September 21st, 2013
11:41 AM ET
Can Pope Francis make his vision a reality?
By John L. Allen Jr., CNN
ROME (CNN) - Pope Francis has sketched a vision of a Catholic Church that’s more welcoming – to women, to homosexuals, to divorced and remarried believers, to pretty much everybody –- and less invested in the culture wars.
In a now famous interview published Thursday, the pope said he knows some militants want him to toss around more fire and brimstone. But he insists that Catholic positions on hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage are already well known, and anyway, “Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
None of that implies a change in church teaching, but it does suggest a fairly serious shift in tone. The question now becomes, is this just the pope talking? Or is he capable of bringing the rest of the church along with him?
Despite the mythology of Roman Catholicism as a top-down monolith, the truth is that it’s actually one of the most decentralized institutions on Earth.
There are only about 3,000 personnel in the Vatican directing the affairs of a church that counts 1.2 billion members, which means that Rome doesn’t have the manpower to micromanage anything but exceptional cases.
Probably 90% of the decisions that matter – what pastor will be assigned to which parish, or what tithes will be used for –- are made at the local level.
Popes trying to steer this colossus in a new direction, therefore, need middle managers as well as the rank and file to pull in the same direction, and experience suggests they don’t always fall in line.
MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays
Pope John Paul II, nearly 27 years, exhorted the church to be more evangelical, more daring about taking its message to the streets, and while he unleashed powerful new energies – think about World Youth Days, for instance – that missionary aspiration still remains a work in progress.
Similarly, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI desired a church more appreciative of tradition and more focused on its core identity, and again most observers would say the end result over eight difficult years was a mixed bag.
If Francis is to bring the Catholic Church into line with his more pastoral and compassionate vision, two fronts seem especially critical.
First is personnel. Nothing a pope does to shape culture in the church is more important than naming the roughly 5,100 bishops of the world, who set the tone in their own backyards.
A new papal direction may be invigorating, but if people don’t pick up the same vibe from their local bishops and pastors, over time it will only seem like sound and fury signifying little.
To date Francis hasn’t made many flagship picks except for his own successor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but he’ll have to do so soon, since archbishops in critical locales such as Madrid, Cologne and Chicago are all older than 75, the normal retirement age.
Popes typically rely on their nuncios, or ambassadors, around the world to recommend new bishops.
In June, Francis gave his nuncios their marching orders, saying he wants bishops who are “close to the people, fathers and brothers” as well as “gentle, patient and merciful.” He also said they shouldn’t have “the psychology of princes.”
How well he spots talent to fit that profile will help determine whether his dream of moving past what he called “a church of small-minded rules” becomes reality.
MORE ON CNN: The pope said what? Six stunners from Francis
The other key test is structural reform, beginning in the Vatican and radiating outward, perhaps especially on financial transparency and the fight against child sexual abuse.
Scandals in those areas have plagued the Vatican and the wider church in recent years, making it difficult for many people to see Catholicism as a vehicle for compassion.
Francis has set up three commissions to ponder reform, including a body of eight cardinals from around the world set to hold its first meeting in Rome from October 1-3.
If those groups don’t deliver significant recommendations, which are embraced and implemented by the pope, once again his rhetoric about reforming the church may ring hollow.
Popes play many roles, including prophet and CEO. Francis has delivered a stunning debut as the church’s voice of conscience and spiritual guide; now he has to get down to the brass tacks of management to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.
John L. Allen Jr. is CNN’s senior Vatican analyst and senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
"Pope Francis has sketched a vision of a Catholic Church that’s more welcoming – to women, to ho.mo.se.xuals, to divorced and remarried believers, to pretty much everybody –- and less invested in the culture wars."
That's what everyone from the Mormons to the Southern Baptists is trying to say now, but "We love and welcome you despite thinking you a sinner" really doesn't go very far with thinking folks comfortable with their life choices. People who don't think themselves sinners aren't going to join a community of people who, kindly or not, look down on them. All this does is buy the church a little more time with family members of the divorced, of gay folks etc. who maybe feel just a little less guilty as their church isn't actively fighting to deny their kid's health benefits.
Unless the church does an active reversal on birth control, se.xuality, divorce and priests marrying it's on it's way out. The church is dying rapidly not only in the wealthy countries, but is losing market share across Latin America. Gains in the third world will last only as long as those countries remain in poverty and without enough education to know the dangers of high fertility. So no, the pope won't turn the church around in any meaningful way. It's a piece of history that, like most insti.tutions, has done both good and bad. and has served its time.
Yeah – the PR line of "come on in, everybody's welcome!" fails to mention the shame and guilt they'll try to impose on sinners behind closed doors.
I have to wonder if any of the leadership really thinks it welcomes anyone new or if they all recognize it as a big PR scam to keep those they've already got from leaving.
Unfortunately Sara, belief in supersti tions is NOT dying out.
The CC is but one of many scams that prey upon the masses of mindless fools who still need a security blanket and a fairy tale to get them thru the night.
In Western countries the trend is towards atheism, but in the developing world they are getting even crazier for their various myths.
And the CC is just too wealthy to go away anytime soon.
In fact, I can't think of any other organization that has more wealth then they have.
Out of all the various myths, at least the CC church does do some good with the money they have.
Plus they have some amazing art that they keep and let the masses enjoy, for a nominal fee.
I agree that supersti tion is not dying out, but it moves continuously into alignment with the knowlEdge of the day. People will always believe in unproven and unsupported ideas, but it becomes increasingly difficult to believe mercury cures. illnesses in light of evidence to the contrary. Modern research on the origins and impacts of hom.o.se.xuality or the importance of limiting fertility are so widely known today that fantastical supersti tious beliefs in those areas are hard to sustain. Knowledge about what makes one male or female and who is today inclined toward church leadership makes keeping women out of the priesthood harder to argue. Information on the benefits of a healthy se.x life make celibacy in the priesthood and limiting se.x in marriage look foolish. And information on subtle psychological abuse and how people change in a changed society pushes the line of credibility on the church's position on divorce.
Certainly the church has done, and continues to do, some good things. But do these outweigh the harm it has done in increasing the spread of AIDS in Africa through years of fighting condom use. In damaging our environment and killing economies by keeping fertility high? In destroying the lives of so many who enter the convents, monasteries and priesthood only to change their minds when it is too late to start another life? In causing good people to live in guilt over non-issues that leads to depression and suicide?
All that you said in your second paragraph is spot on, as to the continued harm that organized religion keeps doing, and specifically the CC.
It never ceases to amaze me that people still fall for the religious scams in light of what we know about our world/universe thru science.
When even people with college degrees can still cling onto the myth, and can justify their positions with "facts" from some goat herders fable book, then you know that in the in developing world that the scammers have no problem herding in the uneducated.
That is why in muslim countries they are doing everything they can to keep the populous uneducated.
Will happen here too as the fundies are doing everything to kill public education.
It is not because of taxes, but to move towards a home schooled faith based curriculum that will keep the masses dumbed down and in line.
The best argument against religion is the thinking (if you can call it that) and behavior of religious people. And the complete lack of the slightest evidence . . . two things . . . the best two arguments against religion are religious people and the lack of evidence . . . And the absurdity of their scriptures . . . three things . . . the three best arguments against religion are religious people, total lack of evidence, absurd scriptures . . . and a horrific history of violence and oppression. . . four things . . . amongst the many arguments against religion . . . are such elements . . . I'll come in again
But, please. Don't use so many periods!
That is from Monty Python, and the script is written that way to shows pauses.
You have given awat the secretly secrets, naughty boy! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!
You have given away the secrety secrets, naughty boy! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!
I don't wanna talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper.
No one expects the Spanish Ellipsis!
Uh oh ...watch out – that must be an Inquisition that occurs during an eclipse.
It's not to be taken literally.....
Jealous is worst than the grave– live let it die//1
That was a profound comment. Very deep and thought provoking. Yo
Does Colin prefer mass killings in the name of his God over mass kilings in the name of no god?
He thinks that any killing that was not in the name of religion was by definition motivated by atheism.
A naturalized death is by far more "contemplational" than an unnatural one...
Naturalized into what? Death's other kingdom?
Contemplate the natural relationship toward death and maybe then we may continue conversing...
It seems natural enough for things to not be alive. Most things seem to not be alive.
"Most things seem to not be alive."
Well, except for Douglas of course...
"you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
History records that atheists have brutally tortured and murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries. Sounds like evil does more evil when facts are truly examined. Of course to the average so called atheist mass murder does not rise to any level of moral concern.
You have been told this was not true 9,263 times now; why do you continue to lie? NONE of it was "In the name of Atheism".
No one has said it was done "in the name of " atheism. Atheists committed these atrocities because they could. The fact that every atheist that has ever ruled has been a mass murderer speaks for itself.
Dead is an unnatural state that all atheists secretly or openly promote. Other endearing character traits of so called atheists include lying, bigotry and hatred.
"Atheists committed these atrocities because they could."
(I am learning that that Colin doesn't learn even when given a good hint.)
Get over yourself, Colin – you're not a mind-reader. It also seems you grabbed your "facts" out of a dumpster somewhere. You seem like some pigeon that ran into a window one too many times but keeps heading for the same window.
"Dead is an unnatural state that all atheists secretly or openly promote. "
Location sample 497C – pattern match for posting by entity commonly known as "flunkie" of the writer's boot camp for the ACME Evangelical Fortune Cookie Company.
This is a guess, but it seems like Colin believes that it is natural for something that is alive to remain eternally alive. I don't know of any examples of that. How is it natural?
"The fact that every atheist that has ever ruled has been a mass murderer speaks for itself."
Julia Gillard sure had blood rolling in the streets in Australia. Seriously, why don't you actually get yourself a list of atheist rulers and go down it one by one before saying such silly things. Tip: there are a LOT and even in countries you're thinking of, most didn't engage in the types of killing you're thinking of. This is the most populous era the earth has ever seen – when a bad ruler kills you see so me big numbers. But most atheist rulers did about the same as any other ruler.
Oppressive marxist regimes, however, like the Islamic version under Gaddafi, have had their problems. Atheism has had nothing in particular to do with it. Any belief system, such as Marxism, Christianity or Islam, that sees its ends as "inevitable" is a danger. The problem with Marxism was not in lacking religious style supersti.tion, but in having too much supersti.tion. Marxism believed in itself with the same religious zeal we now see leading to murder in the Islamic world.
"Dead is an unnatural state that all atheists secretly or openly promote. Other endearing character traits of so called atheists include lying, bigotry and hatred."
OK, I'm going to ignore the nonsense about death being "unnatural"... but could you give an example of how atheists promote this state? I, for one, am pretty big on the whole "alive" thing.
You need to sharpen your critical thinking skills. Read the quote. It says there are bad people that do bad things, including atheists. But only religion can make good people do bad things. Get it?
First, there's a huge difference between someone doing an action in the name of their creed. Killing because you think christianity, islam, or judaism condones it is what most atheists rail against. Lets talk about the difference between what you think and reality. First, the mass murderers you are (presumably) talking about didn't kill just because, they killed to consolidate power.
So, are you ready to engage in actual dialogue or are you just going to keep spouting nonsense?
Hello Chuckles, How are you?
The way I see it is that an atheist would never murder in the name of atheism, since there is no god or leader, or organized movement to dedicate the killings too. But atheism could still be a motive for murder if the killer does it to suppress the spread of religion, or because of some sort of anger towards religion.
Only for the new members of this blog:
The last paragraph of the topic:
"Popes play many roles, including prophet and CEO. Francis has delivered a stunning debut as the church’s voice of conscience and spiritual guide; now he has to get down to the brass tacks of management to make sure it doesn’t go to waste."
Popes as prophets? Give us a break ! More like a brainwashed fortune teller !
Popes as CEOs? Give us a break ! The only money he should be involved with is the refunding of all the money to the former and current members of the RCC for the con that has been pulled on them for the last 2000 years.
The pleasure of socie LUV is fake. In da bwain it's too close to violence.
You know nothing about love; apparently nothing about socialism, either.
I can't get a fix on how to become a mass murderer worthy of our calling. If atheists have killed more people in the past century than the combined wrongful deaths by any other cause over all time, why, that's almost Godlike: kill everyone and you are a God.
An unrestrained self deceived so called atheist thinks it is a god, it's own god.
Gods are rubbish, Colin.
Any so called atheist as its own god is indeed rubbish.
In fact any so called atheist is just rubbish. period.
Liar is ignorant liar.
What one so called atheist lies to others will swear to. Thanks for providing the proof horse.
What are you talking about? Do you really think that every atheist also believes he or she is a god? Really? Have you met an atheist?
Enough Christians repeat this "atheists think they are gods" silliness that some Christian pop author somewhere must be saying it. These aren't really the most critical folks. If anything, most atheists think themselves a lot less special than Christians do. A christian believes god made man special. Most atheists believe we are just another sentient being more more valuable than any other.
( Tools to Transform . . . )
.Prayer changes things
What is healthy for children and other living things? Not Christianity and prayer. Faith healing kills hundreds of innocent children. The Christian religion teaches that the earth and its living things are for men to do with as they please. That has led to centuries of exploitation, pollution, and extinction of species. Wow, that's a scary track record.
More innocent people have been tortured and murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries.
To the average so called atheist mass murder is healthy.
Why moderate such a splendid lie?
Without God would there be sin, death, the devil, or hell?
This is an absurd statement. You claim to know the mind of not only dictators from the past, but also the minds of the people who they controlled? Could it be that you just wish to equate apples and oranges and this is the only way you know how? Try living in the present and maybe you'll start to see how now and here is quite different than then and there.
Historical fact is hard for the so called atheist to get around without resorting to lying. Of course after mass murder lying is another atheist character trait. You cannot claim to be an atheist without first lying to yourself.
I don't think I could lie to a believer, Colin. My heart goes out to all of you. As it is, in what you believe, you are already victims of the most massively damaging untruths anyone has ever encountered.
You've lost me, are you claiming that all atheists are murderers? Do you have any statistics to support these absurd claims? Sounds like the only liar here is you.
Wow, Colin – you're just a ball of BS on a roll! lol. Colin, dear, you might want to spend some time not only studying history a bit better, but also learning some basic terms like atheism, communism, tolitarian dictatorship, democracy. It might help you from making stupid generalizations, dear.
Atheist joe stalin 60 million victims to his credit not counting those killed in his wars. Chairman mao (atheist) some reports as many as 800 million murdered . Historical facts easily verified.
Colin, was any of it in the NAME OF ATHEISM? No? Then stop lying. Anyone smart enough to pick up an actual book knows you're lying to promote your own agenda.
Whenever some idiot posts these numbers it turns out they are counting famines as murder and ignoring the difference in national populations, using absolute numbers rather than percents. This is embarrassingly bad history and worse math. Whoever is prompting you folks to print this stuff should really stop trying to make fools of the gullible.
Stalin and Mao were evil, there's no doubt about it, but why do you think it was their atheism that made them murder? I see you've also left out Hitler, a christian, why? What about the crusades? The inquisition? The witch trials in Europe? Those are only a few of the horrific things done throughout history by both believers and non.
The key thing you MUST understand is simple, Mao and Stalin had one major thing in common, they were ruthless atheist leaders who's sole reason for the murder and mayhem was to consolidate and keep their power. Their evil did not stem from their religion or lack thereof.
Whose, not who's.
Thanks, you clearly read my post, thought about it and decided the only thing you could say would be a comment on my grammar rather than discuss the content.
Thumbs up kiddo, well done!
Thank you. Nice to know I'm appreciated. Keep working on that grammar.
CBT and antidepressants. Seriously, see someone. Really.
I love how all the people who didn't like my fact filled statement couldn't refute it at all, they responded only with hearsay and fabrications about the other side. Classic failure of the losing side of an argument.
A billion rotting corpses and lost peoples are of no consequence in your opinion then.
Come back when you can stop lying in the name of God, Colin.
You're still not refuting my statement. I guess you concede that prayer is not healthy.
Socies can't see God. They can't see a child playin' in his womb room.
Jealous you can't give birth? Because I know that you couldn't care less about children once they're born.
How's the lawsuit going?
Tnx mom with yer group pleasure for suckin' out my bwains!! Socie inheritance ain't allowed.
I'm more worried about Sauron's Eye than going to hell.
What?? Me Worry??
You should worry. Liars go to Hell.
Off your meds? Or just unhappy in the body you were born with?
LL, yer goin' nutso just like Science did.
Only atheists are promoting drugs, ho mo $exuality, bestiality and incest.
I'm not sure what LL believes. The only time LL is even relatively intelligible is when he/she is extolling the virtues of pot.
Ha ha ha good one.
dot...thats because there is so much requirement of said activities by Christian and muslim adherents..
How could socies possibly understand inheriting eternal life?? Da mob owns all and they party with group s*ex. Group inheritance RULES!! Tnx mom.
Ruler of DA WOMB!!
Location sample 496B – pattern match for posting by entity commonly known as "flunkie" of the writer's boot camp for the ACME Evangelical Fortune Cookie Company
How is it possible that you still don't know the meaning of socialist and continue to misuse it every day? How is it possible that such a seething ball of hatred rails against the fact that he will never give birth and still hates women because they can? How is it possible that you haven't been stricken dead from all of your lies and misogyny? Will you just die already and stop inflicting decent people with your vile insane ramblings?
Since you obviously are v-e-r-y s-l-o-w on the uptake, I'll spell it out: off yourself before you harm others, nutter. You're profoundly ill.
Enjoyed the pleasurable party pleasantly??
I'm sure you have to, since you're to awful for any decent female to ever lower herself to be with you....Onan.