via Chicago Catholic:
Pope Benedict trusted that Christ would open a way ahead for the church. But his belief in the presence and action of the Risen Christ also shaped his understanding of how each of us should approach living out our discipleship in following Jesus.
For instance, like Pope Francis, he advocated for “the law of gradualness” when it comes to judgment in particular cases. He wrote that there is a need to recognize “the distinction between objective disorder and subjective guilt, which depends greatly on intentions, motivations and concrete circumstances. … In this line the law of gradualness has been rightly developed. … As judge, Christ is not a cold legalist.”
Pope Benedict also insisted that we view our Christian faith not as a set of laws or rules, a philosophy or ideology, but first of all as an encounter with the Risen Lord that transforms our lives. In a word, the core belief in the action and presence of the Risen Lord is the same for both popes.
It is important to keep that in mind as we pray for the Holy Father as he begins his sixth year as Successor of Peter. Undoubtedly, his bold words and gestures, which give expression to his core conviction about the Risen Lord, have threatened some who find change difficult and would prefer things to remain the same, particularly if it means their influence and power are being challenged.
For this reason, it is not surprising that we occasionally hear voices, unfortunately often expressed in print and broadcast media claiming to be Catholic, who criticize Pope Francis for introducing topics such as discernment, dialogue, mercy, gradualness to help us understand better our Christian lives. What they miss in their criticism is that everything the Holy Father is saying is based on his core conviction, one shared by his predecessors, that Christ is truly risen and active in the church and in each of our lives. As Pope Francis puts it, this means “Christ is always doing something new.”
Initially I thought that these contrarian voices were motivated by fear of change, fear of development and growth. Certainly some are. But I also have come to wonder whether they fail to appreciate fully the truth that Christ is risen, alive and active in the life of the church and the world.
Absent such an appreciation, there will always be a tendency to fixate on laws and rules, or to place one’s confidence in human efforts of personal heroism as the starting point of the spiritual life, as opposed to trusting in God’s ever-present grace and mercy to overcome any sin.