I mentioned in the previous post on this topic that I had seen something somewhere comparing speeches made by Francis on his recent visit to some made by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Whatever it was I saw, I couldn't find it again. So I compared speeches made by all three at the U.N. Then, because I had been struck by the favorable comments made about Francis by some non-Catholics, I posted this on Facebook:
I was naturally pleased, but also a bit puzzled, by the positive reactions shown by several liberal non-Catholic friends and relatives to Pope Francis's speech to Congress. It wasn't all that different from similar speeches given by his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The other two never spoke to Congress, but all three spoke to the UN, so I looked up those speeches. Links below. There really is not all that much difference among them--different emphases, and JP in particular had a fairly distinctive (slightly eccentric) writing style (all those italics). But in both tone and substance they're more alike than different. All three focused intensely on respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. This tends to confirm my view that JPII and BXVI got a worse press than they deserved (B especially). And perhaps that Francis has gotten a better one. They're all about the same length, 6-8 pages, if you want to read them.
My hope (obviously) was that maybe they would see that Francis is not an aberration, and maybe the Church is not really so bad. I didn't get much reaction, and what I did get indicated that the effort was fruitless. I don't think there's much the Church can do to change liberal opinion at large, short of abandoning its moral teachings completely, and perhaps its formal theological teachings as well. At best it will achieve the sort of thing that Marianne described in a comment a while back: Hillary Clinton applauding the pope's support for climate change action, followed immediately by a bit of cheerleading for abortion rights.
But anyway: I think the comparison of these three speeches is also worthwhile for conservative Catholics worried about Francis. There really isn't a dramatic difference.