2016 Archives

Fr. Charles Curran: Pope Francis' reforms are 'more than just style'


The following is from the April 15, 2016, edition of The Catholic Reporter. Charles E. Curran is the Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at SMU.

April 18, 2016

By Allison Walter

In a four-part speech hosted by New Ways Ministry, Fr. Charles Curran detailed the four ways in which Pope Francis is a reformer: style, priorities, church structure and moral teaching.

Over 150 people packed the Center Chapel at the Bon Secours Retreat Center near Baltimore April 3 for the inaugural Fr. Robert Nugent Memorial Lecture. Curran, who was fired from The Catholic University of America nearly 20 years ago for publicly opposing several of the church's teachings, delivered a wieldy 60-minute lecture on the current situation in the church while speculating what's to come.

While Curran argued for bold reforms under Francis, he was quick to temper expectations: "Some people will be disappointed because he won't change church teachings. Nonetheless, Francis has left the door ajar."

According to Curran, Francis' style was a shock from the start, referencing his chosen name, his place of residence, and his choosing to wash the feet of refugees, including Muslims. But, as Curran pointed out, Francis' reforms are "more than just style."

More significantly, Francis has reformed the church's priorities, starting with his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which reminded the faithful about the joy of the good news. Perhaps more visible reforms, Curran said, have been the shift of focus from the culture-war social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception, to a focus on the poor, like with his encyclical Laudato Si'.

Curran also suggested that Francis has acknowledged the importance of the sense of the faithful, preferring that Catholic teaching come from the bottom up. Francis wrote that he prefers a church that is "bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church that is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

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