At the Catholic Herald, Ed Condon has a very good appreciation of the Holy Father’s address to the Rota, which he described as “remarkable for its continuity with the previous addresses of St John Paul II and Benedict XVI. If we were to insist on using political terms for a theological and legal address, it would be easy to characterise it as strikingly conservative.” Read the whole thing there.
For our part, we were very surprised by the Holy Father’s speech—we don’t know if that came through in our initial comments on it—largely because it seemed like another papal address to the Rota. Francis has tried, perhaps consciously, to provide a different tone to his public pronouncements. He seems to avoid the philosophical style of John Paul and the careful theological lectures of Benedict in favor of a broader, perhaps impressionistic, tone. And, of course, the context for any discussion of Mitis iudex and marriage questions needn’t be restated, except to say that Francis had to know that observers of the Church would be looking very closely at this address to see if it contains any clues for the Big Decision. With all that going on, we wonder if it is significant that he has delivered an address so in line with John Paul and Benedict’s thinking.
We also note that the handful of citations in the speech are also apparently sort of conservative: Pius XI’s Casti connubii, Pius XII’s 1940 speech to the Rota, some stuff by Paul VI (including a pastoral letter written when he was archbishop of Milan), some John Paul II, and St. Augustine on the bona matrimonii. If someone other than the Holy Father gave a speech sprinkled with Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, they’d be called a conservative (or worse).