With but a few exceptions, the “Francis is nicer than Benedict” meme continues to entrance the Anglophone press.
It appears that many who were once hostile to the Catholic Church have been encouraged to see in the new pontiff a reflection of their own social and political desires. Some of these assertions about what the pope believes and what he will do as head of the Catholic Church have bordered on the fantastic.
In choosing the pope as its “person of the year”, Time magazine’s editor Nancy Gibb wrote Francis had:
done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.
The new pope was a kinder, gentler man, Time believed, who had rejected “church dogma.” He was teaching a softer, more inclusive Catholicism, noting his:
focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made Francis something of a rock star.
This is rather mild compared to some liberal paeans to the pontiff. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland quipped “Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall.”
When the gay-lifestyle magazine, The Advocate, named Francis its “person of the year”, it explained its choice by stating:
Pope Francis’s stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors — both who were at one time or another among The Advocate‘s annual Phobie Awards — makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring. First there’s Pope John Paul II, who gay rights activists protested during a highly publicized visit to the United States in 1987 because of what had become known as the “Rat Letter” — an unprecedented damning of homosexuality as “intrinsically evil.” It was written by one of his cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Since 1978, one of those two men had commanded the influence of the Vatican — until this year. …