From the first days of his papacy Francis has been hailed as a radical reformer. The mainstream journalists have enjoyed creating a new narrative: The shadowy Dan Brown-type Vatican (as we all know) is worm eaten with secret pedophiles, a cadre of homosexuals, mobsters running the Vatican Bank, an ancient, sinister international conspiracy and Cardinals who are shady, secretive and scheming. Benedict XVI was, at best, a congenial old duffer more interested in red shoes and fancy vestments and giving top jobs to his cronies than in cleaning up the church. At worst he was the Goblin King sitting happily on top of the dung pile of the Catholic Church.
Then along comes the new St. Francis! The Cardinal from Buenos Aires who lived among the poor, took the bus to work and cooked his own rice and beans. The new broom is going to sweep clean. Down with the old and up with the new. Pope Francis is probably a Liberation Theology sympathizer– a revolutionary like “Good Pope John” who started the second Vatican Council which was the revolution the church needed in the 1960s. Since then John Paul II and Benedict XVI tried to turn the clock back, but at last the new springtime of the church is back. Bring out the love beads and bell bottoms! Viva Papa Francesco! Revolution is here to stay!
Or perhaps not.
The problem with the narrative devised by the secular press is that it is constructed on philosophical presuppositions of which the journalists themselves are probably ignorant. The modern secular world interprets world events and history according to a hermeneutic of revolution or what Pope Benedict called a hermeneutic of rupture. This is essentially a Hegelian understanding of history in which there is thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In other words, there is a status quo, there is the challenge to the status quo and this brings about conflict out of which a new order is born.
This “hermeneutic of revolution” was pioneered at the Protestant Reformation–which is properly called the Protestant Revolution. Before that there was conflict, but for the most part the conflict was between nations, tribes or kingdoms. To revolt against one’s own tribe or nation was considered treachery and treason. However, the Protestant Revolution changed all that. The Protestant Revolution was perceived as righteous. At that point the precedent for revolution was established, and Western society has been determined and driven by the idea of righteous revolution as progress ever since. When I say “revolution as progress” the assumption is not only that things move forward through revolution, but that the revolution must, by definition, be a good thing. For the modern secularist, revolution means progress and progress must, by definition, be a move forward.
The key mark of revolution (as opposed to legitimate reform) is that the revolutionary is not only eager to bring about a new order. He must first destroy the old. Revolution is iconoclastic. The old must be destroyed in order for the new to be established. This is why we can characterize most of the Protestant Reformation as revolution rather than reform. The Protestants were not content to simply reform the medieval Catholic Church. They had to destroy the whole thing and start again. Read More.