A “Francis Effect” in these USA?

There is a lot of buzz about a “Francis Effect”.  As I watch Twitter, for example, I see comments such as “I’m not Catholic anymore, but I really like this Pope!” or “I disagree with the Church on a lot of things, but Francis is great!”

There are reports that numbers of penitents making sacramental confessions are up.  GOOD!  I hope that is the case.

At the same time… is the a “Francis Effect” and, if so, will it last?  Are people who are in some way impressed with Francis going to change some aspect of their lives?

Liberals will tend to latch on only to what the MSM reports about certain of Francis’ soundbites.  This is going to be a huge problem in sorting out the meaning of the new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.   Conservatives will also be driven, through herd-mentality, to react to those same soundbites.  I predict that a greater polarization is ahead of us.  “Francis Effect”?  I hope not, but I am not sanguine.  People on both sides don’t seem to be able to read and weigh anymore.

Anyway, I was sent a link to a post at the Pew Research Center:

No clear ‘Pope Francis effect’ among U.S. Catholics

In the first eight months of his pontificate, Pope Francis has impressed, charmed and inspired many people around the world with his outreach to non-Christians, his statements of concern for the poor and disabled, and his personal humility. At the same time, other Catholics have expressed dismay over the pope’s statements about homosexuality and his remarks that the church is “obsessed” with some social issues.

Some news accounts contend that the pope’s popularity has created a “Pope Francis effect,” producing a “significant global rise in church attendance,” based on reports by Catholic clergy in Italy, Britain and and other countries of a recent rise in Mass attendance.

In the United States, home to the world’s fourth-largest Catholic population, the pope appears to be well-liked by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, rated favorably by 79% of Catholics and 58% of the general public.

[QUAERITUR…] But has the pope’s popularity produced a Catholic resurgence in the U.S., where 10% of adults are former Catholics? Not so far, at least in terms of the share of Americans who identify as such, or the share of those who report attending Mass weekly.

A new analysis of pooled Pew Research surveys conducted between Francis’ election in March and the end of October this year finds that the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has remained the same – 22% — as it was during the corresponding seven-month period in 2012. In fact, our polls going back to 2007 show Catholic identification in the U.S. has held stable, fluctuating only between 22% and 23%. [Is the Francis Effect just a superficial, ephemeral phenomenon?]

Though Americans may report attending church more frequently than they actually do, our surveys find that self-reported levels of Mass attendance have remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected. Since April of this year, 39% of U.S. Catholics report attending Mass at least weekly, similar to the 40% attendance figure last year.

Mass attendance isn’t the only thing to look at.

Can we imagine that as Pres. Obama and crew help to destroy the job-force and blast family budgets to the moon through the “AFFORDABLE” Care Act that people will gives as much?

Will homosexuals be moved to live continent lives?  Will the wymyn priest crowd give up their demands for Holy Orders?

Will the number of young men who respond to priestly vocations rise?  The numbers of men and women to religious vocations?

Will Catholic schools clean up their act and guide their institutions according to Ex corde Ecclesiae?

Will couples in invalid and immoral relationships be moved by the Francis Effect to get their lives straightened out?

What is the Francis Effect?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    “There are reports that numbers of penitents making sacramental confessions are up.”

    I don’t know the numbers, but I know that one or another of the Fathers in my parish is in the confessional during 8:30 Mass (Novus Ordo) most Sundays. And people are going.

    The other week I noticed a big family among the 8:30 congregants whom I couldn’t remember having seen at Mass before. Are they from out of town? I idly wondered. And thought no more until I happened to notice that, one by one, they were slipping out of their pew . . . and back to the Confession line. AWESOME.

    I pray that something like this happens every week during every Mass at every parish.

  2. Andrew says:

    Time is greater than space. [And the inside is bigger than the outside?]

  3. Priam1184 says:

    I have thought since the first weeks after his election and the first inklings of the ‘Francis effect’ that his papacy had the potential to be a very tragic one. He has been and is being portrayed by the MSM as ‘liberal’ ideologue when he is in fact nothing of the kind. This has the potential to alienate those who call themselves ‘liberal’ when it finally dawns on them that he is not one of them, as it has already alienated many of those who call themselves ‘conservative.’ A true devil’s brew is in the works I fear. But such is the world we live in; the unfolding of events in the geopolitical arena doesn’t provide me with a whole lot of solace for the near term future of the Church either. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

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  5. Johnno says:

    Even assuming things were looking rosier, what reason is there to directly correlate it to Pope Francis? Not to put His Holiness out of the picture, but couldn’t improving Church attendance also be thanks to the hard work of the front line Catholics engaged in the Traditional Mass, Apologetics, Pro-life efforts, etc.? Maybe as increasingly more and more people lose faith in the government and corrupt democratic process and as things look their worse, more are turning back to God instead? There are plenty of other explanations for this phenomena. It could in fact be a combination of all of the above.

  6. Robbie says:

    The only reason we hear about the so called “Francis Effect” is the media believes he’s a liberal just as they are. So if the liberal media believes the Pope is a man who shares their political values, then surely Catholics must be flocking back to the pews in huge numbers. It doesn’t even matter the facts don’t agree. The chance to push the story does.

    A good example of this is a new article published at Politico.com, a left leaning political new website. In the article, they write with joy the Pope doesn’t like “trickle down economics”. The use of that phrase is key because the liberal media uses it as a way to discredit conservative tax and economic policies. Now in all fairness, it doesn’t surprise me Francis dislikes conservative economic views, especially since he comes from South America where Marxism is rampant.

  7. iPadre says:

    I don’t think Americans are effected by much any more. During the Gulf War the churches were packed for a number of months. After 9/11 they were packed for a few weeks. We have become desensitized. We all have to do what we can to effect change in our part of the world, but, I’m under the belief that only a divine intervention will move the world.

  8. MikeM says:

    I don’t know if it will work, but I think that Francis’ focus is a little longer term than we’ve been able to see so far. Pope Benedict’s message was effectively shut out for a lot of people because, from the outset, they had determined that he was a right-wing totalitarian ex-Nazi who hated this group and that group. I think that Francis has tried to throw the enemies of the Church off a bit, to prevent people from forming an immediate negative impression of him, so that as he goes on, people are listening to him rather than dismissing him out-of-hand. Sure, over time, most of the people who are committed to opposing the Church’s message will turn on him, but, in the meantime, he’ll be able to speak to a lot more people. And, that’s ultimately the Church’s job. If we get the message to people and they still reject it, then it’s time to shake the dust from our sandals and move on… but if we fail to deliver the message in a way that they will actually hear us, that’s on us.

  9. SimonDodd says:

    The “Francis effect” is the propensity of secular progressives and seculararized “catholics,” including but not limited to those in the musical-entertainment complex, to believe that the pope isn’t a Catholic.

  10. Bedens says:

    Maybe the “Francis Effect” is responsible for the change in our weekly Catholic diocesan paper. The Pope’s photo (and an accompanying article from Catholic News Service) has been on the front page of our diocesan paper almost every week since he was elected. I’m not complaining about the presence of the articles and I sincerely mean no disrespect to the Holy Father. My complaint is that the focus of the diocesan paper seems to be on Pope Francis and all of a sudden I never see photos of Jesus Christ anymore. This past weekend was the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King and there was not a word about it in this paper. I thought at the very least they might have had a beautiful photo of Jesus on the cover of the paper, not no, it was another picture of Pope Francis.

  11. Seems like many are confused. A lot of the same confusion I witnessed when Obama got elected.

    Conservative voters weren’t happy, but after the election, when Obama mouthed the words ‘And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too’, I took him for his word and was willing to watch and see what happens – after all there is something called the Constitution that cannot, in theory, be sidelined.

    But it turned out as I feared. Obama’s first moves were to parade around the world telling everybody what they wanted to hear, belittling America, and apologizing for every rude act America has ever committed. Then when that was under his belt, he brazenly began his wildly progressive domestic policies of “fundamentally transforming America” to put it in his own crafty words.

    I see an exact parallel in style and approach between Obama and Pope Francis, save the Catholic Faith thing. Pope Francis, shorty after being elected, says many words to a world audience, kisses babies, downplays traditions and rituals. Then, now it is beginning: the fundamental transformation of the Church that Francis has been seeking to implement. What will be implemented, how, and to what impact? If he is following the exact pattern as Obama, then I pray the “obamacare” Francis gives to the Church will still leave Her a dignified identity.

  12. anna 6 says:

    Johhno says:
    “Even assuming things were looking rosier, what reason is there to directly correlate it to Pope Francis?”
    Not to take anything away from Pope Francis, but many people were very moved by Benedict’s final days as pope and the humility and love it took for him to step down, in addition to the dramatic period of the conclave. Catholicism has been a very big story in 2013.

    However, I hate to reduce this to money, but since it is measurable, it can be a useful way of assessing the situation. Unfortunately, in my diocese, charitable organizations are not seeing any increase in giving, in fact they have seen a decrease (which can be attributed to many factors). I hope that Francis’ devotion to the poor will inspire more generosity from the faithful in addition to their participation in the sacraments and the life of the Church.

  13. JacobWall says:

    I am both pessimistic and optimistic. In the present and short term, I am pessimistic. If the “Francis effect” has been happening somewhere, it sure hasn’t been where I live, at least not on any noticeable scale. The pews are still about 30% full at best, and our new priest sits in the confessional 20 minutes before every Mass apparently only for me and my wife. (I’m optimistic that this will change within a few months, but that’s a different story.)

    Unless things are really different elsewhere, I feel like this is more a verbal/emotional reaction rather than any real action. I get the feeling that it’s non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics, reading what the MSM says about the Pope and saying “Catholicism is stupid, and they finally have a pope who tells them so! I’m happy to have a pope who confirms that I’m doing the right thing by not buying into the stupidities of Catholicism.”

    A new-age/seeker friend of mine is one such person; he’s excited about Pope Francis, but has made it abundantly clear that the main reason he likes Pope Francis is that he has confirmed that what we saw from the last 2 popes was just non-sense (or so he thinks.) If this is the “Francis Effect” than it’s not all that useful – at least not immediately.

    But there is a silver lining; in the case of this friend of mine, his excitement about Pope Francis was a major contributing factor to inspire him to join me for a Latin Mass a few weeks ago. He liked it and wants to go again. So, while he currently has no desire or interest in becoming Catholic, he really likes a pope who is turning out to be more conservative than most people thought, and has been inspired to go to the TLM now and then – this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to me.

    This friend of mine is not a liberal with an agenda, but rather a sincere man disillusioned with most religions he has encountered. Even if the current “Francis Effect” is an illusion, perhaps in the future we will see a quieter, more subtle “Franicis Effect” that is also more real – and of course, one which the media won’t notice. For this, I am optimistic.

  14. pjthom81 says:

    I shall throw this out there as food for thought as I am still uncertain on the merits, but St. Pius X was also known for being pastoral, of the people, impatient with pomp and circumstance, and in general being simplified enough in style so as to horrify his contemporaries. His predecessor was, like Benedict, focused on the synthesis of faith and reason in the modern world. On paper Pius X would seem to be very appealing to liberals, until the condemnation of modernism. Lord of the World, referenced repeatedly by Pope Francis and this blog dates to St. Pius Xs pontificate. Might history repeat?

    Regarding his effect…I’d say too early to tell. Right now it seems that the Pope has attracted curiosity….but whether this initial fascination leads to greater devotion to our Lord remains to be seen.

  15. Grabski says:

    Most ‘fallen away’ Catholics aren’t really fallen away; they still know that contracepting, abortion, skipping Mass etc is wrong. They need “Father” to give them a pass (hence, the popularity of general absolution).

    For right now, they think Francis is going to look the other way on their sins, and not mention them. I guess they have missed his insistence on sacramental, private confession which appears to be the actual legacy he will leave us.

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