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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Francis and Benedict

Francis and Benedict

Image from Catholic News Agency

          Here’s a newsflash to the world: Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are both Peter, and they are also different people.  (I speak, of course, of when Benedict was pope, not pope emeritus.)  Obviously the readers of this blog understand what that means, but much of the world seems to be struggling with it.
          First, there’s the secular American media, who see everything in terms of American politics and think that everyone else does, too.  The first questions they asked upon the election of the new pope were: “Will Pope Francis change Church teaching on contraception?  What about abortion?  How about gay marriage?  Ordination of women, perhaps?”  They do not realize that Pope Francis is Peter, with the charism of infallibility when he teaches the whole Church on matters of faith and morals.  To save the secular media the trouble, I can easily answer their questions for them: no, no, no, and no.
          None of those issues are changeable or negotiable.  They are part of the Deposit of Faith, given us by God, who will not change His Mind on them.  Watching the American press scramble for answers to these questions provides comic relief, but nothing of real substance.  Of course, it gets dangerous when they use lies about our pope to further a political agenda.
          Case in point: the suggestion that as a cardinal, Pope Francis supported civil unions for homosexual people.  This, of course, has been soundly denied, and Cardinal Bergoglio’s statements on gay marriage included stronger condemnations than anything I ever heard from Pope Benedict.  But, the Supreme Court is about to take up the case of California’s Proposition 8, which found its strongest support among Catholics and Mormons, so we should expect the media to try and weaken the Catholic case in the public mind.
          What’s worse is when even Catholics start buying into this stuff.
          What I’ve been hearing more of from some Catholics, unfortunately, are complaints (even suspicions) about the pope’s liturgical style.
          I should first say that I appreciate anyone’s concern with the protection of our liturgy, and the lessons we were taught by Pope Benedict, and especially his famous motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, are precious and should not be forgotten.
          But Pope Francis is a different man, whose style is simple.  That is who he is, and the Holy Spirit gave him to us.  Perhaps there are more lessons we can learn.  Liturgical abuse would be one thing, but we should not panic because of his simpler style.  Just as Pope Benedict told us the Novus Ordo Mass and the Extraordinary Form should work together to inform each other, and to deepen our love of the Mass, so too should the lessons of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis complement each other to inspire a deeper love and understanding of the liturgy.
          As a Church, we have embraced our new Holy Father, and the few concerns that I have heard raised have, for the most part, been raised with charity and sincerity.  We all need to remember, however, that vigilance in protecting our liturgy from abuse is certainly a virtue, but suspicion is not.  May faith and charity guide us all.