Andrea Gagliarducci writes a very interesting piece here on Pope Benedict's recent interview, it highlights the great breach between the Pontiffs, it is not, as Gagliarducci points out, a significant doctrinal breech between the two but rather one of approach but it is this which is vital.
Some people accuse the present Holy Father of all sorts of heresies. I simply don't understand what he says, nor actually am I that interested in searching his long speeches and even longer documents to discover a heresy. What is more I don't have the Spanish to understand him and taking what he says in the media, seems to me be just spin, form but no substance.
The real difference is, as Gagliarducci points out, the lack of intellectual substance in the present Pontificate, the principle that 'realities' are more important than ideas, is as Benedict points out ultimately bankrupt.
Benedict XVI’s recent words also challenge the principle that realities are more than ideas, which Pope Francis states as one of the four pillars of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” This notion is quite widespread in Latin America, and can be considered a relic of liberation theology. Practiced Marxism has become a pragmatic Marxism, close to common thinking and tailored to foster the social development of peoples.Gagliarducci is right this idea of that 'realities are more important than ideas' seems to underscore the thought of many of Francis' placemen, Cardinal Parolin and Rodriguez Maradiaga are prime examples, so too is Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of the Congregation for Religious, whose merciless pogrom against of the Franciscans of the the Immaculate, started under the guise of a financial investigation by Fr Volpi but has been increasingly revealed as an attack on their intellectual exploration of the of the Vatican Council and significantly in the light of Benedicts interview their questioning of Rhanner's 'anonymous Christianity'. In rather terrifying Marxist terms Braz has even spoken of the need for their 're-education'. On the part of the present men of power in the Church there seems to be a real contempt even hatred of the intellect.
One can see that 'realities' will be important to the massive German church corporation, which though it is haemorrhaging members, still seeks public support from an increasingly secularised membership who look to the Church not for its proclamation of Christ but for its schools, hospitals, child and nursing home care. It is one of the biggest German employers, and therefore feels obliged to deal in 'realities'. To be quite unkind, what seems the bottom line 'reality' for the Germans is what fills its coffers and its place at whatever table it can get its snout into. One can see how this search for 'realities' has formed Kasper's theology, especially his theology of 'Mercy'.
The great problem is that in the world 'realities' change, Germany's realities today are radically different from what they were 18 months ago. The men who choose the Church's 'realities' perhaps have a certain blindness, the (rumoured) movers and shakers behind Francis' election, Kasper, Daneels, Marx, Murphy O'Oonnor even, are men of certain age, experience and ecclesiology, they reflect a very narrow perspective. Fewer younger bishops, even among their own appointed successors would share their 'realities', society and the Church has moved on. Frankly, if the Church followed their trajectory it would collapse, even for the most factionalist supporters, mission or death stares them in the face. Those very carefully chosen 'realities' that have been the focus of the Pope's generation and seen in the life work of many of those Cardinals who have retired in the last ten years, have been very narrow, and myopic. Their chosen 'realities' have often been about power and faction within the Church rather than about its Dominical Mission to teach the nations but they have failed to reflect the 'signs of the times'.
The signs of times are different, even beyond the European or North American experience: migration, climate change, economic disenchantment and injustice, shifting power bases, the rise of aggressive secularism, the rise of even more aggressive Islam, the rise of nationalism or regionalism and terrorism are creating a world far different than what might have been understood even three years ago. In the Church the signs of the times are different too, old men simply have nothing to say to the young; three ordinations in the almost 3 million strong diocese of Buenos Aires sums up how much a generation has failed in its proclamation of the Gospel and how unattractive they have made following Christ.
No-one today is interested in the Church that merely mouths what any other NGO can say more articulately. Indeed as the Church enters into partisan politics rather than gathering the faithful it divides them. Younger clergy and even new bishops are a distinct from the previous generation, their values and formation have occurred under vastly different conditions to the previous generation in training during the turmoil of the Council.
The great problem with a Church focussed on 'realities' is all it can do is to do what any other NGO does and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned - not an unimportant part of Christ's teaching - but it is the sum of it. Christ raises the dead to life, opens heaven, reconciles mankind to his Father. Christ changes man in the depth of his being from sinner to saint, he not only comes alongside of man in solidarity but raises him up, even to the point of enthusing him with divinity. Such a Church is incapable offering hope, especially if cuts itself off from the supernatural.