Fr. Dwight Longenecker Ponders Pope Francis

Is he a Reformer or a Revolutionary?

Dude. All I know is that Sir Elton John likes him. That ought to be divine approval enough for anybody.

Seriously, what interests me is how Francis keeps being perceived as somehow uniquely humble (in apparent contradistinction to Benedict). This is weird for anybody who paid any attention to Benedict, who is a profoundly gentle, modest, respectful, and humble man.

So why this perception difference? I suspect it has to do with the fact that Benedict is obviously an introvert while Francis clearly likes to get out among people and is manifestly extroverted (rather like John Paul). The tendency, particularly with extroverts like Elton John, is to perceive introverts as standoffish snobs. And when you combine that with Benedict’s love for liturgical beauty, the assumption of our culture is (wrongly, but almost inevitably) “Prideful prelate concerned with silk and lace and not with people”. It’s a deeply unfair judgment to Benedict, but I think that’s the genesis of this perception.

The problem is that Pack Journalism runs with such narratives and then Catholics start repeating them and picking sides in the “Whose the Better Guy?” contest. I think Benedict greatly feared that and has happily ducked out of public view in order to not create such proto-schismatic thinking: which is not small testimony to the truth of how deeply humble a man he is.

I can’t feel anything but gratitude for both these men. They are gifts far beyond our desserts. Thanks be to God for them.

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