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Pope Francis speaking with Telam, September 2023.Video screenshot

Pledge your prayers and fasting for protection of the Church during the Synod on Synodality HERE

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — “The Church has to change,” argued Pope Francis in a recent interview, highlighting post-Vatican II changes which he said “must continue.”

“Progress is necessary and the Church has to incorporate these novelties with a serious conversation from a human point of view,” declared the Argentine pontiff. 

In an interview conducted in September but released on October 17, Pope Francis spoke about a number of topics, including the Synod on Synodality and his desire to alter the Church.  

‘What kind of Church is needed these days?’

With the topic of the synod raised by Télam, Argentina’s national news agency,  Francis highlighted how the event was to be understood in light of the Second Vatican Council. 

“Since the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII had a very clear perception: the Church has to change,” he said. “Paul VI agreed, just like the succeeding popes.”

READ: Pope claims Vatican II was ‘renewal’ of the Church ‘in tune with the signs of the times’

Francis argued that such a “change” was not just about “changing ways, it’s about a change of growth, in favor of the dignity of people.” “That’s theological progression, of moral theology and all the ecclesiastical sciences, even in the interpretation of Scriptures that have progressed according to the feelings of the Church,” he said. 

The Pope decried any change made through “rupture,” saying that “we either progress through development or things don’t turn out right. Rupture leaves you out of the sap of development.”

Employing imagery of a tree, Francis spoke in favor of needing “tradition in the good sense of the word.” 

“We all have traditions, a family, we were all born within the culture of a country, a political culture. We all have a tradition for which to take responsibility,” he said.

Such comments by the Pope, linking the Synod on Synodality to Vatican II, are becoming a consistent theme. Only yesterday, a synod member and theologian involved in the organizing of the synod process stated that the synod was “a continuation of Vatican II; now the Vatican II theology, rather the ecclesiology, is being revived.

‘Church must dialogue with everybody’

However, while hat-tipping to “traditions,” the Pope did not relinquish his desire to implement change in the Church. He argued that “progress is necessary and the Church has to incorporate these novelties with a serious conversation from a human point of view.” 

READ: Archbishop Aguer: Pope Francis’ commitment to ‘progressivism’ is breaking continuity with Tradition

Referencing God’s Incarnation as man, Pope Francis said how “humanity is something consecrated by God. That is, everything human must be assumed and progress must be human, in harmony with humanity.”

Citing the “rapidity” of scientific developments, Francis stated that “the Church has to pay close attention and have its thinkers be ready to dialogue.”

And I emphasize this: we must dialogue with scientific knowledge. The Church must dialogue with everybody, but being aware of its identity. Not from a borrowed identity.

St. Vincent of Lerins appears once more

As has become a consistent theme in any of his discourses referencing “development” or change of doctrine, Pope Francis drew from St. Vincent of Lerins: 

A theologist from the 4th century said that changes in the Church must comply to three conditions to be real: consolidating, growing and ennoble themselves along the years. It is a very inspiring definition by Vincent of Lérins. 

Francis argued clearly that “the Church has to change,” and pointed to a process of change which had been in effect since Vatican II: 

Let’s think of the ways it has changed since the Council until now and the way it must continue changing its ways, in the way to propose an unchanging truth. That is, the revelation of Jesus Christ does not change, the dogmas of the Church do not change, they grow and ennoble themselves like the sap of a tree. 

The Pope also echoed his oft-repeated comments about going “backward,” saying that anyone who does not “follow this path, follows a path that takes steps backward, a path that closes on itself.”

Changes in the Church take place within this identity flow of the Church. And it has to keep changing along the way, as challenges are met. That is why the core of change is fundamentally pastoral, without recanting the essence of the Church.

Catholic stance on Tradition 

Such comments are by no means a first for the Pope. One of the hallmarks of his pontificate has been denigrations of those he styles as “rigid,” along with his regular advocacy for a “development” of doctrine, and even using phrases from St. Vincent to justify theological arguments appearing to defend contraception.

READ: Pope Francis has given liberals ‘freedom to sow doubt and confusion among the faithful’: Father Murray

However, while Francis often employs St. Vincent of Lerins to support his arguments for ecclesial change, the fifth century theologian did not advocate for a rejection of Church teaching, but rather he stated that as an individual’s physical body grows in accordance with the divinely ordained plan, so must any development of Church doctrine follow the same law of progress.

The saint wrote that such a process should “be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.”

READ: Pope tells theologians to consult ‘non-Catholics,’ avoid ‘going backward’ in Tradition

St. Vincent was in fact very clear in his opposition to novel doctrine which had no grounding in the Church’s Tradition. In instances where confusion abounds within the Church, due to a part having “cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith,” St. Vincent presents clear teaching on the Catholic response: 

What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his [a Catholic’s] care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

Additionally, the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in its 1973 declaration Mysterium ecclesiae that the Church’s truths cannot change over time: “As for the meaning of dogmatic formulas, this remains ever true and constant in the Church, even when it is expressed with greater clarity or more developed.”

The congregation warned of “dogmatic relativism” for those people who argued that “dogmatic formulas” were only able to “offer changeable approximations” to truth, and that the fullness of truth is constantly “being sought by means of such approximations.”

Pledge your prayers and fasting for protection of the Church during the Synod on Synodality HERE