Short Term Memory Loss and Francis’ ‘Unique’ Humility…

… I do believe this is largely what I was referring to in my post a few days ago; how the media goes amazeballs [to quote a friend] over Pope Francis grandiose displays of humility – as if no pope before him had the same qualities or cared about the poor. Our Pope Francis is a fantastic guy, true enough, but he isn’t the only pope that exuded humbleness. This intentional short term memory loss is starting to feel more like the Cult of Francis and less like an embracing of Catholicism.

You can argue that it’s wonderful Pope Francis is attracting people to the faith that otherwise would not be attracted to it, those more social justice minded folks. And it is. My worry; however, is those very same people will very quickly become disenchanted with the Pope once they realize he’s not just all lover of the poor and Mr. Simplicity. He’s also had some very strong words against homosexual marriage and his stance is the same regarding abortion and lady priests. He’s not going to bring about the sweeping ‘reform’ social justic-y folks seem to generally advocate for.

That’s why all this media focus on Francis’ humility seems disingenuous. It’s not the Holy Father whose actions I question, because I truly believe he’s 100% genuine, it’s the intentions of the media and those who embrace him solely for his acts of public humility. That is what is troubling.

Jason Welle, SJ, has a well written article calling attention to this tendency we have at short term memory loss regarding the papacy. He writes;

Some exciting news to come from the Vatican: the pope invited the homeless over for lunch. Yes, amidst the opulence that is the Vatican, the bishop of Rome had opened his doors to over 200 of Rome’s homeless residents. Recognizing the solidarity of Christians with the poorest among us, he sat down to a shared meal at a table shared with a Muslim and an immigrant from China. Of course, religious (ahem) Vatican watchers weren’t surprised by Pope Benedict’s luncheon with the homeless, since he had visited a Roman soup kitchen not long before.

Wait a minute. Pope Benedict? Did you maybe think you were reading about a certain Pope Francis hosting a similar event this week? Because you might have read about his own invitation to the homeless, and a lunch hosted by a Vatican cardinal in his name.

Also, Pope Francis didn’t personally attend the luncheon but to the reporting agencies that apparently is neither here nor there.

While I did enjoy reading Mr. Welle’s article, you can’t help but get a sense of that ‘slight’ I was referring to when I wrote, “Every time I read about how humble Francis is I take it personally, as a slight meant to imply that his predecessor was some how not.”

Now I’m sure no slight was intended and I’m going to assume the best, that the author has equal affection for both Francis and Benedict. But yeah …

Nonetheless, Pope Francis really seems to to inspire an excitement that hasn’t been experienced in recent years, among believers and non-believers alike. I definitely share in this excitement. I’m curious about why that is, though. Do we really just have such a short memory that it seems like Francis doing something entirely novel?

My own sense is it that Pope Francis really just brings a simpler, more approachable style to his position than his predecessors, and that lends a dose of freshness to whatever he does.

My takeaway – Pope Francis, fresh. Pope Benedict, eh not so much.

So you see, my ire is not with the Pope himself, but the public’s reaction to him. How he is received is out of his control – up to a point. I still maintain that I’d like my Vicar of Christ a bit more kingly, as fitting of his position, but alas. My opinion carries very little weight in Rome.

So anyway, this is a start. A good start. A mighty fine start, in fact, as I work through all this, to recognize the major sources of my unease. Maybe for those who’ve reached out to me expressing their same frustrations this can be a start for them too. It’s not the pope, it’s the press and the people who want to use the Pope’s displays of humility for changing the Church into what they believe She should be.

Because I never did that with Pope Benedict.

Wait, what?

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Fr Ray Blake

    I think we have to separate the image the media create for Pope Francis and who Francis actually is.
    I think we are all getting sick of the image the secular media are creating, including I suspect the Holy Father himself. What we have is as realistic as the Rottwheiler Pope, it is froth! but is better media supports rather him than chooses to destroy him.

  • Ryan Hite

    I think that Francis is trying to steer the Catholic Church away from the politics that plagued the Benedict era. He is focusing on the things that really matter in terms of the mission of the RCC.

  • Quittin’ time at Tara!

    Sorry, I’m sick of blaming the media for the Church’s problems. They’re just reporting who the man really is.

    • Roki

      I agree that we shouldn’t blame the media for the Church’s problems. But this is actually blaming the media for the media’s problems: their short-sightedness, their inability to remember anything more than a news-cycle ago, and their compulsive need to reduce everyone and everything to their own narrow categories. They do this with the Church, with politics, with economics, with entertainment, with pretty much any area they cover.

      See Get Religion for more examples.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      The Church has a problem caused by the media… things I never said.

      PS- I think they are trying to spin an image of the man that is the most appealing to them. You know… to make him more palatable to those social justice-y types.

      PPS – GWTW, FTW!

  • CSmith

    I think part of the strangeness in the reporting coming from secular media is because it IS secular media. The whole paradox of Christianity, i.e., the last shall be first, the balance of truth and grace, etc. is just nonsensical to secular thought. How could such a humble man (F1) make it to the very top of his “profession” and still be so humble? Of course a man (BXVI) who is so concerned with rules is going to be a Rottweiler!
    Not to mention the agenda that drives a lot of media output. As if by highlighting the humbleness of the Pope, it would temper his lessons on truth. It seems people in media need a reminder that the Pope is not just another politician, celebrity, or mogul who is concerned with polls and public opinion–and that he answers to a much higher Consciousness with a much different agenda

  • Guest

    Thanks for posting this. I think there are even Catholics out there who don’t have as much appreciation for Pope Benedict as they probably should, and it’s hard for those of us who really appreciated his papacy to see the media just praising Pope Francis, using speculations that always seem to condemn the now Pope-Emeritus in his papacy. There’s some things the media will never understand, and I think it’s even harder knowing that there are also Catholics who also *just don’t get it.* So Pope Francis wears black shoes and Pope Benedict wore the symbolic, papal red. Does that automatically make one better than the other? Can anyone making such a claim (either way) even give solid grounds for such an argument?–when half of them don’t even understand symbolic traditions?—let alone virtue.

  • Guest

    Thanks for posting this. I think there are even Catholics out there who don’t have as much appreciation for Pope Benedict as they probably could (if they only knew and understood), and it’s hard for those of us who really appreciated his papacy to see the media just praising Pope Francis, using speculations that always seem to condemn the now Pope-Emeritus in his papacy. There’s some things the media will never understand, and I think it’s even harder knowing that there are also Catholics who also *just don’t get it.* So Pope Francis wears black shoes and Pope Benedict wore the symbolic, papal red. Does that automatically make one better than the other? Can anyone making such a claim (either way) even give solid grounds for such an argument?–when half of them don’t even understand symbolic traditions?—let alone virtue.

  • Aljoz

    Thanks for posting this. I think there are even Catholics out there who don’t have as much appreciation for Pope Benedict as they probably could (if they only knew and understood), and it’s hard for those of us who really appreciated his papacy to see the media just praising Pope Francis, using speculations that always seem to condemn the now Pope-Emeritus in his papacy. There’s some things the media will never understand, and I think it’s even harder knowing that there are also Catholics who also *just don’t get it.* So Pope Francis wears black shoes and Pope Benedict wore the symbolic, papal red. Does that automatically make one better than the other? Can anyone making such a claim (either way) even give solid grounds for such an argument?–when half of them don’t even understand symbolic traditions?—let alone virtue.
    I get the same feelings you do, Crescat. I love Pope Francis, but I can’t stand how the media uses him against the Church that he stands for and loves like creating some “Pope Francis Camp” that stands up against a “Pope Benedict & Before Camp.” I think that’s why I always find such peace in seeing the photos and videos of Pope Francis with Pope Emeritus Benedict.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I deleted the repeat comments, just an FYI. They weren’t deleted for content.

  • Elena Maria Vidal

    Both Popes are holy men who have different personalities and hence different approaches, like St. Peter and St. Paul. The world has a narrow view of the papacy and of Catholicism. It tries to make sense by making comparisons, but as St. Teresa of Avila said, “Comparisons are odious.”

    • Donna G

      Elena, that is a very wise and helpful response.

      • Elena Maria Vidal

        Thank you, Donna.

  • echarles1

    Perhaps it would help to remember that B16 resigned, that his judgements are sound and that the Holy Spirit guided that decision and the decision of the Conclave that elected Francis. As for the media, let them have of Francis what they want. As Homer Simpson said once, “Let the baby have his bottle.”

  • oregon catholic

    The differences between JPII, Benedict, and Francis are going to become about far more than style, imo. If Francis starts the Vatican housecleaning that most expect him to do it can’t help but reflect poorly on his predecessors under whose watch it festered. I think the corruption had a lot to do with Benedict’s resignation. We can’t forget that Benedict was in a position for decades at the CDF and in the papacy to have done much that apparently didn’t get done. I won’t even get into what JPII overlooked…

    I for one hope that worrying about how something will reflect on his predecessors won’t play into Francis’ actions – the Church can’t afford that kind of pussy-footing around reputations, we’re in crisis.

  • 2RC2

    Did you ever see this? It was floating around the ‘net right after the conclave. It’s about the distinct traditions of popes who have been vowed religious rather than secular. I think it might help. http://forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=10504962&postcount=77

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Thanks.

  • Rhetor

    Right: we should not accept the MSM’s cartoonish depictions of the popes. They are attempts to neutralize the challenges that the popes, Catholicism, and religion in general pose, certainly for religion people, but more especially for a secular society. If Pope Francis can be made over into a cuddly Francis the Nice (sort of a papal Barney the dinosaur), if Pope Benedict can be made over into a mean old crank (sort of a papal Mr. Burns), we can all just ignore them and go about our business/shopping/hook-ups.

    Most of all, we Catholics cannot let the cartoonish depiction of one pope (Benedict) anger us into adopting the cartoonish depiction of another (Francis). Francis isn’t Pope Barney any more than Benedict was Pope Burns.

  • Cindy

    “For these reasons, I think that much of the criticism of the cult of personality surrounding John Paul II has been unreflective and misplaced; like the negative reactions to the truncated Daily Mail headline concerning the statue of Pope Francis, it reflects less a true concern over a cult of personality and more of an underlying dissatisfaction with certain elements of John Paul’s reign. Some of that dissatisfaction may touch on matters of doctrine and even more on matters of discipline, but much of it, as we’re seeing now with Pope Francis, comes down to questions of personal style. Those who were more comfortable with Benedict’s personal style than with John Paul’s or Francis’s (and I count myself among them) weren’t worried about a cult of personality attached to Benedict, even though it was certainly as real as the cult of personality attached to any of the modern popes.”

    http://catholicism.about.com/b/2013/07/12/pope-francis-and-the-cult-of-personality.htm
    I’ve noticed the same. Those who are now sneering at the “cult of Pope Francis” had no problem with the “cult of Pope Benedict XVI”, in fact even relished in it. What’s the difference? I’ve been told by some (traditionalists) that the real issue is a concern for the Holy Father and his loss of the new friends once they find out he’s Catholic. I don’t think we need to worry about losing people that were never here but only applauded some of his actions/words from the outside. To my knowledge, nobody in the secular world has said they are coming back to the Church because of Pope Francis. I’m not sure why anybody really believes a compliment to the Holy Father is equivalent to a conversion and then goes as far as imagining the fall out of that new convert when Pope Francis fails to deliver on their modern expectations (after all, they ALL know his track record). I think the bigger concern is evangelizing to bring people into the Church.


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