MY COMMENTS FIRST: Style over substance. There are two groups in the Church united over one thing and that is the style of the Pope. But they are united for the wrong reasons. The progressive type Catholic, throw-backs to the 1970's, my generation of Catholics, like Pope Francis' simple style and they believe it to be a symbol of his theology and doctrine, a post-Catholic kind of thing where there is great rupture between the pre-Vatican II Church and the post-Vatican II Church.
The traditionalists believe the simple style of Pope Francis is what the progressives believe about it, that this pope is a throw back to the 1970's way of doing things and being Church. They despise it and like the progressives who despised Pope Benedict, they despise Pope Francis. In this regard, the two extremes in the Church are cut from the same fabric and use the same ideologies to discredit the pope, whether that be Pope Francis or Pope Benedict.
I must say that I've deleted many negative comments about Pope Francis by so-called traditionalist Catholics because, quite frankly, they remind me of the rhetoric of progressive Catholics toward Pope Benedict. These shrill comments show how far the Catholicism of some in the Church has plummeted into ideological diatribes and far from Jesus Christ, whom the pope is merely the vicar. I am embarrassed by these comments and know many good, authentic Catholics who live their Catholic lives away from the internet but who would be appalled by the vices and voices of negativity toward a sitting or retired pope. It just isn't Catholic. It is the worst of Protestantism in terms of "anti-popery!"
This secular article below tells the obvious about Pope Francis. His style is different and his way of governing is different. His pastoral outreach is different. But doctrinally he is on the same page with Pope Benedict. They have different pastoral positions, there is no doubt. But each pope brings his own style to every papacy. Just look at Pope Pius XII; Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, Pope John Paul II; Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.
The progressives said Pope Benedict would outlaw the Ordinary Form of the Mass and return to using the tiara. They were wrong. The traditionalists say that Pope Francis will outlaw the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and allow for women priests, divorced Catholics to remarry in the Church, and allow for gay marriage and civil unions all with Church endorsement. They are just as silly and wrongheaded about Pope Francis as the silly and wrongheaded progressives were about Pope Benedict.
Vatican City (AFP) - In his first year, Pope Francis has blown a breath of fresh air through the Catholic Church that has been felt across the globe.
Contrary to the way he is frequently depicted, the first pope from the southern hemisphere is no revolutionary in terms of doctrine.
But there is no doubt that he has shaken up the way things are done at the head of the Church, triggering concern, reticence and even a degree of opposition within the Vatican establishment.
Elected exactly a year ago on Thursday, Francis quickly developed a rapport with the faithful far beyond the confines of the Holy See.
Now 77, he has also appealed to many non-Catholics with his common touch, his grace and ease with ordinary people and his emphasis on the Church serving the interests of the world's poor.
Partly as a result, the expectations vested in him have been huge.
Twelve months after he accepted his election with the words "I am a great sinner," the Church has not been transformed, no rules have been abolished and the rituals at St Peter's continue to follow their timeless rhythm.
But in terms of style, a lot has changed.
Naturally spontaneous, Francis speaks easily, gives interviews and says what he thinks and, in turn, he is credited with encouraging a new spirit of open debate across the 1.2 billion-strong Church.
People like, and seem convinced by, his projection of the image of the pope as an ordinary man.
He has been described variously as a Marxist, pro-gay, a supporter of women priests and allowing the clergy to marry: none of them with any real basis.
A theme this pope returns to repeatedly is that of mercy, which has had profound implications for the way issues such as homosexuality, divorce and abortion are addressed, even if there has been no change in Church teaching on any of them.
Francis's message seems to be, "avoid judging and condemning others". He has been severe in his criticism of what he calls "armchair bishops" and careerism within the clergy, reminding priests that they should be close enough to their flocks to take on "the smell of their sheep".
- Contrast with Benedict -
It is all a world away from that of his German predecessor Benedict XVI, now cloistered in a monastery on the Vatican hill. The two men have a great mutual respect and are said to get on well, but they could not be further apart in their respective approaches to the job.
In the newspaper and souvenir kiosks of Vatican City, postcards bearing the shy and serious face of Benedict are now usually to be found hidden away behind those of his more dynamic successor.
Only the soon-to-be-canonised John Paul II can rival the current pope in the eyes of the faithful.
This popularity, combined with a certain curtness in his management style, has not won universal acclaim in the small world that is the Vatican.
"There are some who think that he has stripped the papacy of its aura, (that) this pope has become too accessible, too close to the people," said Andrea Tornielli of the website "Vatican Insider".
Traditionalists have criticised some of Francis's interviews with mainstream newspapers in which he has seemed to cast doubt on some Church teachings.
His search for new ways of handling practical problems like the treatment of believers who have divorced and remarried has accentuated his reputation for innovation, which has not pleased everyone.
The cardinals who massively backed Francis's elevation gave him two mandates: reform the Church and its central government, and reinvigorate its missionary work at a time when much of the Western world is turning its back on Christianity.
He has started to accomplish the first of those mandates. The clergy have not been spared from criticism by a pope who has not shied away from tackling in-fighting and sidelining corrupt or incompetent figures.
He has started to restructure the governance of the Church and has asked private companies to audit its accounts and working methods.
His second mandate, a new evangelism, is closer to Francis's heart and its success, he believes, depends on re-establishing traditional family structures as a means of ensuring that faith is transmitted to a new generation. Two upcoming synods will address this question.
At the same time, Francis has also begun a consultation on issues of homosexuality, cohabitation outside of marriage, and divorce, and how the Church should respond. For him it is a way of reconnecting with sections of society that had become estranged from the Church.
Francis has also continued Benedict's zero tolerance approach on paedophilia, insisting that offending priests must be defrocked -- while failing to fully satisfy the demands of victims' organisations who suspect him of seeking to minimise the damage the scourge has done to the Church.
For many, Francis's strength lies in the direct connection he appears to have with the ordinary people of a globalising world seeking meaning in their lives.