Action Alert!

Three criteria to help us understand Pope Francis's vision of reform

By Thomas V. Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 19, 2015

A friend of mine at Blackfriars Media (a division of the Dominican Order) has filmed a brief interview with British Catholic journalist Austin Ivereigh which gives what I think is a very helpful perspective on Pope Francis's idea of reform. Ivereigh looks at Francis through the lens of one of his primary theological influences, Yves Congar (1904-1995), who, in his study of failed and successful reforms in the Church's history, found three basic criteria for true reform:

1. The center must open up to the periphery.

2. True reform respects Catholic tradition.

3. True reform is pastoral in nature.

The four-minute video should help us to keep the essentials in mind amid the controversy and media coverage as the Synod on the Family approaches.

Thomas V. Mirus is Director of Podcasts for, hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Sep. 21, 2015 3:02 PM ET USA

    Very helpful. Very sensible. But then, if you think about it, isn't that what you expect from a theologian?

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 21, 2015 10:45 AM ET USA

    There's no institution with the Church's understanding and compassion for the human condition. This wisdom is reflected in doctrine. "Survey says": The pastoral problem IS that of doctrine. The absence of the cross is "reality." We have turned away- even from natural principles. Do we believe in the transcendent? Do we believe in hope? In love? Look to the saints, to the missions- self-denial; living for others. True love. Alas we cannot believe in life when we don't know how to live.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Sep. 21, 2015 9:07 AM ET USA

    Perhaps these three criteria made sense to Congar in the first part of XX century. How do they apply to VatII Council's outcome? I don't see the current Pope's reforms as balanced (per 3 criteria) and theology-based; they are mostly pastoral-based, intuitive, missing a backbone of hermeneutics. All world praises such newness and "fresh-airness" of Francis - it seems like the Pontificates of St. JPII and Benedict XVI were so backwards, without a human face or mercy ..