Discontinuity and coverage of pontificates of Popes Francis and Benedict

At Monday Vatican Andrea Galiarducci, has an interesting piece.  It is worth reading, but be prepared for a clunky translation, some rambling, and a buried lead.  To be sure this writer is smart, well-informed, and solid.  He could benefit from a better translator and an editor.

What Galiarducci does in this piece is talk about how Francis’ pontificate builds on and contrasts from Benedict’s.  He underscores an important point in most coverage of Francis: It is as if the Church was never interested in “the poor” before Francis came along, which is patently absurd.  The absurdity about that discontinuity just scratches the surface of what is absurd about some coverage of Popes Francis and Benedict.

Galiarducci goes into the weeds a bit with information about the reform of Vatican finances, but wade through them.

I was struck by a couple paragraphs which come toward the end of the longish article.  Samples:

Media need to understand that between one Pope and another there is a series of reforms that need to be carried out to ber effective, and that Francis cannot carry anything forward without appreciating and valuing the work of his predecessor. For instance, as Francis, Benedict XVI had spoken of a poor Church for poor. He did during his 2011 trip to Germany, when he outlined a Church that had to be less worldy, less appeased on its own structure. [We can, and must, read Francis through Benedict, but with a difference.]

It was a slap on the face, for the wealthy German Church. Benedict XVI revoked the latae sententiae commination of excommunication for those who do not pay the “Kirchensteuer,” the Church tax. The excommunication was an outcome of the fact that when one declared he was not going to pay the tax because he was not Catholic anymore, this declaration was considered the equivalent of an act of apostasy. The German bishops responded with a document which stated that not paying the Kirchensteuer was equivalent to a “grave public sin,” which bore in the end the same consequences of an excommunication. Until now, this is the only “grave public sin” German bishops have listed, while for every other “grave public sin,” included that of being divorced and civilly remarried (which also has a social impact), German bishops (including reformer Cardinals Marx, Kasper and Lehmann) ask to act with mercy.

How Benedict’s pontificate fares or fared is – now – the least of our problems.  There’s an awful lot going on and we had better keep our heads on a swivel.  But some sobriety needs to be applied to assessments of the present pontificate.  Much of what we read these days is sycophantic slop.

 

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12 Responses to Discontinuity and coverage of pontificates of Popes Francis and Benedict

  1. Imrahil says:

    Benedict XVI revoked the latae sententiae commination of excommunication for those who do not pay the “Kirchensteuer,” the Church tax. The excommunication was an outcome of the fact that when one declared he was not going to pay the tax because he was not Catholic anymore, this declaration was considered the equivalent of an act of apostasy.

    Only a) he didn’t, and b) it is – not apostasy necessarily (what would the Church know whether the Church-leaver still worshipped our Lord), of course, but quite certainly schism, at least on the objective side of the things.

    Pope Benedict did give his signature to a decree of the Interpretations Council that said (for whatever reason) that it did not constitute an act of formal defection. But he never said leaving-Church was not schismatic; he never ordered the German bishops to withdraw their decree which ordered a practical interdict for Church-leavers; and he never ordered the German bishops to do away with the Church-tax as binding on all Catholics (willing or unwilling, as long as Catholic). Being Pope he could have done all of that.

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  3. Gerard Plourde says:

    It seems to me that the financial reforms now being carried out certainly build upon Pope Emeritus Benedict’s work. Whether certain specific measure have to be rethought and implemented differently need not be considered a repudiation of the course of action already planned. Rather it could be an adjustment of that course in the face of new facts and issues coming to light.

    Further, regarding the secular media’s coverage of the two pontificates it is good to remember that news outlets by and large deal with complex issues in a simplistic manner. They make snap decisions concerning “good guys” and “bad guys”, whether a policy is “liberal” or conservative” and the like and never have the humility to revise their assessments when confronted with new data. In the case of the Catholic Church, most matters defy easy stereotype. For example, the secular media’s casting of those who revere the Tridentine Mass as reactionaries who are more interested in returning to some “quaint’ past conveniently neglects to acknowledge that that past gave birth to and sustained such movements as Catholic Action which sought to bring Catholic principals of justice to society and was specifically championed by St. Pius X. Thus Pope Benedict’s call for a less worldly Church is not a call to withdraw from the world but rather a call to recognize where the moral values espoused by the world (including moral behavior in the area of economics) are in conflict with the Church’s teachings and to make the Church’s voice heard.

  4. AnnTherese says:

    Yes, the church’s care for the poor is not new with Francis. How could it be? We are Christian, and care for the poor is central to Jesus’ teachings. The difference I’ve observed is, with Francis, I am not just HEARING about care/love for the poor, but I am watching the leader of our Church MODEL this for all of us. And, I believe, living it concretely comes from a deep place in his faith life. That is inspiring–and, yes, it feels new.

  5. acardnal says:

    “The German bishops responded with a document which stated that not paying the Kirchensteuer was equivalent to a “grave public sin,” which bore in the end the same consequences of an excommunication.”

    I don’t believe an episcopal conference by itself has the authority to declare something – anything – a “grave public sin.” Moreover, “grave public sin” does not necessarily result in excommunication.

  6. mamajen says:

    Was reading the latest interview today and Pope Francis himself came right out and stated that so much of what is said about him is just made up (for example, eating “with the homeless” on his birthday was not his idea, and they just happened to be there as he was doing his usual thing). He actually used the word “fantasies”. He also referenced things that Pope Benedict has said at least twice.

  7. pj_houston says:

    There’s no doubt Francis wants to create an all- inclusive, non-judgmental and pastoral Church (or as some say, bring them all in). He tried to do this in Buenos Aries with miserable results. This is in direct opposition to what PBXVI predicted as a smaller Church, but one more faithful to its doctrines and upholding of its traditions, that will plant the seeds for future greatness. This is such a huge contrast between the two, that I don’t really see how one can read Francis through Benedict anymore.

  8. marcelus says:

    And the author , obviously looking for publicity on the silly conspiracy theory of the Team Bergoglio!!! later went back on his tracks.So it is just another piece by italians putting PF under a bad ligh, we should not echoe that.

    “Ivereigh said he regretted phrasing the episode to make it seem that Bergoglio had been approached about being a candidate and gave his backers encouragement.“That never happened and I am sorry that I gave the impression that’s what happened,” Ivereigh told Religion News Service. “I think the whole chapter makes clear that he never had any role at all in his own election.”

    From Francis :

    And about being Pope, what do you like the most and what least of all?

    – You know. and this is the absolute truth, this is something I actually want to say. Before I came over here I was in the process of retiring. That is to say, I had agreed with the nuncio that when I got back to Buenos Aires we would be putting together a short list of three candidates so that by last year end the new archbishop might take over. That is to say, my mind was focused on the confessionals of the churches where I would be hearing confession. I even had the project of spending two or three days in Luján and the rest of my time in Buenos Aires, because Luján means so much to me and the confessions there are a grace. When I came here I had to start all over again, all this was new

  9. Bosco says:

    Dear Father Z..

    You observed:

    “There’s an awful lot going on and we had better keep our heads on a swivel. But some sobriety needs to be applied to assessments of the present pontificate.”

    A hearty ‘you betcha’ from this quarter. When all those heads commence a-swiveling (if not already long begun) it is to be hoped that said heads will remember their fixed starting point.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    Comparisons between and among people including popes is never a good idea. Someone always comes out looking worse, or better, and comparisons seem to be mostly subjective in the press these days, despite this interesting article.

    I would suggest praying for this Pope and fasting as well. Leaders are not made and do not grow in vacuums and we are the Church from which Pope Francis has come.

  11. StephenGolay says:

    A prior reader mentioned “Catholic Action”. Let that one pass, as I organize a rally for Captain Dreyfus!

    But the reminder of Pope Benedict’s suggestion (call ?) for a “smaller” Church is appreciated: refined by both fire and a love of handed-on wisdom. (Which does not equate with, or is reduced to, a Catholic “tribalism”.)

    Yet, where , one needs to ask, is Francis” continuity with that, I’m sure, painful judgment of Benedict’s? Or, has he simply “revisioned” it? (An ugly term, reminds one of that even uglier one, “repurpose”.) If so, what has been its translation? How does one read it?

    Not all Pope Francis” doing, but the present climate of being so besotted with every word and gesture of his is a bit disturbing – and suffocating. The atmosphere is thick with it, in good part because many – and not all on the worldly left – interpret the heavy atmospheric particles of words and deeds as being in great *discontinuity* with the John Paul/Benedict Pontificates. Such seed stormy weather. At least, that is their expectations as they read the storm clouds on the horizon: a monster of a Northeasterner pushing aside the works of repentance and obedience as its front of chilled over mercy barrels all before it.

    Could be that Pope Francis – in spite of his shudders over proselytizing – is much worried about the notion of a “reduced” Church; for he has seen it in South America. Samuel Gregg, this week, puts a partial explanation on the matter over at Catholic World Review.

    But the concern there is not the frame by which Benedict pictured out his ruminations. When Pope Benedict put it thus – almost offhandedly – it had the air of a proper prophecy about it. Now, that is atmosphere I can breathe.

  12. Well, as for the portrayal of Pope Francis, you’d swear that the other guy (Pope Benedict XVI), never talked to the poor, visited abuse victims, or even took a bus. Thank goodness those of us that keep up with the Church know better.