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No, it's not a 'joint' encyclical

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 05, 2013

Just to guard against confusion, let’s get something straight: Lumen Fidei is not a “joint project” written by two Popes. There is only one Pope—Francis—and he is the author of this encyclical.

It’s no secret—in fact Pope Francis chose to emphasize it—that Pope Benedict XVI began drafting this encyclical before his resignation. But when he stepped down, Benedict handed the project over to his successor. Pope Francis was free to do whatever he wanted with the manuscript: to discard it, to amend it, or to complete it. With that transfer, it became his encyclical.

An encyclical is a teaching document, carrying the authority of the Roman Pontiff. Benedict relinquished that authority; the teaching authority behind this encyclical is that of Francis.

Yes, Benedict wrote the first draft—or at least much of it—and a discerning reader can detect the traces of his prose style. But it’s quite common for a Pontiff to have someone prepare an early draft of an encyclical; the final product remains the Pope’s responsibility.

In this case, the early draft was done by an earlier occupant of St. Peter’s throne. That’s not unprecedented. As John Allen reminds us, Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est picked up some themes from a draft begun by his own predecessor, Blessed John Paul II.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 23, 2018 8:33 AM ET USA

    Another example of "Journalism" being about suppressing stories that don't support their liberal agenda. But that monopoly on news is over. Deo Gratias.

  • Posted by: shirleyjohnson17174119 - Jan. 20, 2018 7:01 PM ET USA

    You have that exactly right. Having been there and marched, it was quite obvious that there were thousands of participants most much younger than myself, equally enthusiastic to be there supporting and praying for an end to the heinous abortion mill but absent to the media nevertheless.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jan. 19, 2018 4:48 PM ET USA

    Total media blackouts on events inconvenient to the ruling classes were very typical under Soviet communist system. E.g. the Chernobyl meltdown was first announced to the public only after Western European countries reported an unusual sudden rise in radiation levels. It is troubling to see the Soviet methods of selective reporting of events, no matter how significant, being adopted by the Western "free" press.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Jan. 19, 2018 3:22 PM ET USA

    I think the media believe that they can shape and define reality. And I suppose they can, to the degree that Americans are willing to rely on them for information about the world.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jan. 19, 2018 2:33 PM ET USA

    My humble correction: Victims will recover completely, and by Sunday even inexperienced journalists will recognize a potential fakenews story immediately even if there is no evidence for it.

  • Posted by: Kansas Girl - Jan. 22, 2014 3:56 PM ET USA

    I guess, like the proverbial ostrich with its head stuck in the sand, the popular press thinks if it doesn't see the hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers they really don't exist.

  • Posted by: mario.f.leblanc5598 - Jul. 05, 2013 9:01 PM ET USA

    As Cardinal Ouellet said (in French on Vatican Radio), Francis is in all of it while Benedict is in some parts of it. Let us read it as a teaching from Peter's Successor.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 05, 2013 3:32 PM ET USA

    Four hands? That sounds joint to me. Like a duet. Something Benedict would appreciate!