The trouble with all these spontaneous initiatives is that they foster the idea that the Pope is getting ready not just for much-needed reform but also for substantial changes in papal teaching.
And that, it has to be faced, is one reason he is so popular with the secular world. In Fr Dwight’s words, such initiatives “cannot help but erode the more solemn teaching authority of the papacy.” “He won’t undo the work of the great Benedict: it would create too much ill-feeling,” said Damian a year ago. The secular media’s build-up of Pope’s Francis’s popularity has been partly based on his real qualities of human warmth and responsiveness but partly also on media denigration of his predecessor, with its suggestion that Francis is tacitly rejecting Benedict’s allegedly cold and inhumane legacy.
I note that another orthodox priest who admires Pope Francis, Fr Dwight Longenecker, is beginning to ask uneasy questions about Pope Francis’s grasp of the papal office: In almost every impromptu press conference, personal phone call, informal conversation, and unscheduled event the Pope’s candid and relaxed style has caused confusion, consternation, and bewilderment among the faithful. such an informal and often ambiguous method of communication cannot help but erode the more solemn teaching authority of the papacy….
We haven’t heard about them lately] “accompanied by shrugs worthy of a harassed maître d’ and “huh?
He relaxes you with his smiles and shrugging, and then tweaks your conscience so hard that you wince in pain.” So far, so good.
And I think that most of us agreed with that assessment then and still do. I have written blog after blog explaining that there is nothing to be worried about, that the liberals who were so pleased because they thought his relaxed manner showed he was a liberal like them were deluded, that actually he was as concerned as Benedict to defend the teachings of the Church, but he wasn’t going to do the job of the cardinal prefect of the CDF for him: his focus would be pastoral not dogmatic, but he would not be weakening the Magisterium he inherited. All the same, I note that Fr Z’s blog, which he renamed “Reading Francis through Benedict,” has now been once more renamed; now it’s simply “Fr Z’s blog”: is that because he no longer thinks that you read Francis through Benedict, that this Pope can no longer be perceived as believing mainstream Ratzingerian Catholicism, though propagating it in his own relaxed way? Fr Z, of the Pope’s latest airborne Press conference, notes that when Francis was asked what the forthcoming synod on the family would say about communion for the divorced and remarried, he was displeased, and made it clear that “I don’t like [it] that many people—even in the Church—priests—have said: “Ah, the Synod for giving Communion to the divorced,” and they’ve gone right there, to that point…. Today, everyone knows it, the family is in crisis: it is in a global crisis.” That’s what the synod is about: the crisis of the family.
Well, he’s not a traditionalist like his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Indeed, he’s positively anti-traditionalist, not aggressively so, but in an I-can’t-be-doing-with-all-that-fussy-nonsense kind of way.” Was “Francis the Chatterbox Pope” a recipe for disaster? “He won’t undo the work of the great Benedict: it would create too much ill-feeling and, at 76, he doesn’t have time.