The Post-Christian Papacy

[Friends: I’m very sorry for the overload of Church politics.  I’m going to take a week or two off from blogging.  When I come back, we’ll talk about more pleasant things than the latest chancery gossip.

Before I go, however, I wanted to let all of you know that The American Conservative kindly enough to publish my more robust reflections on the Pope’s new muto proprio.  I’ll post an excerpt below but, as always, it’s free to read over at TAC’s website.  I hope you enjoy it.]

One gets the sense that Francis is preemptively building the more spartan and regimented Church envisioned by Fr. [Robert Hugh] Benson [in Lord of the World]. Benedict was more concerned with maintaining continuity with the old Christendom, thereby guaranteeing authenticity and stability. I suppose one could choose to focus on their differences, and so contrast the two popes’ legacies.

Far more important to my mind, though, is how seriously these two men fought to reckon with the new realities faced by the Church in her third millennium. No doubt both got plenty wrong. Yet both also drew attention to real weaknesses in the Church’s response to the modern world. Benedict’s emphasis on continuity—on keeping the Church grounded in her ancient liturgy and perennial teachings—is important. So is Francis’s emphasis on “flexibility,” so the Church can recapture her apostolic spirit.

Both are essential for evangelizing the “nones,” the religiously indifferent who are coming to dominate the Western world. These are the folks Belloc referred to as the New Pagans, born to nations where “every shred of Catholicism is lost” and “the Christian spirit has wholly failed.”

Taken together, the legacies of Benedict and Francis look remarkably like the movement Ross Douthat calls the “benedictines,” named after Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option. The benedictines are perhaps the only group of American Christians seriously reckoning with the post-Christian order. We can’t restore Christendom by electoral fiat. That can only be accomplished by a broad spiritual renewal in the West, a total heart-and-soul reversion to the Christian faith.

[Again, you can read it all at The American Conservative.  Please give them a click.

P.S.—My old haunt the Catholic Herald published a very fine reflection on the muto proprio, emphasizing how disconnected both Francis’s critics and his defenders can be from ordinary Catholics.  Obviously, I find plenty to disagree with.  But I think it’s more insightful than most of the “Francis good!”/”Francis bad!” takes one finds floating around in cyberspace.

Then again, God is simplicity Itself…!]

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