JP II, Benedict and Francis: On the Same Page

In case it’s not clear, this:

This man [Note: JPII is speaking of each and every person in the worldis the way for the Church–a way that, in a sense, is the basis of all the other ways that the Church must walk–because man–every man without any exception whatever–has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man–with each man without any exception whatever–Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it: “Christ, who died and was raised up for all, provides man”-each man and every man- “with the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme calling”

Since this man is the way for the Church, the way for her daily life and experience, for her mission and toil, the Church of today must be aware in an always new manner of man’s “situation”.

— JP II, Redemptor Hominis

means the same as this:

“I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Swiss Bishops 2006

means the same as this:

We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

— Pope Francis

And those guys are just getting it from Paul, who insists that the Law cannot save and can only tell you what’s wrong with you.  And he just gets that from Jesus, who insists that the law was made for man, not man for the law and that only he, not the law, can save.

Here’s the thing about Popes: They don’t really say anything novel, though they will often surprise you and say something old in a new way.

That’s kind of a gospel thing, saying old stuff in a new way:

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because * the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:7-8)

HT: Kevin O’Brien and Joe Grabowski for the B16 quote.

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  • kmk1916


  • AquinasMan

    Great post. Sums it up perfectly. Ultimately, spinners gonna spin. We may not have the media under our control, but we can certainly take care of evangelizing fellow Catholics to “go and do likewise” as the pope. That’s where the rubber really hits the road. We need to, so to speak, boil this frog we call the culture of death (or, as Francis calls it, the “culture of waste). Everyone can bitch about the Church, but if we follow the lead of the pope, people are going to look up one day and find we’ve changed the world.

  • jackryan

    Uh, they’re not the same Mark. Not at all. Everyone sees this at this point except a few.

    • HornOrSilk

      Not being the same is not the same thing as being on different pages. Their ways of dealing with things might differ, but they ARE on the same page.

    • chezami

      Who said they are the same? F for reading comprehension.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Please describe how these statements differ apart from style.

      • chezami

        Well, for starters, two of them were made by well-known liberal squishes who we can totally ignore because we are all exactly like St. Paul rebuking Peter. And the only other statement was not actually made by Benedict but by some liberal interpolator. You develop a sense about these things when you are a Real Catholic.

    • Alma Peregrina

      Mark has provided exact uninterpreted quotes from the 3 popes. Capaxdei up there even added one from Pope St. Pius X.

      You have provided a link to a pro-life newspaper (whose sole focus is abortion, so of course they’re not agreeing) and blank assertions.

      Abortion is still wrong. Homosexual “marriage” is still wrong. But now you don’t have these as weapons to throw to your brothers or to feel superior to them. As a christian, you have to be loving to them and focus primarily on Christ. Oh, the heresy!

  • capaxdei

    No one would confuse Pope St. Pius X for Pope Francis, nor the former’s E Supremi for the latter’s interview, but even here echoes of the former may be heard in the latter:

    ‘But in order that the desired fruit may be derived from this apostolate and this zeal for teaching, and that Christ may be formed in all, be it remembered, Venerable Brethren, that no means is more efficacious than charity. ‘For the Lord is not in the earthquake’ (III Kings xix., II) – it is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity… This charity, “patient and kind” (I. Cor. xiii., 4.), will extend itself also to those who are hostile to us and persecute us… They perhaps seem to be worse than they really are. Their associations with others, prejudice, the counsel, advice and example of others, and finally an ill advised shame have dragged them to the side of the impious; but their wills are not so depraved as they themselves would seek to make people believe. Who will prevent us from hoping that the flame of Christian charity may dispel the darkness from their minds and bring to them light and the peace of God? It may be that the fruit of our labors may be slow in coming, but charity wearies not with waiting, knowing that God prepares His rewards not for the results of toil but for the good will shown in it.’

    • Margaret

      “It is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the
      contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with
      their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity.” Wow. Love that whole passage. How beautiful.

      • A passage I quote frequently.

        Everyone has this idea of Pius X as this anti-modernist bombthrower, but there’s a reason he was the first pope in centuries to be canonized. There was a real bit of genius in Papa Sarto.

      • anna lisa

        I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • jackryan

    Hate to upset the amen corner here but the whole world, certainly most of the catholic worlds, sees that Francis is not, fully at least, on the same page with the last two popes, let alone the last 10. Even the hierarchy is getting confused.

    • Andy

      Lifesitenews hardly represents most of the catholic world.

      • Chesire11

        It is to some.

        • Andy

          but their view of the catholic universe is very narrow.

    • WesleyD

      Jackryan, that Lifesite article accepts the MYTH that Francis said that some in the Church are “‘obsessed’ with abortion, gay ‘marriage’ and contraception”. But Francis did not say that, even though the New York Times and the AP keep repeating that he did.

      Francis used the word “obsessed” only in one paragraph of the interview, and it wasn’t even the same paragraph that mentioned abortion. He said that “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all
      equivalent”, and faulted those pastors who are “obsessed” with imposing
      all these different teachings as if they were equally important. He
      did not say that abortion was one of the less important moral teachings!

      You might reply, “Perhaps he didn’t say it, but reading between the lines, he clearly meant it.” Well, then let’s look at what he said last Friday, the day after the interview came out. In his long talk about abortion, the Pope said that abortion is the “unjust condemnation” of an “unborn child” who “has the face of Jesus Christ”. Do you really think that Francis thinks that the unjust killing of the unborn Christ is just some minor peccadillo?

      He also went on to say that the right to life is “a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church”. Not just one issue among many: a priority.

      • Chesire11

        He didn’t even condemn anyone for obsessing about anything. He warned against the temptation to reduce the faith into a collection of almost sacramentalized rules.

  • Stu

    They are on the same page.

    But I do wish Papa would tighten up his delivery a bit. When you have NARAL and others similar people cheering what you said, for the wrong reasons, then there is a challenge to overcome.

    • jackryan

      They’re doing that because Francis is not on the same page as the last 2 popes.

      • chezami

        Yeah. He is. And the only people who don’t get that are the ignorant MSM and the Pope-hating Reactionaries bent on crediting the ignorant MSM because the want to discredit the Pope. Your peas in a pod.

        • Stu


          There are plenty of Catholics who don’t fall into either of the tribes you outlined above who are confused.

          • chezami

            Yep. And confused people don’t arroganly take it upon themselves to start pronouncing on how Francis is distorting the Tradition, etc. blah blah. They consider the incredible possibility that they might be wrong and not know what they are talking about.

            • Stu

              No, instead some perpetuate a false notion that the Pope has changed Church teaching and happily accept it.

            • contrarian

              I don’t think he’s distorting the tradition that starts with the second Vatican Council, which is why it is very easy to find this sort of language in his immediate predecessors. As other commenters have noted, however, this sort of language is more difficult to find in the writings of popes prior to the Council. No doubt, Francis’ language and style–in particular, his personalist approach– is very similar to that of his immediate predecessors. Moreover, like his immediate predecessors, Francis seems keen to distance himself from the post-Leo manualist school (in the interview, Francis referred to Thomists he read in his seminary days as ‘decadent’ and ‘largely bankrupt’, and written in an age of intellectual ‘decline’; I winced when I read that, and hope he doesn’t have Garrigou-Lagrage and other All-stars of that era in mind here.).

              It’s a piece of rhetoric to simply call him a ‘child of the 60’s’, and perhaps infelicitous as well. But one might reasonably conclude that he is adopting a language that has been used by popes since that time, but not previous to it. One might also wonder how successful this sort of language has been, given how disastrously things have gone during these last 60 years. Given how terribly things have gone, one might wonder if a new tone and style, and not one that recalls to mind the tone of his immediate predecessors, is in order.

              • chezami

                The teaching of the post-V2 Church does not start with the Council. Nor do Reactionaries guard the “true” tradition from before the Council. It is the essence of Reactionary arrogance to imply this garbage.

              • capaxdei

                On decadent Thomism, Pope Francis and Pope Benedict are on the same line of the same page. In his book Milestones, Pope Benedict wrote of his time as a student: “I had difficulties in penetrating the thought of Thomas Aquinas, whose crystal-clear logic seemed to me to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made. This may also have had something to do with the fact that Arnold Wilmsen, the philosopher who taught us Thomas, presented us with a rigid, neo-scholastic Thomism that was simply too far afield from my own questions.”

                Keep in mind that Thomism was mandated to be taught in every seminary. The professors and textbook authors were Thomists of necessity, not necessarily of conviction (much less skill).

                Still, I wouldn’t think Pope Francis meant Garrigou-Lagrange, mostly because I don’t think G-L was decadent or bankrupt. He was a Thomist of the Strict Observance, but his Thomism was a living system. Decadent Thomists don’t write brilliantly on St. John of the Cross.

                Even if Pope Francis respects G-L, though, I doubt he reads him very much. My impression is G-L is far afield from Pope Francis’s own questions.

                • contrarian


                  Good stuff.

                  You are right that Benedict wasn’t too keen on the manualists either. No doubt many of these post-Leo ‘Thomas digests’ weren’t that great, and were perhaps even a bit vanilla (not that the Summa itself reads like the Phaedrus!).

                  Problem is: this could be said of the ‘textbooks’ of any era; so I’m not sure, especially given that G-L is considered a ‘good example’ of the manualist school, why Francis would consider the post-Leo era (the era of ‘intellectual decline’ he speaks of) to be *particularly* ‘decadent’ or ‘bankrupt’, intellectually. And anyway, are we to imagine that seminary training was somehow *better* during the era of….well, when, precisely? Certainly, not anytime *after* the Council. I’ll take a drab manual over half of the crap that was assigned during the ‘dark days’ of seminary training, post Vatican II.

                  So if Francis wants to call out an era that was in ‘intellectual decline’, I can probably show him a recent seminary syllabus or two that would confirm that our era fits this label quite well. 🙂

                  Maybe he’s a fan-boy of G-L (maybe lots of things that aren’t immediately able to be falsified are in fact true regarding the man). But yes, as you say, his questions are different. I might put that point much less diplomatically, so I’ll use your fine phrasing here. 🙂

            • It would be nice to hear that more when Janet Smith and RR Reno do it. I know you do Mark, but people need to talk about that just as much I think. I’d argue even more, since unlike trads, people actually know who they are. 🙂

            • jackryan

              It is Francis who is confused chezami. That verbose interview makes it very clear.

              • Chesire11

                If you consider his interview verbose, that’s a pretty strong suggestion that it is not the speaker who is confused, but some members of his audience.

    • Donna

      My two cents – I think Francis has repeatedly indicated he is a son of the church and referenced the catechism when talking about the hot button issues. I do think he is on board with the church’s teachings and by extension in agreement with JP II and Benedict. His pastoral style is vastly different, though, as is his communication style. He is not precise in his verbal communication. It’s like he speaks in a stream of conscious fashion, which I find much more difficult to follow than JP II or Benedict. I have to work harder to try and understand what Francis is saying.

  • Chesire11

    There is a very human tendency to prefer nodding in agreement when your views are confirmed by an authority to scratching your head in confusion when an authority points out that you may have missed something along the way. Many of those who are so conspicuously distressed at Francis’ comments are accustomed to being confirmed by the public statements of the past two popes, while the errors of others are corrected. The comments of our Holy Father that so exercise them now, coincidentally, tend to be the ones that place their own conceits under the microscope, or confirm some aspect of faith that they themselves are still leaning.

  • Ellen

    If he names Marini has prefect of CDW, it will be very clear that he and B16 are not at all on the same page. Sorry, Mark. You’re going to hurt yourself someday, doing all these cartwheels.

    • chezami

      Bored… Losing consciousnezzzzzzzzzzz…….

  • Katalina

    I have two things to say about this. One that people tend to forget that this Pope was not personally present at the Council so maybe he has the wrong reading of the council COMMUNIO vs Concilium. Also I am sick and tired of the word REACTIONARY being thrown about by certain potters. It is a for of name calling that Francis has been warning us about for several weeks now. I myself have some reservations about him but they are not doctrinal but disciplinary, so we known he can’t teach error in Faith or Morals. Also he should not be called a Modernist as I pointed out to a certain well known blogger. Marvel Lefebvre called Venerable Paul VI this in the mid seventies and this is what got him suspended by the Vatican.