Cardinal Joge Bergoglio: an Anthology

What Can We Learn About Francis From His Earlier Teachings?

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What does Pope Francis think about subjects such as bioethics, the family, education, youth, political power, human trafficking, social justice, and other themes? 

The archbishopric of Buenos Aires shared a number of texts that are very enlightening on these and other issues, drawn from from the teaching of Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio. 

Provided below are ZENIT translations of the excerpts:


Abortion is never a solution. On our part, we must listen, support and understand in order to save two lives: respect the smallest, defenseless human being, adopt measures that can preserve his life, allow his birth and then be creative in seeking ways that will lead to his full development (September 16, 2012).

Defense of Life

To those who were scandalized when Jesus dined with sinners, with publicans, He said: «publicans and prostitutes will precede you,» they were the worst at the time. Jesus doesn’t put up with. They are the ones who have clericalized — to use a word that is understood — the Lord’s Church. They fill her with precepts, and I say it with sorrow, and if it seems like a criticism or an offense, forgive me, but in our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of unmarried mothers because they weren’t conceived in the holiness of matrimony. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who have clericalized the Church. Those who take the people of God away from salvation. And that poor girl, who could have aborted her child, had the courage to bring him into the world, and goes from parish to parish seeking someone who will baptize him (September 2, 2012).


When I saw the text before the Mass, I began to think of the way those first communities lived and today’s Mass. And I wondered if our educational endeavor shouldn’t be directed to achieving harmony: harmony in all boys and girls who have been entrusted to us, inner harmony, harmony of their personality. It is by working as a potter, imitating God, shaping the life of these children, that we will be able to achieve harmony, and rescue them from the dissonances that are always dark. Instead, harmony is luminous, clear, it is light. The harmony of a growing heart, which we support in this educational endeavor, is the one that must be achieved. (…) I often think, when I see this very relative existentialism that is proposed to youngsters everywhere and which has no point of reference, of our Buenos Aires prophet: «Give him anything … everything is the same, after all we will meet in the furnace.» Then these youngsters, who have no idea of limits and are hurtling toward the future, are in the furnace! Now! And we are going to meet in the furnace! And in the future we’ll have men and women in the furnace! (April 18, 2012).

Human Trafficking

Today in this city we want the cry heard, God’s question: Where is your brother? May that question of God run through all the city’s neighborhoods, run through our hearts, and above all may it also enter the hearts of the modern «Cains.» Perhaps someone will ask: What brother? Where is your slave brother, the one whom you are killing every day in the clandestine workshop, in the network of prostitution, in the huts of youngsters that you use for mendacity, as a «bell» for the distribution of drugs, for robbery, prostituting them? Where is your brother who, as homeless, has to work in secret because he is yet to be formalized. Where is your brother? And, in face of this question, we can behave as the priest did who passed by the one who was wounded, we can pretend we are distracted, as the Levite did, looking away because the question is not directed to me but to someone else. The question is for everyone! Because, established in this city is the trade of persons, that aberrant crime of the Mafia (as it was so rightly described a few days ago by an official): Mafia and aberrant crime! (September 25, 2012).

Social Issue

Little by little we get used to hearing and seeing through the media the black chronicle of contemporary society, presented almost with perverse rejoicing, and we also get used to touching it and feeling it around us and in our own flesh. The drama is on the street, in the neighborhood, in our home, and why not say it, in our heart. We coexist with violence that kills, which destroys families, fuels wars and conflicts in so many countries worldwide. We coexist with envy, hatred, calumny, worldliness in our heart. The suffering of the innocent and peaceful does not cease to strike us, contempt for the rights of the most fragile persons and peoples who are not that far from us, the reign of money with its demonic effects, such as drugs, corruption, the trade of persons, including children, together with material and moral poverty are the current currency. The destruction of fitting work, painful emigrations and the lack of a future are also added to this symphony. Our errors and sins as Church are not excluded from this great picture. The most personal egoisms are justified and not because of this are they lesser, the lack of ethical values in a society that metastasizes in families, which in the coexistence of neighborhoods, towns and cities speak to us of our limitation, of our weakness, and of our inability to transform this numberless list of destructive realities.


It is not enough that our truth is orthodox and our pastoral action effective. Without the joy of beauty, truth becomes cold and even displaced and arrogant, as we see happens in the speech of many bitter fundamentalists. It seems they chew ashes instead of tasting the glorious sweetness of the Truth of Christ, who illumines with meek light the whole of reality, assuming it as it is every day. Without the joy of beauty, the work for good becomes somber efficiency, as we see happening in the action of many activists who are carried away. It would seem that they are cloaking reality with statistical mourning, instead of anointing it with the interior oil of joy which transforms hearts, one by one, from within (April 22, 2011).

Defense of Marriage

At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake is the life of so many children who will be discriminated in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wills to happen with a father and a mother. At stake is a frontal rejection of God’s law, imprinted, moreover, in our hearts. Let us not be naïve: it is not about a simple political struggle, it is the pretension to destroy God’s plan. It is not a question of a mere legislative project (the latter is only the instrument) but of a «move» of the father of lies who tries to confuse and deceive the children of God (July 8, 2010).

Social Justice

It is justice that rejoices the heart: when there is enough for everyone, when one sees that there is equality, equity, and each one has what he needs. When one sees that there is enough for all, if one is a good person, one feels a special joy in the heart. Each one’s heart is enlarged and is fused with that of others and it makes us love the homeland. The homeland flourishes when we see «noble equality on the throne,» as our national anthem well states. Injustice, instead, darkens everything. How sad it is when one sees that there is enough for all and yet this is not achieved (…) To say «all the youngsters» is to say all the future. To say «all the retired» is to recount our whole history.» Our people know that the whole is greater than the parts, and that is why we ask for «bread and work for all.» How contemptible, instead, is the one who hoards only for his today, the one who has a small, egotistical heart and thinks only of fingering a slice that he won’t take with him when he dies. Because no one takes anything. I have never seen a mving truck following a funeral cortege. My grandmother used to say to us: «the shroud has no pockets» (August 7, 2012).


The experience of faith places us in the experience of the Spirit, marked by the capacity to be
gin our journey. There is nothing more opposed to the Spirit than to install oneself, to be shut-in on oneself. When one does not pass through the door of Faith, the door closes, the Church closes, the heart withdraws into itself and fear and the evil spirit sour the Good News. When the chrism of faith dries and becomes rancid the evangelizer no longer infects but loses his fragrance, constituting himself often a source of scandal and alienation for many.

He who believes is the recipient of the Beatitude that runs through the Gospel, and that resonates throughout history, on Elizabeth’s lips: «happy are you for you believed,» or addressed by Jesus himself to Thomas: «Happy are those who believe without seeing!» (June 9, 2012)

Political Power

The «madness» of the commandment to love, which the Lord proposes and defends in our being, also dispels the other daily «madnesses,» which deceive and harm, and end up by impeding the realization of the nation’s project. They are relativism and power as the sole ideology. Relativism that, with the excuse of respect for differences, homogenizes by transgression and demagogy, allowing everything so as not to assume the vexation which calls for mature courage to support values and principles. Curiously, relativism is absolutist and totalitarian, it does not allow anyone to differ from relativism itself, in no way does it differ from «be quiet» or «don’t get involved.» Power as sole ideology is another lie. If ideological prejudices deform the way one sees one’s neighbor and society, given one’s own certainties and fears, power as the sole ideology accentuates the persecuting and prejudiced focus that «all positions are power schemes» and «all seek to dominate others.» Thus social trust is eroded that, as I pointed out, is the root and fruit of love (May 25, 2012).


The symptoms of disenchantment are varied, but perhaps the clearest are the «custom-made» enchantments: the enchantment of technology which always promises better things; the enchantment of an economy, which offers almost unlimited possibilities in all aspects of life, to those who succeed in being included in the system; the enchantment of minor religious proposals, according to the need. Disenchantment has an eschatological dimension. It attacks indirectly, putting a stop to any definitive attitude and, in its place, suggests those little enchantments that are like «islands» or «truces» in face of the lack of hope, given the pace of the world in general. Hence, the only human attitude to break the spell of enchantments and disenchantments is to place ourselves before ultimate things and ask ourselves in hope: Are we ascending from good to better or descending from bad to worse? Then doubt arises. Can we answer? As Christians, do we have the word and the gestures that indicate the way of hope for our world? Are we, like the disciples of Emmaus and those who stayed in the Cenacle, the first to need help? (May 8, 2011).


The Gospel passage speaks to us of humility. Humility reveals to human self-conscious littleness the potentials it has in itself. In fact, the more conscious we are of our gifts and limitations, both together, the freer we will be from the blindness of arrogance. And just as Jesus praises the Father for this revelation to the little ones, we should also praise the Father for having May’s sun shine on those who trusted in the gift of liberty, liberty that sprouted in the heart of a nation that wagered on greatness without losing sight of its littleness (May 25, 2011).

Simple People

The wisdom of thousands of women and men who queue to travel and to work honestly, to bring daily bread to the table, to save and, little by little, buy bricks to improve their home … Thousands upon thousands of children with their pinafores go through passages and streets coming and going from home to school, and from school to home. Meanwhile the grandparents who accumulate popular wisdom, get together to share and recount anecdotes. The crises and manipulations will pass; the contempt of the powerful will corner them in misery, they will be offered the suicide of drugs, of lack of control and violence; they will be tempted by the hatred of vengeful resentment. But the humble, no matter what their position or social condition, will appeal to the wisdom of the one who feels himself a child of a God who is not distant, who accompanies them with the Cross and encourages them with the Resurrection in those miracles, the daily achievements, which encourage them to rejoice in sharing and celebrating (May 25, 2011).

New Evangelization

God lives in the city and the Church lives in the city. The mission is not opposed to learning from the city – from its cultures and changes – while we go out to preach the Gospel. And this is fruit of the Gospel itself, which interacts with the earth on which the seed falls. Not only is the modern city a challenge but the whole city, every culture, every mentality and every human heart has been, is and will be a challenge. Contemplation of the Incarnation, which Saint Ignatius presents in the Spiritual Exercises, is a good example of the attitude we propose here. An attitude that is not bogged down in a dualism, which constantly comes and goes, of diagnostics for planning, but is dramatically involved in the reality of the city and is committed to it in action. The Gospel is an accepted kerygma that compels to be transmitted. Mediations are elaborated while we live and coexist (August 25, 2011).


God was lacking something to be able to enter humanly in our history: He needed a mother, and He asked us for her. She is the Mother whom we look to today, the daughter of our people, the handmaid, the pure one, the only one of God; the discreet one who makes room for her Son to fulfill the sign, the one who is always making possible this reality but not as owner or as protagonist, but as handmaid, the star that is able to go out so that the Sun can manifest itself. So is Mary’s mediation to which we refer today. Mediation of the woman who did not renege her maternity, she assumed it from the beginning; a maternity with a double birth, one in Bethlehem and the other on Calvary; a maternity that contains and supports her Son’s friends, He who is the only reference until the end of time. And so Mary continues among us, «situated in the very center of that ‘enmity’ of the proto-Gospel, of that struggle that accompanies the history of humanity» (Cf. Redempt. Mater 11). A Mother who makes spaces possible for Grace to come. Grace that revolutionizes and transforms our existence and our identity: the Holy Spirit who makes us adoptive children, frees us from all slavery and, in a real and mystical possession, gives us the gift of liberty and cries out, from within us, the invocation of the new belonging: Father! (November 7, 2011).

[Translations by ZENIT]
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