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While praising the Pope, Time ignores his advice

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 11, 2013

In a short essay explaining the choice of Pope Francis as Person of the Year, managing editor Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine writes: “He released his first exhortation, an attack on ‘the idolatry of money,’ just as Americans were contemplating the day set aside for gratitude and whether to spend it at the mall.” There’s quite a bit wrong with that single sentence.

Gibbs is referring, of course, to the first apostolic exhortation of this pontificate. It’s understandable that she wouldn’t want to give, and then explain, the formal title of the papal document. But by taking the shorthand approach, she creates a factual inerrancy. This is not his first exhortation. Pope Francis does quite a bit of exhorting: in his homilies every day, just for instance.

Then, with her reference to Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Gibbs may create the impression—at least among her American readers, and after all Time is an American magazine—that the release of the apostolic exhortation was aimed especially for an American audience. It wasn’t. The papal document was clearly a message to the entire world.

But those are quibbles. My real complaint is that Gibbs characterizes Evangelii Gaudium as “an attack on ‘the idolatry of money.’” Yes, the Pope did address that topic—in 2 of the document’s 288 paragraphs. But Evangelii Gaudium is not about money, or capitalism, or poverty, or exploitation. The papal document is about evangelization.

There’s some irony here. Time applauds the Pope for advocating less emphasis on “hot-button issues.” In Evangelii Gaudium he repeats his argument that Christians must always place the greatest emphasis on the fundamental truth of the faith: the core message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Yet now Time focuses, improperly, on one “hot-button issue” in the apostolic exhortation, the Pope’s economic analysis, to the detriment of his main message.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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