William Oddie, "Is a Period of Papal Reserve Now Overdue?" (Crisis, June 19, 2014):
About a year ago, and thus in the early months of Pope Francis’s pontificate, Damian Thompson wrote a Daily Telegraph blogpost headlined “Meet Francis, the Chatterbox Pope.” “This new pontiff,” he noted, “is a media-savvy charmer in a way that none of his predecessors have been. Seriously, he could give Bill Clinton lessons in how to work a crowd.” ...[Hat tip to JM]
All the same, I note that Fr Z’s blog, which he renamed “Reading Francis through Benedict,” has now been once more renamed; now it’s simply “Fr Z’s blog”: is that because he no longer thinks that you can read Francis through Benedict, that this Pope can no longer be perceived as believing mainstream Ratzingerian Catholicism, though propagating it in his own relaxed way? Well, no ...
All the same, I have a growing feeling that those Press conferences, and much else that looks on the face of it like inspired communication with the modern world, may be beginning to cause problems ... I note that another orthodox priest who admires Pope Francis, Fr Dwight Longenecker, is beginning to ask uneasy questions about Pope Francis’s grasp of the papal office:In almost every impromptu press conference, personal phone call, informal conversation, and unscheduled event the Pope’s candid and relaxed style has caused confusion, consternation, and bewilderment among the faithful. … such an informal and often ambiguous method of communication cannot help but erode the more solemn teaching authority of the papacy….I think that Fr Dwight is right, and that a period of reserve would now be a good thing. There needs to be less, not more, spontaneous papal activity....
I am a supporter of Pope Francis and admire his sacrificial life, his prophetic example, and his desire to bring the gospel to all. His popularity and presence is a great gift to the church. However, his informal style needs to be checked in order not to erode the authority of his office.
The trouble with all these spontaneous initiatives is that they foster the idea that the Pope is getting ready not just for much-needed reform but also for substantial changes in papal teaching. And that, it has to be faced, is one reason he is so popular with the secular world. This is not good.
... “He won’t undo the work of the great Benedict: it would create too much ill-feeling,” said Damian a year ago. But would it actually create ill feeling now? The secular media’s build-up of Pope’s Francis’s popularity has been partly based on his real qualities of human warmth and responsiveness but partly also on media denigration of his predecessor, with its suggestion that Francis is tacitly rejecting Benedict’s allegedly cold and inhumane legacy.