At a weekly public audience earlier this year, the Pope underscored one of his characteristic themes: the countercultural implications of membership in the church. 'Belief in God makes us bearers of values that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment,' he said. CNS reports.
'It calls on us to adopt standards and behaviours that do not belong to the common way of thinking,' he said. 'The Christian should not be afraid to swim against the tide to live his own faith, resisting the tendency to conform.'
More recently, the Pope used similar language when urging young Catholics to commit to the sacrament of marriage. 'In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of enjoying the moment,' he said. 'I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.'
The first quotation is from Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican in January; the second from Pope Francis, in Rio de Janeiro July 28. Of the many strands of continuity between the two men's pontificates, none is clearer than their common conviction that Christian faith puts the believer at odds with the materialist 'idols' of today's secular society.
On that basis alone, one might have expected these avowed countercultural leaders to attract similar degrees of hostility, or at least disdain, from the dominant culture. But, in fact, their experiences in this regard have been starkly opposed.
Throughout Pope Benedict's eight-year pontificate, secular media outlets routinely portrayed him as backward or bigoted for his defense of traditional Catholic teaching, particularly on moral questions.
By contrast, it is hard to imagine any pope today enjoying better press than Pope Francis, especially in normally unsympathetic quarters.