Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 27. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
That is the title of an essay I wrote a few week ago for The Catholic Pulse, and which was posted yesterday at CatholicPulse.com.
The basic point is to note and explain the shared vision of the three popes,
especially since there seems to be a cottage industry operating for the
sole purpose of emphasizing how different Francis is from St. John Paul
II and Benedict XVI.
Here is the opening of my essay:
is known for his cerebral and philosophical approach to the Faith,
having even been called a “mystic” by some. Another's work is marked by
elegant writing, deep attention to the Scriptures, and an emphasis on
historical fact. The third man is praised for his direct, pithy, and
even punchy approach to discussing Jesus Christ.
Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis? No, I am actually describing three of the four Evangelists: John, Luke, and Mark.
point is not to align specifically each of three pontiffs with three of
the Gospels and their authors, but to draw an analogy between the
constant pitting of popes against one another, and the exercise
carried out in both academic and popular circles of setting one or
more of the Gospels up against another Gospel. For example, it has been
commonly held for quite some time that the Fourth Gospel is the least
historical of the four, with hardly any interest in the actual events in
the life of Jesus. This perception is now pervasive at the popular
level, despite it being largely abandoned by most Scripture scholars and
Sources of Confusion
to the point: There are some who focus obsess, even so much on the
differences between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that they seem to
lose sight of the bigger picture, sometimes either overlooking or giving
short shrift to the many commonalities thematically, theologically,
historically in the four Gospels. “It is as a choir of four,” Joseph
Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote, “that the Gospel comes before the
understanding of faith, as fresh today as ever.” A similar image can be
used for these popes, singing together in harmony of the same faith, the
same Lord, the same Church.
yet various differences in personalities and styles evidenced by recent
popes are sometimes grabbed onto and ripped from proper and reasonable
context. Those differences are used to shape a narrative (a mythology,
in some cases) that does a disservice to anyone trying to better
understand those particular men, the papacy, and the Church. This point,
unfortunately, needs to be made repeatedly today, especially since the
distance between the lives and words of Popes John Paul II, Benedict
XVI, and Francis, and the pervasive (and media-spun) mythologies about
them can be so vast that one is tempted to resigned despair in gazing
across the chasm.
of the first and most important casualties of the “different is better”
approach, especially when pushed beyond the limits of reality, are the
many deep, vital continuities between the three popes and their
pontificates. This is aided by three factors: the dominant culture's
obsession with “change” and cult of personality, a poor understanding of
the nature and purpose of the papacy, and a woeful lack of familiarity
with the actual statements and writings of the popes.
Read the entire piece at CatholicPulse.com.