I direct your attention to two rather provocative essays. The first is by Sam Rocha: “Francis’s Radical Realism: Performance v. Ideology,” which attempts to interpret Pope Francis’ statement in Evangelii Gaudium “realities are more important than ideas.” It is a challenging read and a controversial one, but no less than the statement of Pope Francis.
As a Franciscan and a Scotist any attempt within Catholic orthodoxy to give adequate accounting for the concrete and personal is of interest to me. I also find it interesting that in the essay the concrete is set against ideology, not philosophy or theology per se, but the subordination of realities and especially persons to ideas. I do believe that this is exactly what is happening today, especially on the fringes, where progressivist dogmas and appeals to supossed doctrinal purity seem to narrow the gospel to obsessions over only part of the message. This sectarian reduction of the gospel ends by instrumentalizing persons.
Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are not divided by philosophical outlooks, as helpful as they may find them. They enjoy a deeper unity, not only as they share in the same Petrine ministry, but as they are conformed to Christ. Like those sainted monks who stand at the ancient and medieval roots of western civilization, they not only keep open the trails between the cloister and the city, but they descend and ascend alike on the same ladder of Christ whose sacrifice manifests God’s love and mercy on a Roman cross.
With the ascendency of the mendicants, the Church was presented with a new kind of monasticism, which from the point of view of the old monks was no monasticism at all. The mendicants, especially the Franciscans, had a hard time finding the equilibrium neccessary to be effective as the reform movement their orders were meant to be. It was a potentially powerful and at the same time dangerous postconciliar movement (post Lateran IV) that needed to find it’s way. It shed many of the monastic customs, most notably stability, in the interests of evangelical dynamism. Unfortunately, like a good number of postconciliarists of our day, many of its adherents were utopian a caused a great deal of trouble.
In the end, however, today as then, both the monks and mendicants are necessary, the Bendictines and Franciscans. Pope Benedict has argued for centers of liturgical renewal where the liturgy could be preserved and developed prayerfully (without imposing a top down solution on the whole Church)—the option of the old monasticism. Francis for his part is encouraging the Church to reach to the frontiers in a bold new effort at evangelization—the new mendicant option. Both are necessary. Neither contradicts the other. Together they provide balance.
Pope Emeritus Benedict has again recently attempted to dismiss the media hype about opposition between the two papacies. I think both Rocha and Pecknold have the right spirit.