I have heard or read a number of people say that Pope Francis’ actions are as exciting as Vatican II. Or they “haven’t had this much hope since Vatican II.” Or Pope Francis is living in “the Spirit of Vatican II.” Or some other such thing.
My first reaction to this was, “really?” That seems like a bit of an overstatement.
I mean- I like the guy, I really do. And I think it’s quite possible that he’s just the Pope the Church needs right now. But… gosh- As exciting as Vatican II?
Pope Francis believes the same things as his predecessors, leads the same Church, celebrates the same sacraments. He is at odds with the world’s philosophy in the same way as have been those who went before him. He is at odds with those human-corrupted elements within the Church which are opposed to the true Gospel of Christ, just as those who went before him have been.
The conservatives that are currently upset will eventually realize that he preaches the same Gospel as did those who came before him. Upon learning this, they will either gratefully accept him and his leadership, or else it will be made clear that “conservative” is not synonymous with “orthodoxy.”
The liberals that are currently thrilled will eventually realize that he preaches the same Gospel as did those who came before him. Upon learning this, they will either reject him as backward-thinking, or else it will be made clear that “liberal” is not synonymous with “heretic.”
There is, of course, a change in style and a change in emphasis. But highlighting one sentence in your text book as opposed to another doesn’t change the content. Neither does a different typeface or cover design.
Papal liturgies may go from six candles to two candles, from Latin to Italian, from fiddle-backs to Gothic. The essential theological content will remain unchanged, and the miracle will be just as effective. It may be that some people find the liturgy to be less personally nourishing, while others find it to be more so.
Some people will complain that there are too many changes. Other people will complain that there aren’t enough. Some people will latch on to something that hasn’t changed at all and tell everyone how different it is. Some people will find something that is drastically different and proclaim for all to hear that it has always been thus. People will be excited by things they only imagine. Truly exciting developments will go completely unnoticed.
All of this will continue to be reported by a media that knows nothing about the Church, and skews every report with the combined lenses of secular agenda, ignorance, and entertainment value. Otherwise sane and reasonable people within the Church will, for reasons that defy all common sense, believe the secular media’s portrayal, and even help to shape it. This will continue to lead to misplaced outrage and misplaced glee.
He will say a lot of amazing and radical things, and the most amazing thing will be that they have been said before, over and over, for two thousand years. If we’re lucky, and blessed, he might just manage to say one of those things in a slightly different way, with the right different word, or just the right tone of voice, or while standing with his weight on one particular foot, or something- anything- so that this time, maybe just this one time- the world will hear it.
The same, the same, the same. In essence, in substance, in truth- the same. A change in style, a change in emphasis, a change in methodology. Continuity ignored by others because of ideology. Changes attacked by others because of ideology. Lots of people missing the point.
I guess it is like Vatican II, after all.