Pope Francis is not the anti-Benedict

It seems the media has taken every opportunity to spin Pope Francis' words as being veiled criticisms of his predecessor's own words, especially when it comes to liturgical and theological topics. While it's great seeing the media show meager support at times, rather than destructive criticism for a Pope at every turn, it's misguided and not really that helpful.

All the press is saying is that what makes Catholicism Catholic (liturgy, ritual, priesthood, catechesis, etc.) is irrelevant, and we should worry more about the poor and such instead—and they're taking many translated quotes from Pope Francis out of context to support their theories. This horse has been beaten to death by many well-intentioned cafeteria Catholics throughout my lifetime, and I'm quite sick of it.

James over at the Forum has written about this a few times, and his most recent post, "Criticism" of Benedict in Rio? is spot-on:

Ever since Francis was elected, the media has been relentlessly billing him as the anti-Benedict. [...]

I can't agree that a problem dogging the Catholic Church over the past forty years has been "intellectualism" or "rigid formulas". If anything, we've traded in the intellect for the purely sentimental, even saccharine. For two generations and counting, Catholics have been reared in an anti-intellectual ethos, from schools to liturgy. Have you been to a typical Catholic parish recently? It's almost all touchy-feely: name tags, silly songs, hand-holding, Father Personality and his cringeworthy jokes, backslapping, high-fives, no substance, etc. It never ends. And having attended Catholics schools for most of my youth, I can't say that "intellectualism" was a cause for many of my peers leaving the Church (which many of them did). We simply weren't taught the essentials of the faith. Period.

Go read the full post—every word rings true for faithful Catholics in my generation. From what I've seen, Catholic parishes in the U.S. have been anything but intellectual, clerical, etc. If anything, we need to go back to our liturgical and catechetical roots to find our faith and a true relationship with Jesus before we can presume to be of any assistance to the poor or others in need!


I totally agree!
What seems so bizarre is that the media is saying Pope Francis is wanting to loosen the 'intellectualism' and 'rigidity' and 'discipline' in the Church, yet this is what has been the source of so many problems in the Church in the last 50 years since V2.
Clergy no longer think rationally about the faith, but have exchanged traditional theology for any hair-brained formula to come out of modern hermeneutics.
As for rigidity, the mass is a free-for-all that lacks form and content. Whatever the liturgical committee thinks is the trendiest approach becomes the norm each Sunday. Oprah is looked to for inspiration for sermons, not the saints of old.
The moral laxity of the clergy is also a result of a lack of discipline, priests do whatever they want and with no consequences. No wonder they care little for the beauty of the liturgy and for prayer. A whole generation of gay men found a place in the clergy to live a comfortable secure lifestyle and no one holds them to task unless they get caught.
This is so sad that it borders on discouraging.

How about Nicole Winfield's article today "Pope's Revolution: not all are pleased with Francis." Apparently Francis is shaking up "a dusty, doctrinaire church that is losing faithful and relevance." He's "knocking the wind out of a poisonously homophobic culture." He is "restoring credibility to Catholicism."

Meanwhile, she says Benedict XVI "coddled traditionalist Catholics attached to the old Latin Mass and opposed to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That group ... is watching its worst fears come true."

She noted that "tone and priorities can themselves constitute change, especially when considering issues that aren't being emphasized, such as church doctrine on abortion, gay marriage..." As if Francis were holding back on opening the doors to those things only because he's held back by the chains of doctrine that's old and outdated.

In so many ways, this article angers me! How far from reporting the truth. How ignorant of the Church's history, structure, governance, etc. It's amazing how the AP crafts its own version of reality. Sadly, this is what, for many, constitutes "reality."

-Fr. Jason

You're not a fan of the doctrine progressing into a modern context? I mean, believe it or not, but the doctrine will die unless it can change, strive and compliment secular ideals.

Morality is not exclusive to religion anymore. People are deciding their own ethics now without the guidance of the church. And good! This is intellectualism! People are thinking for themselves, people are being more like Plato and Thomas Aquinas; the church taught people to think and understand, and now it does not have to. In fact, secular society is now teaching the church! And why can't it listen? There are weird, out of place discrepancies in the bible and the catholic teaching that just do not make sense anymore; the denouncement of homosexuality and women as priests just does not make sense if we are to apply the more important catholic teaching that human is made in God's image.

Human IS made in God's image, and this is what human is growing and evolving into. If we are to do this, it was God's will. Progression is not to be mistaken for the contrary; the Church can progress, and, sorry to burst your bubble, WILL progress.

Jesus was a revolutionary, and he encouraged us to think and understand what is holding us back and where we can go in the future. He, again, was no different to Plato or Aquinas; he learned from the world around him, the world that God created, not from the words of another. The world is a primary source of God's teachings, while the bible is a secondary one. He thought, and for that, he could not help himself but challenge our comfortable, safe and unknowingly misguided conventions.

Perhaps it is better to be jolly, casual and lighthearted; perhaps people learn and understand more through love, and not fear.

"All the press is saying is that what makes Catholicism Catholic (liturgy, ritual, priesthood, catechesis, etc.) is irrelevant, and we should worry more about the poor and such instead"

That sounds like something a certain man from Jerusalem would say.

Thanks for your comments, but I fail to see how being a religious person—loving liturgy, ritual, and worship—makes one any less able to be moral, jolly, joyous, helpful to the poor, or able to learn from the world.

Hey Jeff, I've been a follower of your "tech" side but just discovered your Catholic side, which is awesome, I am a Catholic as well. Regarding this article, from 2013, I'd like to know if your opinion has changed.

Something else that I just discovered is that you live in the Netherlands, I live in the Hague planning to move to Zoetermeer, maybe we can get together, grab a coffee and have a nice conversation about the current situation of the church and faith in general.

My opinion has maybe shifted but not really changed. I think Pope Francis has gone about some changes in an uncharitable or just kind of not-well-thought-out manner, and I think some of those he surrounds himself with are not people of great faith who exhibit strength, love, and care in a way suitable for Catholic leadership. But I also don't agree with some of the more extreme views that he's an antipope or there was some massive conspiracy to get him into his current position.