The Francis Effect™: Results Vary

Along the way when writing about The Francis Effect™ (mostly a rather shallow, “I don’t agree with the Church about a bunch o’ stuff, but I like this new Pope!”, though sometimes a genuine revitalization of Gospel values), I have opined something along the lines of: We shall see.  We shall see if this makes any difference in how people live, whether they change their lives in any way.

It is one thing to say “He’s the most wonderfullest, fluffiest Pope ehvur!  He’s the first Pope who has ever smiled or kissed a baby!” and quite another to say, “Because of his inspiring model I’ll give up using contraception, get my marriage straightened out, and go to confession.”

Pew Research has results of polling about The Francis Effect™ now.

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

There are all sorts of numbers that show that Francis is popular, that he has a high favorable rating.


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. [It hasn’t been even a year since his election.]

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%.

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.


Another Effect might be, however, the use by catholic politicians of off-the-cuff phrases uttered by Pope Francis to justify immoral acts (cf. Illinois and Kentucky).  But people who do that sort of thing are either wicked or dumb or both.  If they didn’t use Francis as a body-shield, they’d find some other way to justify their scandalous actions.

I read here, always in the same study, that there is little or no change in the numbers of people going to confession because of TFE™.

The new survey also finds no evidence that large numbers of Catholics are volunteering more or going to confession more often than in the past. Roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics (13%) say they have been volunteering more in their church or community over the past year, but 23% say they have been doing this less often, and 59% say their level of volunteering has not changed. Just one-in-twenty Catholics (5%) say they have been going to confession (also known as the sacrament of penance and reconciliation) more often over the last 12 months, while 22% say they have been going to confession less often, and 65% say their frequency of confession has not changed very much. [That 87% who are not doing so well with this.]

Time will tell.

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  1. cajuncath says:

    The pope has made a crop of disturbing statements in the past year. While this may, in some ways, endear him to general public opinion, there is no reason to think that it will inculcate a greater sense of Catholic identity among Catholics.

    If somebody disagrees, please explain how you see things differently.

  2. Elizium23 says:

    I had a short but tart conversation with my mother about my niece (her granddaughter and goddaughter) and her lack of the Sacrament of Confirmation at 18 years of age. Mom, bless her heart, is a Democrat and more on the “women’s ordination” side of things as a Catholic, but is dedicated to the Church and loves her as much as I do. So part of Mom’s defense was “well she loves Pope Francis, she is interested in all these things he is saying.” And it was all I could do not to ask “Interested enough to make her go back to attending Mass?” And there’s the ugly truth. Catholics and non-Catholics alike may love what Francis says but they aren’t being moved to accept the hard teachings of a Church and a God who loves them so much. The martyrs died for less and currently, all we have from the top are sound bites, and misquotes, and people worldwide are happy to use the Holy Father’s name to justify all kinds of scandalous conduct.

    Heretics and orthodox Catholics alike will use Francis quotes in their discourse today, and that is why I wince and then check myself when I hear a Francis quote, because I have to examine the context to tell whether it is being used to bolster a valid truth or justify a baldfaced lie.

  3. anilwang says:

    [That 87% who are not doing so well with this.]

    Not necessarily. Just because “and 65% say their frequency of confession has not changed very much. ” doesn’t mean that they don’t already go frequently.

    Before daily mass, there’s usually a long line of people at a parish I go to, and most of them seem to go at least 4 times a month (some daily). They’d likely show up in the 65% statistic.

    As to whether more people are going to confessions, I can’t say, but I can say that I’ve noticed more emphasis among priests and our archbishop in my diocese towards pushing people to confession in the last year. Whether that will amount to anything, I don’t know, but I think it’s a good sign if priests start feeling comfortable about reminding people to go to confession. Now if they could just extend this to contraception, we’d be in good shape in the long term.

  4. BenYachov says:

    Pope Francis is the first Latin American Pope so he has become the left’s default John XXIV fantasy.

    Today they shout “Hosanna!” for him tomorrow when he doesn’t give them women priests and gay marriage it will be “Give us Barabbas!”. [Yes, that’s what I predict will eventually happen. They will turn on Francis. In fact, I think it has started.]

    On the “Who am I to judge?” gay thing Pope Benedict once said a Male Prostitute who starts to use Condoms to prevent the spread of Aids is showing the beginning of a moral conscious and concern for others. [Too true. Lest we forget.]

    Naturally he wasn’t condoning or authorizing birth control, homosexuality or prostitution. If Francis had said it then the left would proclaim it an Ex Cathedra decree allowing these things.

    But Benedict has been labelled a “Conservative” so they don’t make that leap.

    It’s that simple.

  5. chantgirl says:

    In all honesty, this papacy has made my life as Catholic more difficult. I do not say the Pope himself. He seems to be a kind and generous man. However, his comments are more easily taken out of context than the two previous popes. Several catholic family members now think that the Church is reconsidering its’ doctrine. A family member used the phrase “the current stance of the Catholic Church”, as if belief was like swings in political thought. I usually attend the EF, and while there’s not a lot of love for things traditional coming from the Pope right now, that’s not the most difficult aspect of this papacy. It’s the constant fodder for family arguments that stems from some of these off-the-cuff papal statements that is most trying. I have never seen Catholics more at each others’ throats than the first year of Pope Francis’ election. Perhaps that’s just my little corner of the world, but it is all of the forest I can see right now.

  6. MichaelBoston says:

    The “Francis Effect” has allowed the Bishops to stick their heads out from their bunkers and not be hit my media mortar fire. The majority of bishops are happy about that. The actual effects on evangelization (new or otherwise) have been negligible. Rank and file Catholics (of the authentic variety) are dazed and confused.

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    In a way, no great further drop can almost be looked upon as a plus!

  8. HobokenZephyr says:

    I admit to being somewhat at a loss. I consider myself a rank & file orthodox Catholic. I attend the OF Mass (celebrated according to the rubrics) and haven’t felt an overwhelming desire to attend the EF Mass, though I have no problem with those who do. The Election of Francis has had basically no impact on my relationship to my faith. I’ve found some of the things he has said to challenge me to grow in faith, but the same was true for B16 and JPII. I guess I just don’t get all the handwringing that I read in these comments.

  9. ChrisRawlings says:

    It is one thing to feel good about what the media says a pope said to some reporter in Rome. It is another matter entirely to take the step of giving your life to Christ and carrying a cross that is not especially popular to bear these days.

    But the Pope is trying to get people to do just that. Forget for just a moment the arguments and culture wars and divisions–but not the doctrines that they are about–and focus on Christ, who heals all divisions. Don’t let our Lord get swallowed by abortion or homosexuality in public discouse, in other words. That doesn’t worry me much to hear. I mean, how will you protect marriage or life in a country that is either indifferent or downright hostile to the God Who established those things? We need to work for the common good in politics, but without kidding ourselves that a largely pagan society will produce very good political fruit without going through a profound conversion of the heart, individually and societally. So evangelize and don’t pretend that passing some admitting privileges law in your state will save the world. Jesus Christ, not some politician, saves the world.

    That is a very evangelical message and is one the the pope emeritus clearly shares, and it probably reflects the emphasis of the Church for many years to come. That is also pretty far from liberal Catholic spirituality. It is, in fact, the Gospel

  10. ChrisRawlings says:

    I should add, in fairness, that Pope Benedict does seem to be more of a culture warrior with regards to Europe’s spiritual and cultural patrimony. But even there I doubt that there is a fundamental difference between him and the current pope, even if the way they approach it is a little different. Two different men will come at a Christological emphasis in two different ways, while sharing the same core vision.

  11. Polycarpio says:

    I’m with Zephyr. In addition to Michael Boston’s point above about an opening for the bishops, I think there is an opening for all of us. John Allen Jr. (formerly of NCR) described it as the equivalent of us Catholics having the conch. Pope Francis attracts attention, and he invites us to play as a team. We shouldn’t be looking for the Pope to shoot all the three pointers. Sometimes, he is just creating an opening. If we spent more time making it a full court press rather than sitting on the sidelines critiquing the team captain, I think we would make a lot more headway.

  12. iPadre says:

    They are in love with the Francis that they want him to be. Kind of like the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” That is not the real Francis of Assisi, nor is the Pope Francis of our secular media.

    The honeymoon will fade, and it won’t be pretty! We need to pray for our Holy Father daily that God will sustain him in the battle!

  13. Magpie says:

    That’s great Polycarpio, but the problem is, rightly or wrongly, Catholics like me wonder whether he is playing on the same team, that is Team Catholic Church. God forgive me – my own spiritual life is not exactly in a great state – but I can’t help but think Pope Francis is making things worse and I wonder is he heralding worse times to come with his agenda, which I would hope, although I am not sure, is Christ’s agenda. And herein lies the problem: I don’t trust him.

  14. McCall1981 says:

    My thoughts exactly, I’m not able to trust him either.
    I would love to think that you are right, and I sincerely hope you are, but at this point, I do not have that level of trust in him. Since the begining of his pontificate I have been waiting for his orthodoxy to show through, and for the media honeymoon to fade, but I am still waiting.

  15. Scott W. says:

    And there’s the ugly truth. Catholics and non-Catholics alike may love what Francis says but they aren’t being moved to accept the hard teachings of a Church and a God who loves them so much.

    We already have an example by looking at the smouldering pile of rubble that used to be the Episcopal Church. After the ordination of a homosexual bishop, many predicted a massive influx of new membership as the ECUSA was on the so-called right side of history. Well, as Chris Johnson says, that massive influx is either stuck in traffic or coming to church disguised as empty pews.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  16. Magpie says:

    Keep up the prayer McCall1981 ad don’t lose heart. There is a real and present danger of the Devil using our fear and mistrust to turn us towards hatred of the Pope, to the destruction of our own souls. This is very bad and to be avoided. I’ll remember you in my Night Prayer tonight and ask also your prayers! Perhaps we all need to look beyond (or away if necessary) Pope Francis, and towards Christ, the Light of the World.

  17. St Donatus says:

    HobokenZephyr, I think the point is that many of us feel like we must constantly be explaining something the Pope has said. At the same time, when cardinals say that there are going to be changes to how the Church handles divorced and remarried Catholics, contraception, and other things, we come across more people are happy that the Church is changing its teachings and coming up to the world as it is today.

    The problem with this is many parted. One is the effect it has on newly converted Catholics or reverts like myself. One of the reasons I know the Church is the one True faith is because it doesn’t follow the world in its teachings. Unlike other religions or denominations, it doesn’t change its teachings to fit better into the world or to bring in more money or even to bring in more converts. We know that truth is TRUTH. It is like a watching a hurricane on the news when you live in the mountains, you know you are safe because you are a safe distance away on your rock solid mountain.

    When the Church makes drastic changes, as occurred after Vatican II, you feel like that mountain of safety is being eroded and becoming a bit unsafe just like those on the beach during the hurricane. You start feeling like you should be looking for a life preserver. Obviously my faith isn’t what it should be. But if Pope Francis somehow found a way to get around some basic Church teaching, I would question whether the Church really is the voice of God on the earth. When God says something is sinful and/or harmful, it doesn’t change because we want it to. It is always sinful.

    It is like this survey, roughly 70% of Catholics believe that Pope Francis will most like change the Churches teaching on contraception, divorce, and women priests. Am I wrong and these other Catholic correct? They have been Catholic much longer than I. I know the idea of what the Church binds on Earth is bound in heaven, but the Church has never bound something that is directly against its tradition or the Bible.

    You might be able to argue for contraception if you ignore tradition because the Bible doesn’t directly speak about it. You might even be able to get around divorce using the one scripture that says something to the effect that you can divorce in the case of adultery. You also could have women priests, again something the Bible doesn’t directly speak about. But tradition has given us two thousand years of truth, are we to ignore that now? What does that say to women who have endured difficult pregnancies because they obeyed the Church on contraception? What does it say to people who have been chaste due to a spouse that divorced them, raised their children alone, and stayed true to the Church? Does it say that their suffering doesn’t matter?

    As someone above said, if the Church can just change teaching that is enshrined in the Church for two thousand years, just because of the style of the times, then we stand on sand that can quickly wash out from under you. For what reason did thousands of Catholics die in England when Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wives, for what reason have women even died in childbirth, etc. Why shouldn’t I just switch to one of the ‘fun’ protestant denominations that don’t demand anything of you? Does it all matter?

    When it comes down to it, this is why there is a crisis of belief in the world today. We can just change God to fit our desires when ever we want to. Everything comes into question, even the very Church itself. My faith tells me that these things won’t happen, the Church will stay true to God and his desires for mankind.

  18. JamestheOlder says:

    Father Z, please consider some caution in using Pew statistics. They apparently (from their own data) use a very limited number of people in their polls, plus they seem to be over-subscribed with “former” Catholics. My basis for this was a claim a year or two ago that two out of three Americans were “raised Catholic”. CARA stats and other sources indicate that the Catholic population of the USA has never exceeded 25%. When I attempted to question this I received no reply from them. Ever since then, I look at their stats with a certain degree of unbelief.

  19. Netmilsmom says:

    I tired of being told that any traditionalist who questions or has a problem with Pope Francis “Hates him”. I don’t hate him, I’m horribly confused by him. I watched my parish, which had been 30 years of hardcore traditional with a solid OF holy mass be overrun by Charismatics since Benedict stepped down. I’ve lost my home and now we have a Pope who honestly is a fantastic Priest, but has a three ring circus for handlers. It’s been a year of off the cuff statements and explanations. Of one group of bloggers puffing out their chests showing how much better they are for accepting every statement and another group scared to death that THIS time, there will be no explanation. I’m constantly braced for the next shock.
    My life would be so much easier if someone, anyone sat the Holy Father down and said, “You are confusing people. Let’s not talk to the secular media for a bit.”

  20. McCall1981 says:

    Thanks very much, you have my prayers as well. I agree we all need to focus less on Francis and more on Christ. Hopefully all the turmoil will die down and allow us to do just that.

  21. Magpie says:

    Thank you McCall1981.

    Netmilsmom said:

    ”I tired of being told that any traditionalist who questions or has a problem with Pope Francis “Hates him”. ”

    I’m not saying that, I hope you didn’t think I was implying that. What I am saying, and I say about myself and nobody else, although I point out the danger, is that I see in my own heart an anger and even, God forgive me, a hatred brewing for this Pope because of what >I perceive< him to be doing to our Faith and the Church which Christ established. It feels like one step forward and ten steps back with everything he says and does. Because of the fallen nature of man, and because of the legacy of my own childhood emotional wounds, it would be quite easy and natural to fall into hatred. Since Francis became Pope, I have never warmed to him and I frequently have to confess my uncharitable thoughts and feelings with regard to him. Isn't it dreadfully, dreadfully sad that this is the case, and isn't it sadder still that we are even having the conversation on this page? And the worst thing is that deep down some part of me begins to doubt the Catholic Faith and think maybe all the dissenters and liberals are right, and maybe the Catholic Church is getting more liberal as time passes. Have you heard Cardinal Kaspar? He's one of many. Maradiaga (sp?) is another. I think there is good reason to place stock in the Fatima Prophecies about these very times. Let's hope and pray that Pope Francis IS on the right side of God and of history. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

  22. BLB Oregon says:

    “If they didn’t use Francis as a body-shield, they’d find some other way to justify their scandalous actions.” Yes–and I do not think it is cynical to say so. The attorney general in Oregon, not being a self-identified Catholic, didn’t feel a need to dive for that cover.

    I have given up on trying to read public opinions, and especially the opinions of self-identified Catholics, about the Catholic Church in general or the Holy Father in particular: what it is OR what it all means. It is so near impossible, it borders on divination, like trying to read the entrails of a goat. Certainly what we say in a poll should not be taken as any indication of what we’ll actually be doing in the next year, the next week or in the next ten minutes! Such is human nature.

    When the parish priests say that the confession lines have gotten long on Saturday so that they’ve added more time each week–such as the times our pastor has announced at the end of the Vigil Mass on Saturday that he would be available in the confessional for as long as he was wanted after Mass because he had not gotten through the line before he needed to prepare for Mass–then I will know that there is a real uptick in confessions. (The priest was happy to make it clear that people who had not been in the original line before Mass were more than welcome to come, too; it was very obvious he was more than happy to be in demand!)

  23. Priam1184 says:

    I am very dubious about the 22% going to Confession LESS OFTEN. a)There wasn’t all that large a percentage of Catholics going to Confession regularly anyways. b) Why would somebody (and that large a number of somebodies) who goes to Confession regularly in 2013 suddenly stop going to Confession? It’s not like it is 1969 and the rumor is being spread that Vatican II did away with Confession. If you were going to Confession in 2012 then you would be going to Confession in 2013 and most likely will continue to go to Confession throughout 2014.

  24. lana says:

    I find this Pope to be very Christ-like. All Popes and evn all priests are is some way, I find, but this one far more so than others. What he says is sometimes disconcerting and shakes me out of my complacency, and I am sure Jesus had the same effect. I pray for everyone who is upset, because it must be a very, very painful cross. I would say read the Gospel often. You may find (as I do) a lot of parallels between the Pope and Jesus that may help you.

  25. McCall1981 says:

    Here’s one possible explanation.: I would certainly think that conservative/traditional Catholics are more likely to go to Confession more often, and liberal Catholics are likely to go less often. Some traditional Catholics have been upset/confused/disillusioned by Pope Francis, so maybe since they find him off-putting, they have become less engaged and go to Confession less often. Conversly, the liberal Catholics who like Francis probably weren’t going to Confession much anyway, and probably the fact that they like him would not suddenly induce them to start going. So basically, conservatives dropped off and liberals don’t go regardless.
    But who knows?

  26. benedetta says:

    What to say about that percentage which identifies Catholic but do not attend Mass greater than once or twice per year? Could we really expect Pope Francis to get them back? The Francis Effect is an invention of American media. It really doesn’t have much to do with the folks in the pews, as American media does not listen to weekly Mass attendees authentically nor does it accurately report on most any Church matters. So, I don’t really care about the Pew survey of American Catholics. I’d like to know more about the Francis Effect in other parts of the world. How is he experienced by Catholics on other continents?

  27. LeeF says:

    I find it very sad that so many faithful Catholics here are frightened of and even angry at the Holy Father. As much as we loved and trusted JPII and BXVI, we have to love and trust not just Francis, but the Holy Spirit. Francis the man is human and has and will continue to make mistakes, and continue to express himself in ways open to misunderstanding among ourselves and intentional misinterpretation among the Protestantizing/Universalist wannabes in our Church and haters in the larger world.

    After all he has a different focus than JPII and BXVI who concentrated on legal solutions to wrong interpretations of Vatican II and overall Catholic theology and practice. Francis is focusing on mercy, the poor and administrative matters. Each pontiff’s focus will be dictated by the most pressing issues of day, which are not necessarily episcopal dissenters as long as such dissenters don’t succeed in convincing a majority of their bretheren to such dissent.

    We should continue to understand his statements through not only the lens of BXVI as Father Z advocates, but also through the lens of the Catechism by which we always assume the most orthodox interpretation possible. The Holy Spirit will protect the Holy Father from permanently altering (ex cathedra) fundamental dogma. And while the pope won’t necessarily be protected from wrong pastoral implementations of that dogma, the Holy Spirit can and will correct it later with another pontiff.

    We need to be patient and trusting while waiting for things to become clear, instead of worrying and being angry because of fear of what he *might* do. And if we have to constantly explain his words, we should do so gladly and patiently, being joyful at so many opportunities for evangelization among our friends, family and society at large. Explaining misunderstandings and misinterpretations, and yes even bad pastoral implementations is the cross we have been given. Should we refuse it, especially in this Lenten season?

    Also I think we should ask ourselves on what and on whom does our faith depend. Only on a certain form of the liturgy, a perfect and theologically united internal situation in the Church, a certain Marian apparition or what? Or is it Jesus, His Gosepl and the Church?

    When considering the “Church”, I think we should consider it as CS Lewis said the devil considers it. Not just as it is today before us at one point in history, which the devil has in the past and can again injure greatly, but rather from an eternal perspective of the Church as God sees it too, stretching from its beginning on Pentacost to its end at the Second Coming. The devil fears that Church because he cannot overcome it.

    We should leave fear to the devil and strive to trust, the trust without which God can accomplish nothing through us.

  28. mamajen says:

    I remember when Pope Francis was first elected, I was very worried. Then Father Z and others wrote some excellent things that helped me see past my apprehension and give Pope Francis a chance. I’m so glad. I love him. I enjoy reading (and sometimes untangling) what he says. I’ve always tried my best to live my faith, but I never really paid much attention to the pope before. His devotion to Mary, the frequency with which he talks about confession and the devil, and his kindness and compassion have all convinced me that he is a good person and a good pope. The more people wring their hands and despair, the harder I try to understand what he is really trying to say and do for the good of the Church, because I do trust him.

    Listening to Pope Francis has caused me to be more publicly Catholic than I was before. I used to be very, very private about my faith. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or seem like I was trying to proselytize. Now, I’m more open about sharing how I and my family live our faith. It’s little things, like posting on Facebook, or pinning religious items on Pinterest (where I have many followers due to my non-religious blog). I know it’s not that significant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a change for me.

  29. majuscule says:

    Thank you mamajen. You have put it into words much better than I could!

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  31. PostCatholic says:

    That data also correlates to the suggestion that there’s no Benedict Effect™ either.

  32. Dan says:

    A quick bit of math:

    If the U.S.A have a population of about 314 million, then the self-identified Catholic population (22%) is about 69 million. So to move the polls by 1% in any direction, it would take a shift of about 690,000 people. According to CARA, there are about 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S.

    Roughly speaking, then, you would need to have, let’s say, 40 converts/reverts *per parish* just to see a 1% shift in the numbers. Which probably would send your pastor over the moon, but also probably is within the margin of error of the survey, anyway.

    So let’s say a 3% shift. You’d need something like 120 converts/reverts *per parish* to make that work out, right? Some parishes are probably not even that size right now.

    I’m happy to have the math corrected, of course. This is just a kind of guess as to what we’d have to be seeing on the ground in order to back up any statistical measurement of “The Francis Effect.” It would really have to be incredible, it seems to me. And as Pope Francis said recently, he’s no superhero.

  33. Polycarpio says:

    As a lawyer, I appreciate the preference by some for pinpoint precision and logical, and if possible mathematical, clarity in language and communications. It’s really great to have no ambiguity, no shade, no gray–just precise, clear-cut instruction. But I gotta tell you, scientific precision is not necessary to our faith. I loved Pope Benedict, because he spoke to us in such an elegant and economic language, that left us absolutely clear of what he was saying, but I repeat, that’s not the only way to preach Christianity. That’s certainly not the way Christ preached it. Christ spoke in parables. He said things like, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Matthew 13:31-32.) To me, the perplexity of a parable is just as precious for my spiritual growth as the precise proclamations of an erudite exegete. When the apostles ask Jesus why he speaks in parables, Jesus replies that he does not expect the crowds to understand, but that they might if they “should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15.) I’m not saying Pope Francis is like Jesus, but I do suggest that if you open your heart, and instead of scrutinizing Francis’ words for clues of whether he is orthodox or a heretic, or whether settled doctrine has just changed (as Fr. Z. has said repeatedly, if Pope Francis wants to change doctrine, he is not going to do it in a magazine interview), try to listen with your heart, with Faith instead of skepticism, Hope instead of weariness, and Charity instead of distrust. If the message does nothing for you, then perhaps it is not intended for you. You don’t need to be rattled by that. You keep doing your thing. It is a good thing. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be distracted. Just keep moving forward toward Jesus. You may be surprised to see that we are all heading in the same direction.

  34. jflare says:

    “I find this Pope to be very Christ-like.”
    “I find it very sad that so many faithful Catholics here are frightened of and even angry at the Holy Father.”

    I have to say that these two statements might well epitomize precisely why I don’t care much for Pope Francis thus far. Yes, I AM angry at the Holy Father, precisely because he seems to me to demonstrate many of the traits of John Paul II’s papacy that I disliked the most.

    As I’ve been reading George Weigel’s biography of John Paul, the over-riding theme seems to be that our late Holy Father wished for all of us to not merely follow a bunch of rules, but to internalize the meaning of those rules. He wished for us to live out those rules in love and dignity. ..And arguably, our present Holy Father has similar ideas.

    That’s a GREAT and fabulous idea..until you realize that most of the people we’re talking to not only don’t KNOW what the rules for life ARE, but aren’t even aware that any rules should need to exist in the first place. Pope Franicis’ famous “pastoral” approach scares me–and angers me a good deal–precisely because that “pastoral effort” tends toward encouraging many to simply ignore the actual teachings of the Church, but do and say as they wish. ..And let doctrine rot, if needed.
    Obviously, that’s not what the Holy Father is teaching, but that’s how many have interpreted what he HAS said and done.

    It’s always possible that my background in the military leaves me more inclined that usual to want to get to the rules and get on with it, but I’ve never come across a situation in life when exercising the discipline of the faith early on ever really hurt people much.
    As much as anything, I’m remembering how, as I aged through my 20’s and 30’s, I’ve been shocked by how Protestantized my knowledge of faith and practice has been. I’m wanting to see the Holy Father exercise a firm hand, if only because I would like to see many others spared a bunch of the searching, stumbling, and frustrations I’ve been through.
    At very worst, I keep feeling that my country is dying by virtue of the lack of interest in pursuing moral virtue routinely. I can’t help but feel that my Church could readily be the voice that would firmly help drag this people back from the abyss.
    ..But I don’t really see the Church doing very much, or not very quickly or with much vigor.

    I can’t help but have the thought that we’re dying of thirst for a serious presentation of the Truth out here, but our Holy Father is being rather slow about building the oasis. ..or rebuidling it as the case may be.
    I can’t help but think that this country has only so much time left before it’s lost, but the Church isn’t helping kick it back into shape very much. ..and the rest of the world isn’t much better in far too many cases.

  35. Gerard Plourde says:

    @Polycarpio, @mamajen

    I agree completely with your posts. When looking at the Pew data it’s also good to remember the parable of the sower. Most of the seed he scattered did not take long-lasting root but the seed that did “produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Mt. 13:8) Our culture is too wedded to the idea of instant results and proclaims failure very quickly. Our faith tells us that conversion and change of hearts must be built on a firm foundation and this takes time. The fruits of the efforts of Bl. John XXIII and Bl. John Paul II are only now beginning to ripen. Those of Pope Benedict are still maturing. Pope Francis has only begun to sow the seed.

  36. HobokenZephyr says:

    Folks, do yourselves a big favor and stop watching the news, or at least take it with a grain (pound?) of salt. I have some pretty deep expertise on a couple of items that are on just about every newscast & can say that the teleprompter readers butcher basic elements all the time. And as car as polls go, don’t even bother. I can create an publish a poll that shows a majority of people think the sky is green if somebody pays me enough to do it. The “Pew Data” has as much scientific value in predicting Catholic orthodoxy as my 6 year old’s make believe hockey score does in predicting the Stanley Cup winner.

    Of you get fed by the EF, great. Have at it. But don’t cross the line into “everything else isn’t valid”

  37. Sonshine135 says:

    I have been going to confession more frequently and I have also started going to daily Mass more often. I began reading more literature and apologetics books. I have been debating with others with contrary social views. I have been educating others as I too learn. I even attended my first EF Mass this past year. None of this was due to Pope Francis however. It was due to kind and faithful people like Father Z and the folks on this blog who seem to have their heads screwed on tight. You all have taught me to have a great deal of respect for the Mass in both forms, because that is the way it needs to be. Being a former solider, I appreciate that I have others in the trenches fighting with me day in and day out. You have led me to greater spiritual growth, and I am very grateful!

  38. McCall1981 says:

    @ polycarpio,
    I agree with what you’re saying in principle, however I think your point also underlines exactly what is wrong with Francis’ approach. All of the vague and “controversial” quotes he has made so far, if they are looked at in a purely Catholic context, are totally fine. “Who am I to judge” is a perfectly valid point if we understand it in the context of the rest of Catholic teaching. The problem is that in modern secular culture, “Who am I to judge” means “homosexuality is ok now because to assert any moral values or objective Truth bad”. That Francis either doesn’t know this, or doesn’t care, is what is extremely concerning.

  39. rdschreiner says:

    At the Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota I’ve asked the rector about the “Francis effect”. Please note that the Archdiocese is under extreme attack from the media about the sex abuse scandal. He told me that Mass attendance seems down slightly, collections are flat, but confession lines are longer. Not seeing a big RCIA class this year either. I think the “Francis effect” in general won’t make any major difference to the Church in any of these parameters. People may show up to “test the waters”, but find out nothing has changed at the parish level. Plus they are very comfortable in their secularized post-Christian life and they are viewing Francis as confirming them in that way of life. “Who am I to judge?” indeed!

  40. majuscule says:

    Meanwhile over at the Fishwrap™:

    The Vatican is trying to reassure Catholics and the public that Pope Francis takes the clerical sex abuse crisis seriously in the wake of defensive comments Francis made this week, the first serious bump in the road for a pope approaching the first anniversary of his election with sky-high approval ratings.

  41. Priam1184 says:

    @mamajen: You are right. I also trust Pope Francis. I don’t know where he is leading us, and I’m not certain that he really does either, but it is not to the evil one.

  42. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Roughly speaking, then, you would need to have, let’s say, 40 converts/reverts *per parish* just to see a 1% shift in the numbers. Which probably would send your pastor over the moon, but also probably is within the margin of error of the survey, anyway. ”

    This is not really correct and why the continuing 22% statistic is so disturbing: the largest growing population in the United States is the Latino population, most of whom, should be Catholic. With the population rising naturally, one would not need 40 converts, just 40 babies born in a year and not too many people dying to make the statistics drift, upward. That is not happening, which should be a matter of concern for all.

    The Chicken

  43. Mr. Green says:

    Cajuncath: The pope has made a crop of disturbing statements in the past year. […] If somebody disagrees, please explain how you see things differently.

    If by “disturbing statements”, you mean that there is someone somewhere who gets disturbed by misunderstanding what the Pope says then — well? That has been true of every Pope who ever lived and every Pope who ever will. If you mean that his statements are disturbing when understood correctly, then the difference is that I don’t see any such statements. Sometimes the orthodox interpretation is obvious; sometimes I find I actually have to stop and think about what Francis said — as I mentioned in a previous comment, I do not consider actually having to think things through carefully sometimes to be disturbing.

    Chantgirl: However, his comments are more easily taken out of context than the two previous popes.

    Is that really the case? Or is it just that he is taken more out of context more often? It seems to me that Pope Francis is getting quoted more (and more sloppily) than previous Popes, largely because of the Francis Effect™ — the viciously-circular feeding-frenzy of our shallow and ignorant popular media who insist on interpreting Francis according to what they think he should mean. They had no problem doing the same to Pope Benedict when they felt like it.

    It’s the constant fodder for family arguments that stems from some of these off-the-cuff papal statements that is most trying. I have never seen Catholics more at each others’ throats than the first year of Pope Francis’ election.

    I’ve seen some of that and I certainly commiserate. It shows the profound problems we have with poor catechesis and superficial formation in the faith. (Which is hardly the Holy Father’s fault!)

    Magpie: Since Francis became Pope, I have never warmed to him and I frequently have to confess my uncharitable thoughts and feelings with regard to him. Isn’t it dreadfully, dreadfully sad that this is the case, and isn’t it sadder still that we are even having the conversation on this page?

    I sympathise with you — we can’t always help our feelings, and sometimes people simply rub us the wrong way for some reason (or for no reason!). Sometimes people are just on different wavelengths; it’s a fact of fallen life. What gets me is people who do go on to attack the Pope… and I don’t think there are really a lot of people like that, but there are some. And sometimes there’s not much we can do other than offer up our frustration for those who let their feelings override their loyalty.

    McCall1981: The problem is that in modern secular culture, “Who am I to judge” means “homosexuality is ok now because to assert any moral values or objective Truth bad”. That Francis either doesn’t know this, or doesn’t care, is what is extremely concerning.

    Lots of things mean something strange in our modern secular culture. Scripture has been misquoted and misinterpreted far more than the words of Pope Francis, and will continue to be long after his papacy has finished. How come I never see folks complaining that the Holy Spirit “doesn’t know or doesn’t care”? If the Pope says something “confusing”, then let’s figure out what it means and help explain it to others. Holding him to a higher standard than God doesn’t make any sense.

    MamaJen: I enjoy reading (and sometimes untangling) what he says.

    A very good comment, and regarding the enjoyment of “untangling”, I agree: when I have to put some thought into figuring out just what Pope Francis meant by some statement, I invariably discover various different ideas coming together from different directions. Like poetry, when you put some effort into understanding it, you will be rewarded. Some people see complexity and want to give up. I think Pope Francis sees richness in our Faith, and he wants us to see that richness too.

    His devotion to Mary, the frequency with which he talks about confession and the devil, and his kindness and compassion have all convinced me that he is a good person and a good pope.

    Yes! How bad a pope can someone be who prays the entire Rosary every day?!

  44. jflare says:

    “Chantgirl: However, his comments are more easily taken out of context than the two previous popes.
    Is that really the case? Or is it just that he is taken more out of context more often?… ”

    No, Mr. Greene, I don’t agree. Benedict WAS taken out of context by the press over several years, but most of what the mass media COULD take out of context came from remarks he made in a book; the average person could purchase the book and learn what he actually said, similar to our need to actually READ an encyclical.
    Francis, on the other hand, has tended toward making off the cuff remarks that can be easily distorted in meaning. He has also tended toward comparatively spontaneous actions–or so it has seemed to me–that can easily be miscast. He has tended toward simply acting and speaking as though rules make no difference and/or that remarks can’t be taken improperly.

    After Francis says or does something that even mildly HINTS at something that the media want to hear or see, they’ll have a field day with headlines about how our Pope is THE coolest ever and cares about people in a way no pope ever has. ..Completely forgetting that Benedict and John Paul did and said mostly the same sorts of things. Often, we’ll hear the insinuation–or straight out statement–that Francis said it, ..SO THERE!! ..And we all need to quit being so pharisaic and rules-bound and whatever. ..or oooollldd fashioned.

    In short, I’ve been discomfitted by various comments by John Paul or Benedict many times. I could deal with that. I am, however, growing quite weary of being sucker-punched by some secular humanist idiot–or the near equivalent of same–who wants to exploit whatever Francios said or did to undermine actual Church teaching.
    Yes, the press did the same with John Paul and Benedict as much as they could also, but I don’t remember so many chances to exploit spontaneous remarks.

  45. sw85 says:

    I am the assistant RCIA director at a large Catholic parish, the only one in a very large military town. There does not appear to be a “Francis effect” here. Our RCIA class is almost exactly the same size as it’s been the past two years (slightly smaller — margin of error, natch) and not one of them has mentioned the Holy Father a significant factor in their conversion. (As I would! Conversion should be rooted in Christ).

    From where I’m sitting, the “Francis effect” seems confined entirely to (certain) clerics and (most) Professional Catholics.

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