I'm getting pretty fed up with all the bullshit hyperbole surrounding Pope Francis. He really is not that different from the previous two Popes. His style of conducting public relations may come across a little differently but that is a rather superficial distinction. There were two recent pieces that caught my attention largely because they allow a tiny grain of doubt regarding the false narrative of Francis as a "reformer." Ultimately, however, they do seem to buy into the notion that he is significantly different.
John Gehring's "Opinion: How the 'Francis effect' could rescue the church" simply accepts that there is such an "effect." He gives a few examples where these effects supposedly are playing out. Among them are;
"He criticizes a 'self-referential' church that becomes spiritually 'sick' when it hunkers down and fails to look outside its gilded cathedrals.
He has little patience for pastors who act like religious border guards by making it harder for lapsed Catholics to return to the faith and receive the sacraments.
Francis decries the 'cult of money' and the 'dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.'"
Simply acting as a stenographer does not prove any of it. I have not found any instances where these have gone beyond the rhetorical realm. In fact, there are plenty of instances where it is clear that the policies and practices endorsed by both John Paul and Benedict are simply being carried on. I have previously posted on some of them.
I do find the idea that the church needs to "rescued" rather entertaining. It ignores that the Catholic Church is still one of the most influential, powerful, and wealthy organization in the world. It also seems to imply that perhaps it really is a completely human institution. If it were really favored and/or founded by God what would it need to be rescued from, and how could it be rescued if God couldn't save it?
Slightly less interesting was Allessandro Speciale's "Benedict and Francis: How much difference is there?" The obvious answer is, of course, little to none. His few examples of differences of substance completely fail any scrutiny. Even the more superficial differences are highly debatable in this piece.
For example, "What’s more, Francis has embraced a much more low-brow view of the papacy, shunning Benedict’s red slippers, ermine capes and papal apartments for a simpler lifestyle that finds him sleeping in a Vatican guesthouse and wearing simple black shoes beneath his white papal cassock."
Really? A few minor adjustments to personal preferences somehow translates into any significant doctrinal or policy differences? That does assume that he has adopted a "more low-brow view." Seems to me that he is still quite happy to use all the same pomp and privilege of his predecessors. When he starts wearing jeans and donating some of the vast amounts of the Churches resources to external non-profits, then I'll start taking his rhetoric seriously.
It won't happen since this Pope really is no different in practice.