Is Pope Francis a failure? Not so fast.

What the numbers can and cannot tell us about Pope Francis and the church

“Has Pope Francis Failed?” asked First Things literary editor Matthew Schmitz in a recent New York Times op-ed. The numbers he cites from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate seemed to suggest “yes.” Since 2008, when Pope Benedict XVI occupied the chair of St. Peter, there has been a 10 percentage point drop in the number of American millennials that receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and a similar decline in those who make a Lenten sacrifice above and beyond giving up meat on Fridays.

There is nothing good to say about those trends; Mr. Schmitz is right that skipping the corporeal parts of worship makes us weaker. But, as a statistician, I cannot be as sure that these kinds of numbers are evidence of the weakness of Francis’ papacy.

Here’s the problem: Take a second and make a guess about how much participation in Lenten rituals has diminished for American Episcopalian or Lutheran millennials over the same period covered by CARA’s research. Ten percentage points? More? Less?

I don’t know the answer, but I would be surprised if it is only Catholics that are falling away at these rates. Millennials are secularizing rapidly. Whether Francis is doing well or poorly, relative to Benedict, a drop in religious practice is not too surprising. Any “Francis effect” winds up drowned out by the larger demographic shift away from organized religion.

What would be a better measurement of the success of a particular papacy? I needed to find an answer to that question three years ago when an atheist friend of mine bet me that Pope Francis would be bad for the American church. We needed to work out some objective way of settling the bet and we wound up agreeing to use the American Episcopalian church as a control group.

Instead of just looking at good or bad trends for Catholics, which could be the result of general trends in religiosity that have nothing to do with Pope Francis, we would score the Catholics relative to the Episcopalians, who should be subject to some of the same pressures to secularize but are less influenced by the pope. I would win the bet even if the number of Catholics were declining, as long as the decline was less dramatic than that of the Episcopalians. (We will be running the numbers next year).

I will not feel so great, though, even if I win $10 and bragging rights from my friend. Declining less rapidly is still declining. The Roman Catholic Church does not exist to be relatively more successful than other faiths, but to offer us God’s grace in the sacraments, and to prepare us to receive them. The numbers that Mr. Schmitz cites can only give us ambiguous evidence about Pope Francis, but they are definitely sobering news for the church.

— Leah Libresco

‘Winning’ the fight against secularism is not the only way to measure success

Is three years of Francis’ papacy enough time to judge whether or not his approach is effective? That depends both on how effectiveness is defined and also on to what and with whom Francis is being compared.

In his recent op-ed, Matthew Schmitz acknowledges that asking whether or not Pope Francis has failed may be premature, saying, “We probably won’t have a full measure of any Francis effect until the church is run by bishops appointed by Francis and priests who adopt his pastoral approach.” Yet instead of imagining what that pastoral approach would look like writ large across the life of the church, Mr. Schmitz castigates Francis for what he sees as his disregard for the institutional church and its “settled ways,” which he attributes to Francis’ Jesuit formation and focus on “internal spiritual states over ritual observance.”

This approach is almost guaranteed to conclude that Francis has failed because it imagines his effectiveness—and the effectiveness of the church and the Gospel—too narrowly. It assumes a model of confrontation for Catholics engaging with a rapidly secularizing world and imagines success in terms of victory on that front. What a pope is supposed to be doing, in this model, is convincing more people that the church is right and that secularism is wrong, and that is how the effectiveness of both his personal witness and pastoral approach is to be judged.

But there are other ways to think about engagement with the secular world without assuming a battle in which only one side emerges as the winner. Since the first days of Francis’ papacy, he has been pursuing a course that privileges encounter and the transformation of the imagination over apologetics and explanations. Whether or not we can measure that kind of engagement—I made some suggestions in a conversation about the Francis effect that Leah Libresco convened at fivethirtyeight.com—it at least deserves to be evaluated on its own terms. While the wisdom of Francis’ approach can be debated, it should not be declared a failure because it has not been winning the arguments that it has actually been trying to avoid.

The terms of engagement Francis has opted for are exactly what he described in his speech to the cardinals before the conclave in which he was elected: a church which “evangelizes and comes out of herself” rather than “living within herself, of herself, for herself.” Mr. Schmitz thinks that those “who wish to see a stronger church may have to wait for a different kind of pope…[who] would need to speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom.” He seems to be willing to give that kind of pope as much time as necessary to be effective. Indeed, his hope is a good description of how St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI strengthened the church, for which we ought to remain deeply grateful. Yet even across the combined 35 years of their papacies religious practice declined at much the same rate as during the first three years of Francis’.

There is more than one way for the church to grow strong, and the disciplines that lead to engaging the world with compassion and mercy are no less challenging than the ones required to confront it and correct it. Instead of wishing for a different kind of pope, maybe we would be better off trying to look for a different kind of strength, even in that divine weakness which “is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25).

— Sam Sawyer, S.J.
J Cosgrove
10 months 3 weeks ago
I wouldn't blame Francis too much. He is charismatic but that only goes a short way. The train is rumbling through and he really cannot stop it or change its direction. And he could actually be fueling the train in ways we do not address. The issue with the Catholic Church and religion in general is very simple. Most people do not really believe in God/religion especially young people. And if there is a God, there is no evidence that He has any effect on our lives. Nobody talks about salvation any more. It is all about a good life on Earth for all. And science and technology is doing that so who needs God. Yes, they will often give lip service to the possibility of a God but they do not take it seriously. The secular atheistic message has won the day in our schools and culture. Not totally but I have seen little push back by Catholics and Christians to the message that God is irrelevant and the rules of religion are silly. This is the conventional wisdom in most universities and high schools in the country. I see it on this site as no one discusses salvation but how to make life better on earth. Yes there may be a God but with a wink/nod that nobody really believes that it makes a difference. This includes the Catholic universities in which most of the faculty are atheists and have to be accommodated in their views, On top of this there is the message by Catholics that the Catholic Church is nothing special. So we will continually talk about irrelevant things and not how to engender belief that salvation is the most important goal for humans..
Roberto Blum
10 months 3 weeks ago
Salvation incorporeal? Individualistic salvation? Man without a body is nothing. Man alone is not a man. The Church -- the people of God -- have to build the Kingdom not anywhere else but here and now. Disembodying man was the gravest mistake that Christians have done. People have now realized that our collective mission is to build here and now a Kingdom of mercy and justice for all sentient beings.
Tim O'Leary
10 months 2 weeks ago
Roberto - even the vegetables? as the Buddhists might want? It sounds like you have a political/environmental solution in mind. But, we will all die very soon, so any Kingdom that is limited to this life is a fool's gold. The real thing is to see the face of God, forever. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Mt 24:35.
Roberto Blum
10 months 2 weeks ago
Tim, I wouldn't say vegetables are sentient beings. Anyway, this life although limited in time, is eternal -- meaning outside of time -- if you consider the wholeness of it. Nothing before it and nothing after it. So, I would say the only chance "to see the face of God" is in this temporarily limited but in fact eternal life. So, let's don't waste the only opportunity we have hoping for somekind of "fool's gold" after dying.
William Rydberg
10 months 3 weeks ago
Pope Francis is emphatically NOT a failure, he's an ordinary guy who is trying to do too much on his own. My gut tells me that he has been too inward focussed, preferring to advance highly unpopular Liberal German Catholic Agendas in novel and what can be perceived as ways that can be interpreted as perplexing, After all, he's just one guy and will never fully satisfy the German Catholic Liberal's demands. Let's face it, the Institutional German Catholic Church is dying, don't get caught in its death throes! America is where he ought to looking in my opinion. On most of the big things, I'll take a page from the Book of Samuel about David's reluctance to judge Solomon. Because the Pope is judged on the Supernatural Scale. However, what does concern me greatly is the relative inaction of Pope Francis compared to JP II, Paul VI and John XXIII on the "World Peace" Issue and also concern about the potential for Thermonuclear War. He is The Vicar of Christ and his words and actions on this important Issue has weight. Yet another threat of the usage of Nuclear Weapons was posted yesterday and they are stacking up in my opinion in the Far East, Middle East, East, and Near East (Russia). https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1883306/pakistan-threatens-to-destroy-india-with-nuclear-bomb-as-atomic-enemies-edge-to-the-brink-of-war/ in Christ,
Bruce Snowden
10 months 3 weeks ago
G.K.C. said "Christianity hasn't failed, it hasn't been tried!" Pope Francis a failure? No! Pope Francis hasn't failed, he hasn't been tried! Just like Christianity. Materialism, consumerism, the misunderstood concept of "the Good Life" all of this gestational to the comfort neurosis of the Meism idolatry so prevalent today, and oh yes, Satan and its entangling net of Sin, all creating the dullness of mind and heart in accepting the reality of God and the moral order. It's the same "no way Jose syndrome" of irresponsible moral behavior that caused the young man in the Gospel to turn away from Christ's invitation to "Come follow Him" just too much to give up. At least so it seems to me
Tim O'Leary
10 months 3 weeks ago
Pope Francis has many remarkable qualities and a refreshing approach to his papal duties. Of course, only a supernatural measure will determine if he is "successful." We here on earth might have some idea of the consequences of his papacy in a decade or so. St. Pope JP II transformed the world and the Church and his catechism, and divine Mercy Sunday and so many encyclicals and his travels and the fall of communism... deservedly earns him the title Great. Pope Benedict XVI's reign is a little harder to measure, although his change to the English vernacular in Mass and the Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans might eventually have a lasting effect. His books are also some of the best any pope has ever written, in learning and spirituality, and I think him a very holy and humble man - a saint. Would we say that Pope Paul VI was a success? He is the pope who most influenced VCII's early results, and his Humane Vitae remains highly topical, even if not always positively. Pope John XXIII did very little in his short reign but will go down in history for starting VCII, even if he didn't live to influence very much about it. It's very hard to judge a papacy until it is well over, but the measure Leah used for a bet made me recall one about President Obama 8 years ago. A friend assured me Obama was going to usher in a great reconciliation between the races, finally bring peace to the Middle East and raise the world's impression of America. His new approach would reduce world conflict and America would be more influential than under any recent presidency. Didn't quite work out that way. History has a way of making fools out of most world leaders. So, I think Pope Francis is doing very well, thank you very much.
L J
10 months 3 weeks ago
In my career in medicine I often see our work of healers as being failures. Obesity is higher than ever which in turn leads to many chronic illnesses and dependence on prescription medications. Patients are far less compliant, are not engaged nor interested in self-care, never mind abandoning lifestyle practices that undermine quality health. Have physicians failed? I think not. People have a choice and we do what we can as physicians in treating sick souls. Did Jesus Christ fail considering He had 12 Apostles and they all ran away? As Fr Sawyer mentioned, devotion to the Catholic Mass, attendance, piety and corporal works of mercy have plummeted since Vatican II. These continued to fall and precipitously during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In fact, many of the cultural sins that we bemoan took root and flew during their papacy. Were they failures? How does First Things answer? Of course they were not failures and it never crossed our minds in the 1980s or 1990s that somehow the Pope was to blame. We as Catholics are to blame since we, per Vatican II, are all charged to evangelize. I weary of some within the Church who use Pope Francis as a piñata. The problem with the metric that First Things and other polemic periodicals / blogs use is that they commit the same sin that the Jews did while awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. The Jews rejected Christ because they wanted a warrior who would rain down fire, judge the wicked and rescue the righteous. Indeed the comportment of the Apostles during their time with Christ was extremely polemic: banishing anyone who "bothered" Jesus, cutting off the ear of a servant, being annoyed when the children approached Jesus. Do we not have people like this with us now who get annoyed, banish, reject and use the power of the verbal sword to cut asunder? Jesus offered a better way even if His Return on Investment did not yield an immediate quantifiable result (as First Things is trying to do with their "data"). Some would argue that the fruits of Christ did not have a measurable return for a few hundred years, other than saving souls which is not measurable. I sponsored a homosexual woman into the Church last year who has Hepatitis C. The year prior I sponsored a man who is wealthy but on his third marriage. He got annulments for his prior marriages. Both of these individuals stated it was Pope Francis who inspired them to journey towards Rome as, ironically, Scott Hahn might have said. Both are extremely active in evangelizing today according to their gifts. One shares generously and anonymously of their wealth to charity while another gives generously of their labor to help the poor. Pope Francis is a phenomenal success. He forces the world to have discussions that were spoken quietly in the stealth of night. As Pope Benedict XVI recently stated, Francis has the gift of administration that he sorely lacked by his own admission. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2016/09/08/new-book-pope-benedict-xvi-exudes-rare-humility/ When Archbishop Christoph Schönborn encouraged the Vatican to address the scourge of clerical pedophilia, he was reprimanded by Benedict XVI. http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2010/vatican-official-blocked-action-on-abuse-cardinal-schonborn-says.cfm Pope Francis has flung open the doors on the pedophilia scandal and now the priests, bishops and Vatican operatives who were hiding the despicable deeds have taken note - no more hiding the sins of these soiled men. Pope Francis is also showing us Christ in his humility, poverty and radical Christian living as San Ignacio de Loyola taught his Compañia. Having a modern St Francis of Assisi in our midst is a pretty good ROI and everyone has noticed. Let "First Things" crunch their cherished data and "America Magazine" work on the feeding of the souls of Christ while medical professionals like me work on the slimming of Americans. Something tells me feeding souls will be far easier than thinning a population that takes delight in gluttony and slothfulness while getting bigger every year and sees prescription pills as their salvation. We plant the seed but whether it takes root is incumbent on the the gardener. Those who have ears to hear, let them listen.
William Rydberg
10 months 3 weeks ago
Not sure what you are meaning about Pope Benedict XVI? Pope Benedicts did much good work on the Issue. In my opinion, it's not necessary to hammer somebody to make a point. And I never thought that the New York Times was impartial concerning any Catholic Pope... Just sayin, in Christ
Tim O'Leary
10 months 3 weeks ago
Guillermo - I agree with most of your comment, apart from your opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, who generally gets the most credit for tackling the child abuse crisis head-on. John Allen has a well-argued piece here. https://cruxnow.com/church/2016/04/18/on-benedict-xvi-anniversary-why-hell-go-down-as-great-reformer/ Allen says Pope Benedict will go down as the "Great Reformer," most obviously for his work to clean up the mishandling of sex abuse by clergy. Some excerpts: While at the CDF, "it was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who pushed for new rules to weed out abuser priests in the Pope John Paul II years and who wrote those rules into law as pope. It was also Ratzinger who unleashed his top prosectuor, then-Msgr. Charles Scicluna, on Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado despite the cleric’s powerful network of Vatican allies, and who sentenced Maciel to a life of “prayer and penance” in 2006. "Later, Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of sex abuse, the first pope to apologize for the crisis in his own name, and the first pope to dedicate an entire document to the abuse crisis in his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland." "Benedict laicized almost 400 priests in 2011 and 2012 alone for reasons related to sex abuse, which is almost 1 in every 1,000 Catholic priests in the world flushed out of the system in just two years."
L J
10 months 3 weeks ago
Hi Tim, Thanks for your feedback. I have worked with children of sexual abuse and their parents who waited for the Church to assist them. As you know the Church did nothing. Fr James Martin wrote the following: "On Easter Day, Cardinal Sodano called the mounting reports of clerical sex abuse “petty gossip”. This had “deeply wronged the victims”, Cardinal Schönborn said, and he recalled that it was Cardinal Sodano who had prevented Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal, from investigating allegations of abuse made against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, the previous Archbishop of Vienna, who resigned in disgrace in 1995. Cardinal Schönborn said that Pope Benedict was “gently” working on reforming the Curia but he had the whole world on his desk, as the cardinal put it, and his way of working and his style of communication did not make it easy to advise him quickly from outside." http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/schonborn-attacks-sodano-calls-new-look-gays-and-remarried-catholics Cardinal Schoborn was reprimanded by Pope Benedict. Really and truly I have no dog in the distasteful fight of "conservative vs liberal". I find these are narrow, first world constructs. I am not from this country. My culture does not engage these types of "black vs white", "traditionalist vs progressive", "republican vs democrat" divisions. Why do American Catholics participate in these paradigms? It stuns me when I read National Catholic Register and National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal vs Catholic World Report, etc. Where is Christ in these paradigms? I see the Devil in these divisions. Just as the divisions in the early Church of "I am for Paul, I am Cephas, I am for Apollo", these apply likewise 2000 years later. I am for Christ. During their papacies I never remonstrated against Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI nor Francis because they were, at the time, the Vicar of Christ. They are not perfect but they are still the Vicar of Christ. They must not be attacked, assessed or ridiculed publicly. That is not from God. Anyone who would use a metric to assess Popes as to whether they are a failure are causing scandal. Canon Law is very clear on scandal. They are sowing discord and we all know the source of discord. Let us on focus on Christ and not on Left vs Right, Traditional vs Liberal, them vs us.
Lisa Weber
10 months 3 weeks ago
I don't recall seeing articles on whether any other pope was failing or succeeding, so why is this question being asked about the papacy of Pope Francis? Asking the question assumes that an answer exists and is possibly yes/no or perhaps is a scorecard. I don't see the church's problem as secularization, I see it as an inability to retain the members who were raised in the church. The problem is within the church, not in the society. It is far too easy to blame society rather than ourselves.
Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago
It wouldn't be surprising if the Francis effect has failed. Hopes were raised very high when he first became pope that he would be a reformer, but he hasn't really made any positive changes in the areas that matter to most of those who have left the church ... the sex abuse problem, contraception, marriage equality, women's ordination, married priests, etc.
Angela Smith
10 months 3 weeks ago
Regarding the question of whether or not Pope Francis has "failed," it must be asked: failed at what? Mr. Schmitz assesses the Holy Father's success at "bringing disaffected Catholics back to a church that would no longer seem so forbidding and cold." He treats the Catholic faith like a political office: pitting popes against one another, measuring their popularity and ability to attract members. Pope Francis has apparently "failed" as a secular politician. Mr. Schmitz continues this political assessment when he writes that Pope Francis "set a new nondogmatic tone with statements like 'Who am I to judge?' " Schmitz considers this a mistake, claiming that Pope Francis has "built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads" and suggests that "Instead of trying to soften the church’s teaching, such a man [an ideal pope, not this one] would need to speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom." Pope Francis' complete sentence was, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Schmitz constructs a false dichotomy between adherence to dogma and practice of mercy, assuming Pope Francis has discarded the former in favor of the latter. In reality, Pope Francis endorses both. Underneath it all, he misunderstands the mission of the Church and of the Pope: to be Christ in the world. As the public face of Christ, anecdotal evidence indicates to me tremendous success. An agnostic childhood friend tells me Pope Francis is his hero. Non Catholics publicly quote him on a regular basis. Millennials of my acquaintance view him as an icon of the "true" Catholic faith, enhancing their opinion of the Church. High school students are proud to be Catholic, because Catholicism is now known by the rest of the world to mean mercy and charity. In our era of declining religious practice, Pope Francis might be the only Gospel some people read. As such, he presents a compelling glimpse of the face of Christ to the world.
Tim O'Leary
10 months 3 weeks ago
Great comment, Angela.
William Nassari
10 months 3 weeks ago
Of course, the conservatives will call Pope Francis' papacy a failure. They probably have made up their mind when they find out about Francis "vision" for a new church when he shared it with other cardinals during the last conclave.
Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago
It's not just conservatives who think he has failed, but liberals as well. The only people who are happy are the moderates who want things to stay as they are.
Tim O'Leary
10 months 2 weeks ago
Crystal - I think the term moderate would not apply to me, for instance, and I am very happy with Pope Francis, who I see as imbuing new evangelical zeal to those on the margins of faith and in the peripheries of the world, while all the time staying faithful to the deposit of faith. He wants to walk in the shoes of those who are struggling with the teaching of the Church and even with agnosticism or other faiths (e.g. Muslims) and bring the spiritual treasures of the Church to whoever can be open to them. He wants to re-emphase the heart of the Gospel while keeping its head as well. If there is any annoyance or frustration on my part, it is with his occasional off-the-cuff or rumored remarks that need clarification from him or his staff. But the major blame goes to the spin-masters in the media who constantly try to paint everything he says with their own brush.
Tim O'Leary
10 months 3 weeks ago
I think those who see Pope Francis as a great success so far have much more evidence for that side of the argument. And the characterization of Pope Francis as somehow theologically liberal is way off (Crystal is right on this). He may be lenient pastorally and govern lightly (even loosely) but here are some things he said yesterday in Georgia, according to Crux https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/10/01/pope-calls-gender-theory-global-war-family/ “A great enemy of marriage today is the theory of gender…Today, there is a global war trying to destroy marriage… they don’t destroy it with weapons, but with ideas. It’s certain ideological ways of thinking that are destroying it…we have to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.” On a temptation to solve difficulties in marriage with divorce, he said ““You find someone, I find someone, and we’ll both begin again. Who pays? Both, but more, God pays! Because God is the one who made them one, and when they divorce they dirty what God has made.” And, sometimes “the devil enters and puts another woman in front of the man who seems more beautiful, or a man in front of the woman who’s better than her husband. Ask for help immediately.”
J Cosgrove
10 months 3 weeks ago
I just read an article that was recommended on another site. It is in the Catholic Hearld, a magazine in the UK . If any pope could bottle and espouse what this man has to say, there would be no problem with people of any age committing to the Church http://bit.ly/2dzWmgB As a result or reading this article I just bought the first of Benedict's Jesus of Narrative books. http://amzn.to/2dFhqSF
Tim O'Leary
10 months 3 weeks ago
J - thanks for posting the article from Sohrab Ahmari. I have to agree. Absolutely amazingly honest recounting. Everyone should read it. And, you are right. He credits Pope Benedict XVI's book Jesus of Nazareth. "Somewhere along the way, I resolved to be honest with myself, if not others, about my need for Almighty God. One milestone was Benedict XVI’s visit to America in 2008. I was deeply impressed by his ministry and remember thinking to myself that this was a very holy man." - that is a definition of a successful pope!
Charles Erlinger
10 months 3 weeks ago
Reading this article about whether Pope Francis has been a success reminds me of a quote, the originator's attribution to which I have only recently been reminded. The quote is "We have not been called to be successful, but to be faithful." It has been attributed to St. Theresa of Calcutta. In my imagination I have pictured St. Theresa reading about the various games with the idea of the Pope's success that are being played, and have wondered whether St. Theresa's opinion about the premise of these games would be saddening or amusing.
L J
10 months 3 weeks ago
I met St Teresa of Calcutta in 1984 at a conference she delivered at the University of New Orleans. My fiancee and I attended together and we wept. We approached her afterwards and just wept tears of joy. Twenty years later I wept some more when I read her book / published letters "Come Be My Light". Saint Teresa of Calcutta was never focused on assessing Popes. She was too focused on assessing herself as a failure. And yet she was faithful to Him in spite of her being a "failure". If only we could all be as terrific failures as her.
Douglas Fang
10 months 2 weeks ago
I want to add one more anecdote to the many great comments already provided here. Nowadays, I see more mentions about the Pope in regular conversations of normal people including the young and the secular ones, whether they agree with him or not. This alone is remarkable as at least the Pope can help this world to open up to something divine, something related to God. I believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirt. I’m disappointed for someone at the level of intellect like Matthew Schmitz still looks at obsolete type of data to assess Pope Francis.
Gabriel Marcella
10 months 2 weeks ago
Kudos to Americas. Some of the comments here far exceed the quality of the Schmitz article in the New York Times.
Daniel McGlone
10 months 2 weeks ago
As Engels said, "... it really seems as though old Hegel, in the guise of the World Spirit, were directing history from the grave and, with the greatest conscientiousness, causing everything to be re-enacted twice over, once as grand tragedy and the second time as rotten farce ...." First we had Paul VI whose "popularity" saw the laity and religious vote with their feet in disturbing numbers. Now we have the sociopathic Francis and his "popularity" white anting the few gains of the last forty years. Maybe a trickle for now but once again change for the benefit of those who will never come to the alienation of us few who remain.
ed gleason
10 months 2 weeks ago
Francis has shown how to open the Catholic door in welcome. Now if the other billion Catholic laity and religious can hold the Church doors open with a smile maybe, just maybe, the age of Catholic evangelization could start,
L J
10 months 2 weeks ago
The opinion piece published by the First Things Literary Editor in the NY Times, a secular periodical often associated with an anti-Catholic slant, has generated many responses on the internet. The Catholic World Report, published by Joseph Fessio SJ, concurred with the FT editor (see below) while the organization from which the data was acquired, CARA, had a far different view. Considering that the data belongs to CARA, I found their analysis very informative and honest. It is also good humor and very tongue in cheek. Enjoy. ### http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2016/10/did-cara-data-reveal-pope-francis-failed.html "Trigger Warning: This post contains some necessary satire. All data are real "CARA primarily studies Catholics and the Catholic Church in the United States. The following data “suggest” that any survey data about Catholics in the United States from CARA could not possibly be appropriately used to judge whether Pope Francis has failed." "Anyone can grab three stats and write an opinion piece (…and apparently get it published in The New York Times. Who knew?). For example, I could note that in 2005, when Pope Benedict started leading the Church there were 431 diocesan ordination in the United States (…again forget that the rest of the world exists). In 2015, with Pope Francis leading the Church there were 548. Electing Pope Francis has clearly made the Catholic Church more successful at ordaining priests in this single country (by 27%). Pope Francis is 79. I’m not sure how long his papacy may last. However, if he can remain in office to mid-century and continue the trend shown in the data below then CARA research “suggests,” that there will be a whopping 1,577 diocesan ordinations in the United States in 2050. Francis Effect confirmed! No? You need more data?" "Since Pope Francis began to lead the Catholic Church fewer Catholics in the United States have been dying. Pope Francis did the best in 2014 with only 391,131 deaths compared to 403,886 in 2012 (a decline in mortality of 3.2%). You are probably alive today because of Pope Francis. The data above “suggests” that if Pope Francis is able to continue leading the Church through the year 2128, Catholics will essentially be immortal in the U.S." "The number of American parents naming their sons Francis has risen dramatically since Pope Benedict XVI stepped down. According to the Social Security Administration, from 2008 to 2012, the average popularity rank for the name Francis was #643. Under Pope Francis it has risen each year and averaged #488 and in 2015 came in at #482. If Pope Francis can continue to serve into 2030, in all likelihood, Francis will be the #1 name for boys in the United States." #### Catholic World Report editorial published by Joseph Fessio, SJ: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/5091/francis_has_built_his_popularity_at_the_expense_of_the_church_he_leads.aspx "Is Francis trying to soften Church teaching? Personally, I see no way around that conclusion" - Carl Olsen, Editor .... NB: At least we will have more priests and live to be immortals! - GR

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