The popular pontificate of Pope Francis: two views

Auctores scinduntur… authors are divided on the pontificate of Pope Francis.

He is, undeniably, popular.  However, we read in The Week, based on Pew, that despite Francis’ marvelous showing in the polls, as high as 83% favorable, the view many people have of him isn’t changing how they live… yet, at least.

While a quarter of Catholics are more excited about their faith and 40 percent have been praying more often, the same 40 percent said they are going to mass each week (and some 42 percent at least once a year [That often?]) as before Francis was elected.

Here is a story from the German news agency, which presents comments from His Eminence Walter Card. Brandmüller on the aspect of papal popularity.

Kardinal Brandmüller: Begeisterung um Papst ist oberflächlich

Hamburg ( Emeritus German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller (85) does not think much of the enthusiasm for Pope Francis: “It is superficial. Were this a religious movement, the churches would be full, “the former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences said in an interview with the Hamburg magazine« History ».


Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the trend, if it can be called such.

Back to the Pew findings:

Pope Francis also seems to inspire hope that the Catholic Church will change on some major issues, Pew found, despite the pope’s suggestions otherwise. American Catholics, it turns out, are a fairly liberal bunch: 77 percent want the church to allow contraception, 73 percent support priests getting married, 68 percent support the ordination of women priests, and 50 percent want Rome to recognize same-sex marriages. Those numbers all drop slightly when Pew screened for weekly church attendance. Not that you’d want to take those numbers to the bank: Pew talked to a grand total of 351 Catholics for the survey — the size of a small parish.


I wonder what you readers are experiencing in your parishes.

Is Mass attendance up?  Are there things you could within reason attribute to a Francis bump?

Of course Mass attendance and other activities in a parish are one thing.  Deeper fidelity and conversion is another.  Those are harder to measure and this pontificate hasn’t been going on very long.

One thought: Do you have a sense that Catholics (where you are, at least) are more aware of themselves as Catholics and are, perhaps, therefore more united or more divided?  I ask this in light what seems to be a fact in the secular sphere, namely, that during the Obama Presidency in these USA racial relations seems to be even more tense than in decades.  Obama is figure of deep and increasing division, as it turns out.  Is Pope Francis?

Do remember Pope Francis in your daily prayers.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    Mass attendance is definitely down in our area over even a year or so ago. We live in southern New England.
    The US must suffer through this dangerous presidency, God help us. He is far from “post-racial”. He is nothing but racial. The Great Divider. And he’s not through, nor are his minions.

  2. Marie Teresa says:

    Attendance numbers at Mass are roughly the same.
    The gray-haired hippies are unhesitating – this is an outspoken change in attitude. They feel victorious.
    A few overt changes:
    ** Rainbows draped the Altar during Easter for those “marginalized by the Church because they have a different lifestyle.”
    ** Holy Water fonts are dry.
    ** The confessional is slated for removal.
    ** Confiteor hasn’t been used at Mass in about a year.
    ** Those who are ill and close to death don’t receive the Sacrament of the Sick.
    ** The faithful no longer receive a Catholic funeral.
    ** The priest no longer purifies the vessels. Sometimes no one at all purifies them!!!

    All of these changes and more have fallen in place over the last year and a half.

  3. LeeF says:

    On a scale of doctrinal orthodoxy, the conservatives like many of us here tend to be cautiously optimistic and the liberals gushing (thinking they are freed of JPII and BXVI’s orthodoxy), and the moderates generally positive as they tend to be anyway, not giving much thought to many of the doctrinal and liturgical issues that we discuss. In all 3 groups on the scale, especially in larger parishes, they just tend to stick with their own and go on about their business as before, i.e. going to Mass every week.

    The much larger group though, are those who are not faithful Mass-goers, including many parents of children in parochial schools. The truest indicator to me of what portion of a parish take their faith seriously, is attendance at Mass on holy days of obligation, of which we just had one this month. Same low turnout as before. In my parish, 2 not even 1/2 filled Masses where 4 on the weekend range from 60% full to packed. So these non-regular Mass-goers don’t seem to be energized by Francis. Naturally they would probably appreciate any loosening of discipline to validate their indifference, but probably not enough to actually start going to Mass every Sunday and holy day.

    So from my perspective, not much has changed except the over-enthusiasm of the liberals who are likely in for a big letdown.

  4. acardnal says:

    And low Mass attendance continues. I wonder why? Could it be the “dumbing down” of the liturgy since the Novus Ordo was introduced 40 years ago?

    I would love to see Pope Francis speak at his Sunday or Wednesday Audience about the necessity of Sunday Mass attendance vis a vis the Third Commandment, and remind the faithful that it is a mortal sin to deliberately miss Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of obligation.

    Save the liturgy, save the world.

  5. HighMass says:

    Dear acardnal,

    How right you are! Don’t you know that the N.O. was suppose to bring non-Catholics back by the droves!?????
    Instead so many good Catholics, Faithful and Religious left….

    One has to wonder what all the hype is about???? I just can’t seem to share in the hype….it is not there….I am sure Pope Francis is a good Man/Priest/Pope….but after Pope Benedict……:(:(:(.Forever Pope Benedict will be in our hearts and the truth of the Glory of his Pontificate will surface sooner or later!
    Pope Benedict was such a blessing and said what the Pope needed to say, but was scorned from day one….and so in Feb 2013 we know what happened…his resignation…..
    We pray GOD continues to guide Pope Francis….good point about Mass on Sunday and Holy Days…..

  6. kpoterack says:

    What I have noticed is that the MSM seems to be a lot less interested in Pope Francis than they were – certainly than they were a year ago. I think they were seriously expecting a lot more and much more quickly. They seem to be reduced to dumb little puff pieces, like when he went to the Vatican cafeteria. The news announcer said, “He even blessed his lunch meat!” I did a face palm and thought, “So, a pope has never blessed his food before!? Come on guys!”

    Anyway, the point seems to be keeping alive a certain mythology of Pope Francis as “change agent.” And of course they ignore things that don’t fit the bill: like when he made that comment about “priests being under the thumb of their housekeepers!” If Benedict or JPII would have said that, there would have been howls of protest and demands for an apology.

    I agree with Cardinal Brandmueller. Much of the enthusiasm seems to be superficial and misplaced. I do think that Pope Francis has many good qualities, unfortunately it seems that many of those who like him do so because they think he is an “indulgent grandpa.”

  7. paladin says:

    These results are sad, but they don’t really surprise me; the very people who seem to be most prone to be enthusiastic about Pope Francis are the very people who (at least implicitly) think that Pope Francis is giving them divine permission to remain just as they are, sans conversion and growth in true holiness (as opposed to a sort of “holiness-flavored emotionalism”, which really doesn’t demand anything of its adherents). Why would anyone expect that sort of excitement to transfer into faithful Mass attendance (much less increased practice of Confession, conversion away from that which the Church condemns, etc.)?

  8. SimonDodd says:

    The numbers would seem to suggest that the critics were right from the get-go: Non-Catholics (including but not limited to non-Catholics who self-identify as Catholics to pollsters) are excited about Francis because they think he’s the man to change all those teachings that they don’t like.

  9. Uxixu says:

    I think it’s important to remember that Mother Church saw this coming even in the day of St Pius X, as he noted that the number of ‘laborers in the vineyard’ (which is to say the clergy, which isn’t just the major orders – especially the order of the priesthood) were reduced. This was before the “suicide of Europe” in World War 1, and well before Vatican II, obviously.

    The Fathers at Vatican II were trying to blunt the blows they saw coming. We can well argue they failed & gave up way too much of the sacred traditions of the Latin Rite. It’s possible it could have been worse, but regardless we should argue for the restoration of as much as possible going forward, if implementing the Mass as envisioned in Sacrosanctum Concilium. That brings the Ordinary Form much closer to the Extraordinary.

    It’s easy to blame the Holy Father Paul VI or Masonic plots and what not, but when I read the 23rd Session of Trent, it seems a cyclical thing that the Minor Orders were allowed to languish. In addition to renewing the liturgy, I pray also for the renewal of the clergy.

  10. drohan says:

    I am from a very rural parish in Northwest Nebraska. Our town and parish area’s total population is only around 1500. So we only have around 100 total Catholics in our area, but of that we get between 60-75 at mass on Sunday, and on the Assumption, we had about 50. (But we only had the vigil mass, because we share our priest with a town 30+ miles away.)

    We got our attendance up because we took the time to engage our fallen away brothers and sisters. We of course knew each one of them, but we made certain that they all got care packages from the parish and contacted them about coming back to mass. When I moved here 10 years ago, there were 20 regular mass attendees, now we get 60-75 per week and don’t do too bad on holy days.

    I suppose in bigger parishes it would be really hard to reach out, but we just made it known that we appreciated the people at mass, that it was for their salvation, and that we wanted to reach out. Our response was great. We got three new lectors, and a whole group of kids for catechism classes.

    We also hold the priest’s feet to the fire to make sure he gives us a holy hour or two once in a while and also weekly Stations of the Cross during Lent. (At which we get pretty good attendance.)

    My main point is: It’s not the pope who does the converting. It is we the faithful. Are you contacting the people you know in your parish who aren’t regular mass attendees? Are you evangelizing with your word and deed, among the people you would have the greatest impact, your friends and neighbors?

  11. Jim Dorchak says:

    Pope Who?
    I mean really, I am not sure that anything he says or does could make a difference in my physical or spiritual life. I am typically surprised by how who ever is currently Pope, has his comments supposedly twisted, and said Pope knowingly chooses not to straighten out the error. In which case I think it is more likely that he agreed with the twisted statement. At which point I wonder why have I been trying to pray like a Saint all these years when we are no longer called to pray like saints but instead asked to live for just today! (Global warming, Silly nuns, soccer games, economic and political games, and now Protestant / pagan Churches are the same as Catholic).
    So rather than get all caught up in confusing comments, proclamations or worldly Church politics it is easier to just ignore the current Pope, and likely any Pope who comes along later. He is after all just another administrator. It is easier to just pray and continue as I was taught before this or the last Pope arrived as now we live in a marginalized and insignificant Catholic Church ushered in by the Church and the Pope himself. Buddhist, Baptist, Unitarian, pagan are just as valid in this new papacy. We are now worshiping in a marginalized and ever more now insignificant Church. The Pope is now just another guy with an ill informed political opinion and a micro phone. I would much rather have a Pope who prays instead of a Pope who “Says”.
    So I ask you; POPE WHO?

  12. rdb says:

    As a campus minister, I have noticed that Pope Francis is a pope who is more adored by the elderly than young people. I have had many college students come to me with concerns about what they believe Pope Francis is saying and doing. Every person I speak with who loves Pope Francis is much, much older.

    Pope St Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were popes who appealed more to youth and young adults. Pope Francis seems to appeal more to the elderly.

    An anecdote. I was at the dentist and the dentist’s assistance was praising all that Pope Francis was doing to promote simplicity, poverty and care for the poor. When I asked her (a non-practicing Catholic) how it has changed her life, she paused and said “Well, it is more about getting bishops to live simply.” Pope St. John Paul II inspired people to start programs promoting his Theology of the Body, Pope Benedict inspired people to study and celebrate authentic Sacred Liturgy. I have yet to see many people inspired to imitate the wonderful witness of Pope Francis. I hope it happens but I have not seen it.

  13. StJude says:

    Masses here are packed. But I live in a conservative Catholic town.. with 3 huge parishes. All thriving, always have been.. no matter who the Pope is.

  14. sunnyside says:

    I have seen a definitive increase in mass attendance at my parish since the holy fathers election. I can also say that his election has strengthened my faith tremendously. The video of the pope going to confession randomly in the Vatican was tremendously moving. May hid bless Pope Francis.

  15. jhayes says:

    Here are some other comments from Pew:

    Increased excitement and devotion is most pronounced among Catholics who attend Mass regularly. Four-in-ten of those who attend Mass at least once a week say they have become more excited about their faith in the past year, compared with 19% of Catholics who attend Mass less often. Half of weekly Mass-goers say they have been praying more, compared with 36% among Catholics who attend Mass less than once a week. And twice as many regular Mass attenders as less-frequent attenders say they have been reading religious materials more often (30% vs. 16%). Since the share of Catholics who report attending Mass regularly has not changed since Francis’ election, this suggests that if there has been a “Francis effect,” it has been most pronounced among Catholics who already were highly committed to the practice of their faith….

    Fully 85% of Catholics rate Francis favorably, while just 4% of Catholics say they have an unfavorable opinion of the pope….

    The new pope gets his highest marks for spreading the Catholic faith (81% of Catholics say he is doing an excellent or good job of this)

  16. BenFischer says:

    I’m in Dallas. I have noticed much difference in attendance. There are some changes, but I chalk that up to our pastor finally implementing his ideas. I just don’t see any difference, for better or worse.

  17. JesusFreak84 says:

    My area is unchanged since the Pontificate of JPII. Heck, Catholics around here barely seem aware that Cardinal Bernedine {sp?} isn’t in charge anymore…to say the least…

  18. Priam1184 says:

    If there is any change in Mass attendance it is in the downward direction. However, slowly but surely the Mass is being offered better. Our parish has stopped distributing Holy Communion under both species which greatly reduced the clutter of lay people up on the altar. Also a strange thing I’ve noticed over the past month or two is that the ‘Eucharistic Ministers’ are now being exclusively referred to as ‘Extraordinary Ministers’ in the parish announcements. Small things, and there is still a long way to go, but good things nonetheless.

  19. jhayes says:

    The Pew report is HERE

  20. Mike says:

    On the surface, not much has changed in my parish since Spring 2013. The septuagenarian iconoclasts are a year and a half older and still entertain thoughts of a resurgence. Their plans continue to be frustrated by the gentle but firm presence and actions of priests of a faithful Catholic order who have been assigned responsibility for the parish. (Our liberal diocese, like many, ran behind replacement rate in vocations for decades; only now is it starting to catch up.) Many’s the 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass with no kids at all in attendance.

    Such noticeable changes as have happened lately have been to the good. Catechesis and Adoration are encouraged. Our new music director is an able university senior who recognizes the value of sung Propers as the basis for music to accompany Mass, although the Lion King hymnody may take a long while to root out. We will have the Forty Hours Devotion next weekend for the first time in a long while.

    Our parish has probably seen scores of souls lost to disinterest in the controversies and innovations carried out in the specious and damnable “Spirit of Vatican II” with which it was fully infected. A much smaller number may have jumped ship for neighboring parishes and dioceses that were more recognizably Catholic.

    Still, there is hope. Parishioners who have stuck it out are open to the workings of the Holy Spirit (and, let us hope, to His defeat of the Zeitgeist) and to the works of mercy. We can still use prayers for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and fruitful marriage — collectively, and carried out in fidelity, the finest witnesses to the life of Our Lord in His Church.

  21. OrthodoxChick says:

    I live in the same general area as Kathleen10, which is Southern New England. Due to schedule issues, I parish hop among a few different N.O. parishes in my immediate area (in 2 different dioceses in 2 different states, as I live in a border area). These parishes are all equally “c”atholic, meaning folk bands with guitars and tambourines, banners for every occasion, no Confiteor, Confession is only available for 15 minutes on a Saturday (and that is for 2 parishes worth of people; one parish commutes to the other if they want to go to Confession – and no, there isn’t usually a long line unless I or another family with a handful of kids make our whole family attend one after the other). You all know how it goes.

    Anyway, Mass attendance has remained about the same. One sees the usual Mass goers now as one saw before Pope Francis became the Holy Father. Where I see a difference (for the worse) is among non-Mass goers. Now that I am working, and in a town that was once predominantly French-Canadian Catholic, I’m meeting more and more people who self-identify as Catholic. But once I get to know them, I realize that they are using the term “Catholic” the same way they identify their ethnicity as French, Polish, etc. I work with mostly women and a Filipino man who identifies as Catholic. The man is married and having an affair. Of the 4 women who immediately surround me, 3 identify themselves as Catholic. These 3 were raised Catholic in Catholic families. These women range in age from late 20’s to mid 50’s. The 4th woman is a Vermont yankee who was never Catholic, but she chooses to send her children to a Diocesan Catholic school. Of the 3 Catholic women, none are regular Mass attendees. Only one of them sends their child to a Catholic school. And of the three, one is living with her boyfriend, whom she plans to make her third husband in the near future; the other has moved her boyfriend into the home she shares with her daughter from a previous relationship, and the last is now a divorced single mom who has been through Hell. She hasn’t given up on being Catholic officially yet, but she’s close. I’ve been praying for her since I met her. I’m doing this for all of my co-workers, but this woman has a special place in my heart. Something inside of her won’t let her give up on her Catholic faith and she doesn’t realize how significant that is – yet. If you could all also keep in her your prayers as well, please.

    Anyway, the moral of my long story is that I see no observable Francis effect in the pews. Outside of the pews, the people that I work with know who he is, but they don’t follow what he says unless it makes major headlines. Even then, they don’t treat him like he’s any big deal in their life. From what I can see, when people in my area tell me they’re Catholic, they don’t mean, “I devoutly practice my faith. I love it and live it.” They mean, “I come from people who were Catholic because they were from Canada (or Poland, or wherever). In other words, “Catholic” is just another adjective; another descriptor to identify one’s heritage, same as one describes their ethnicity. It’s a label that explains them, but it’s not something they internalize. It’s not something they want to own.

  22. Dominicanes says:

    My father, an Italian who rarely went to Mass but insisted he was a Catholic, nearly always spoke critically of the Church, including priests and the pope now goes not just to Sunday Mass but to daily Mass as well. Why, the first reason is grace, of course, but the other reason? “Hey, I like what Pope Francis is saying!” When I told him that he isn’t saying anything different than popes before he said, “Well, maybe, but I understand him.”
    My father is still woefully ignorant of his Faith but he loves going to daily Mass and often tells me what Father said in his homily!

  23. Fr. W says:

    The priests I know in the Chicago area have expressed concerns about lower Mass attendance. Our parish as well. Still waiting for the numbers for the entire diocese, should be interesting to see.

    I saw an article today that claimed Mass attendance in Italy is ‘surging;’ I would be surprised that it is, it does not seem to be the case in the USA.

  24. djc says:

    I actually think Catholics are more united which is the opposite of what I thought would happen. Conservatives are surprised that, contrary to initial reports, Pope Francis is fully orthodox no matter what the MSM hoped for. Liberals, though a dying breed in my area, feel more comfortable with this pope and are not constantly sniping about Rome.

    Our seminarians lean conservative and we have more of them than we’ve had for a long while. I really think the biological solution will fix a lot of the problems n the church.

    A previous post made reference that Vat II was supposed to bring in a lot of Protestants. I really think this has happened in my area of the midwest. I’d say about a third of our parishioners are former Protestants and not just spouses of Catholics. They take the faith seriously and I don’t think they would have felt comfortable w/o the Novus Ordo. Having said this I agree that we have lost many cradle Catholics with the introduction of the NO but would we have kept them anyway? Our masses are reverant and getting more traditional all of the time. We’ve weathered the 70’s and 80’s and I believe we’re getting more committed, but less numerous, Catholics.

  25. HeatherPA says:

    I second the notion that the only gushing praise I have heard in our parish re: Pope Francis is the 60+ crowd and the “c”atholic Catholics.

    Our parish has grown in the last five years due to our young priest’s arrival five years ago, which he instituted a daily Holy Hour before every weekday Mass, First Friday and First Saturday devotions, summer visits to the Sisters of Life for teen girls and liberal applications of Latin in his very devoutly celebrated NO Mass.

    Of course, he was practically tarred and feathered when he first arrived, but now we may actually see vocations. Which in its over 100 year history, the parish has never had a single one.

    If only we could convince him to let us send him to FSSP EF training.
    Prayers for that.

  26. ecs says:

    While I think some of Pope Francis actions and comments towards traditional Catholics have been rather divisive, I can’t say that I have found his pontificate to be divisive as much as I have found it to be quite sad. Benedict was such a loving spiritual father who really cared for the souls of his flock and if you were willing to listen to what Benedict had to say there was so much to gain. I really miss him. You knew the Church was in good trustworthy hands when Benedict was pope. I have just learned to ignore Francis. He does not make it easier to be Catholic and nothing he has said or done thus far has been of much value. I have not noticed any positive changes in North Carolina since his election. The Novus Ordo here is as dull and silly as its always been and the folks in the pews look just as bored as they did two years ago.

  27. mysticalrose says:

    I have witnessed no Francis effect. The primary reason, I think, is that many left leaning people like Pope Francis because they believe that he is affirming the positions they already hold. In which case, there is no reason for them to deviate from their present practices (or non-practice, as it were). They don’t feel challenged by PF, so there is no need to change, to convert.

  28. jfk03 says:

    No “Francis effect” based on my limited observations. Fewer and older people in church. Loud talking about secular subjects (football). Almost no kids. Dying parishes.

    This is not the fault of Pope Francis. It is the sign of our times. There is a small nucleus of serious catholics, with precious few conversions. That said, we are all called to conversion. The Lord has warned us to avoid the leaven of the pharisees.

  29. Mojoron says:

    Reincarnate JPII or bring back BXVI. I’m scared of Francis.

  30. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    It turned out to be very hard to do what I thought would be easy: tracing the polling data on Mass attendance over the last couple of decades. But I finally got results that seem to use the same criteria (“I say I go to Mass every week”) for the following years:

    1955: 75%
    1965: 67% —7% loss in 10 years and it was incremental, not in the last couple of years
    1975: 54%—13% loss in 10 years.
    1985: 50%—6% loss in 10 years. 1978 JP2 elected
    1995: 46%—4% loss in 10 years
    2000: 53%—7% increase after 5 years
    2001: 48%
    2002: 48%
    2003: 35%—the sex scandal hit the news the previous year
    2004: 43%
    2005: 50% —7% increase in one year. Benedict 16 elected
    2006: 50%
    2007: 41%—9% decrease. this was the biggest year for abuse payouts in history
    2008: 42%
    2009: 42%
    2010: I have not found statistics for this year or the next two, but there seems to be no real change.
    2013: 41% Francis elected
    2014: 40%

    What can we learn from these figures? First “causality” is difficult to prove. Before I start to comment on this, one thing needs to be clear: these are people reporting who claim to go to Mass each week. There are those who think the actual attendance is half of what people claim because people claim to do things that they should do. That means that the further back you go, the more likely the claim is bogus. In the 1950s it was clear you should go to church; now, shame on you if you do. But I do think that the percent of those who claim to go does more or less track those who do, even if the later you go the more likely they are telling the truth. In short, in the 1950s, you should say you go to Mass, in the 2010s, who cares whether you do!

    So I will point out the obvious: Mass attendance was already in free-fall in the 1950s. The free fall doubled in the 60s to 70s, but went back, in the 1970s to the smaller drop of the 1950s. Finally in the pontificate of John Paul II, the decline bottomed out and actually went up, getting back to where it was at the beginning of his pontificate. An amazing accomplishment considering the general secularization and compounded by the bad catechesis of the 70s. Then comes the disaster of the sex scandals, which were played out on every secular newspaper front page nearly every day.

    Amazingly during the early pontificate of Benedict, with the MSM all time every day replaying of the sex scandal, the figures bounded back to highs not seen since the early 2000s. Then came in 2007 the front page sex scandals, all given massive press by the prestige media, even though most of the delicts were decades old, back in the 60s and 70s. Since then there has been no bounce back, unlike that under the late JP2. The devil had done his work and then got all the help he needed.

    Let us hope that there will be a real “Francis effect” as there was a “John Paul II effect” after the first sex scandals, or even better a “Benedict XVI effect” as there was after that. But there seems to be nothing like that going on.

    The MSM love their “Francis,” and the message of THEIR Francis is “all that old silly Catholic moral stuff is now out of date, the pope is on the side of OUR secular culture!” They will ride this meme to the grave.

  31. J_Cathelineau says:

    In my parish the age average is increasing and the attendance alarmingly decreasing every sunday. 40 or 50 people on Sundays, when it used to be crowded (200), say, 15 years ago.
    Marging note: Not a single man in between 15 and 45 yrs old. And 70% are ladies over 60.
    Anyway, there are pictures of the Pope everywhere: taxis, drugstores, bars, public offices…
    That is the argentine panorama.

  32. Salvelinus says:

    I have an observation that I’m very surprised nobody has brought up yet.
    A co-worker of mine regularly attends a chapel of society priests (Society of Saint Pius X) and we got to chatting a couple of weeks ago.
    He has informed me that the chapel is literally packed with new families for both the low mass, and the latter high mass. I have absolutely no idea where the new people ate coming from, but I can confirm there ate a great deal of cars there on Sundays when I take my hour drive home from the only TLM in the diocese.
    A related note, my father who is very ill had expressed interest in becoming Catholic. When I was able to finally find a priest who would talk with him, I was horrified to find out that this Monsignor told my dad “there is no need to be Catholic since we all can get to heaven with our conscience, and pope Francis is implementing Vatican II note. Things are getting better finally”.

    What? So now my very sick father, told by a monsignor, thinks it doesn’t matter what religion one is. And this is technically what pope Francis says also.

    So personally, I’m not happy with the “Francis effect”!

  33. disco says:

    I actually have noticed an increase in attendance at mass where I go. It’s Traditional Latin Mass so I expect the numbers coming in spite of the Francis effect far exceed those coming because of it.

    At the end of the day, excitement over the pope might get someone to darken the door at their local parish after a long absence, but if they don’t find authentic Catholicism, like the kinds you’d read about in books about saints, then they won’t stay.

  34. Thorfinn says:

    The biggest change seems to be not among Catholics but among secular ‘Catholics’ and particularly non-Catholics. I think Pope Francis has scattered a good bit of seed there, though a great deal of evangelization will be needed to nurture the resulting seedlings.

    For practicing Catholics, what’s happening in our own parish is the biggest driver, as far as I can see.

    At the same time, the new papacy represents a further step in time away from the abuse crisis, which is all to the good, but not, I think, specific to Pope Francis.

  35. JMody says:

    First, we have a parish that seems to fill the building for at least three masses every weekend. We have a beautiful, traditionally Italian layout, straight altar facing people, six candlesticks, all beautifully preserved and locked in a chapel available on certain weekdays and special occasions like weddings. The main building is a flying saucer auditorium, with huge vestibule so the floor plan is like a banjo instead of a basilica. But it is FULL.
    Our pastor believes everyone should lighten up. Confession is important, it’s good for you, and hardly anybody commits willful sins anyway, so lighten up. And how ’bout that football/baseball/basketball game?
    And Francis is a breath of fresh air. He’s making people see the basics of the Faith again, helping us to recall that Christ said we have to look after the poor and the marginalized. No mention of actual teaching (like maybe Christ wanted us to look out for all our fellow men, as well as be generous ) nor of how his predecessors were deficient. Screaming liberal deacon. Altar-boy-girls. 5 to 8 Extraordinary Ministrices of Holy Communion.

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  37. Traductora says:

    While the Eucharistic Minister types and other such in my parish luv Pope Francis, we’ve had an overall decline in things like daily mass attendance. I think it’s partially because the parish priest is sort of a difficult person, regardless of who’s Pope, and many people have probably been migrating to other parishes and the effect of that is becoming noticeable now. But I think it’s also because he, the 1980s era choir director and the two other very liberal, retired priests that we have see Francis as a vindication of their old-style liberal views, particularly regarding the liturgy, and have been crowing about his election and what they assume to be his views. His statements are so hard to follow that I’m not even sure the views they attribute to Francis really are his, but they certainly act as if he somehow reversed everything that Pope Benedict was trying to do and happy days are here again for them. And I don’t think the parishioners particularly like it.

  38. Gratias says:

    Pope Francis is divisive because He disdains traditional Catholicism. Of course, we are perforce a very, very small minority. But a pastor should care for each one of its sheep. Those of us in the EF mass will have to fight just to survive to avoid being shut down à la Franciscans of the Immaculate or Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. These are pre-Christian times indeed. We will have to fight the progressive/modernists in the beaches, in the parishes, in the plains and in the hills. It is a good time for Catholics because each remaining one of us will make a difference and set an example. In addition to example, please support to the TLM until it hurts financially. For now we have Summorum a Pontificum to rebuild His Church, let’s use as if it really matters.

  39. Bea says:

    There are 2 parishes in our town.
    Ours (the more traditional one) seems on the downslide.
    The 8 AM Mass I attend is about half as full as it used to be.
    The other parish is drawing many away. They are more of a guitar/happy-go-lucky parish. They are very active in bazaars and fund raisers.etc.
    This change has really nothing to do with P. Francis.

    We still have Pope Benedict’s portrait on the office wall.
    I was teasing our pastor that he’s going to need a larger wall to include 3 portraits (assuming he’ll make good on his word and retire).
    Our bookstore has sold some books about P. Francis. More out of curiosity it seems, than out of devotion, although our Spanish community is enthusiastic about him, simply because he’s a “Latino”. He really hasn’t made any difference in Parish life.

  40. jacobi says:

    What Francis has done is to make ordinary orthodox intuitively loyal Catholics, think more about the Papacy, and in a more and detached way.

    The Pope has an instinct for the photo opportunity, and easy “statement “ and therefore is popular with the secular press and with those, Catholics and otherwise, whose views are determined by the press. With thinking Catholics he is an enigma ranging from enthusiastic approval, through puzzlement, to dismay.

    His sense of priority seems questionable, particularly with the Middle East and Orthodox affaires, where he seems out of his depth.

    He has made no definitive teachings, or comments. Evangelii Gaudium was not an authoritative document. He has called for “Evangelisation”, presumably of non-Catholics, without specifying what that is or addressing the profound ignorance, doctrinal disagreement and confusion within the present Catholic laity. There is apparently an encyclical on the environment on its way. Very topical, but it is questional whether this is a matter of Faith and Morals.

    The Church is, to use the one of the Pope’s favourite words, in a mess. It rather looks as though that mess is going to continue.

    As for my parish, the best indication I have so far is that after 17 months, portraits of Jean Paul II and Benedict XVI still adorn the walls of the parish rooms – but not one of Francis.

  41. Chon says:

    Mass attendance seems about the same here. I haven’t paid much attention to Pope Francis…not sure why…maybe because I have not yet heard anything he’s said that’s engaged me. It is true I haven’t gone out of my way to read any of his messages–partially because I feel it would be too much trouble to figure out what he’s saying. I think all the confused press about his messages has discouraged me from trying. I just realized I don’t even know if any of his messages have been published unabridged in English. Perhaps the main reason I haven’t connected with him is this Pope does not speak English and is from a very different culture. Maybe I’ve also ignored Francis because I’ve been busy paying a lot of attention to our new Archbishop, Alexander Sample. I really miss Pope Benedict–what a wonderfully precise communicator and a sweet person. Nevertheless, I pray for the Pope nearly every day and am very pleased that he’s taking a stand against financial shenanigans and the mafia. However, I do wish he’d read the whole Koran….reality check needed there.

  42. Genna says:

    Congregations at my parish still divided into families with young children/elderly. Age groups between 14-50 absent. Extraordinary Ministers remain the same: 98% elderly women. Same with readers. One difference: Francis always mentioned in the bidding prayers as Benedict almost always never was.

  43. Brooklyn says:

    “Obama is figure of deep and increasing division, as it turns out. Is Pope Francis?”

    Father, are you as a Catholic priest actually comparing Pope Francis to Obama? Why do you put these two men in the same thought? Remember Adam Shaw who was fired from Catholic News Service for doing this same thing? Although as I recall, you thought CNS was way over the top for doing so.

    If I am misinterpreting your comments, I apologize. What exactly is your purpose in this post? It certainly doesn’t seem to inspire much unity.

  44. Nicolas Bellord says:

    “as high as 83% favorable, the view many people have of him isn’t changing how they live”

    But surely the whole point is that they are hoping that Pope Francis will change the Church so that they can go on living their lives WITHOUT any change!

  45. Gaz says:

    Do I pray for the Pope in my daily prayers? When I pray those prayers in the Rosary for the Holy Father’s intentions, I also pray for my Ordinary’s intentions. I’ve done this since one of my Ordinary’s ad limina visits.

  46. Gregg the Obscure says:

    In our Denver OF parish, attendance dropped sharply from 2010-2012. It’s bounced back quite a bit since then. Most of the new parishioners are families with children in the parish school. Most of the losses earlier in the decade were among folks over the age of sixty who either (a) moved into retirement homes, (b) parish-shopped when upset by the changes in pastor and/or music director or (c) breathed their last.

    Unfortunately the newer parishioners aren’t contributing to the financial support of the parish to the same degree as those who left had done.

  47. sunnyside says:

    There is also evidence that vocations to the jesuits are increasing due to the election of the holy father. I really like and respect Francis. He is not a liberal. Clearly. But he has a gift for communicating Catholicism like no other. For the first time in my lifetime people are explaining what the church is for, not merely what it is against

  48. Athelstan says:

    From the pew poll: [L]arge majorities of Catholics say the church should allow Catholics to use birth control (77%), allow priests to get married (72%) and ordain women as priests (68%). Half of Catholics say the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

    More clear proof, if you needed it, to support my comment on Fr. Z’s thread the other day regarding how churches commit suicide, that the Catholic Church in the U.S. – or at least most of it – effectively became a liberal Protestant denomination at some point in the mid-20th century. The revolutionaries, working in tandem with secularization of the rest of society, did their work well. The results are on display.

  49. Athelstan says:

    Hello Sunnyside,

    There is also evidence that vocations to the jesuits are increasing due to the election of the holy father.

    If they are, it is not showing up in the numbers yet – just the opposite – in the worldwide aggregate statistics.

    According to the Jesuit Curia, as of Jan. 1, 2013, there were a total of 17,287 Jesuits: 12,298 priests, 1,400 lay brothers, 2,878 scholastics and 711 novices.

    As of January 1, 2014, according to a report published on March 25 in Populi (citing statistics published on that same day by the Society of Jesus), there were 16,986 Jesuits worldwide: 12,107 priests, 1,331 lay brothers, 2,842 scholastics and 706 novices.

    Which means there has been a worldwide drop of 301 members since 2013, and there has been a net decrease of 5 novices. Priests, lay brothers, and scholastics also saw a diminution of their numbers.

    In 1966, by the way, there were 36,038 Jesuits.

  50. FrAnt says:

    I see no change in my parish (I am the pastor). I find that the Catholics in the pews do not know what’s going on in the Church. How do I know this? In my homilies I reference articles I read at, National Catholic Register, etc., many people occasionally show some surprise at what I tell them about the Church and the world.
    I don’t believe they can tell you much about the Holy Father beyond the basics. They don’t read papal encyclical, or motu prioprio. I am sure if you asked them who wrote, “The Joy of the Gospel” they would not know.
    So why should he be an influencing factor in the growth of the faith.

  51. djc says:

    Reply to Augustine Thompson O.P.,

    This is one of the best comments I’ve seen on this subject and it mirrors my thoughts exactly.


  52. Magash says:

    Not a lot of change in the pews. We just experienced a change of pastors. our last pastor was on loan from a diocese in the Philippines, as is his replacement. He was only with us for about five and a half years. He had instituted only incremental changes and most of the parish staff were holdovers from the previous (fairly progressive) pastor. I put it that way because the previous pastor was fairly orthodox in his liturgy (read the black, do the red) but was also inclined to the use of Haugen & Haas, with many shall we say liberal theological leanings.
    The minor changes did include a distinct turn toward veneration of the Blessed Mother and support for novenas and praying of the chaplets.
    Fortunately one of the holdovers was our DRE, a very devout and well educated woman who really had more effect on the direction and orthodoxy of all of our religious education programs for both children and adults than the pastor. She has been on staff for three pastors now and since she has enjoyed the support of all three I suspect that she has had as much or more long term effect on the folks in the pews as the pastors. Thanks to her we were conducting Adoration even under our progressive pastor. She always seemed to be able to find a deacon or priest from somewhere to conduct Benediction even when the pastor was “too busy” to participate.
    So I guess I’m saying if the clergy doesn’t actively work against you then the laity can have a great effect on what happens to keep the people in the pews. So while I think Francis and what he says is important, just as what our original pastor said was important, what we the laity do, is just as or more important. I would say this especially true if the clergy is not working against you. Francis is not working against us. He has by his actions and official speeches done nothing but support orthodox Catholic teaching. This upcoming Synod is likely to be his “Humani Vitae” moment when the liberal media and heretical liberals will realize that, “OMG the Pope is Catholic!”

  53. CrimsonCatholic says:

    As a campus minister, I have noticed that Pope Francis is a pope who is more adored by the elderly than young people. I have had many college students come to me with concerns about what they believe Pope Francis is saying and doing. Every person I speak with who loves Pope Francis is much, much older.

    I disagree. I’m 26, and most of the Catholics I know around my age and the youth from the youth ministry have loved Pope Francis and his messages(especially the tweets). Generally, the negativity comes from the subset of radtrads and the ultra liberals who realize Pope Francis isn’t going to change Church teaching.

    @Augustine Thompson O.P, you are correct when you say “these are people reporting who claim to go to Mass each week. There are those who think the actual attendance is half of what people claim because people claim to do things that they should do.” You are correct.

    However, where did you get 40% of Catholics attend weekly mass for 2014? By my calculations from the report, 123 of 351 Catholics say they attend Religious service once a week or more. That is 35%.

  54. AngelGuarded says:

    Not a difference in anything at all. Same, same, same.

  55. Kathleen10 says:

    Athelstan, in my humble opinion you are right, essentially the Catholic Church has largely (50%-ish) become a liberal Protestant denomination.
    Now, conservative Protestants (Baptists) whom conservative Catholics actually have much in common, can dislike us for different reasons than they used to, that we were papists or worshiped Mary, or other misrepresentations. Now we’re “liberals”. The liberal politicians who self-identify as Catholic (Pelosi, Biden, etc.) and who still go up for Communion without interference, who yap about the Catholic faith publicly, have presented a persona about us that is largely unchallenged. They have put us all out there as liberals, at the same time that frankly, our own church seems to want to take away supports or encouragement for the EF or traditional Catholicism. The Pope has made some statements that certainly sound liberal, and has not expressed any support for traditional practices or liturgy. We can only go by what Pope Francis says and does. The statements he has made that made us gasp are the ones the politicians and media repeat. It’s out there. We are a liberal church to many. Personally I also feel the scandal caused by so many homosexual priests who have sexually assaulted vulnerable boys and young men is continuing to cause many negative effects, low mass attendance being only one of those effects. These evil acts are still producing fruit. It produced a spiritual “dissonance” for many, and I can relate to that, because it still does for me when I think about it. I’m still angry about at those priests or enablers and I’m a Catholic who loves my church. Anyway, on top of that hot mess throw the relentless “the Church is so rich” and “the Pope lives like a King” rhetoric. This all makes it more difficult to just be Catholic. We’ve lost the sense of Catholicity as a good thing, a special thing, a positive thing. Many have lost their “salt”. With the scandals we have become the church of liberals and homosexual pedophile priests with so much money we can pay off victims and go on our merry way. The scandals fired up the womyn and married priest camp because many people misunderstand celibacy and feel that this is the answer to the problem of sexually disordered men who became priests and buggered children, just let men be priests and marry and womyn also be priests and then the problem will be solved.

  56. RJD says:

    No – I don’t believe that Mass attendance is up. Allowing for people moving into/out of the Parish, I think we’re about the same as pre-Francis.

    OTOH, I think that the numbers they’re quoting for support of contraception/women’s ordination/SSM/etc. are low for our Parish. But then, I’m in a fairly liberal Parish with a fairly liberal pastor.

  57. L. says:

    In our parish in our Appalachian diocese, my impression is that Pope Francis has had little effect on parishioners. I can’t recall hearing him mentioned at any parish functions recently. Shortly after his election when we heard his critical blather about airport Bishops who live in grand houses and so on, there was some hope here that he might do something about our profligate Ordinary with champagne tastes, but no such luck. So, the only effect the Holy Father has had has been to disappoint, as far as I can determine. He’s had no effect on Mass attendance, although this is hard to determine because the actions of our Bishop and his lieutenants have reduced Mass attendance as wells as collections. Certainly, Pope Francis’ effect on our parish has been much less, and much less malign, than that of our Ordinary, so that’s a plus.

    I pray for the Pope and his intentions every day, and pray about the Bishop daily.

  58. Kennedy says:


    This is a very depressing thread. Where I live the church is packed on a Sunday for every Mass. Has been for years. Our weekday Mass, at lunchtime in a tent in the local hospital grounds is getting fuller every day. Is it because I live in Africa and not in the decadent West? I visited England earlier this year and the daily Masses were great, but as several commentators have said, full of us greybeards.

    I’m not praising Pope Francis, although I think he is great. I’d be a devotee of Pope Benedict, but the only difference I see in the two of them is style. The content is absolutely the same.


  59. nmoerbeek says:

    There is some small growth from what I perceive in the Latin Mass communities, but I would characterize as normal growth that we have been receiving since these apostolates where started out here in So Cal.

    As someone involved in Church apostolates, catholic conferences etc, I have observed: a loss a fervor, burn out and a general feeling of discouragement. It seems that people do less than they did before.

  60. St Donatus says:

    I am seeing a growth in our FSSP parish but it sounds like that is normal. Mostly young people attend our parish and lots of large families. I bring two young men from the college here with me on the long drive to a nearby city with the FSSP parish. Our city doesn’t even have any ‘reverential’ Masses and all Churches are seeing declines. I attend the weekday Mass at a NO Mass in my city and there are about half as many attending as before.

    I think a lot of the more conservative Catholics are a bit confused and are a bit discouraged. The more liberal Catholics are just using Pope Francis as an excuse for a not practicing their faith.

    Some of the FSSP parishioners are discouraged but these are the ones that follow the Friars of the Immaculate and see that as a sign of where Pope Francis is going. Many are worried about the synod on the Family. They feel like there will not be changes in ‘Teaching’ of the Church but changes in practice on the parish level at NO parishes. Many fear the lose in spirituality of their NO parish going relatives. I have seen it myself. One of my brother’s (belongs to an NO parish) kids stopped attending Mass since Pope Francis and relatives don’t see a reason to be Catholic if the Pope thinks non-Catholics are great Christians.

    Like I said, my FSSP parish is growing but I would expect to see more conservative Catholics come because of their fears about the Pope. Some have come but don’t like the Latin. It would be wonderful if there were more NO masses that have the same reverence as the Tridentine Mass for those folks.

  61. marcelus says:

    Churches packed in Argentina and all over Latam.

    Though it’s somehow in our essence or under the skin being traditional Catholic Latin countries. Attendance is definitely up.

    Sad to read the statement a poster made above

    As for my parish, the best indication I have so far is that after 17 months, portraits of Jean Paul II and Benedict XVI still adorn the walls of the parish rooms – but not one of Francis

    It’s strange our suspicious that they get to choose not to hang the picture is Peter.

    Don’t see how anyone can consider Francis divisive.

    Like digging a hole in the ground and not wanting to out. And the barque sails on.

  62. Lin says:

    Mass attendance in our parish has dropped by at least 50% since we were assigned a progressive priest. It appears it is due to his lack of reverence for all things Catholic since we see them attending our churches in the diocese.

  63. I moved shortly prior to his election so I can’t say how he has affected attendance, but when I was trying to find a parish in my new city at one church the priest spoke in his homily about a woman who called about becoming reconciled with the church because “he gave her hope” or something similar. The same priest implied during his homily that all in attendance were welcome to partake of the eucharist if they felt called to do so.

  64. Michelle says:

    Our Mass attendance has increased, but it has been on an upward trend for the past several years. We had around 20 new converts join the church at Easter, but several of them said they’d actually been drwan to the church earlier, mostly while Benedict was still Pope, so that makes the Francis effect even harder to judge.

    I do think all of the media attention has made some people think about thheir faith more and that may have helped spur them to come back, and it aseems like some who had issues with various things in the church may have returned because they are expecting changes. On the other side of that, our closest Sunday EF Mass has had a big jump in attendence, from about 10-15 “regualrs” (and most of those from 3 or 4 families) to more than double that.

    The funny thing I’ve noticed from friends, family ,and facebook is that many of those who seemed to be the most enthusiatic about Pope Francis were not even Catholic, but that enthusiasm has waned some now that it’s been over a year and he hasn’t made all these drastic changes the media seemed to predict (thank God).

  65. lelnet says:

    I honestly have not seen a trend that could reasonably be attributed to Pope Francis. Attendance on a typical Sunday at the parishes we go to most often seems to be up a bit relative to where it was a few years ago, but that started during Benedict’s reign.

    I’d caution strongly against trying to derive too many conclusions from the attendance one sees at one’s usual parish on Holy Days that aren’t Sunday, though…a great many observant Catholics (including myself, and essentially all of my friends) attend Sunday Mass at a parish which is difficult to reach promptly on days when one must also work, and thus use a noon Mass at a downtown parish to satisfy their Holy Day obligations. Just as those of us who are seen in a particular parish only on Christmas and Easter are sometimes so because we’re travelling to visit family, and at other times are in a different time zone. :)

    I will note that the parish where I attended Mass for the Assumption this year was pretty well packed. It’s also where I usually go for Confession (since, like Holy Day masses, I can do it during my lunch break from work), and despite having several confessionals open all day and confessors who are quite good at expediting the process (hey…Confession and daily Mass are pretty much the whole point of keeping the place open…being in the middle of the downtown business district, it’s practically deserted on Sundays), there is invariably a meaningful line. I take those as good signs. But again…that was also true pre-Francis.

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