Reading Francis Through Benedict

That mean name-calling pope Francis Benedict, using language to try to describe a problem and teach the flock instead of saying “Way to go, Real Catholics[TM].  Keep bringing the truth to the CINOs and the Church of Nice.  It is I who should be taught by you!  I’m sorry I’ve been such a disappointment to Catholics as great as you are.” He’s so mean. And plus, who even knows what his point is?

Ratzinger said: “the other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…” [Emphases and illustrating link added by Yr. Obdt. Svt.]

Pretenses about Francis’ alleged vagueness and impenetrable prose to the contrary, it’s not super hard to understand what either Francis or Benedict are getting at here, just as it’s not super hard to know what the phrase “adolescent progressivism” is getting at (*cough* Pelosi *cough* Biden).  What is extraordinarily hard for pious Pelagians to acknowledge is that they, even they, have something to learn from the Church and that the flock is not neatly divisible into the the filthy CINO Church of Nice vs. Real Catholics[TM].  We are, all of us, slobs and sinners and the gospel offends us all–especially those who say “we see” even when Holy Church is recommending we get glasses.

So, for instance, when the pope, diagnosing various taxonomies  of spiritual worldliness, adds the remark (in the passage right after the much hystericized-about bit concerning self-involved neopelagian prometheans) “A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying” he is more than a little describing Yr. Obdt. Svt’s approach to navigating the hubbub in the Church and telling him, firmly but politely, to think it possible that something needs to change.

Just in case you think I believe myself somehow immune from the pope’s very perceptive analysis of things.

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  • Dan C

    That so so many phrases of Francis map back so obviously to Benedict, and even the regional bishops’ conferences statements so often quote Benedict and his encyclicals, demonstrates someone listened to Ratzinger for years.

    We will see what Ratzinger really taught when the AmChurch pays attention to the third world churches who seem to actually have paid attention to Ratzinger, in a complete way, not just cherry-picking Wednesday audience quotes.

    • Stu


      I agree with your overall assessment. But also think it cuts both ways. Indeed, Pope Benedict said the same things, yet those who you would call “liberal” certainly didn’t pick up on it but instead focused on the things he said that they didn’t like. Specifically, that we need to clean up the liturgy and actually return focus on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being about worship of God. Now that Pope Francis has the lead, he is perceived by those who you would call “liberal” as being “one of them” so they are happy to cherry pick out the things he says that they really like to hear. Those that you would call “conservative” aren’t familiar with these thoughts, even though as you point out there is nothing new and the consternation starts.

      I long for a time when we finally unite deep, transcendental, awe-inspiring, no expense spared worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with a deep devotion and focus on justice for the poor once we leave the church building. And personally, I think you can’t have one without the other.

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        I agree. And I would add that we need to be aware that ‘the poor’ have all sorts of faces and forms. The person next to me in the pew who I just can’t stand, or the one whose views on politics/morality/religion drive me batty – these may be the poor I am called to love. I long for a day when the things you say above are true… and a deepening of our Christian charity towards each other. But… it has to start with me.

        • Marion (Mael Muire)

          What you said . . . but not only that, in addition to food, clothing, shelter, the poor have a need for transcendence, a need to have their spirits lifted and their hearts and minds renewed by an encounter with beauty and truth. They need to have their spirits soar. And they receive all of this in the same way that the rest of us do: through a real awe-inspiring encounter with the holiness of God in the company of others.

          A beautiful and uplifting celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a gorgeous church building is a gift to the poor as much as much as to the rich.

          • Fr. Denis Lemieux

            Absolutely. We do the poor a great disservice by thinking all they care about is bare material sustenance. My community runs soup kitchens in a couple big Canadian cities, and the poor who come to us have a great appreciation for beauty, music, and a great love, often, of the peace and silence of our chapels, along with their hunger for a bowl of stew.

          • Stu

            Saint Jean Vianney, pray for us.

        • Stu

          Ahhhhh, Father.

          You mean I can’t pick the people I want to love? 😉

          It does make me reflect that God has made me rich in opportunities to love. And that can be a tough realization. Thanks for the reminder.

          • Fr. Denis Lemieux

            Well, you can, but there might be…. Consequences to that choice (duh duh duh!!!!!) 😉

          • IRVCath

            Right. And if you want to help the poor, there’s likely to be some in your backyard.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Amen! Mark, you are on fire with this stuff. Keep it up – this post in particular is great, great, great.

  • Stu

    I wonder how much more effective this post would have been had you lead with the first paragraph. Might have changed the whole tone of the piece.

    • If he was feeling particularly trolly, he should’ve posted the quote and said francis said it, then go “I love this guy!” Then when a bunch of people get angry about it, point out it was Benedict TROLLOLOLOLOLOLOL.
      If he is going to troll people, he might as well go all out. 🙂