A brief letter from Pope Francis to Archbishop Agostino Marchetto has recently been made public wherein the Holy Father praised the archbishop as “the best interpreter of the Second Vatican Council.”
In 2005, Archbishop Marchetto authored a book entitled, “Vatican Council II: Counterpoint for Its History” in which he essentially champions what Pope Benedict XVI called the “hermeneutic of continuity.”
While the letter might make for a nice addition to the archbishop’s personal archives, it’s not particularly newsworthy. Based on the way some conservative Catholic commentators are treating it, however, you would think that Pope Francis just signed the Oath Against Modernism.
William Oddie at Catholic Herald, for example, has a piece running in which he proclaims:
With that declaration, with his open support for this book, and with the decision to make the text of his letter public, Pope Francis is making an explicit declaration of his own ecclesial position, which he clearly expects to be noted by all: viz that he supports Benedict XVI’s vision of the Church, and absolutely rejects the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II”. There can now be no question of writing off this Holy Father as a “liberal Pope”: not unless you are one of the weird eccentrics who attempts to do the same for Benedict XVI himself.
Well then, perhaps I’m tending toward weird eccentricity, but please allow me to clarify:
Pope Francis isn’t to be “written off” as a “liberal pope;” rather, he is to be feared as a modernist.
As for Pope Benedict, while history will judge him most favorably for liberating the traditional liturgy with Summmorum Pontificum, his “hermeneutic of continuity” program, even after a seven year pontificate, failed, and it will continue to fail no matter who is at the helm precisely because it attempts to establish continuity in areas where it simply doesn’t exist (e.g., the Council’s treatment of religious liberty, collegiality and ecumenism).
As such, looking upon Benedict XVI, and likewise Archbishop Marchetto, as quasi-messianic figures relative to the interpretation of Vatican II, is to deny reality, the latter’s claim to fame extending no further than bashing “Bologna School” liberals who see the Council both as a rupture and as a cause for celebration.
So far has the bar been lowered as to what qualifies as a heroic defense of the Faith, that Marchetto is thus treated by some like a crusader in shining armor, but this makes about as much sense as giving the Nobel Prize for Medicine to a researcher whose greatest scientific accomplishment is concluding that cancer is fatal.
In any event, the very notion that this one solitary letter from the pope to a retired prelate somehow trumps the witness of the last eight months is just plain ludicrous.
Far more indicative of Francis’ “ecclesial position,” is the lengthy speech recently delivered by his handpicked advisor Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga at the University of Dallas (about which I have written elsewhere on this blog).
That, however, is a truly bitter pill to swallow, which is why, I presume, otherwise intelligent men feel compelled to consume the sugar coated fairy tale that the pontificate of Pope Francis is eventually going to resemble, in some meaningful measure, that of Pope Benedict.