This is, again, HUGE news.
The 450th anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent is coming up on 4 December. We like to celebrate these great milestones in salvation history. So, there are great doings in Trent, in the northern area of Italy which is part of the (also) German-speaking Tirol. As is customary, Pope Francis will send a Cardinal as his personal representative. Who better than His Eminence Walter Card. Brandmüller?
When the Pope sends a Cardinal off on one of these missions, he sends him a formal letter, charging him with his task and indicating something of his own hopes for the occasion. The anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent is no exception.
In his letter to Card. Brandmüller, Pope Francis explicitly cites Pope Benedict XVI pontificate-defining address in 2005 to the Roman Curia in which he spoke about the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” (e.g., the Karl Rahner crowd and their descendants, still active today) and the “hermeneutic of reform”, or “hermeneutic of continuity”.
In this explicit reference Francis is aligning himself with Benedict and that key moment and concept underlying Benedict’s pontificate.
This comes in the wake of Francis writing to Archbishop Marchetto (refresh your memory HERE), a critic of one of the powerhouses of the ”hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”, the so-called “Bologna School” of interpretation of the Council. Francis surely broke a lot of liberal hearts when he referred to Marchetto (who in this matter is completely aligned with Benedict) as one of the best interpreters of the Council that he knows.
The letter of Francis to Card. Brandmüller is available in the Latin original in the Bollettino. Here is my rapid translation of the first part of the letter, which is the important part. I scaled down some of the flowery stuff. The second part is the usual boilerplate and of less interest.
To our Venerable Brother
Walter Cardinal (of the Holy Roman Church) Brandmüller
Deacon of St. Julian of the Flemish
Since the 450th anniversary of the day on which the Council of Trent drew to its favorable end, it is fitting that the Church recall with readier and more attentive eagerness the most rich doctrine which came out of that Council held in the Tyrol. It is certainly not without good reason that the Church has for a long time given such great care to that Council’s decrees and canons which are to be recalled and heeded, seeing that, since extremely grave matters and questions sprang up in that period, the Council Fathers employed all their diligence so that the Catholic faith should come into clearer view and be better understood. Without a doubt as the Holy Spirit inspired and prompted them, it was the Fathers’ greatest concern not only that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be defended, but also that mankind be more brightly illuminated, in order that the saving work of the Lord could be diffused throughout the entire globe and the Gospel be spread through the whole world.
Harking closely to the same Spirit, Holy Church in this age renews and meditates on the most abundant doctrine of the Council of Trent. In fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” [interpretatio renovationis] which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers in no way less to the Council of Trent than to the Vatican Council. To be sure, this mode of interpretation places under a brighter light a beautiful characteristic of the Church which is taught by the Lord Himself: “She is a ‘subject’ which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas greetings – 22 December 2005).
This is a significant letter.
First, it affirms that we can indeed, and rightly, Read Francis Through Benedict.
Second, it affirms that Francis is, and rightly, reading Francis Through Benedict.
Third, it strikes me that Pope Francis is making some course corrections. He may have perceived that some in “the world” (e.g., liberals, the MSM) are not reading him accurately. His experience with the “interview” by Scalfari ought to have made that evident. In addition to liberal misperceptions and distorted interpretations, he has also been misjudged by many on the more conservative side of the spectrum.
As I have said all along, Pope Francis – like every Pope – has to learn how to be Pope. He had less of an advantage coming to the See of Peter because he had not been in or around the Roman Curia. But he is adjusting, learning, transforming. Francis, as you can see everyday, is not static in his job. He isn’t simply on cruise control.
Continue to pay close attention to Pope Francis, not just in sound-bites, but in the larger arcs of his talks and speeches and written documents.
This is not a bone thrown to conservatives. This is the real deal. This is Francis.