Benedict's last testament.

That's how theologian Tina Beattie (remember her?) describes Lumen fidei, the first encyclical signed by Pope Francis.

Many will welcome this encyclical with its elegant weaving together of biblical, theological and philosophical themes, but I suspect that others will struggle with its bleak view of modern society and its romanticised vision of the Church. Only in one short section which comes about half way through its 88 pages does it acknowledge the possibility that faith might be found outside the doctrines, magisterial authority and sacramental unity of the Catholic Church. This section, titled ‘Faith and the search for God', is so different in tone that it leads me to suspect that here we detect the influence of a quieter, more pastorally sensitive authorial voice, and a hint of a different vision which is about to emerge. Apart from this one section, there is no suggestion that secular society and other religions might have something positive to contribute to the self-understanding of the Catholic faith, nor that people of faith come in many shapes and forms. The overall impression - apart from that one section - is that European culture is riven between faithful Catholics and godless relativists who have lost all concept of truth and meaning. For an encyclical so concerned with truth, this is not a true picture of the complex realities of the modern world.

Read the whole thing right here.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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