The Romans have a saying, after a fat pope, a thin pope. That is, the cardinals will choose someone with a distinctly different approach to the papacy. After John Paul II Rock Star and World Traveler, they chose Benedict, a scholar and musician and stay-at-home. After the doctrinally-oriented and liturgically-conservative Benedict, Francis, a populist (who did not complete his academic studies).

Francis may inspire some people to take another look at the Church. He wants Catholics to evangelize – but to evangelize to what? He has a firm grasp on the Catholic faith both in doctrine and practice, but how many lay Catholics do? Many progressive Catholics want to change the Roman Catholic Church into a clone of the Episcopal Church (with worse music). But how successful has the Episcopal Church been at evangelizing?

The big danger is that Francis may awaken movements he cannot satisfy – for women priests and gay marriage especially. Revolutions are caused not by repression but by disappointed rising expectations. He may inadvertently precipitate the schism that has been brewing since Vatican II.

Leave a Comment