PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


March, 2019

Can Francis Do It?

            A new book will be coming out this month entitled, Can Francis Change the Church: How American Catholics Are Responding to His Leadership (Crossroad Publishing).  A select group of Catholics from around the country were asked their opinions about the Church at three key moments; in 2011 before Francis was elected pope, in 2017 after four years of his papacy, and in the fall of 2018 following new revelations of sexual abuse and accusations of cover-ups.

An Agent of Change

            According to those interviewed, these are some of the ways in which Francis is changing the Church:

  • He has created a new and refreshing image of what it means to be a Catholic.  Bob, a person who is no longer a practicing Catholic, exclaimed, “Francis is a breath of fresh air.”  Colleen, who also has left the Church, remarked, “I am really excited that he is the pope because he is so open-minded.”
  • His emphasis on the poor, the needy and those on the margins has challenged others to do the same.  Larry, an older person who was critical of the Church, nevertheless, was most impressed by Francis’ lifestyle.  “I see him living with poor people and understanding the poor.”
  • Francis, by his words and actions, has made Jesus present in the modern world by calling for a change of heart.  Kristy, a person who has remained Catholic, commented, “I love the way he does things.  It goes back to the way Jesus would do things.”
  • The pope’s care of the world’s environment through his encyclical Laudate Si’ has prompted others to follow his lead.  “He has given us a new vision,” remarked Maureen, a struggling but faithful Catholic.
  • His awareness of the messiness of life and not making judgments about “irregular” situations that people face has given hope and encouragement to those who have become disheartened by life’s burdens.  “He would be welcome around our dining room table,” said Jamie, a former Catholic.
  • He uses technology, news sources, and social media to spread the word about God and Jesus in the world at large.  “People are listening,” said Sally, now at a distance from the Church.  “They are following his tweets—it is good that they are getting his messages.”
  • What amazes people is the freedom Francis has shown in challenging the hierarchy and Roman Curia to become servant leaders and not to get caught up in privilege and clericalism.  Joanne who is still a Catholic affirmed his efforts: “I hope the pope can appoint good men as bishops and cardinals, ones who see the reality of the situation and are not taken up with the trappings of their office.  That is what is so important.”
  • Francis has shown an openness to include women in the life of the Church to a greater extent than his predecessors.  As Tony affirmed, “Francis has opened himself to seeing new things.  Who knows whether he will see the women’s issue differently.  It may not be his priority right now, but it may become so later.”
  • There is a realization that the Holy Spirit is active in the Catholic Church and is working through the pope to bring all human beings into greater unity, forgiveness and love.  Anne, a Catholic who finds new hope in Francis, affirmed, “This is where the pope affects my life now—his good decisions.”  Rachael who also has remained in the Church commented, “The Spirit is moving, and the Spirit cannot be held back.”