Catholic commentators on both the left and the right all too frequently attempt to employ the words and deeds of Pope Benedict XVI as a kind of “measuring stick” for evaluating the papacy of Pope Francis.
At times this is done to make the case for how similar they are; at other times the goal is the exact opposite. In both cases, however, count me unimpressed. In the grand scheme of things, who cares how Francis compares to Benedict?
Over the last five-and-a-half decades since the reign of Pope Pius XII, we’ve had six popes, five if you overlook the 33 day papacy of John Paul I.
A candid synopsis of their legacy might look something like this:
John XXIII: His deep personal desire to be liked by all, and his radical distaste for condemning error, virtually castrated his papacy, paving the way for mutiny in the Second Vatican Council and beyond, precisely at a moment in history when Apostolic authority was desperately needed.
Paul VI: Reigned over, and was complicit in, the greatest liturgical disaster in the Church’s history; a failure of such monumental proportions that humanity will be suffering its ill effects for many more generations to follow.
John Paul II: Transformed the papacy into a cult of personality and media phenomenon while singlehandedly doing more to invite religious indifferentism than any other Roman Pontiff in memory.
Benedict XVI: Made valuable contributions to the effort to restore right order, most notably in “liberating” the traditional Mass, setting the Church on a corrective course (albeit a painfully slow one), but his blind allegiance to the Council in the areas of ecumenism and religious liberty served to keep the Church mired in crisis.
So, when Pope Francis comes along and immediately goes about steering the Barque of St. Peter away from the corrective course set by his predecessor, it is perhaps understandable why some might feel compelled to draw comparisons to Benedict, but let’s be honest, the Pope Emeritus, the same who inexplicably abandoned his flock, is by no means the gold standard for papal performance.
Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:48)
Similar to the way in which we are called to measure how well we’re doing in the quest for holiness, not by comparing ourselves to our neighbors, but to the All Holy Lord Himself, so too should we consider the words and deeds of the popes, not by measuring them against those of his immediate predecessors, but relative to something far more lofty.
We have nearly 2,000 years of sacred magisterium and tradition through which the faith that comes to us from the Apostles is transmitted, and it is therein that one will find the only standard by which a given papacy can properly be evaluated.
Either the occupant of St. Peter’s throne protects and conveys this precious treasure well, or he doesn’t.
In a more perfect world, there would be no need to even question such things; in this world, however, the witness of history tells us that it is at times necessary.
In our particular day, given the current state of affairs, foolish is the man who contents himself with a mere papacy’s worth of perspective.
I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is in control here. Something good must come from all of this, we just can’t see it yet. I believe one thing has come already. The vipers of this world are crawling out of their pits to applaud a pope and his message (at least the way they interpret it). They applaud leniency on homosexuality, abortion, birth control, and tolerance to sin in general. They are exposing themselves and their agenda. If it was ever questionable how so many people feel about Catholic doctrine, it should not be any longer. They have made it clear. I believe, just maybe, that the Holy Spirit has extracted the truth from how these lowly people think, and made it public. Lines are being drawn all over. They will wait anxiously for liberal reform, but it won’t happen. Perhaps they will try to force it, exposing themselves even further. They distinct difference between the modernist and the faithful will become clear to all. So pick a side folks. Are you Catholic and faithful to what you profess at the Mass, or not?
Thank you for your posts. This one and the one before are so full of truth. And that’s what’s missing with many Catholics these days. They do not love the Truth. Nor do they love the truth. In my experience, I think it’s a grace that some are given and some have to ask for, the grace to love the truth, even if the truth hurts.
Be ye therefore perfect. – the motto of every Saint!
I was quite frankly surprised at the Holy Father’s lengthy paragraph on classical music. Not so many months back, he said he was not a ‘renaissance prince’, with time to devote to a concert of classical music given in his honor. So I guess I didn’t expect him to be so knowledgeable about classical music. That’s what happens when one speaks ‘off the cuff’.
These are unusual days. Having been a Trad for many years, there is little left to shock me (although I don’t want to be challenged). Please continue to share your carefully measured posts. I look forward to them.
I agree with Andrew, *Always* look for the Truth, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps this pontificate was meant to shock us out of our complacency and silence of what has happened to the Church for the past 50 years.
I look forward to your posts too.
for a historical perspective by a member of the Osservatore Romano Staff from the reign of J23, I suggest you search the web and download the English translation of the book by Francesco Bellegrandi, entitled
so that you may understand the real intentions of j23 and p6….it will change your life
Have you ever read the testimony by Fr dePauw?
A copy can be downloaded/read online at this link……….
Fr Gommar dePauw knew Pope Paul VI and Pope John XXIII personally. He also attended the Vatican II sessions. He was Professor of Theology and Doctor of Canon Law at the American Seminary in Rome. It is clear from HIS account (link given above) that Pope Paul VI did not ever grant permission for the New Mass to be translated into the Vernacular. Fr dePauw states that both Pope John and Pope Paul VI said “No” to the U.S Bishops suggestion that the Mass should be translated into the Vernacular. Fr dePauw also says that in an act of gross disobedience to the Pope, the Bishops translated the liturgy.
The link is of a transcribed version of a Lecture given by Fr dePauw in Chicago, 1967 Audio versions ARE available on Youtube under the name “Conciliar or Catholic”.