Pope Francis is in continuity with Pope Benedict on the matter of having the Church press forward in the light of Vatican II. First, Pope Benedict draws a direct correlation between the “traditional innovations” of the Franciscan Order which were misinterpreted by heretical Franciscans and defended properly by St. Bonaventure, and the difficulties of postconcilar implementation:
At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”: Christ’s works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this “spiritualistic utopianism” is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally “other” Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.
Today Pope Francis has reiterated the necessity to go forward, emphasizing that the Holy Spirit is not subject to anyone’s presuppositions. This is the Holy Father speaking. It is his business to discern these matters:
Put frankly, the Pope continued, “the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.
Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”
The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal life. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” He concluded his homily by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.”
Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are in complete continuity here, Benedict emphasizing the balance, avoiding the extremes of an attitude of “the Church is in decline” and “spiritualistic utopianism,” and Francis emphasizing the fact that the Holy Spirit cannot be harnessed or stopped by anyone on the pretext of knowing better than the Church.
I think it is also important to point out that the Holy Father is not vitiating the the dispositions of Pope Benedict in respect to the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy, as long as it is perceived in relationship with the Ordinary Form as “mutual enrichment,” and in respect to the legitimacy and intended fruitfulness of the Council and its reforms. In any case, the idea of “turning back the clock” did not come from Pope Benedict.
Awsome homily from Pope Francis!