Sure, Pope Francis has a certain style all his own - he eschews formality for the more simple. His Jesuit roots show, just as the professorial style of Pope Benedict XVI was evident during his reign. What isn't different is that all Catholics are bound by the Great Commandment - that we love one another. Whether in scripture, homily or practice, that has always been the case. After all, a highly significant number of the schools, hospitals and charities originate and are run by the Church - all over the world. That's something that has been going on for decades - centuries, really.
So what is it about our current state of affairs, that makes compliments to Pope Francis into insults to his predecessors (especially the past two)? One obvious answer is that the secular world (and poorly catechized Catholics) are always looking for a chink in the armor of the Church. These disgruntled folks seek to force the Church to conform to their ideology rather than taking up the teachings instituted by Christ Himself. There seems to be a lot of projection and wishful thinking going on. I find it puzzling that someone would seek to remain in a church with which they have grave disagreements, and attempt to change her, rather than becoming a member of a more like-minded church. And, let's face it, there are tens of thousands of man-instituted options out there!
Of course another persistent threat is from Satan himself, who prowls about creating mischief. What better way to discourage unity within the ranks of Catholics than to sow doubt by casting light on poorly conceived comparisons. Isn't it possible that we are simply given just the right man, as our Vicar of Christ, at just the right time - by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? And in order for one Pope to be just what the Church needs, do those who came before him have to be discredited? I think that it's much more realistic to look at them as trail blazers - each for the one to come after him.
I've seen so many poorly rationalized comparisons in these scant two weeks - enough to make my head spin. Wouldn't it be better for us all to recognize that each of us is divinely created with our own unique gifts? Isn't that what we are admonished to do for each individual gracing this earth? Why then, not do the same for these men of God? They each have their gifts to share with the world - because even non-Catholics and non-believers are impacted by the man in the Vatican. Pope John Paul II gave us the New Evangelization and taught us about the dignity of all humans - unto death. Pope Benedict XVI moved us toward reviving the liturgy and a renewal of faith - the Year of Faith. Likewise, Pope Francis will share his unique gifts with the world during his reign. One thing doesn't change, however, the truth as illuminated by God. The Church, through our priests, gives us access to Christ Himself - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Wouldn't it be a shame to detract the purpose of our existence? Shouldn't we focus on Divine Truth rather than human misconceptions?
--US Catholic Church statistics can be found here.