Don’t be a sucker for the manufactured Benedict/Francis Feud Narrative

One of the narratives you will find being manufactured by the Andrew Sullivans and HuffPo types is the dream of some sort of “repudiation” of Benedict by Francis. The narrative is basically “evil old Benedict is finally being broomed into history by our New Leftist Pope who is finally going to usher in the Great Rosy Dawn of Pelvic Freedom for All!” It’s a complete delusion fostered by the tendency of narcissists to project themselves on the world.

But the irony, as we have seen, is that Reactionaries are *eager* to believe that people like Sullivan are dead right because they deeply believe, as much as Sullivan et al, that Francis rejects and seeks to subvert the Church’s teaching. The only quarrel between a Pelvic Dissenter like Sullivan and a Reactionary Francis hater is whether it’s good or bad that Francis means to destroy the Church.

In reality, however, Francis is not subverting the Church’s teaching at all, nor is he saying much of anything different than what Benedict had to say. There is no dissing of Benedict going on. There’s no quarrel and no feud. It is total fiction.

Popes are, doctrinally, completely predictable. They say what the Church says. When some guy in a paper mitre on some website declares that because Honorius or Liberius said something stupid privately a thousand years ago, or wimped out under torture 18 centuries ago and therefore Francis is probably a heretic, the lesson I learn is “Guys in comboxes saying stupid junk are a dime a dozen. Popes who even come close to being heretics happen roughly once a millenia. Therefore the odds are radically in favor of the proposition that the idiot in the combox is an idiot rather than the guy in Peter’s Chair being a heretic, even in his private opinions.”

Deep, cleansing breaths. Stop instantly believing it when some quack tells you to panic about Francis. The dude is a gift from God and he is articulating the Tradition in a way that is making the Tradition heard–and it’s the same Tradition Benedict articulated. So listen.

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  • FavaBeans

    Not everybody who expresses some concern with some things the Pope is saying is a reactionary, though. I genuinely feel that, as you often do to your perceived opponents, you are painting with too broad a brush and then being profoundly uncharitable towards the lot. To quote an article I read elsewhere this morning:

    “Hence, if you are troubled by some statements that Pope Francis has made
    in his recent interviews, it is not disloyalty, or a lack of Romanita to disagree with the details of some of the interviews which were given off-the-cuff.” (source:

    It is not unreasonable or disloyal to the office of the Papacy, properly understood, to disagree with the Pope that pro-life and pro-family advocates are “small minded.” Nor is it disloyal to disagree when the Pope says that unemployment is the greatest evil facing the world today. I simply refuse to believe that, myself having been laid off and unemployed twice in the past few years, that I am a victim of a greater evil than a young girl kidnapped into sex slavery, for instance.

    Yes there are reactionaries and rad-trads out there, but not all of us expressing concern are foaming mouth fanatics having spittle-flecked nutties, or whatever your favorite phrase du jour is now.

    Just a word of caution, as I believe your temper is getting the best of you again here.

    • BillyT92679

      I think the problem is, instead of being open-minded about what the Roman Pontiff is saying, the default is hand-wringing concern.

      That’s frustrating because it implies that our POV is somehow more appropriate than the pope’s. That comes off as hubristic.

      I guess, ultimately, let go and let God. And Mark and I and others aren’t seeing that in people. It’s time to just plant the mulberry bush in the sea here.

      • Stu

        I don’t see Mark and others, refusing to “let go” from wanting to engage commbox extremists who represents a minority of a minority of a minority. At some point it becomes a self-licking ice cream cone.

        What are we trying to achieve? Confront the fear of others? Bring people back into the fold? Sharpen our tribal spears? What is it?

        • AnsonEddy

          Part of letting go is being horribly vexed and frustrated at people who haven’t reached your level of inner calm.

        • enness

          “minority of a minority of a minority”

          How long ago were same-sex marriage proponents a minority of a minority of a minority?

          I guess you don’t know many people like this in real life…I do.

          • Stu

            Define “many” and then put forth how many total Catholics you know.

    • enness

      In my area, we had some street youths who had nothing better to do than harass and kill a man. Idleness is ripe for sin. Now, of course, I do not entirely buy that it was all because they couldn’t find employment — it’s quite a leap straight from there to homicide — but the fact remains that if they were otherwise occupied, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

  • Stu

    “eager?” I don’t think so. For many, I think there is a fear of the unknown that has in the back of its mind the destruction caused by the “Spirit of Vatican II” mindset along with the normal angst of having a “new boss”. Once that is understood, it becomes apparent that the best course of action is to slowly assuage the fear.

    • I’m somewhere in between. I think some of this is angst. Yet due to the various discussions I’ve had over the past few weeks on these issues (think I’m up to damn near 100) with some of those who find these problematic, a good majority of them are people who approach a papal text as something to shred and “refute” what the Pope said.

      Think of the RC guys, who put up a Holocaust denier within 5 minutes of Francis becoming Pope, stating that Francis was okay with gay marriage and silent on abortion as Bishop. RC later had to point out their own coverage proved that was false, and you haven’t heard anything from that source since. (That could just be a coincidence.)

      Had someone simply taken a deep breath and had a drink before posting, a lot of embarrassment could’ve been avoided.

      So there are a lot of people who are genuinely worried, but one also needs to realize there are some pretty bad apples out there, who are using this to fuel their own personality complex as grand crusaders.

      • Stu

        Of course, but the extreme elements use fear as a currency. That’s always the case. So in countering that message, where do you go? Direct confrontation with the extremists which is a) what they want and b) causes collateral damage amongst the fearful thus making them more aligned with the extremists OR do you systematically craft a message to the fearful who are likely the majority?

        I think this is a case for slow an steady messaging that simply highlights the continuity in the Office of the Pope.

        Now at the same time, people shouldn’t also go into a tizzy and yell “heretic” just because someone might disagree with the Pope on some offhand remark or second hand reporting of his words (hearsay) that you read in a magazine interview. There is room for disagreement on some things he says.

        • The slow and steady is a good course, but sometimes you need to act more rapidly. Sometimes you gotta engage those guys directly, you just need to do so with a calm keyboard or tongue. That’s more draining than anything else.

          Once the baby is born in February I’m taking probably at least 6 months off lol.

          • Stu

            “you just need to do so with a calm keyboard or tongue.”
            BUT…in doing so you are really much more making the case for the “fearful” who are watching the exchange. Cool and calm will attract a following. Hysteria and name-calling, which sadly has been the tactic du jour, not so much.

            So indeed, engage the ideas of the extremists but realize your audience is most likely those in the middle.

            And after the baby is born, you will never have a day “off” again.

            • That’s apologetics 101. (Though almost every apologist nowadays forgets this!) When you are dealing with someone who isn’t budging, he isn’t your audience. The average person who is sincerely questioning things is your audience.

              I think the message Mark provides here for that reason is more or less a good one, especially considering his audience is normally a lot different than the kind of people me and you are interacting with.

              • Stu

                More or less? Yes, it is good. Anything that counter that notion that the two are feuding is a good thing.

                But still a bit of blunderbuss into a crowd when attempting to get a sniper.

  • AquinasMan

    I think it’s gone FROM fear TO eagerness. The Reactionaries have passed judgment after fearing the worst (starting at the moment he walked onto the balcony), and now anything that can support their narrative is going to be held up as evidence in comfort of their dismay.

  • Paul NY

    I agree with much in this article in terms of the similarities between the thinking of Benedict and Francis. However, there would be far less hysterics and fear if Pope Francis would simply quote his predecessor more frequently to show the continuity that exists between them. There is the impression that Benedict XVI has been “thrown under the bus” by some clerics and I am sorry to say it…by Pope Francis as well. So much emphasis has been on their differences from liturgical views to what they wear and where they live, but not enough on the fact that Joseph Ratzinger has been preaching a Church of “yes” and a focus on “an encounter with Christ” for over 50 years.
    Pope Francis has made some extraordinary gestures to help bring people on the peripheries back to the faith. He could do much to discourage the infighting and provide justice to his predecessor if he would simply acknowledge the goodness of the Pope Emeritus in a very public way. It is long overdue.

    • enness

      Or you could share the picture of them together talking and smiling, because a picture is worth 1,000 words. (Why is it all up to him?)

  • kenofken

    Two men are in dispute. We want THUNDERDOME!

    • Stu

      That was good. Well played, sir.

      • Dave G.

        From the one who used ‘blunderbuss’ in a comment? High praise indeed.

    • Does the Vatican Master of Ceremonies have a rubric for that?

  • Dave G.

    Again, Ross Douthat gets the award for the best take on this issue so far:

  • Andy

    Lets see – Francis should quote Benedict more often. Why? Each of us is given by God a mind, an intellect and an ability to communicate. If we do not use these gifts what does that say about us? I think that it would be at best realistic for those who demand that Francis sound like Benedict or that he quote Benedict more often that they take the time to read Benedict – all of his works, not just the snippets that appeal to their sense of right and see the intimate connections.

    The continuity between Benedict and Francis and the teaching of the church is easy to see. Each pope has expressed what the church teaches in his own unique way – that is the way of life. To look for disunity or rupture speaks more to a desire to feel superior or a need to assuage internal fear. I see this represented in these comments from a well respected conservative site:

    “Here’s a crazy idea Jorge, instead of appealing to the world’s malformed conscience and misguided sense of “good” and “evil” and “moral” and “immoral” – why don’t you heed the actual commands of Our Lord:

    “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words — go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” – Matthew 10:14-15

Gee, Jesus sure sounded obsessed with his “words” didn’t He? Why, He didn’t sound the least bit interested in dialogue with defiant unbelievers, did He. And He didn’t sound too interested in world peace did He. Well no. No He didn’t. There was no tolerance and no compromise in Our Lord.

    After all, He came not to bring peace to the world – but rather, the sword of division.
    Lord, please send us a real pope.

    There is no comparison of Ratzinger’s brilliance and this Papal Logorrhea that shows no sign of abating.

    This pope rarely if ever references scripture, tradition, or the magisterial teachings. Either he doesn’t know these or has discarded them in favor of his own interpretation of Catholicism. That is absolute arrogance.

    It is no disloyalty to leave Francis, seeing as he has left the Catholic Faith some time ago. The foundation of the Papacy is the Faith; he does not have it, so he has not the Foundation.

    When will you realize that Francis is not a pope, but a heretical non-Catholic antipope? See for the truth about the Catholic faith and the false Vatican II sect. It’s necessary for salvation to see this information.

    We have a 1960, Flower child,hippy, “we are the world” Pope. Will it win converts? Not likely. Sure folk swill come in see the pope’s ideals lack substance, are weak and watered down—then head for the door. SAD!!

    He needs to quit with the interviews and speak ex cathedral, or write and encyclical so we can pin him down, and see his wavering heretic thoughts come to life, the Holy Spirit is going to be busy.

    David M., it’s precisely because we ARE faithful to the Magisterium that we traditional Catholics reject the errors, ambiguities, and novelties of the Judas Council and its Judas Popes, Francis being the fullest realization yet of the Judas Council’s manifold betrayals (e.g., its ecumenism, collegiality, religious freedom, reconception of the priesthood, pathological anthropocentrism, and its
    abominable Novus Ordo service).

    Note: we say that the post-concilliar popes are indeed popes, just as Judas was indeed an apostle. Do you think it’s any accident that the Gospel gives us the horrible examples of not one but two Judases? First, the actual Judas, then the second Judas in the form of Peter and his triple denial. And now as the Passion of Christ is replicated in the Passion of the Church, we again have two Judases: the Judas Council followed by its Judas Popes.

    I don’t agree with anything Godless Goddess says but I have to agree with this statement – Pope Francis is the Barack Obama of the Catholic Church!
    He even gets the same treatment from the media.

    All these interviews and controversial talks are all a show. The idea of the show is to keep people distracted and mesmerized.
    The real aim of this present papacy, and the Vatican Gay Lobby that backs it, is the liberalization of Catholic teachings on homosexuality. This is their ultimate goal. All who love the Church should stay sober and alert to the tricks and wiles of the enemy. “Be smart as serpents and gentle as doves.””

    The fear of Vatican II and Francis to me is overdone. There were excesses after Vatican II just as there were excesses after Nicea – actually pick a council. Each pope is his own man and sees the job in his own light. The fear people have because Francis does not sound like Benedict is, if it were not so problematic, almost laughable. I would suggest that they recall teh words of JP II “Be not afraid.”

    • Stu

      Two of those quotes are from Peter Dimond. Really? Do we really consider him mainstream and worth the effort? You can find just as much nonsense on the other extreme at the National Catholic Reporter. Do they represent most Catholics?

      I don’t see focusing on the extremist minority on either side to be fruitful.

      • Andy

        My point Stu is that people are getting their underwear in a twist trying to find separation between Benedict and Francis without actually knowing what either said.
        As far as Peter Dimond being mainstream or not – I won’t pass judgement which you did – I took them from a respected conservative site, one that is hardly seen as a extremist site. The tenor of those who are worried about Francis range from what was presented to “I wish he were more precise”.
        Disagreeing with the pope is not new, although I do not recall the same benefit given to those who disagreed with Benedict.

        • Stu

          And your overall point has merit. It really does.

          But using Internet commboxes as a means to possibly demonstrate prevailing thought just isn’t realistic. All it represents is the people who showed up which are often fringe elements who don’t even remotely represent the whole.

          And Peter Dimond is not mainstream in the slightest. You are talking “way out fringe” there and even he has access to the commboxes of “respected conservative sites.”

          BTW, here is his organization’s take on Pope Benedict XVI.

          Lector emptor.

          • Andy

            Stu – I guess I do not follow the “crazies” of the faith in either direction. I was not aware of Peter Dimond’s existence or his website. I was using the commboxes to point out that this type of commentary has gained a “mainstream” label if you will. I pray that these folks do not represent the whole or even a small part of the Catholic world, but they are the “face” right now of the uber-conservative Catholic world.
            God bless.

            • Stu

              Nothing you find in a commbox is automatically “mainstream.” It’s open to everyone and often dominated by the crazies. Anyone who thinks that commboxes represent an authoritative voice needs to really consider what constitutes a good source for information.

              • Andy

                I am not saying it is mainstream – I said ti takes the label of mainstream. Therein lies the problem – the crazies unlike you and I dominate and become the mainstream, that is unless they are called on it, or a strong counter-voice is heard.

                • Stu

                  Which is why one needs to vet sources before putting them up an example of what is “mainstream.” One easy way to do that is to avoid using commbox rhetoric as being indicative of anything authoritative.

                  It’s not.

                  It’s just noise.

          • enness

            “But using Internet commboxes as a means to possibly demonstrate
            prevailing thought just isn’t realistic. All it represents is the
            people who showed up which are often fringe elements who don’t even
            remotely represent the whole.”

            That is true, but there are people I know personally who say similar things. It squares with my experience in that way.

            • Stu

              Of course there are, but they are the fringe. We need to stop reacting to the fringe elements or putting for the notion that they represent the whole.

    • Paul NY

      Francis should quote Benedict (or any of his predecessors) more often to
      show continuity and to reassure the ignorant on both ends of the
      ideological spectrum that he is not in rupture with them and to
      highlight that this is what the Church has been teaching for years,
      contrary to the false stereotype.

      For example, imagine if Francis had said something like “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time….I agree with Pope Benedict when he said:
      “Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive
      option. It’s very important that we look at it again because this idea
      has almost completely disappeared today.”

      And then Pope Francis could have continued with his own emphasis. He would have avoided the ridiculous headlines claiming that he is completely out of step with the popes before him as well as the ones that demonized Benedict.

      Popes quote popes all the time and for good reason. It is a win/win.

      • Andy

        why is that necessary? I see no reason for Francis to quote Benedict other than to assuage the desires of those who see Benedict as the only pope.

      • Andy

        Let me continue 0 I was called away — Francis is not presenting the same message that Benedict is – Francis is emphasizing the external faith – how the world perceives the church – that takes a different message type. Benedict challenged our interior lives – he was forcing us to examine our prayer life our relationship with Jesus.
        Both messages are needed, they are complimentary, but they are different. Quoting Benedict to make people feel good about the message is not necessary – it is up to us to recognize the way the messages compliment each other. It is up to us to use our God-given intellect to comprehend what Francis is saying.

        • Paul NY

          Hopefully, Pope Francis IS presenting the same message that Benedict and every Pope has before him, albeit in his own, unique way.

          My point is if the person who’s job it is to “protect the deposit of the faith” is going to say something that can be interpreted or manipulated to appear as if he is changing a teaching, then it is incumbent upon him to show how it is (or isn’t) consistent with previous teachings. This is done by referencing scripture, the saints and previous popes.

          You said “It is up to us to use our God-given intellect to comprehend what Francis is saying.”

          True, but how is that working at the moment? Clarity is needed now and always.

          • Andy

            The words of Benedict were manipulated by people, hell, the words of our Lord have been manipulated. As long as we are people there will be those who try to manipulate what is said for their own purposes. I know of no one who can prevent that.

            • enness


      • capaxdei

        If you know what Pope Benedict said, then you don’t need Pope Francis to tell you when he’s saying the same thing.

        If you don’t know what Pope Benedict said, then why does it matter to you whether Pope Francis is saying the same thing?

        What Pope Francis says isn’t true on the authority of Pope Benedict.

      • enness

        I laugh thinking how impossible it would be for him to be able to “avoid” anything from the secular press. The left had him claimed as their man before the white smoke had even cleared, and damned if they’re not going to make it so.

    • Chesire11

      I shook the dust of your petulant rant about five paragraphs in, and four paragraphs too late.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        Most of his post is quotes from another site, which, if I read rightly, he doesn’t agree with.

        • Andy

          Thank you – I posted then to display the petulance of so many of the reactionary, to use our host’s term, catholics.

          • Chesire11

            My apologies, Andy! I missed that you were referencing comments elsewhere. I should have slowed down and read more carefully.

            I wuz wrong.

            • Andy

              Thank you for your apologies – I attributed to my poor writing skills, and not your fault.

  • jackryan

    Patheos really makes me laugh. Even the Vatican has now thrown Scalfari under the bus for an allegedly sloppy recounting of the interview, which contained many alarming statements, but all is hunky dory according to Patheos bloggers and blogettes. And the name calling is back, for good measure. It’s funny.

  • Steve

    Pope Francis has expressed nothing but warmth and reverence toward Pope Emeritus Benedict. One of the most frustrating things about the the new coverage has been the creation of that false narrative.