Several days ago I commented that Pope Francis reminds me of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. It expressed my befuddlement over what the pope says. It was common for Cardinal Joseph to articulalate a teaching of the Church in one breath and imply that personal conscience could overrule the teaching in the next. I'm not aware that he ever emphasized the importance of an informed conscience and what that meant.
Now a respected observer of the Vatican, Sandro Magister, has compared Pope Francis' approach to Cardinal Bernardin's and described him as "separating himself" from his predecessors:
There was however in Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger, and pastors like Ruini or in the United States the cardinals Francis George and Timothy Dolan the intuition that the proclamation of the Gospel today could not be disjointed from a critical interpretation of the advancing new vision of man, in radical contrast with the man created by God in his image and likeness, and from a consequent action of pastoral leadership.
And it is here that pope Francis separates himself. In his interview with "La Civiltà Cattolica" there is another key passage. To Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who asks him about the current "anthropological challenge," he replies in an elusive manner. He demonstrates that he does not latch onto the epochal gravity of the transition of civilization analyzed and forcefully contested by Benedict XVI and by John Paul II before him. He shows himself convinced that it is more worthwhile to respond to the challenges of the present with the simple proclamation of the merciful God, that God who "makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and makes it rain on the just and on the unjust."
In Italy, but not only there, it was the cardinal and Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini who represented this alternative orientation to John Paul II, to Benedict XVI, and to Cardinal Ruini.
In the United States it was Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin who represented it, before the leadership of the episcopal conference passed to cardinals George and Dolan, very loyal to Wojtyla and Ratzinger.
The followers and admirers of Martini and Bernardin today see in Francis the pope who is giving shape to their expectations of a comeback.
And just as a Cardinal Martini was and continues to be very popular in the public opinion outside of and hostile to the Church, the same is happening for the current pope. (Read the entire article.)Magister examines the two interviews and two letters, one between Pope Francis and his atheist interviewer and one from Pope Benedict XVI (before his elevation) to another atheist. Pope Francis, he says, "dodges the stumbling blocks;" Cardinal Ratzinger "emphasizes them."
The notes and links at the end of Magister's article are also very interesting. One is an article by George Weigel, The End of the Bernardin Era. It is unsettling, to say the least, to think that perhaps the Bernardin era has returned and been elevated to the Vatican. Let us pray diligently for the Holy Father and for Holy Mother Church.