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The Media Catches On to Papal Program

Those who’ve followed the MSM’s coverage of Pope Francis know that it has been soaked in hopes that Francis’ words and gestures may lead to a relaxation of controversial Catholic teachings. Against this, it seems pretty clear to more careful observers that Francis is a pope who knows how to make gestures that look revolutionary but stand well within the mainstream of Catholic teaching.

But it now looks like the media and other bodies are starting to catch on to what we’ve all along identified as the real priorities: cleaning up the Curia, reforming the Vatican Bank, and building on Benedict’s steps towards a better response to the sex abuse crisis. First up was a long New York Times piece devoted in large part to Francis’ staffing changes:

To some degree, Francis, 77, is simply bringing in his own team and equipping it to carry out his stated mission of creating a more inclusive and relevant church that is more sensitive to the needs of local parishes and the poor. But he is also breaking up the rival blocs of Italians with entrenched influence in the Roman Curia, the bureaucracy that runs the church. He is increasing financial transparency in the murky Vatican Bank and upending the career ladder that many prelates have spent their lives climbing.

We’re glad to see The Times zero in on these issues, because it’s here that Pope Francis could actually make important changes, and that he should be held to account if he doesn’t. Today’s aggressive UN questioning of the Vatican about the sex abuse crisis can also be looked at in this light (even if, as Glenn Reynolds points out, there’s a big irony in the UN lecturing other institutions on this issue). Instead of hoping for doctrinal changes, the media could spend more of it’s time reporting on how Francis is or isn’t fulling his mandate to make organizational changes, end corruption, and bring as much healing and light to the sexual abuses issues as possible.

So far we don’t have a clear enough track record to judge exactly how well Francis will execute on these issues. Some of the early hints have generally been promising: on Wednesday, Francis replaced all but one of the former Vatican Bank advisers with new people. Others have been less promising: yesterday we found out that Francis celebrated mass and had a private audience with Cardinal Mahony, the prelate with one of the worst records on the sex abuse crisis. It’s not clear exactly how to interpret that, but it has already distressed many people. We’ll be watching closely in the coming months to see whether Francis fulfills the reform mandate or whether he ultimately fails to translate the goodwill he’s won into the needed changes.

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  • PKCasimir

    The New York Times article is the last thing I would cite in a discussion of what impact Francis has had on the Vatican and on the Catholic Church. It is all over the place, cites very few facts or authoritative sources, and is self-contradictory. Is Francis a conservative on doctrinal issues or a moderate or a liberal? You can find all three answers in the article. Only the NY Times would characterize Catholic opposition to abortion as the “conservative” view in the Church.
    A real close look at Francis’ actions since assuming the Papacy leads me to the conclusion that he is facing the problems long festering in the Church without a real clue as to what he does about it. An unsophisticated Cardinal from the backwater that is Argentina with its uniquely South American problems, he doesn’t understand North America or Europe or Asia or how to deal with them. PR gestures like washing the feet of Muslims and baptizing children of Gay parents is great PR if you are trying to reach the readers of the NY Times but hardly of any value when trying to lead the billion member Catholic Church.
    Francis appointed Italians to assume the number two and number three positions in the Vatican – Parolin and Bertello. Little mentioned is that Francis is of Italian origin and that, during the last Papal Conclave, the Italian Cardinals rallied behind him as the second best way to retain Italian influence over the Papacy since their fellow Cardinals refused to back an Italian. It hardly has inspired confidence in the Church that the number 2 and 3 positions are controlled by an Italian while the Pope is of Italian heritage.
    The PR exercises and the somewhat odd formulations of Catholic doctrine by Francis has hidden that, one year on, he has instilled little confidence in Catholics knowledgeable of the administration of the Church. The immediate problem in the Church is the Roman Curia and the appointment of a Cardinal in Haiti or South Korea has no effect on its operation. Promoting Italians to the number 2 and 3 positions in the Church does.

  • free_agent

    You write, “Francis celebrated mass and had a private audience with Cardinal Mahony,
    the prelate with one of the worst records on the sex abuse crisis”.

    On the other hand, such meetings with the boss are a very good time for the boss to read the riot act to a subordinate, because it doesn’t visibly undermine the subordinate’s authority to make the changes the boss desires. Let’s watch and see if Mahony announces significant changes in the near future…

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