My Friend Greg Daly on the Continuity of Benedict and Francis

Published June 10, 2020

He writes:

Earlier this month, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI raised eyebrows around the world when, in a letter to the Church in Poland marking the centenary of the birth of Pope St John Paul II, he pointed to what he sees as a profound thematic unity between the papacies of the Polish Pope and his Argentine successor, Pope Francis. 

‘Through the resurrected Christ, God’s mercy is intended for every individual,’ the Pope Emeritus wrote. ‘Although this centre of Christian existence is given to us only in faith, it is also philosophically significant, because if God’s mercy were not a fact, then we would have to find our way in a world where the ultimate power of good against evil is not recognisable.

‘It is finally, beyond this objective historical significance, indispensable for everyone to know that in the end God’s mercy is stronger than our weakness. Moreover, at this point, the inner unity of the message of John Paul II and the basic intentions of Pope Francis can also be found: John Paul II is not the moral rigorist as some have partially portrayed him. With the centrality of divine mercy, he gives us the opportunity to accept moral requirement for man, even if we can never fully meet it. Besides, our moral endeavours are made in the light of divine mercy, which proves to be a force that heals for our weakness.’

That Benedict’s analysis will have been startling to many is disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, given how from the first much commentary on Francis’ papacy has read it as a decisive break – for good or ill – with the papacies of his predecessors, rather than in continuity with St John Paul and Benedict XVI. Certainly, those who paid attention to Francis’ life in South America, whether as a seminary head, a Jesuit provincial, an exiled confessor, or a bishop championing a new evangelisation, will have expected such continuity. 

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There’s much more here.

Every attempt to pit Francis against his predecessors and against the Tradition has always seemed to me to be transparently foolish.

3 Responses

  1. It’s common for people to juxtapose characters in ways they differ rather than how strikingly similar they are.
    When you take twins, they way they are commonly portrayed is in what ways they differ because their outward appearance is so strikingly similar (and without close scrutiny, identical).

    Even when done in good faith it leads to exaggerating the differences to the point where similarities are ignored. When done in bad faith, it creates adversaries or enemies that need to be taken down or destroyed.

    I’m Polish, so this is not new to me. Benedict is a very different pope than John Paul II was. It was hard for people to come to grips with that fact, so it was very welcome that he was described in how similar he was to JP2. In effect, pretty much everyone accepted him as the right pope.
    With Francis, it was very different. I think some writers thought it would be natural for us to accept him, so they emphasized what new he will bring to the papacy and how he will reinvigorate it. This led the way for other writers to attempt to depose him and present him as an illegitimate or dangerous. Unfortunately, a lot of this rhetoric came from RadTrad, and I admit I was taken in by its appeal because of how they twisted some facts (ignoring some, emphasizing others, to misconceptions – I’m afraid to call them lies since nobody can prove it).

    It seems that numbers of opponents of Francis are thinning out as their case is constantly getting weaker and as people realize this.

  2. I note the phrases “at this point” and “the basic intentions”. I read it as saying that Francis’ emphasis on mercy is not a break with John Paul II’s teachings on mercy (nor, I would add, with Benedict’s). And that’s obviously true.

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