.

    Perhaps Pope Francis is to evangelization and conversion what Tim Tebow is to the NFL: a nice guy with some admitted talents, but lacking the skill necessary to really be successful.

  7. SO, Pope Francis came to America, addressed the Congress and the UN. Then went to a gigantic meeting on families and never directly addressed what is really wrong and hurting families. I won’t say what that is because I want to use:
    Non-judgemental Charity

  8. I think it’s a psychological and spiritual truth that right thinking must precede right emotional response. In the common parlance, feelings follow facts.

    My heart would never have been open to Christ if I hadn’t been intellectually prepared by reading Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor.

    Anyone who would convert because of warm fuzzies will fall away for the same reason.

    1. What you say in your first paragraph is probably true, but only if the “right thinking” is absolutely and thoroughly right. It does not necessarily apply when the arguments are only plausible or probable and the errors are still undetected.

      Frequently people behave in ways that are better than their world views would seem to dictate because they are still somewhat emotionally sensitive to the voice of conscience within them. Even the SS-Sonderkommandos felt this, which is why steps were taken to make the murders they committed as industrial as possible and to first dehumanize their victims.

    2. actually, I became a Catholic because I fell in love with Jesus, and He showed me the way to be with Him in this world.

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