Thomas P. RAUSCH, SJ and Richard R. GAILLARDETZ, editors. Go Into the Streets! The Welcoming Church of Pope Francis. NY: Paulist Press, 2016. pp. 181. $19.95 pb. ISBN 97800-8091-4951-3. Reviewed by Karen Monique GREGG, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN 46808.
As Gaillardetz in the conclusion aptly states, given enough time, popes have “found ways to leave their distinctive stamp on both the papacy and the church” (175). The authors in this book attempt to highlight for the readers various pieces of the stamp Pope Francis has left so far and venture guesses as to where these impressions may lead in the future. Therefore, this book is a current analysis of Pope Francis’s moves since being made leader of the Catholic Church in 2013. Each chapter takes a different approach analyzing what he’s said, what he’s done, what documents and which people have influenced him, and what his outlook on “the people of God” and the hierarchical Church has been.
In the Introduction, Rausch tells us that Jorge Mario Bergoglio came to the throne of Peter as the first Jesuit pope, but also the first one from the Global South, but there’s more. He’s also different because he is less Eurocentric, and more concerned with the multicultural and pluralistic nature of the Church. Before doing a fine job of introducing the rest of the chapters in the book, which I summarize even more succinctly below, Rausch briefly unpacks Bergoglio’s history as a Jesuit and outlines his ascendancy to the papacy.
Chapter 1 traces the theological continuity between Popes Benedict and Francis. The chapter greatly focuses on how both were strongly influenced by the Jesuit theologian and later Cardinal Henri de Lubac. Chapters 2 and 3 provide background information about who Pope Francis was before becoming the Vicar of Christ. The former relates to liberation theology, and the later relates to popular religion. While Chapter 1 uses Pope Benedict as a comparison, Chapter 4 uses Pope John XXIII and Pope Francis’s efforts to reclaim the image of the church as the people of God. Chapter 5 “explores Francis’s concern for an official church that consults and listens” (7) In this chapter the influence of Ignatius of Loyola is considered. Chapter 6 looks at the Pope’s use of dialogue as a self-critical process for social, ecumenical and interreligious areas in the church. Chapter 7 delves into Pope Francis’s efforts to “reconfigure the relationship between the universal and the local churches” (7). Chapter 8 unpacks Francis’s understanding of the pastoral orientation of the doctrine. Chapter 9 sheds light on Francis’s metaphor of the church as a field hospital in a wounded world. This chapter ends with suggestions of what needs to change in the ordination process. Finally, Chapter 10 speaks to Pope Francis’s sense of social justice as it relates to Catholic Social Teaching. In total, these chapters summarize the first three years of Pope Francis’s tenure rather well.
Criticisms of this book are few. First, make no mistake. These chapters are not critical of the pope, rather they read as if cheering him on. This slight bias detracts from the legitimacy of their analyses. Another mild criticism is that there is some overlap in the theses of the chapters. An example can be found in the similarity and overlap between Chapter 5 – A Listening Church and Chapter 6 – A Dialogic Church. While both chapters are based on relevant topics, they could have easily been combined into one by the two authors. Finally, this book may run its course in that I find that it is an important work to read…right now…but it may not have staying power in a year or two. Only the future will tell what legacy Pope Francis will leave on the papacy and how others will interpret his words and actions.
Praise is also in order for this work. While there is much variation in the topics of these chapters (with the exception of Chapters 5 and 6), the chapters flow and connect very well. They are short and easy to comprehend. Even the curious non-Catholic should be able to pick this book up and read it cover to cover. It would also make a fine addition to a religious studies course at a Catholic high school, college, or university. This is because each chapter sets forth a direction for the church that should be discussed by lay people, especially the youngest lay people, situated to inherit the Church. Finally, given the wide spectrum of conservative to liberal Catholics today, this book could also be used as a conversation starter in a book club for adult Catholics.