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.
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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.
Without any doubt, he will need to start in Pennsylvania.
"Pope promises change" Let's see. Where have I heard that one before?
What is right from wrong?
I think that is the wrong question.
How do you judge right from wrong?
On what does a person base his morality.
Then you can move on to the specifics.
"On what does a person base his morality."
By considering the consequences. Moral decisions are calculations of harm/benefit...nothing more. In essence every moral decision is distinct and unique. It is both subjective in that the decision rests solely within the mind of the individual and objective in how it might affect the outside world. It isn't about opinion or consensus. Consequences of moral decisions are either harmful, neutral or beneficial in real world situations and therefore immoral or moral to some degree regardless of personal or group think.
Whether this Pope is truly embracing these ideas or if it's just to get people from leaving the catholic church... the church needs changing. I predicated years ago that as priests left or the numbers decreased dramatically (as they have) that the stance on celibacy would change..... and it probably will. While this Pope may be sincere in saying that mankind worships the God of money too much... that is exactly what all these changes are about... the more catholics.. the richer the Vatican becomes.
That's very true. The Church does need money to survive, and so it may be evolving to survive. But I think the Pope means what he says, but it appears that the Church's large administration of hard line conservatives keeps trying to reel him in by softening his statements. I bet they didn't expect this when the voted him in.
The Vatican is filthy rich. All the gold in the world won't save their souls. They need Jesus.
Well, I think they had a "come to Jesus" moment, so to speak. The realization that they must change, just as the Republican party must change, or lose power and thus influence.
How is a character from a book supposed to help, especially when he's been dead for 2000 years?
What is needed now is REALITY, you may want to look into it.
True, but your words will carry further if you can find a way to say the same thing without insulting. I can see you've got it, so put it to use.
What do you think that I said was insylting. Simply told someone who is dealing with delusions to look into reality.
Does this mean we all get to go to heaven ?
Live every day as your best, help someone breath a bit easier, because this is it – make the best of it.
If the is no God, afterlife or judgment, why would anyone help others, demonstrate altruism, etc.?? According to your view, it only makes sense to have an "every man for himself" mentality.
Oh, my gosh, no. Is that all we are is simple animals with to follow our base instincts? Don't we want to leave this earth a better place than the one we came into?
This is a dumb statement. Atheism has been around ever since ancient Egyptian times. Many of those individuals never chose to not help other people
Why do you think you need a god for that. Animals throughout the planet share, co-operate, build communities, language, they don't have gods, and neither do we.
Animals demonstrate cooperation in a very limited and self serving way. My point is that if there are no higher considerations, the values you recommend ultimately make no sense.
You do not need to be a Christian or Catholic or Protestant or whatever to also be a good person. If you're being a good person -just- to get into heaven does that really make you a good person? Would it not be better to simply be a good person with -no- expectation of a reward?
Simple truth. I've never seen any argument to counter it.
Liberals typically respond with this self-serving lie: ""m a good person, so I do good AT MY OWN GREAT EXPENSE for absolutely no reason'. When you see something like this, flee from that obvious liar.
I used to think just telling other people they could be good without God was enough. Turns out it is not. You can't fix broken with broken. A flawed creature need a flawless creator.
You need to study animal behavior again. You are flat out wrong.There is no reason to think that any of the thoousands of gods men have worshipped actually exist. Men create gods, there is nothing indicating that any gods had anything to do with creating us, or anything else.
When your Holy Bible gives you an excuse to be an imperfect being (we're all sinners) and then makes it as easy as it is to wash that sinfulness from your body it makes for a most toxic worldview. You can do whatever you want, as long as you go to Church on Sunday and talk to the Priest in the confession box.
I actually had a Christian ask me, that since I'm an atheist, what keeps me from raping and murdering? I was so shocked and told him that whatever he does please do not lose your faith if that's how you think. The lowest form of morality, IMO, is that you're only a good person because you fear a punishment if you are not and expect a reward if you are.
There is judgment. The judgment of others. Not the imaginary supreme judgment of some universal overlord. As social animals we are required in general to cooperate in order to survive. A person who only pursues selfish needs would soon find themselves ostracized from others. Our sense of empathy allows us to vicariously experience the physical and emotional state of others. Well-being for self balanced against well-being for others is the natural goal and yet ironically the source of all moral conflict. Well...no one said living was easy.
To suggest that people from those segments of humanity that don't believe in heaven and hell or God will not demonstrate charity, altruism, and kindness to strangers shows that you have not thought about it much. There is no shortage of Buddhists, Atheists and non-religious people doing things that have nothing to do with God, or any heavenly commandments.
How would you react to the suggestion that you only loved your children or your spouse because of fear of eternal damnation? Most people would say they are kind and loving because it makes the family and community a better place and more nurturing environment for everyone.
There are also examples of people that that act without thought of others, but it isn't a lack of fear – since many of them expect forgiveness for their crimes even before they carry them through.
Do not fear the judgement of atheists and their faulty use of logic (people are imperfect = not logical).
We are not judged by atheists standards. Fortunately God has higher standards.
What do you mean by higher standards? God, as I hear it, always forgives regardless of what was done. That doesn't sound like a very high standard, it sounds more like a mother that doesn't punish her child when he actually does something bad.
You don't know if this is all there is. Anyone who says so either way is missing the point. There are some things man will never be able to truly comprehend.
I don't have any proof that there is anything beyond this. Forget proof – I don't even have any reasonable indications there's anything beyond this.
There is more to this world than meets the eye. You can find this truth revealed in music, poetry, art and literature. This world is material and spiritual.
@ Bwain – it's easy to say the world contains a "spiritual" component. But what do you actually mean when you say that?
Strive to improve the situation for yourself and those around you. Endeavor to inflict as little harm as possible. Seize the day and see the road as your destination because it ultimately ends.
Yeah, it's that simple. Act local, think global.
There is absolutely zero reason to do any of that. That is why you don't do any of it. You do the polar opposite. You tell yourself these flattering lies about yourself as you do evil. Just like the rest of us.
One difference between you and a decent person is that the decent person doesn't tell these demonstrable lies about themselves.
Gosh, why are you so angry?
Elaborate on how you know I fail at the qualities I claimed. Prove I don't love, care for and provide for my family. That I don't function cooperatively and beneficially with my friends and co-workers. That I don't abide by the rules of law and behave with decency, propriety, politeness, civility and modesty. Clearly you know nothing beyond your own preconceptions.
@LRT: Wow, that was rather presumptuous about a person on an anonymous blog. You'd be dead wrong about him.
Jesus said his followers would stand apart from others-Be no part of the world-This man is far from that...The ones who stand apart knock on your doors Preaching the KIngdom as the only hope for mankind as Jesus did..dont fight in wars keeping with Jesus command to love one another
14?And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.
. 19?Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, 20?teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU. And, look! I am with YOU all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
19?If YOU were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because YOU are no part of the world, but I have chosen YOU out of the world, on this account the world hates YOU.
35?By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.
tHE the clergy blessed the efforts to kill fellow humans on both sideS of many conflicts–if your not blind..you can see who this scripture points to.. CERTAINTLY
IN SHARP CONTRAST..
An “image” of the symbolic “wild beast,” an international organization for peace and security, now known as the United Nations, has been set up, its membership being comprised of the chief political powers of earth making up the political “wild beast.” Its “ten horns” represent all the national rulers therein. This “image,” also called a “scarlet-colored wild beast,” is ridden by the “harlot” “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. She is shown directing this “wild beast” toward total war against the “Lamb,” Jesus Christ, and his Kingdom interests in the earth. False religion has had a strong influence in directing the political rulers against Jehovah’s witnesses, and they have been bitterly persecuted. “Babylon the Great’s” powerful influence makes her a religious “empire” over the earth’s political organization, as the Bible says: “And the woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.”—Rev. 17:1-3, 5, 13, 14, 18.
How does the end of the entire false religious system come? The Bible answers: “The ten horns that you saw [all the national rulers], and the [scarlet-colored] wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.”—Rev. 17:16.
What prompts them to act, since they have not done so even though they see the churches meddling in political matters? Jehovah God himself. “For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out their one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.”—Rev. 17:17.
False religion’s end will therefore come with surprising suddenness, while she is thinking, “I sit a queen, and I am no widow, and I shall never see mourning.” But God says: “That is why in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”—Rev. 18:7, 8.
Yeah, I wonder why the people who collected the various writings decided to vote for the ones they did to be included in the Bible and not other writings. Maybe they felt a need to explain as much of the world so that people could have some questions answered for them, e.g., what is the end of the world going to be like?
They chose based on the exact same things as we choose.
Ok, and so what do you think those things are?
Why should I believe anything written in scripture is worth paying attention to? Especially when so much of it is just plain wrong.
Its importance rests in it being a literary product of history, not a chronicle of history. No different in essence to Homer's Odyssey in its fanciful claims of the supernatural.
Don't confuse the Bible with Religion. The Catholic Church for example practices Pagan customs and Greek mythology and not so much from the Bible. The word "Pope" means Father. The Bible makes it clear that we should call no one Father (in a spiritual sense), except God. Christmas, Easter, Eternal torment for "bad" people, the Trinity, are not found in the Bible. The Bible stated that there would be a great apostasy or falling away from true Bible teachings.
Yeah you people do stand out. You stand out like a bunch of foolish people trying to force your ideology into people's homes.
It is obvious from the scriptures that the Catholic Church is a big part of what the Bible refers to as "The Harlot"
There has been a lot of scare-mongering around the whole issue of microchipping Christians. If Christians voluntarily report to the stations, there will be *no need* to spark up the FEMA camps. I think the media has done the Christians a disservice by scaring them with something that probably won't need to be done.
I think the Pope's definition of change is giving in to popular culture. The new Bible is whatever reality TV is doing.
Well, but don't you think that hating the sinner takes a lot of energy? Keeps people angry? I mean, love really is a simple thing.
Love is simple. But, what you call love is not. Real actual love requires hate. Need me to explain that to you?
Way off topic but why in the world would you create a dumb profile name like this? Are you just bias or just a coward?
Neil, I'm sorry but you don't have your facts straight. Nobody talks about "hating" sinners...for we are all sinners. It says in the Bible that not ONE was righteous. Hating sin is another thing entirely. God hates sin, but loves sinners, just as a parent hates bad behaviour from their children but loves the child.
STRESSING the importance of love, Jesus Christ told his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) Jesus commanded his followers to show self-sacrificing love toward one another. That love would be their identifying mark. Jesus also exhorted them: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matt. 5:44.
In addition to teaching his disciples about love, however, Jesus taught them what to hate. It was said with reference to Jesus: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness [wickedness].” (Heb. 1:9; Ps. 45:7) This shows that we must develop not only a love of righteousness but also a hatred of sin, or lawlessness. It is noteworthy that the apostle John specifically stated: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness, and so sin is lawlessness.”—1 John 3:4.
I suppose the includes the bit where Jesus commands his followers not to judge others.
And that is an evolution of religion.
How we cope with the unknown[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1te01rfEF0g&w=640&h=390]
If the doctrine of the RCC cult were true why must it change at all? Do you followers just ignore the obvious (that there's nothing divine about it) and continue pretending?
Where did your brain get the idea that church doctrine is being changed? Work on those reading skills a bite more, eh?
As long as you realize that the Churches doctrine is far removed from anything the Bible teaches to begin with, then we are in agreement.
The pope's comments prove that he is an evil apostate. However, on a positive note, hopefully his comments will make it clear to everyone that the pope represents satan and not Christ. God doesn't change and neither does His Word. If the pope actually cared about people, he would tell people the Truth that they need to hear, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified instead of the lies that they want to hear.
How is that truth? The bible is stories, and no matter how much you may want to believe it, you cannot call it truth unless you have some proof, some evidence of the claims, and since you don't, you are lying calling it truth.
Seek professional help.
Well, a Southern Baptist railing against another religion (Catholicism). Have you ever thought about the fact that in the history off all religions every one of them thought they had it right? You can even see how religion has evolved over the centuries.
God doesn't change ? What do you call this ?
"Yahweh said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground; man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." Gen 6:7
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Oh, religion definitely changes, and what you have indicated below is a great example of how it evolved from something less compassionate (Judaism) so something more compassionate (Christianity). But both are still flawed by teachings of hatred, and that's probably why it is evolving now to the point that people are leaving formal religion to follow their own beliefs. Thus the rise of the nones. A truly interesting evolution.
So now the Pope is evil because he would rather you worry about your own pathetic little life instead of judging others based on the interpretation of a translation of stories told over 3500 years ago? Doesn't it say somewhere in your bible that before removing the splinter from your brother's eye, you should remove the beam from your own?
looks like the pope is trying to save is obsolete organization by being accommodating and flexible, so much so the gays are just waiting for him to bend over.
I don't think he is doing it for that reason, but perhaps that is indeed why he was voted in. The curious thing is that when he makes a very open statement of "love they neighbor," the Church administration steps in with a, "well, kind of" statement to try to keep things in line.
I don't think he really has to do more right away. He has laid the groundwork for a more welcoming Church. His goal is to make us think more about mercy, love and care for the poor.....all items more important to humanity as a whole than the narrow issues the Church has been focusing on. He is truly a great man full of a Christlike soul.
Too little too late. Religion is in it's final throes.
And you're being suckered like the rest of your fellow sheep. Just bring your children and checkbook please!
I am a fallen-away Catholic who is returning to church today for the first time in 10 years. It's due in LARGE part to my hope that this pope is a sign of the new direction.
Just keep falling away.
You are his exact target. To re-ensnare sheep such as yourself into thinking there's some monumental shift in doctrine but there really isn't. Your cult is still infested with pedophiles and they are still being protected. Perhaps that was never a concern of your's anyway.
You know, you'll do better with you message if you don't make fun of people who currently believe – it's a real turn off when someone shares a harmless thought such as this and gets called a sheep. Remember, when you write, everyone reads. Will you convince more religious folks with honey or vinegar?
Not trying to convince anyone and this most distructive cult has been hands-off to scrutiny long enough and allowed to ram-shot over the population. The damage this cult has inflicted upon society throughout human history is incalculable so the gloves are off. Even you think it should still be revered in some way.
But if you are not trying to persuade anyone, they why are you posting? What purpose does it serve?
It's amazing that this man, wanting to focus on God is Love and helping one's neighbor is being reviled as evil while others are blowing up children in public markets and we take it as just a normal day.
Oh, I don't think that's true. We can't pick one or two posts and say that reflects what everyone thinks. I'm an atheist, but I do like that he's trying to bring the Church, and hundreds of millions of followers, to a better place by loving more, not less.
What's the matter, is your own life so miserable that you have to mock others to make yourself feel better? Because if you had a happy, fulfilling life, you wouldn't feel the need to come here and put others down. Spend your time fixing your own little life.
Ok, did that make you feel better? You could have gotten your message across without resorting to all of that. Remember when you write, everyone reads it.
Not sure what the fuss is all about. The Catholic Church is always SUPPOSED to welcome gays along with any other sinner (i.e. everyone). Whether all have done so in PRACTICE obviously is another story. He is just emphasizing that. However he still is against gay marriage, abortion, and contraception. He just wants to emphasize the positive. However, there is no substance change. Still the Same Catholic Church.
Thank you for saying this. I believe the media has quickly turned his words to mean something that they are not. Those who know the Catholic Church know that the Pope cannot change the foundation on which we believe.
Many of today's bishops and the Catholic League are like today's Republicans bent on obstructing. We will see that soon enough.
I beginning to really like this pope.
Yes, as a former Catholic and now an atheist, I really like what the Pope is saying, and I think he would say even more if the Church administration would let him.
Jesus reached people at their greatest point of need, the Church should also do likewise.
Some go to church to have their spiritual needs met, others go to feel the love of fellow mankind, others seek hope and comfort in scriptures. They all have different needs and they all need to met.
Others go because the have been taught to go, that they are evil if they do not, that they will burn forever if they do not. Some go because they like to socialize, some go because they like the singing, some go because they just want to belong and would rather not be lonely. But none of these things make it true.
"others go to feel the love of fellow mankind"
This is the only quality that is real or even matters. As social animals we require the cooperation of others.
"Some go to church to have their spiritual needs met"
Spiritual is an ill-defined term and spiritual needs even more so. Intellectual gratification seems to be the mostly closely aligned concept but even this can still be reached without appealing to the supernatural.
"others seek hope and comfort in scriptures"
This is the most dangerous influence. While some concepts in doctrine are benign or even helpful many are divisive, diminishing, abusive, plainly incorrect and worst of all inflexible. Faith or willful ignorance is lauded as virtuous.
Because they want money. Soon they'll accept people f%^#ing horses.
Surely, there are many who have or know a gay child as a family member, and through their personal experience, their personal proof, they find that these children are loving and caring no matter the Church teaches their congregation – that these people are flawed and sinful. It's a big turn off, and when people leave they take their financial support. The other thing they eventually find out is that, despite missing the socialization, they can be even more honest and loving following what they know to be true in their heats, simply to love.
An obvious failure of Christianity. That it's influence can disrupt otherwise harmonious family dynamics in so drastic a fashion speaks loudly of its inherent harm. Devout parents are faced with believing their offspring are hell bound simply for being gay. Unjustifiably burdened with guilt, disgust and a false sense of failure.
Even worse for the child is stigmatization and exclusion by family and society in general because of wide spread doctrinal influence and falsely accepted perceptions.
You have a lot of experience with horses, do you?
Come on... really?
Because they need money