|The differences between these two popes go way beyond pectoral crosses and shoe color--no matter how the 'professional' Catholics try to spin these differences as really continuity.|
There is an interesting phenomenon coming out right now from the 'Vaticanista's, those Vatican reporters who are acclaimed for their insight into all things papal and Vatican. This morning two of them, John Allen and Andreas Tornielli have very similar posts describing the continuity between the young papacy of Francis and that of his predecessor Benedict. I don't remember that a similar apologetics was mounted about the differences between Benedict and JPII. That could be because the Ratzinger papacy was purposely intended to be an extension of the JPII papacy and there was very little difference in substance and truthfully only surface differences in style between the last years of the JPII papacy and the entirety of the Benedict papacy.
The following is an excerpt from the Andreas Tornielli article at Vatican Insider and these links, here and here, take you to two articles from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter.
.....The real continuity between Benedict XVI and Francis is seen in the many gestures, hints and points of focus that have emerged in these first days of Francis’ pontificate: The day after Francis’ election, Benedict XVI said that “the Pope makes Christ’s light - not his own - shine wherever he goes. In a meeting with journalists Francis stressed that the “protagonist” is Christ, not the Pope.
Their sensitivity for the protection of creation – which humans are at the top of – and the environment is something the two popes have in common. Then there are their thoughts on careerism and “spiritual worldliness” in the Church: anyone who has listened to one of Ratzinger’s deep homilies on these issues cannot deny there is continuity between his ideas and Francis’. Only those who are not familiar with his writings on the liturgy could be led to think that they gave importance to superficial aspects. In as far as the discontinuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio is concerned; we need to ask ourselves to what extent Benedict XVI’s collaborators helped him deliver his core message. Just as Paul VI should be rescued from certain “Montinians” who consider themselves to be the only ones authorised to keep his memory alive through their own vision of his papacy, so Benedict XVI should be salvaged from certain “Ratzingerians” who have tried on more than one occasion to teach him how to be Pope.
Allen and Tornielli can do their best to make Catholics believe there is no real difference between the papacies in substance, but no amount of spin can do the same for the differences in style. Unfortunately for these Vaticanista, the differences in style point to real differences in substance.
Pope Benedict 'ruled' as a self styled 'benevolent dictator', not dissimilar to how he 'ruled' in his classroom. At times he appeared to give out grades. The LCWR, amongst others, garnered an "F". Priests like Fr Roy Bourgeios were expelled, bishops like Australia's William Morris lost their tenure. Benedict's was an autocratic authoritarian style somewhat different from JPII, but just as authoritarian. For Pope Benedict the truth in Catholicism, as he taught and understood that truth, trumped living the Way as actually taught by Jesus. The long Tradition of Catholicism and it's two thousand year history of interpreting the Way held more authority in Benedict's teachings. This was born out in his Liturgical preferences. Upon his elevation to the papacy Benedict advocated and modeled an ostentatious liturgical style designed to emphasize the Church Triumphant over and above the lowly people of God--and by extension, the power and authority of the clerical priesthood. The fact Jesus has multiple attributions in the Gospels directly against this kind of worship and priestly authority had no bearing what so ever at all on how Pope Benedict enacted liturgy. It was Tradition.
In contrast, JPII had such a force of personality he didn't need the liturgical trappings to make the same point. This attitude of his is born out in Ordinatio Sarcedotalis, whose driving rationale for the permanent exclusion of women from ordination is not derived from the Gospels, but from the sheer authority of the papacy, and his his own papacy in particular. While Pope Benedict never used his own authority as pope for any similar definitive statement, he had no problem citing his predecessor as the authority for maintaining similar stances. JPII provided a lot of footnotes for Benedict's professorial approach. For an academic there is safety and authority in footnotes. Truth and fact are another matter.
Pope Francis is not cut from the same cloth as his two predecessors. He is not an authoritative autocrat or a theologian heading the ultimate theology department. He is not a professor with a billion students, over half of which are flunking out. He is a student himself, and a student of the Way of Jesus as Jesus' way is recorded in the Gospels. This is a radical change in approach from his two predecessors and implies real differences in substance. Francis is a pilgrim pope leading/following a pilgrim church. No matter of spin and apologetics can change this fact.
I do wonder how much of this sudden need to scramble for continuity between the two very disparate papal styles is being orchestrated by the Vatican, or worse yet, how much of it is due to these supposed 'experts' finally getting a clue as to the amount of harm that the last two papacies have done to the Church in the West and Latin America. I kind of suspect it's a combination of both and yet another indication of how 'simple' the powers that be think the laity actually is. The laity is not simple. It's concerns just haven't been heard. Pope Francis offers real hope those concerns will at least be heard.