Cosmic Chastity in an Age of Technocratic Lust: The Theological, Ethical and Spiritual Legacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the Francis Papacy

By Jeremiah Barker

Barker’s compelling argument is an opportunity to reconsider the legacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the light of contemporary Catholic debates and challenges.

ISBN: 9780227180150


John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Jeremiah Barker argues, share the theological, ethical, and spiritual core of Pope Francis’ social teaching. Reappropriating R.R. Reno’s redemption of Francis’ cogent argument, Barker draws out the underlying rationale of Francis’ message, which he argues is identical to the two previous popes.

Inspired by Francis’ call and teaching, Barker’s compelling argument is an opportunity to reconsider the legacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the light of contemporary Catholic debates and challenges. A unique and refreshing analysis, Barker’s argument is relevant for any Catholic seeking to make sense of these popes’ messages.

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About the Author

Jeremiah Barker is a lay member of Madonna House Apostolate in Combermere, Ontario, and has contributed articles to Communio and Plough.


Preface: To My Fellow “JP2 Catholics”

Introducing Cosmic Chastity – Why Interpreting the Popes from within the Culture Wars Doesn’t Work, and an Alternative Hermeneutic That Does

Part I: Truth, Justice, and Charity: The JP2-B16 Legacy and Francis’s Social Teaching
1 Resisting Relativism – JP2’s and B16’s Concern for Moral Truth, Justice, and Charity
2 Pope Francis on the Crisis of Communal Commitment – Moral Truth and the Truth about Family Life against the Regime of Relativism
3 A Canticle of Praise against the Logic of Babel – The Papal Trio’s Liturgical Ontology over and against the Culture Wars

Part II: Another Song, Other Singers; Another War, Other Warriors: A Fight for the Heart of Culture, the Meaning of Work, and Vocational Commitment
Benedict and Francis in the Fiery Furnace – A Fight for the Heart of Culture
5 The Truth about Work and the Worker – JP2 and Benedict against Economic Injustice
6 JP2 and Francis on the Call of Christ – A Fight for Love-Fueled Responsibility and Vocational Commitment

Part III: The Harmony of Moral Truth against the Cacophony of Relativism
Francis and the Tradition of Cosmic Chastity against the Dictatorship of Relativism
8 An Ode to Truth – JP2’s and Francis’s Shared Insistence on Moral Truth in the Crucible of Family Life Today
9 A Rehabilitation of Marriage and Family – The Papal Trio on the Summit of Creation
Prophetic Outcry and Liturgical Praise in the Fiery Furnace of Technocratic Lust


Endorsements and Reviews

For all the ‘John Paul II Catholics’ who have found the pontificate of Pope Francis to be trying times, here is a carefully reasoned and deeply pious invitation to see Francis differently. It should be welcomed by all who do not like the idea of trying to be more Catholic than the Pope. Jeremiah Barker does us a great service in this book, which will stand as one of the most insightful assessments of Francis’s theology. Phillip Cary, editor, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

In a deeply polarized age where convinced positions tend to harden rather than listen, this Song of Three Popes is listening to the notes, augmenting the harmonies, and monitoring the dynamics of the melody, inviting Roman Catholics who uphold orthodoxy to do so with open ears. Catholic social teaching is well worth rescuing from the politics of the culture wars. This proposal offers a sound alternative.Ellen Charry, emerita professor of theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

Through the distorting lens of American politics, Pope Francis is often cast as an opponent to his predecessors, rather than their faithful heir. Jeremiah Barker’s rich and insightful book shows this to be a profound misreading. Compellingly written and theologically profound, Cosmic Chastity beckons us away from the siren call of technocratic consumerism to hearken to a different melody: the song of creation-as-gift, one sung by Francis, Benedict XVI, and John Paul II in seamless harmony.
Abigail Favale, professor, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

For many, Pope Francis is an enigma. But in the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola, Jeremiah Barker reminds us that charity would rather discover a good interpretation than condemn, and that the hermeneutics of continuity is a guide to reading well. That sort of charity is commendable, and Barker’s readers will be well-served to read along with him. R. J. Snell, editor-in-chief, The Public Discourse

It’s safe to say Catholics in North America have had a complicated relationship with the papacy of Pope Francis. In this book, Jeremiah Barker resurrects some of the under-appreciated aspects of Pope Francis’ theology and witness. By highlighting the commonalities between Pope Francis and his predecessors, Barker offers a vision of stewardship, justice, and chastity that should challenge and compel Catholics across the ideological aisle. Patrick T. Brown, fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

The pope is the vicar of Christ. Faithful Catholics receive the pope’s magisterial teaching in a spirit of acceptance and docility. However, too many Catholics regard the pope as just another political figure of the right or the left, whose teaching is judged from one’s perspective in the culture wars. Jeremiah Barker presents the teaching of Pope Francis as authentic Catholic doctrine, completely consistent with the teaching of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. A masterful and necessary book! Thomas Betz, OFM Cap, pastor, Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Center City Philadelphia

Jeremiah Barker persuasively shows the consistency of Pope Francis’s theological and anthropological approach—especially to ecology and marriage—with that of his two predecessors. Barker does this with an authoritative but open reading of both familiar and less well-known texts from the three popes. Perhaps even more impressive is Barker’s own description of the pontifical understanding of the great modern conflict between what he evocatively calls ‘cosmic chastity’ and ‘technocratic lust.’ Edward Hadas, author of Counsels of Imperfection: Thinking Through Catholic Social Teaching

Jeremiah Barker preaches an all-too-rare message: the fullness of the gospel, with all the sharpness of its challenge to our contemporary way of life. For those weary of the constant attempts to assimilate Church teaching to one agenda or another, Barker’s book and the deep faith at its roots is just the remedy. Zena Hitz, author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life