On Friday, July 5, 2013, Pope Francis released the first encyclical of his pontificate. The Holy Father described Lumen fidei ("The Light of Faith") as the work of "four hands," a reference to the fact that the document was begun by Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation. The subject—the theological virtue of faith—is clearly a continuation of Pope Benedict's first two encyclicals, Deus caritas est ("God Is Love") and Spe salvi ("In Hope We Are Saved"). Yet the encyclical is signed by Pope Francis, which is as it should be: The Holy Father is the supreme teacher in the Church; the Pope Emeritus renounced that authority when he abdicated the Throne of Peter.
Yet over the next few days, Catholic and secular writers with various agendas will try to seek out "Benedictine" and "Franciscan" passages within Lumen fidei, just as some tried to deconstruct Pope Benedict's last encyclical, Caritas in veritate ("Charity in Truth"), to separate the "Benedictine" material from that which may have originated in some curial department. But just as Benedict signed all of Caritas in veritate and not just some paragraphs of it, Francis has signed all of Lumen fidei. In doing so, each man made each document his, no matter where certain words may have found their source.
That is why such efforts at deconstruction of papal encyclicals are fundamentally opposed to any Catholic sensibility. Pope Benedict could sign Caritas in veritate even if not every word originated with him, and Pope Francis could do the same with Lumen fidei, because the substance of Catholic teaching is unchanging. Once we have an encyclical written entirely by Pope Francis, we may be able to see that the style of Lumen fidei is more "Benedictine" than "Franciscan"; but the substance of Lumen fidei belongs to neither man, but to the magisterium—the teaching authority—of the Church. Anyone who does not understand that is thinking with the mind of the world rather than with the mind of the Church.
Lumen fidei is 20,000 words in length; as I wrote when Caritas in veritate (which is 28,000 words long) was released, same-day reaction "may be immediate, but by its nature it can be neither in-depth nor considered." I will take the weekend to read the encyclical closely, and I will provide a summary and considered thoughts next week. In the meantime, if you wish to read Lumen fidei yourself, you can find the complete text at the Vatican's website.