Pope Francis Will Enliven the Benedict Legacy

Being quoted by the press often leads to an out-of-body experience. This happened to me this weekend when an article posted by the Religion News Service was sent out through the wire and landed at the Washington Post, Huffington Post, National Catholic Reporter, and many other outlets. Every time I would read a new posting of this piece, I would think: who is this guy they are quoting?

The hook for the article was the now-familiar media template on Pope Francis. The line was that he is overturning all previous ways of doing things. He is embracing progress over tradition, loves the poor and not the rich, favors people over ritual, and is willing to rethink fundamental teachings and reopen the debate over moral issues.

What’s true and what’s not in this line of thinking? Very little of it is true at all. This Pope has a special style, just as every Pope before him. The press needs a story and so it chooses a template. And that template sticks. One reporter summoned me to play my appointed role as a grumpy traditionalist who sits around grousing about Pope Francis’s popularity.

I was quoted as follows: “I’ve personally found many aspects of this papacy to be annoying, and struggled against that feeling from the beginning. I’m hardly alone in this… Every day and in every way we are being told how glorious it is that the bad old days are gone and the new good days are here.”

Wow, what a crabby guy, don’t you think? Here I am putting down this popular Pope and lamenting that things are getting better! How perverse. Except for one point, namely the whole context of the piece from which these comments were drawn. What I was lamenting was not the Pope but the media narrative and its implicit anti-Benedict bias. Fully two-thirds of my original article was devoted to explain precisely why we should not believe this narrative.

Meanwhile, the sudden wave of press attention to the supposed disgruntlement of “traditionalists” with Pope Francis—and how the press would love to drive a wedge between the issues that concern us and the seeming universal love being shown to the new Pope!—has set off an interesting round of commentary on the election itself.

What was it that drove the Cardinal electors to choose Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope? Speculation will continue for years. If you listen to the press, you might think that one purpose was to get away from his predecessor’s attachment to the old form of the Roman ritual and replace that with a hipper and looser style of the sort we saw on display in Brazil.

More likely, the liturgical agenda was not it. For those of us who are rather focused on liturgical problems, this realization can be a bit humbling since it is our nature to think that the Catholic liturgy itself should be an unrelenting and huge concern. But actually, you can look back at the sweep of history and observe that liturgical and musical matters have only been at the forefront sporadically in the history of the Church.

I think back to the first Vatican Council, for example, and its main concerns. It was all about the loss of the Papal States and the rise of democracy in Europe. How would the Church be able to protect and extend its influence in an age where there was universal consensus for religious liberty? The management habits of 1,000 years of Roman rule were in serious upheaval.

The status of the liturgy much less the music were not even on the radar—even though the liturgical books were already in serious need of restoration and the liturgical movement was rising all over Europe and even in the U.S. somewhat. That agenda that had then consumed many liturgically minded intellectuals and musicians had to wait to be realized many decades later.

Or think back further to the Council of Trent. Liturgical reform played a part but it was one issue in an overall plan of counterreformation strategy. The question of liturgical music was an afterthought, and seriously botched after the Council’s close.

And this is again true even if you look at the Second Vatican Council, which pushed liturgy up to the front of issues to be addressed alongside issues of religious freedom, cultural upheaval, technology, war and peace, and much else. When the Council did speak on liturgical matters, there were missteps in presentation and a lack of clarity on crucial issues, due mainly to a lack of planning, focus, and consensus. Permission for the introduction of the vernacular was stated but in a way that bordered on the irresponsible; there were no plans in place for how this would be handled—and this was arguably a catastrophic oversight.

As soon as the Council closed, the problems became obvious and many years and decades of confusion over liturgy ensued, with grave consequences. Here we are fifty years later and only now gaining some clarity on this subject.

So, let us put ourselves in the position of the Cardinal electors in 2013. What was the larger context? In my lifetime, there had never been a greater public-relations problem for the Church. For the previous ten years, the world press had free reign to trash, slander, detract, and calumny the Catholic Church and therefore the faith and there was no end in sight.

In the United States, as a result of court orders and legislation, parish life has been transformed. We’ve become bureaucratized to the point that even volunteers need background checks and must take tests on diocesan websites. Priests themselves have developed the habit of standing two feet away from everyone for fear of finding themselves embroiled in accusations of abuse.

Some of my priest friends who took great pride in their vocation quietly stopped wearing clerics when shopping at the store or going on trips. Many young people just stopped attending Mass; they were just too embarrassed over the bad press. Many Catholics just felt a profound sense of demoralization, and it only became worse with every revelation, every court decision, every defrocking, arrest, disclosure. And it never seemed to stop, year after year.

I can recall these days well. It was very painful for all us, so much so that Catholics would tend just to avert our eyes. Our non-believing and Protestant friends would confront us and ask what we think about the sexual scandals, and we were often alarmed to discover that they were much more informed on the details. They were watching the news, even as Catholics tended to turn the channel.

I was thrilled at what was taking place liturgically under Benedict XVI. At the same time, for those of us who have this concern at the top of our minds, we tended to overlook larger problems, or just pretend that they weren’t happening.

The painful nature of these times had nothing to do with liturgy. The pain resulted from decades of poor management, the continuing fallout from the years of confusion, a press corps that smelled blood in the water, and juries and governments that couldn’t pass up the chance to loot and smear the Catholic Church.

How much did this weigh on the Cardinal electors as they considered the papal election? It must have been gigantically important in their minds.

Fr. Ruff at PrayTell makes the compelling point:

Then as now, liturgy was probably not the main question on the minds of the cardinal electors. It’s probably hard for Pray Tell readers to fathom, but some cardinals no doubt find the Vatican Bank scandal and Vatileaks to be more pressing questions than what style of chausible and crosier the celebrant uses and whether it’s EP1 in Latin or EP2 in vernacular. The cardinals didn’t vote out Benedict’s liturgical views and vote in simplicity (and tackiness) —at least not directly…. The cardinals had to sense, as we all did, that the Catholic Church had a massive worldwide PR problem, that the Roman curia was the laughingstock of the world and the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes. The Vatican seemed pathetically unable to respond to scandals, to speak to the modern world with credibility.

Fr. Ruff goes too far in some ways, but it remains true that the electors saw a desperate need for a new form of evangelization for the faith, someone who would shake things up and present an appealing friendliness the whole of the world, someone who could well manage the serious and desperate need for the Church to have a new image in the world—an image of openness and change.

In other words, the election had nothing at all to do with liturgy and everything to do with reversing the meltdown caused by other factors that had nothing to do with Benedict’s papacy at all.

And it is absolutely true—even if some of us who are somewhat less than exuberant about the liturgical style of Pope Francis—that this papacy has truly done wonders for the image of Catholics around the world. I have friends who know absolutely nothing about the faith and Catholicism generally who just think this new Pope is fantastic. They were happy in the week following his election and remain so today.

It is just undeniable that this makes me happy in some ways. I sometimes want to correct them and say: “actually, his predecessor was a great Pope,” but I also know full well that the people who are praising Pope Francis intend no commentary on his predecessor. They only intend to express their glee at the present, and, truly, that is a wonderful thing.

The press’s love affair with Pope Francis might be driven by all the wrong considerations and fueled by ridiculous hopes, but, even given that, it simply cannot be a bad thing that the Pope is so widely beloved. We needed this. Maybe the problems of the last ten years (and I’m the first to admit that I’ve been in a kind of state of denial about how serious the problems have been and what a toll they have taken) are starting to go away. Maybe this evangelization is starting to take effect.

Where does this leave those of us who are so interested in and intense about liturgical matters? It means that we have greater responsibilities than ever. There is no chasm separating the liturgy and evangelization. In many ways, they can be and truly are the same cause.

My mind often drifts back to the age of St. Pius X, and his mighty efforts to reform the liturgy. His efforts were 50 years in arriving, and then soon after, the world broke out into ghastly war. The liturgical movement to which his papacy gave life persisted and thrived and worked hard to realize the dream. That is what we are called to do.

What might seem to others to be a maniacal obsession and ridiculously geeky concern (liturgy) is actually very important for the life of the Church. Those of us who have been granted or consciously adopted this special concern also have an obligation to carry through—not with a need for unrelenting pats on the back from the Vatican as if we are dependent and insecure children but rather with a determination and confidence that sustains itself based on the value of truth and beauty.

And these efforts need to continue, even if the press (as it inevitably will) continues to paint us as reactionary ogres living for the day when the age of Benedict XVI will return. The truth is that this age is not over and will not be for many papacies in the years ahead. Thanks to Francis, the legacy of Benedict has more life and energy than ever before.

Jeffrey Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America. He writes a bi-weekly column on sacred music and liturgy for Crisis Magazine and also runs the Chant Cafe Blog. Jeffrey@chantcafe.com

  • Dick Prudlo

    Well Jeffrey, we live in hope.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    There has been a tendency, going back to Trent, for liturgical preferences to become the badge of a party. In France, most of the dioceses availed themselves of the permission in Quo Primum to retain their existing uses and six of those that had adopted the Missal of Pius V returned to their old uses, after producing new editions of their service books.

    This was perfectly legitimate, of course, but attachment to the old rites became indelibly associated with the party that insisted most strongly on the liberties and immunities of the Gallican Church, who were suspicious of Rome and ever ready to attribute the actions of the Holy See to the pope’s “evil counsellors.”

    Similarly, demands for a reform of the liturgy in the direction of simplicity, greater lay participation, use of the vernacular and a greater use of scripture, became a hall-mark of the Jansenist party.

    Then, alas, there have always been those described by Bl John Henry Newman, who “rely on things more than on persons, and go through a round of duties in one and the same way, because they are used to them, and because in consequence they are attached to them, not as having any intelligent faith in a divine oracle which has ordered them.”

  • Ralphster

    Hard to know how to begin to assess a claim that a wildcat, non-traditional Latin American pope is going to bring great vibrancy to the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, not that Bishop Ratzinger was particuarly traditional, either. We don’t need a renewal of Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy. We need a renewal of the fullness of Catholic tradition that existed prior to 1960.

    • Jacob Suggs

      Do you even know what your comment means, or are you just complaining?

      The fullness of Catholic tradition that existed prior to 1960, you say. And what is that, exactly? Do you honestly think that, for example, the fullness of Catholic tradition is so tied within the liturgy so as to make it unchangeable? That there is some perfect liturgy that was attained just before 1960, and that that must be maintained exactly how it was then, and that any other conceivable liturgy at all must necessarily be worse?

      I’m not asking if you think the way the mass used to be celebrated is better than the way it currently is in most places – I might even be able to be convinced that this were true – I’m asking what it is about the problems that we have with the new mass that mean that we need to return to how it was rather than seek to address what the reforms sought to address as well as any new problems that arise while doing so.

      Of course, our new problems aren’t limited to liturgy. But the same thing applies. Yes, many things were better before 1960. And somethings were worse. But everything in this world oscillates – you try to fix a problem, and most likely you over shoot in the other direction. Then you realize that you overshot, and so try to pull back to correct that, only to overshoot again in the other direction, though hopefully a bit less. Take this with the fact that something as big as the Church always has a thousand interlinked things that need to be addressed, so that changing one causes a change in the other, and you get that any attempt to fix anything major leads to chaos.

      But that doesn’t mean that things were perfect before the chaos hit. Only that we are unfortunate enough to have to put up with chaos while it’s happening, and fortunate enough to be able to lend our abilities causing this chaos to settle somewhere that’s hopefully a little bit better than where we were before it happened.

      So no, we don’t need a return to before 1960. We need to arrive at perfection. And that won’t happen, but we’ll get a lot closer if we stop blindly striving away from or towards some fixed point in the past, but rather take and improve upon the best of everything we had then, while recognizing our problems as well.

      And you have successfully sent me off on a rant. Congratulations.

      • Ralphster

        No congratulations necessary, Jacob, you did it all yourself.
        I didn’t directly mention mass or liturgy in my post, as I am referring to Tradition in its totality. It’s not a matter of pointing to a specific time period, but of embracing Tradition as a whole. That’s how we strive for and arrive at perfection, not remaining mired in the reign of novelty that has descended upon us since 1964.
        Embracing tradition as a whole was done in 1250, 1750, and even 1950. Holding to the totality of our doctrinal teachings as an integrated whole. Not introducing novel ideas and teachings that have no basis in the Tradition of the Church. Are you really claiming that religious liberty for all is an authentic Catholic teaching? Why does it not seem to have any existence before 1960? Development is to bring forth what is truly Catholic, not a license to make up what you want.
        Worship should offer God all that He deserves. Exactly what called for and necessitated the 1970 missal, Jacob, if you think it’s so good? Why do we have no explicit mention now of a sacrifice of propitiation, and why do you apparently think this is a grand improvement, or at least no real big deal? Why do we have a multiplicity of eucharistic prayers that now looks like a Chinese liturgical menu? How is this good, what called for it, and can you really for one minute claim that the ‘fruits’ of the past 40 years justify it? Why is the general pattern as to how the saints, doctors, and popes worshipped for centuries all of a sudden something that isn’t good enough for us?
        Exactly what existed in 1955, Jacob, that needed fixing?
        We don’t need overshooting or undershooting, as though doctrine, morals, and worship or some kind of Xbox game in flux.

        • Jacob Suggs

          You seem to have entirely missed my point. I never said that things are good now. If you read what I said you will in fact notice that I called the current state “chaos”.

          This chaos is the necessary result of trying to change something that is large. It’s like trying to rewrite a little bit of computer code in a language with no function calls – making one piece better is likely to break a couple other pieces, which you have to hunt down and also fix. The first couple times you try to run the program, it’s likely to mess up spectacularly, possibly in some few ways completely unrelated to what motivated you to start trying to improve it in the first place.

          But when this happens, the correct response is not to give up and revert to the old code and hope it’s “good enough”. Maybe in the business world, that might happen occasionally, but as you say God deserves the best. No, the best approach is to make your improvement, and then work at fixing the results until you have a better program.

          But to address the two issues you brought up: the modern idea of religious freedom is based on the principle that forced conversion is bad, together with the fact that it is possible to be a good Samaritan while being a Samaritan (that is, while being wrong). It is primarily an application of that principle to modern forms of government, and it came about in modern times because that’s when modern forms of government were developed.

          –The Mass: Let’s be absolutely clear here, I am not saying the OF Mass is perfect, or even that it’s better than the EF Mass. But you asked about problems with the old form, so here is the big one that I’ve witnessed myself, and that Pope Benedict mentioned as well – quiet often the mass appears to be a combination of two completely unrelated events: the priest doing his thing up front, and the laity sitting in the pews praying rosaries and more or less ignoring the priest. Not always. Not necessarily. And you could probably successfully argue that this is just because the people aren’t trying hard enough to do it right. But the tendency for it to happen is there, and if it can be removed then it should be.

          Notice that I never once praised morons dancing down the isles with clown puppets. The new form has its issues as well – though they are more often abuses than not – but once again, the fact that trying to fix the old problems necessarily leads to temporary chaos does not mean that we shouldn’t try to fix the problems, or that we should immediately give up and go back to where we were before.

          • Ralphster

            I think you’re the one not following me, Jacob. You may think things are not good now, but you clearly support the seismic uncalled for shift in the Church that has led to our present calamity, and you seem to think we can resolve it by just digging ourselves in a little deeper.
            Nobody said anything about forced conversiond. And no, it’s not just about being a good person, while continuing to engage in theological evils. Modern governments have nothing to do with anything; our teachings are clear and should be immutable and nothing modern should be tampering with that, just like I trust you agree modern government does not justify supporting legalized abortion, or same-sex unions.
            The fact that traditional Latin worship might appear to be something, of course does not mean that it was actually that. The idea that certain people may not have understood it properly and appropriately comported themselves as justification for a far-reaching shift in our solemn offering of the Holy Sacrifice is just ludicrious. What you in effect are saying, liturgically, is the equivalent of abolishing elections altogether because we have some voter fraud and irregularities. And since abolishing elections has caused unexpected problems and complications, let’s just work on improving the situation of not having elections, as opposed to recognizing that there was no basis for abolishing the elections just because of some abuse. There as zero justification of creating and introducing Novus Ordo, and it clearly had seeking to mimic Protestants at its roots.

            • Jacob Suggs

              You say there was a seismic shift. I say there was, in reality, no seismic shift, but it is the nature of things such that any shift at all appears seismic. There is no rupture. But the combination of people misunderstanding, misconstruing and generally being confused and/or trying to bend things to their desires can make it appear that there was, and this appearance will continue for some time. Then the aftershocks will settle, and the fact that there was no rupture will become clear. It already is becoming more clear as we watch.

              And you are right, no one said anything about forced conversions, and pelagianism is certainly false (an unbeliever can, like the Samaritan, do good. Doing good does not cause salvation. But it is still doing good). What I meant to get across is that the application of our eternal unchanging principles to modern, new, situations illuminated those principles somewhat. I didn’t and still don’t particularly want to get in to how that is, which is why I only named two principles.

              And no, what I am saying is not the equivalent to saying that we should abolish elections to prevent voter fraud. The equivalent of that would be to say that people ought not be required to go to Mass.

              What I am saying is that if there is voter fraud, there are two ways to address the problem: 1) hirer more cops and people to enforce the system you have, or 2) try to change the system to make fraud more difficult. Both approaches are good, but approach 2) is, if done right, ultimately more effective. To translate, you can teach people about the Mass and encourage paying attention (absolutely good and necessary) or you can change the liturgy somewhat so that the tendency to go off into your own little world is diminished.

              And please don’t take what I’m saying as saying I dislike the Latin Mass. I love the Latin Mass. I just don’t think it was perfect, and I don’t think we do anyone any favors by pretending that it was. And I certainly recognize the large problems in the new form, and am certainly not saying that it is perfect either, or even that it is, right now, better than the old form.

              What I am saying is that the new form is still young, it is still being molded into what it will become in the future. I hope many of the elements it lacks from the old form return – I personally love altar rails, and think that all tambourines ought be burned and have their ashes launched into the sun. But comparing the new form as it is now to the old form as it was after many, many centuries of use is like saying that a teenager isn’t as calm and dignified as 65 year old butler. It is true, but it neglects the fact that the teenager is still in flux and having mood swings and that he might one day become so.

              And whether the teenager grows to be dignified and reverent depends largely on whether those who value such attributes try to instill them in him, or throw up there hands in disgust and leave him to the hippies with their tambourines. The new mass has problems. Let us fix them while it’s young.

    • Chad

      I would like to hear your extrapolation as to why Benedict XVI wasn’t traditional.

  • Tony

    Jeffrey — do you believe that the reporters who misquote you are malicious, or lazy, or stupid? It has to be one or more of the three.

    • Jeffrey Tucker

      Well, it’s not really a misquote. It’s just a misuse. Reports on the papacy these days are following a set template and everything must conform. It’s the way journalism of this sort works. I wouldn’t call it lazy, stupid, or malicious. It’s just business.

      • Madge

        We need to be upfront and direct about this. This is not the general “media.” The writer of this piece was David Gibson, who is a Catholic and has a well-documented animus against “conservative” Catholic concerns and has spent years writing snide articles and blog posts (at Commonweal) about Pope Benedict.

        Gibson needs to be called out on his agenda.

        • Charles
        • Adam__Baum

          Commonweal really should be called “commonsqueal”.

        • hombre111

          Liberals almost never have the animus against conservatives that conservatives have against liberals, because they don’t see the world in black and white. Commonweal is rarely as harsh, strident, and condemning as Crisis.

          • Art Deco

            I did once read it regularly. It alternated between vapid and supercilious (except when Luke Timothy Johnson was contributing, in which case it slid into contemptuous). One of my local libraries had a bound collection of the publications issues running from about 1930 to 1949. Comparing then and now you could see their loss of vigor, readership, and intellectual vibrancy. About the only good thing you might say about Commonweal is that they have no time for Garry Wills.

            You want to put out a Catholic publication, do not

            1. Offer up Rembert Weakland as the beau ideal of Catholic bishops.

            2. Put Grant Gallicho on your masthead.

            3. Publish Democratic Party hacks like E.J. Dionne.

      • Adam Baum

        It’s not just the papacy. “Journalists” often write about things they do not understand and do it badly. I recently read an opinion about a railroad accident in the Wall Street Journal, by an author who usually does better.
        For anybody who had as much knowledge as would be gained by a subscription to TRAINS magazine, let alone some sort of actual experience, the naivete exhibited by the author was astounding.

        • thecommentator

          But journalists of religious themes seems very often to hate the Catholic Church. It does not happen with basketball, football, baseball, economics, politics, culinary, astronomy…

      • Bucky Inky

        Correct, it is not technically a misquote, as they did faithfully represent some of the actual words that you said, but otherwise I agree with Tony. Indeed, the reporters could have misquoted you and been more faithful to your intentions and meaning than they were by accurately reproducing certain choice words you said.

        I do not follow how their actions are void of the malignant characteristics Tony mentions simply because it’s “just business,” as though it is alright to be lazy, stupid, or malicious so long as your job requires it of you.

    • Greedy would be my guess. News outlets are businesses that sell advertising space. (Reporting the news accurately is a secondary or tertiary concern, of interest primarily as it relates to the price of advertisements.) The price of advertising is based on the number of page views. What appears to generate the highest number of page views is controversy. For example, “New Pope is Catholic: Upholds Traditional Teaching” as a headline would be true, but not controversial and unlikely to generate many page views and comments.

  • hombre111

    Heh. “Decades of poor management…P.R. problems…the Roman Curia the laughing stock of the world….”
    And all this happened under the watch of two great popes. Pope John Paul, who was too busy being sick and dying for the last third of his endless reign, and Pope Benedict, who finally got tired of it all and had the sense to resign. I love the style of Pope Francis, but getting out of the mess the Church is in is going to take a lot more than style.

    • musicacre

      What a horribly cold thing to say someone is “busy being sick and dying”, as though it was an imprudent choice to age and die. I bet you have more compassion for animals. Just wait until you’re “sick and dying” and hope that people around you are more compassionate than you.

      • hombre111

        I almost died of a pulmonary clot a few months ago, so I been there. I would not have tried to keep running a parish, let alone a billion member Church. But Pope John Paul did not love the Church enough to simply let go. That is why Pope Benedict is the one history will remember.

        • musicacre

          Sorry for your ordeal; hope you are better. Unless you’re new to the Catholic Church, you may have noticed almost all of the previous popes died while in office. I guess you’re just trying to scandalize everyone; everyone know JPII’s legacy is so large I couldn’t cover it on a page here. It may be hard for another man not to be jealous of such a talented, holy and determined individual. Most of the world will not be the same because of Pope John Paul. I consider it a privilege to have grown in to adulthood and had my family while he was the Pope. We had the grace of encouragement to be strong in our beliefs and live that way, not the secular way, because mostly, of him. Very strong faith is contagious and I’m so glad we were able to apprehend it…I will always be grateful for the love and devotion he gave the Catholic Church. That is what most Catholics think. I think you are in a minority of being a detractor of his…they are loud but not legion. I will pray for you.

          • hombre111

            I have no doubt that Pope John Paul was a saint, and I know he played a big role in the fall of communism, and was a fun guy at World Youth Days. But on the Church front? Not so hot. He left the Church more divided than he found it. He presided over the vocation crisis and, as the numbers of diocesan priests plummeted, refused to allow the bishops and the rest of us to even talk about it. Is that the way an adult treats adults? The lower management was collapsing and remains collapsed. When I was ordained, there were 107 priests in a diocese of 60,000. Now there are 42 in a diocese of 140,000. Under three bishops, we have conducted prayer drives, discernment drives, and every other thing imaginable to try beef up vocations, but end up stealing priests from Third World countries. If we subtracted those men, the number would drop to 22.
            He was also the pope who presided over the sex abuse crisis. How could a man be so out of touch with that unfolding disaster? When it was point out to him, he refused to believe it. This was merely the greatest crisis to hit the Church since the Reformation. In part it was because he was so very sick for so very long. Dying in office is a formula for making sure the Church will struggle and in some ways not recover. I cancelled my very expensive subscription to L’Oservatore when I realized that nothing was happening in Rome while everybody was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the pope to die. I was especially frustrated when he submitted to medical procedures which prolonged his heart-beats but did not make him capable of real leadership. That is why Pope Benedict will go down as a better pope.

            • musicacre

              It’s a bit late at night for me to reply to this categorically, but I feel on some levels, it’s important to. I don’t really think anyone is affected or convinced by your analysis, but since you have the whole crises of the church in one paragraph I can say you have very much over-simplified the causes, spread and fall-out from damages done to the Church.
              For one thing, JPII presided over an already very damaged church that already had the great numbers of priests and nuns who had fled-many into academia, to “find” themselves- and the numbers prove that. Most who got out when the culture did a 180, did so in the 60’s and 70’s. If you REALLY want to discuss vocations and numbers you have to be unprejudiced enough to look at Nebraska. I’m Canadian and even I know that they had uninterrupted success with vocations to the priesthood because they followed the Magesterium of the church.
              That part IS simple to understand. They did not try to secularize the church and therefore continued to reap rewards. The culture at large started to abort and contracept itself, and when the Catholics started to copy this insane behavior, the majority of priests refused to preach on it. John Paul II tried brilliantly and persuasively to get bishops and priests of good will to preach the truth about marriage but alas only a fringe of good faithful ones did. Those priests who did not preach and teach the truth about marriage must live with the fact that they betrayed all married couples. This can not be said too strongly as it is the direct cause of the decay of society at large! The only priests not guilty of this are the ignorant ones that may not have been morally culpable….
              Pope John Paul understood the underlying reasons for the growing selfishness and therefore lack of community in the Catholic Church and tried persistently to rekindle the Christian vision of marriage. I don’t expect you to agree with this since you have an unforgiving attitude it seems, about this wonderful Pope who worked and prayed so hard for us all!

              • hombre111

                Pope John Paul centralized the papacy more than any pope in recent memory. If he wanted all the power in Rome, then he should have accepted all of the blame, as well, and if his followers want to give him so much credit, they should also admit his failings.
                Yes, I am angry. I realized in 1979 that vocations were tanking, ten years after the Council, and two popes and all the bishops they have appointed have not been able to reverse this situation. The problem is not a priesthood crisis as much as a vocations crisis. This has a direct impact on me as a priest as I saw fewer and fewer priests dealing with more and more people. I have been assigned to as many as three parishes at the same time, including their missions. The furthest parish was 75 miles away, with a mission 27 miles away. This one priest serving several parishes has grown common all over the U.S. and Europe.
                In some distant future, Church historians are going to spend some time on the vocation shortage with the resultant priesthood crisis and what could have been done to change it.

                • musicacre

                  It’s obvious we aren’t having the same conversation, you seem to want to vent about your personal experience of being disillusioned as a priest; I’m sorry to hear that. We all experienced priest shortages everywhere, very much the same in Canada, and of course it impacted me differently since I am a lay person.
                  I also think swinging in every direction doesn’t get to the bottom of the problem nor does making a bogey-man of the Pope. I have been in the church sufficiently long to also have noticed some strong trends and the trend that emptied the Church was NOT top down from Rome. It was the American bishops gone crazy and deciding as a body to ignore and not teach at ALL, the truth about marriage………for 50 years. Yes that will empty the pews and stop vocations pretty fast. It was suicidal for the bishops to not address the pervasive sexual culture (revolution) that suffered no commentary or rebukes from ordained men that were supposed to be the shepherds. Saying the Popes have power complexes and that is what emptied the churches is like listening to the broken record of the pro-abortion feminists.
                  But don’t take it from an ignorant, non-theologian mother of six, (actually I’m a nurse) please read the August 19 edition of the Bellarmine Foundation which categorically traces all these well-intentioned but lacking spiritual muscle, men (bishops and cardinals, particularly Cardinal Bernardin) who decided to perpetually lobby for government funds instead of teaching us lay people how to live as a Catholic in this hostile world.

                  • hombre111

                    I am enjoying our honest exchange. Thanks. Actually, I am reacting to something that I lived through, and that makes it personal. But at the same time, I have been very aware of the larger implications.
                    First of all, I was part of the legendary Church of the fifties. If you were not there, you do not know what I mean. It was simply a closed box. When I decided to become a priest (at age 8), I thought that was the nature of things. It was only after I got older and began to do serious study that I realized how much of it was simply an historical accident given infinite value. If it had not been for the Council, I would not have gone on to the priesthood or even remained a Catholic. The millions of people who identify themselves as “Vatican II Catholics” felt the same.
                    One of the things I was trained to believe in, and I still do, is the presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church, who calls us to new life. In the very traditional seminary I attended, I was taught that the highest moment of the Holy Spirit occurs in an ecumenical council, when the pope unites with all the bishops of the world. And that kind of event was happening right before our eyes.
                    After the Council, the bishops who had been involved returned only half understanding what had happened. It was at that point that their leadership failed. They should have immersed themselves and their whole diocese in study and prayer. But instead, it was mostly business as usual. Pope Paul VI tried to conduct business as usual with his birth control encyclical, causing millions to leave the Church. After him, Pope John Paul immediately began to reign in the spirit of the Council, leaving the Church much more divided than he found it.
                    But this left a huge unanswered question: was the Council a thing of the Spirit, or not? Since he felt free to dismantle it, he clearly did not believe the Spirit was at work, forcing Catholics to pick between him and the Council.
                    The only ones who really explored the meaning of the Council were the religious orders, especially the women religious.

                    • musicacre

                      I do understand where you are coming from and I know of many people who feel the same way. I guess we could put each other in categories, but then again, it is personal for each one of us.

                      I was born into the new vision of church that the 50’s people dreamed of, and by the time I was in high school in the late 70’s there was very little substance left. I was a youngster in a large church in a city where there was a woman in the front during liturgy continuously banging a tambourine on her hip, which is about where her dress ended, and the big black boots began. Her comrades singing with her were as scantily clad….this was late 60’s. I was a little kid and fascinated but had no idea what was going on.

                      At the Catholic high school which in previous years was not co-ed, the sisters would play the audio from Jesus Christ superstar, instead of teaching about the Faith. My husband had a similar experience in the private Catholic school he went to. For all intents and purposes, we were functionally illiterate of our faith when we graduated.

                      We both continued to attend Mass but neither of us on fire for the faith (whatever that was…) when we met. After both finishing post-secondary we married and had the biggest turning point a young married couple can have; we had our first baby. Let me tell you that it is no ordinary event, to have this brand-new little human enter your life, knowing…that person is a fruit of our love and of God’s. It turns you life upside -down and inside out, it opens your heart, it clarifies life, it makes you in absolute awe!! Very hard to describe the big shake-up it puts in a couple’s life, but suddenly we VERY much thought about how we wanted our little one to go to heaven. Our life would now be spent trying to pursue the best road and in that process the research began in earnest, more prayer, paying attention to what exactly was going on in the church, church teachings, etc. We were hungry for books,pamphlets, anything.

                      To make a long story short, we started to find a lot of answers (and more questions to ask) and literally discovered the church and Faith in a more deliberate way than when we were both single! Since then I know so many couples this amazing phenomena happened to and I put it down to not only the graces from Matrimony but Graces from the baby’s baptism. I’ve even seen it with my hard-core pagan brother-in-law.

                      Early on we started selling Catholic books at our parish (with my parents who decided to move out from the East) so others wouldn’t be as in the dark of this glorious faith as we were! An early read was Anne Roch Muggeridge’s book, Desolate City, and combined with both of us having a pro-life background, the whole revolution to over throw Church teachings made sense. We could understand what was happening, why, and participate in the counter revolution. Felt very exciting. Even Fr. Hardon advised this at a Homeschooling conference many years ago. We could see the fall out even in our own diocese with clown masses, and the rest of the routine. The cliches from the few Vatican 2 ers in our parish started to ring hollow as our parish started to slowly fill up with homeschoolers having generous-sized families, and sharing the joy! There were still some unconvinced people who really thought they had re-invented the wheel and the Church was going to BEGIN with Vatican II. I don’t know why Catholics can’t be happy with the Church Jesus gave us, instead of re-crafting it with human hands. It’s already been tried.. and found wanting….the Protestant Revolution.

                      As for the pill, don’t get me going. Coming from a family myself of 6 girls and one boy growing up with limited means, I’m proud of all my sisters; they never fell for the quick fix, contraception. Forget about all the divorces caused by couple using each other, but the middle-aged women around me that I used to see when I took my kids to lessons are dropping like flies. Every week another one is in the obituary…they were all on the pill, all got breast cancer. I don’t think any priest in his right mind would want the liability of that kind of advice. It was naive for clergy in the 60’s to think a med would now govern marriages.( by the way, coming from a nursing background, EVERY med has a side effect. Why would a healthy woman be on a serious med, made form horse pee for her entire productive life?) Instead of the alternative: respect, trusting each other, communicating on an intimate level, trusting God, learning about one’s fertility, and having a Catholic world view instead of a worldly, instant -gratification, instant fix attitude. That attitude does not help the challenges ones faces in marriage. Both have to be trying to make sacrifices. And if you’re not that much in love, don’t get married. It’s a vocation.
                      I’m not a writer and I don’t want to bore you but I’m thankful my husband and I loved each other enough to find out the truth about marriage and were blessed to know some of the greatest marriage-oriented priests who have written extensively on marriage – and we are much more in love just after our 29 anniversary!

                    • hombre111

                      Sounds like you really did well in this turnaround after the birth of your baby. A wonderful story. In my diocese, I have never seen, or heard of a clown Mass. Is this some kind of Catholic urban legend?
                      Let’s see. I was assigned to a Catholic high school three years after my ordination, to teach religion to freshmen. These kids came from Catholic parishes and Catholic schools all over the city. Looking back, I try to figure it out. They had no interest in religion, as I quickly discovered. First of all, I guess it was the rebellion of youth. Second, I think they were burned out on eight years of religious education classes. The smartest kids were experiencing genuine religious doubt. Others thought that, after eight years, they knew everything there was to know. The last thing they wanted to know was more about the Faith.
                      So, I found myself frantically searching for ways to catch their attention. The education manuals said try to start from the kids’ own world, and I guess that is where “Jesus Christ, Super star” came from. As the years went on and I became pastor of a number of small parishes, other factors came into play. The religion teachers during gradeschool were volunteers with sketchy education in their own faith, and no training as teachers. The kids tended to compare their amateur efforts with the much more interesting stuff they saw on television. I would often take charge of the highschool program, which I called my weekly dose of humiliation. Again, except for Confirmation preparation, the kids would simply not sit still for an in-depth discussion about Catholicism and its beliefs.
                      After a particularly trying effort, I found myself muttering, you don’t want to learn the deep things of your faith. And one day, you are going to blame it all on me. And they do.

                    • musicacre

                      This is my last reply since you have decided not to comment on my main point of re-vitalizing faith in parishes (family life is key) and what most observers of the present calamity see as the main culprit in the trashing of human dignity in this century: contraception.

                      I don’t believe that a message (the Christian message) should be watered down or absent because a teacher perceives the kids aren’t keen. It’s an age where they crave a challenge and you obviously weren’t presenting it in a challenging way. The parents are definitely betrayed when a teacher decides to deviate from teaching the faith; there are multitudes of ways it can be done. Most parents in the 60’s and 70’s were unaware of the trust they placed in teachers being betrayed. My parents included, and my husband’s. But also everyone else I have ever met that attended Catholic schools during those times. (for the past 30 years.) It can’t be ca coincidence that every one was burnt out at the same time…looks more like the Americanized church decided to do a “paradigm shift!” (You could call it the active act of disengaging youth from their destiny of becoming followers of Jesus.)

                      As for thinking “our story ” is unusual, that’s just weird. I know at least a couple of dozen families and more in our small parish this has happened to, and the process is continuing with their children having children. I don’t see a lot of excitement about the faith among contracepting couples, and that is not a surprise. they threw down the challenge a long time ago to undergo a few sacrifices to live in truth.
                      As for clown masses, maybe you never went to Mass in Canada, where an Anglican lay person was the supreme adviser to the conf of Cath bishops for 25 years. Tony something or other…..

                    • hombre111

                      I agree with your ideas about re-vitalizing parishes, but along with families there are singles and the divorced. Not so simple. But teachers betraying the trust of parents? More often, it is the opposite. Again, all the times when parents drop off their kids for religious education classes between Masses, but don’t go to Mass themselves. Or, any excuse is reason enough for a kid to skip Mass and religion class, so that he makes one class out of three and complains because things don’t make sense. Or the parents who do not model a good religious life for their kids, with no overt sign of a religious life in the home: no religious symbols, no Bible, no children’s Bible, and no religious literature of any kind.

                      I was reading your comments about your religion classes in highschool and it was deja vu all over again. According to communications experts, good communications depend about 25% on what you say, and 75% on what you hear. So, I see before me a bunch of kids who have been through 8 years of religion in gradeschool, they are convinced it is going to be the same old, same old, and their eyes glaze over as soon as we get to serious stuff. Then they pronounce that worst of all condemnations that ends further discussion: “It’s bo-ring!”That is the way of kids. Adults will learn things because they know they need to. Kids have to be convinced, and it is an uphill battle. Please, don’t tell me you craved a challenge. Maybe you did, but don’t tell me all the other kids did. Again, the research is there. Learning is uneven. You can be going through a deep and important question, but if the kid is not ready to listen, he will not hear a thing. I remember a kid raising his hand to ask,” when are you going to talk about the Trinity?” We had talked about the Trinity for two weeks in the previous quarter. But it was not a question for him at that moment. That is the agony that all teachers understand. When you begin a topic, only some of the students are with you. You will then do anything and everything you can to get the students interested. Your teachers playing Jesus Christ, Superstar, were trying to find some way to make the dreamers wake up.

                    • musicacre

                      I realize teaching in a classroom situation is challenging; my experience is only with teaching my kids at home. ( My sister teaches in a Catholic boarding school and tough is the word I would use.) It doesn’t do it justice to describe in a sentence what we accomplished, but we succeeded in my opinion and the kids went on to university with an interest in defending their faith. We had a long road and I gave up a nursing career (and the degree of financial security that would bring) because I believed it was extremely important. More important than having a second income. I can’t paint the whole experience as easy or hard, it was both, at various times, and rewards were unexpected and great. Other hard times in our life were very hard. So, at the risk of sounding trite, it is all good, and I would do it again.

    • Adam Baum

      Having given us ample information to infer your age as past the allocated three score and ten, you might consider that you might be “busy being sick and dying”?

    • Pay

      They had to fight all the libs. That alone is a long battle.

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  • LeMayzing

    Perhaps if your original article had started slightly differently, you wouldn’t be wondering “who is this guy?”. For example: “I’ve personally found many aspects of THE MEDIA COVERAGE AND SOME POPULAR REACTION TO this papacy to be annoying…”

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  • kevin

    I know Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the Latin mass more than some others, but I never thought of it as defining his papacy. When I think of Pope benedict XVI (it always is with great esteem), I think of his intellect and how he articulated the problem of the ‘tyranny of relativism’. I think of how he highlighted the importance of scripture. While I respect the singular significance of scripture, I never thought of it as framing Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy.

    • Kenneth J. Wolfe

      This is where we have to think in terms of actions, and not just words. Pope Benedict un-excommunicated the four living SSPX bishops and issued a motu proprio essentially removing all bishops from the traditional Latin Mass approval process. These were big things. Ask a few average Catholics (who don’t read blogs) and they’ll probably give you some sort of loose summary of those actions on what Benedict did during his papacy.

      • Ralphster

        With all due respect Kenneth Wolfe, we must evaluate a papacy not just on actions, but by measuring the actions, beliefs, and words against the immutable yardstick of Holy Tradition.
        While, yes, there are these laudable actions by Pope Benedict XVI, the fact remains that allowing Novus Ordo to remain in place, hailing separation of Church and State as a Christian achievement, declaring, in effect, that Jews are not called to Christ, and re-enacting yet another episode of Assisi and bestowing a certain legitimacy and importance onto the false religions of the world all add up to a troubled, non-traditional papacy that is more like than unlike the his predecessor and successor.

        • Sam Schmitt

          I’m impressed that you understand Holy Tradition better than the pope does.

          • Ralphster

            If you’re saying that my understanding of Holy Tradition is flawed, Sam, you should show where it is flawed, backed up by solid proof of centuries of Catholic teaching and thought.

            • Jacob Suggs

              Well, we could go there, but before that would be fruitful for this discussion, we’d have to go over all the ways that your understanding of what’s happening right now is flawed (declaring in effect that Jews are not called to Christ, my bum). That would be rather involved. I suggest reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          “We must evaluate a papacy not just on actions, but by measuring the actions, beliefs, and words against the immutable yardstick of Holy Tradition.”

          But there is no need to do that. After all, in the Edict of Thessalonica of 380, establishing Christianity as the religion of the empire, the august Emperors, Gratian, Theodosius and Valentinian defined the religion their subjects were to follow simply as that “which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness.” It was a test remarkably easy of application; just what one would expect of the criterion of a divine message, intended for all, regardless of learning, capacity or circumstances.

          Pope Francis, indeed any pope, can answer his critics in the words of Pio Nono, “Tradizione! La tradizione son’ io!” – “I am the tradition!”

      • kevin

        I think the writings of any pope are significant and reveal a lot about the individual pope’s understanding of his papacy. Pope Benedict XVI wrote three encyclicals and three books about Jesus (though he stated the books about Jesus were written from the perspective of a person faith seeking to know God in a deeper way). While the actions of the pope to which you refer may have recieved a lot of attention, that does not mean they were the thrust of his papacy or even a priority for him. The writings of the Pope and many of his public statements demonstrate the things he wanted to emphasize and serve to define his papacy. I think liturgy is critical and I believe Pope Benedict XVI feels strongly about it, but I think his papacy is defined ultimately by the way he confronted the ‘tyranny of relativism’ with the spiritual and intellectual gifts of the Church.

  • Nick

    Francis, the Bishop of Rome, has evidenced no interest in good Liturgy and open disregard for litugical rubrics, Chaos does not equal vibrancy,

  • Carl Albert

    agree that the selection of Cardinal Bergoglio at a minimum signifies the cardinals recognized a need to mend our PR fence. as a body, the Church responded horribly to the abuse scandals and the MSM was waiting for even the slightest misstep. for that reason alone, I won’t/can’t rely upon any press to “frame” Pope Francis successfully for the world. he – as are we – is witness to the faith. I appreciate his humility, for one, and find it timely witness for the secular world we inhabit.

  • MarkD

    In regard to image — that image can easily be torn down. Especially since it’s primarily fueled by the press and eaten up by those who really don’t care to think deeply on these important issues.

  • kneeling catholic

    Hello Jeffrey!

    Has the thought crossed your mind that our friend, B XVI, made some very disappointing choices for Cardinals? I’m only referring to their attitude towards the Liturgy. I know it has to have!

    I’m pretty certain Pope Francis’ choices have not been any worse, (I’m only going off of episcopal choices) There have been tradition-friendly appointments. Certainly the Vatican’s insistence on Seattle’s tradition-friendly archbishop baby-sitting the LCWR’s annual meeting can be seen as tradition being elevated over trendiness.

    you are right on the money about the media’s coverage. The billions are singing HH’s praises solely because they think he will change the Church’s faith and morals. This will not happen. Not because HH is necessarily a sterling pope, but because he is the pope!

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  • WSquared

    “The truth is that this age is not over and will not be for many papacies
    in the years ahead. Thanks to Francis, the legacy of Benedict has more
    life and energy than ever before.”

    Well said, Mr. Tucker.

    This may be a simple or simplistic point, but what a lot of us (let alone the press) may be forgetting is something Fr. Robert Barron observed in his recent commentary on this recent World Youth Day: that the young people responded enthusiastically to the Pope, no matter which man bore the yoke of the Petrine Ministry– be it John Paul “Superstar,” John Paul “Frail Old Man,” Benedict XVI “Scholar,” and now Francis.

    Because they were responding to the person of St. Peter. Tu es Petrus. The press only sees the man and his personality. A similar thing happens when the press assumes that a Catholic priest is merely a “pastor” and/or a “preacher,” but has no sense of what in Persona Christi actually means, and that Christ works through imperfect people.

    Those like Father Z. who recommend that we “read Francis through Benedict” are onto something.

  • TeaPot562

    A very good article. Thank you, Mr. Tucker for your analysis.
    A considerable part of the Press’s reactions to Pope Francis is his willingness to hold impromptu press conferences, as on the plane coming back from World Youth Day, and to provide answers to all sorts of questions. When his answer is “We may consider (or review) something.” or “We’ll look into that.”, the writer of the article superimposes his/her own view on the topic being questioned.
    Pope Francis may at some point change his style to reduce impromptu press conferences if he finds himself misquoted or misinterpreted too much.

    Again, thank you.

  • Lisa_Ann
  • MJK

    That’s great, Jeff … Pope Francis is the Sally Fields of popes–“you like me…you really like me…” therein lies the problem this adolescent need to be liked and accepted rather taken seriously and respected. I would posit that most of the nonsense related the homosexual debauchery the church has had to deal with is coonect to this insufferable need to be accepted and acceptable. Sometimes real leadership — pastoral and dogmatic — means pissing people off, waking them up, or challenging their comfortibility. When a pope is popular with non-Catholics it always gives me pause…would Pius XII care, would Boniface VIII care…being popular today should almost always be avoided.

  • Chad

    This is a well written article with a very profound point.

  • Jeremy Wall

    Francis as Pope is doing one anti-christ Pope thing after the other. He should reign, at once and go back to south America. He does not represent a leader for the Christians. Francis is destroying Christian Belief. And more over, he does have an attitude problem. I guess Ratzinger (former Benedict XVI) has one headache after the other with Francis’ behaviour in the Holy See.

    • John200

      Check your second sentence. Do you mean, “He should resign…?” or “He should reign…?”

      The rest of the comment suggests that you want him to go away.

  • Art Deco

    Keep whistling past that graveyard.