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.
Hope this guy has a food taster and someone to keep any meds he's taking secure. Otherwise, he's going to end up like John Paul I.
Why are religious people so disturbed by atheists?
Catholics don't agree with other Christians, they even war with them, never mind other believers in god from other religions.
The majority of religious belief is factually wrong (no religious belief system is in the majority), so it is clearly a reasonable position to think that all religious belief so far devised is wrong. That doesn't mean that there is no god, just that all the ones created by man (all religions thus far) are imaginary. Then it's reasonable again to believe there are no gods, even if its not provable.
Please stop treating atheists like they're crazy because they don't share your fantasy, most other people don't share your fantasies, they have different ones. Please don't say atheists are rude and arrogant, how would that justify equally bad behavior?
I find it shocking you believe Chrstinas think atheists are crazy when I find it to be hte exact opposite since I beleive in something that cannot be physically proven like fairy tales and ghosts. At least on my behalf, I don;t think atheists are crazy but I would like them to at least entertain the fact that a spiritual world is possible and not everything is explained by or in a physical universe.
You know, I think a lot of us would agree with you if we had proof. I surely would. But it appears that religious explanations for things have continued to fall throughout the centuries, and that's pretty strong evidence against belief.
If you read the comments on this blog, many religious people here think atheists are crazy for not recognizing their truth.
If I hadn't already left the Catholic church, now would be the time.
As a cradle Roman Catholic, I have always practiced Catholicism according to papal law. His laws are God's laws.
Well, if so, then how do you account for the differences between the Popes' stances throughout history? I mean, does that make sense to you?
Depending on the interpretation, of course. LOL
Well that just shows the Catholic god is just as immoral as the Pope.
And before you accuse me of being anti-Catholic....I am still counted among their ranks....unfortunately.
That's interesting. Do you still attend service?
No....I am recovering Catholic...they count me...I don't count them.
Stop the nonsense. Not one in 10 Catloics is a member or follows that Pope.
It would be interesting to know what Catholics believe. Most of them have put aside the Church's belief in birth control, so it makes you wonder what else they are putting aside. The congregations have socially evolved, but the Church is lagging behind.
Here, let me use scripture, ironic I know, that sums up what I think about religion. "When I was a child, I thought as a child, I acted as a child when I grew older I put away childish things." I gave up believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy at the age of 7 but it took me another 23 years to put aside my last childish thought. The god you should be worshiping and honoring is your fellow man... Just like mom and dad ended up being Santa/Bunny/Fairy... your god is right in front of you helping you through your journey on this earth. Treat them good, you only get one chance.
"I gave up believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy at the age of 7 but it took me another 23 years to put aside my last childish thought."
Please put away that tired rant. As an atheist, it is so ineffective in persuasion. It just insults. Find another way to express so you persuade and don't "turn off."
Your calling of people ignorant is so much more effective and persuasive? lol, you must be a true intellect... self absorbed thinking only you can put people in their place. Sad person.
Why are you so offended by constructive criticism? What exactly are you trying to further with such posts? Do you think you are giving atheists a bad name?
Do you really think anything anyone says on a news thread will persuade an opposing view? Surely not.
Do I believe "anything" said will persuade. No, not just "anything" will do. That's why I've made the comments throughout about civility. There are plenty of people who read without posting.
The rant may be "tired" but it is no less true.
Effective? Who knows?
I actually think the Santa Claus analogy is quite good.
Belief in Santa and religion are both the result of childhood indoctrination (brainwashing).
it is true but is an old cliche, and it is said to offend more than to persuade.
Santa Claus is not a good analogy for God. Throughout history, how many people have investigated Santa Claus and have reason to believe he exists? Exactly none. How many people have investigated God and found reason to believe He exists? Millions. How many people are willing to risk their lives to proclaim that Santa Claus exists? Again, none. How many people are willing to risk their lives to proclaim that God exists? Likely millions, but certainly many. No, this does not 'prove' God. But it shows that Santa Claus and God are not in the same category.
And it is not true that belief in God is the result of childhood indoctrination. Christianity is growing rapidly in places like China, Africa, and the Middle East - places where children are not 'indoctrinated.'
It depends on why a person is using the analogy. For example, it is a perfectly good analogy if you are trying to demonstrate the degree and amount of evidence for either character's existence: None.
The analogy fails for this purpose. While no one has has seriously looked for and found evidence of Santa Claus, millions of people have seriously looked for and found evidence of God.
Atheism is a turn off. What? You just die and "poof" that's it? That's ridiculous in light of what people say happens after they die and come back. Explain that, Mr. know it all. You know NOTHING.
Actually, there is some science that is beginning to explain afterlife experiences. But a better question is, "Why doesn't anyone ever have this kind of experience when they are alive?" These occur when the brain is low on oxygen, not to mention the body is in some state of trauma.
There are people who have been completely "brain dead", meaning there was NO oxygen present, pronounced DEAD who came back to life with these stories. So it has nothing to do with the earthly body and everything to do with there being a literal experience beyond this worldly one. Even Christ gave up the ghost and died. He was DEAD as a door nail. But he had the power to resurrect because he is God. He defeated the grave. Since he is the firstborn from the dead, we too can receive redemption that is imputed to us by him for the forgiveness of all our offenses and when we die we too will rise to be with him in eternal life where there is no more death. That's the beautiful part. Why take a chance and call him a liar? He wasn't crazy either. People don't follow crazy men in droves. So he was either who he said he was, or he was a liar, or a crazy man. We know he wasn't a liar. We know he wasn't crazy. So he must be the way the truth and the life and we must go through him to reach eternal life in a kingdom that does not include death or guilt, or condemnation etc.
When he re-appeared after the crucifixion, he was alive. He ate and drank with them until the ascension. Ascension to where? Over 500 people witnessed him leave and he said that he is coming back in the same manner. Whether you say it's true or false is beside the point. Over 500 men saw him ascend into Heaven. That's power beyond mere mortal power. That's Godly power. That's a historical fact. You cannot argue.
No, Seville, the brain creates memories and memories are notoriously fallible. It's a tough realization, but accurate. When the brain loses consciousness at various levels and then "reboots," it makes strange memories and it recalls strange "memories" that never occurred at all. There is no evidence for consciousness that extends past the mind or past the barrier of death.
Bad breath is a turn off.
Smelly feet are a turn off.
Body odor is a turn off.
Smoking is a turn off.
Chewing tobacco is a turn off.
Atheism is no belief in deities.
So, what about the Grim Reaper? Do you still believe in him? And when you die, you know what happens, right? You have it all figured out. So, you think God is a myth, that's fine, but you don't have anything to back up your weak argument. I am a man and I am NO ONE'S god! For you to say that I am your god is an insult to me because I am insufficient. Neither would I find sufficiency in YOU as a god. This move to accept everything the Bible calls wrong and embrace any and everything the word says leads to eternal death is dangerous and you play a huge part in it and you will be held accountable when you die. The word also says, "It is appointed unto man once do die, then the judgement." Judgement by whom? Your fellow man? They're dead. Remember?
You do what you wish with your eternity. As for me and mine, we will serve God in spirit and in truth. That means we go by the word, precept upon precept. We don't call the almighty a liar and challenge him by saying he does not exist when in fact we have no idea what lies just beyond the grave. But we will find out! We will most certainly find out and it will be QUICK! One second after we die we will know the truth. So, roll the dice there big spender.
If the atheist position is correct then you will find out nothing when you die because you will have no mind and, therefore, no ability to detect anything at all.
And since there is not one bit of proof for you god, and because you'd believe in a different god had you been raised in a different culture or time period, then atheism is the more logical choice–since all gods are equally invisible and undetectable. Sorry for your loss.
Since "that there is not one bit of proof for God" is only your opinion, there is no reason for you to expect others to base their beliefs and behavior on it. You find it logical not to believe in God. But for someone who does see evidence for God, it is just as logical to believe in God.
You say, "Sorry for your loss" with no evidence that the believer has lost anything.
If you mean a skeleton in a hooded cape with a scythe, sneaking around in the dark, no.
If you mean death, I don't have to "believe" in death. It's a fact.
Excellent post, questions. M just feels the need to criticize the tone of each and every atheist post. Don't worry about it.
Nah, just the offensive ones, and even not all of those.
You pretend that what you find offensive is to everyone, and that's arrogant.
What wonderfull words you just said. In part true but not completed. Yeah our parents will be with us and we have only one chance. However, by JEsus, a man as you said , A MAn to be glorified. By him, we will be together. Parents, children, at on the center of it Jesus will stand. He died and resurrected. That is the fact.
But where is the proof for the fact?
"He died and resurrected. That is the fact."
No, the "resurrection" is not a fact. In fact, the vast majority of the Jews living right there in that area (as much as they hungered for a Messiah) did not experience any of your "facts". There are ZERO records of it outside of your cult's propaganda.
Where is the proof he didn't and considered as a fact?
Do you believe that an angel told Mohammad stuff in a cave for years and years? I'm betting that you don't.
Where is the proof that no angel appeared to him?
Where is the proof that there is no beautiful 4-handed Hindu goddess who bestows joy and wealth?
Where is the proof that there are no invisible magic porcupines on the far side of Jupiter?
You make the claim, you provide the proof.
So why did *any* of the people living in the area willing give of their lives for something that they knew to be false (as they did if your theory is correct)?
"So why did *any* of the people living in the area willing give of their lives..."
I really don't know. Why did David Koresh's followers give up their lives for his deal? Jim Jones' followers? Heaven's Gate followers? Allah followers? There is a long list of those kinds of folks over the eons.
Did any of those you mentioned give up their lives for something that they *knew* was false? No. So why should we believe that Jesus's followers did?
another man wearing a dress wanting people to move back to 1000AD, if god appeared before someone or delivered a prophet, he would have made certain the prophet made reference to the internet being created....since it is the largest single communicator between humans on earth...since none makes mention out of all the prophecies made....it speaks to the truth
Please, don't say you're an atheist, because your post does not speak well of the rest of us.
I would have settled for getting the solar system right.
True. The Bible has the earth as the center of the universe, and it says that in multiple places. And due to the power of religion, it took centuries to change that without endangering one's life.
The Bible does not say that the earth is the center of the universe.
Pope promises change . . . now what?
He can't change anything since GOD WROTE THE BOOK.....LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL...won't he get mad?
Wow! Did that feel better? And just who did you persuade with that bit?
Please stop this. You're making "us" and "our cause" look bad.
atheistmorons states that I am a militant Atheist, but I have yet insulted nor forced anyone to believe in what I believe. I have also just put up statements that disprove of AtheistMorons statements, yet he in turn insults me for providing the evidence that prove his statements wrong.
He is a troll. Since the name itself is insulting, just report abuse and move on.
RIGHT....ATHEIST .....don't believe in fantasy...that's why atheist have NEVER had a war over who's god is better like the fantasy believers....and why do they war over that....cause faith has no proof or evidence whereas 2 and 2 will always be 4 for an atheist and A FANTASY BELIEVER anywhere in this universe.
Never trust anyone who believes in an afterlife.
No. That view is extreme.
Bottom line no one is ever forced to belong to any religion or sect. Even the Catholic Church teaches free will.
not really. coercion is a very big part of keeping the flock in line. the threat of expulsion from the community is very real.
That is true. We are very social and need contact with other people, and so the threat or act of ostracism does keep people in line. That is why some people actually believe differently from what their churches teach them but keep it to themselves.
Right....FREE WILL IS AT YOUR OWN PERIL.....SO GO AHEAD...LIVE ON THE EDGE OF THE RAZOR....LOLOL.
No one is forced? How many kids are forced to go to their church, temple, etc. outside their will. They are brainwashed into thinking there is an all seeing god that will burn them in hell for eternity if they don't comply. I'd call that being forced.
Please all non-believers, Im not trying to change your views.But please keep your believes to yourself and don't insult others.
Why did you come to a belief blog and then tell people to keep their beliefs to themselves?
Well, we can't do that. We should be civil in our disagreement with believers with our reasons for our disbelief, just as believers should be.
So, would you like to discuss why you believe and I do not, civilly, as we should?
Keep your beliefs out of our public schools, off my body, and out of our laws and you have a deal.
Will you do the same?
A religious/politically conservative commenter known as "AtheistsareMorons" posting a FAIL troll comment in 3...2...1...
Almost as bad as the self appointed blog cop marring the name of Neil Degrasse Tyson. I wonder what they get out of trying to be blog cop, and I wonder if they realize how annoying they are being as well. Possibly even the same person.
Yeah, I guess I do need to be a blog cop, but it is interesting to note that you're not much into constructive criticism.
I don't need to be a blog cop, i just need to remind you that you have no business annoying people on blogs that don't fit your atheist belief system.
You moron, M doesn't have an annoying atheist belief system, he has an annoying politeness belief system.
Cpt. Obvious, your comment make no sense.
"I don't need to be a blog cop, i just need to remind you that you have no business annoying people on blogs that don't fit your atheist belief system."
It's a public blog. Don't like it? Tough titties.
I didn't take what he said as change, just not publicly focusing about it to make it seem like change to attract more money
way, way too late.
The catholic church is irrelevant. Has been for half a century now.
No, as I can tell you that the Church is not irrelevant. Come on, don't be extreme.
I think Pope Francis is simply being like Jesus. When he walked this earth 2000 years ago, Jesus was so appealing, so tender-hearted, so real, so true, that everyone was attracted to him, found hope and new life, felt accepted and loved and wanted. He wasn't speaking to this crowd of people about the moral evils that were happening at that time, he was giving people the context in which the decision and the desire to live like God is possible. The world is listening up to Pope Francis because of this. This doesn't mean that Jesus and the Pope have no moral values. In fact, if you read the letters in the New Testament, you will see the journey the apostles took Peter on to integrate into their life and their daily decisions what following Jesus and becoming Jesus means. The Pope clearly also fulfills this role in the Church and in the world. I feel he is simply creating a balance that is needed today. John Paul II was a transformer of history and his role in the Church and in the world of that time was different. He drew people's attention to the Church as the globe trotter of the world for the Gospel. Pope Benedict with his clear teaching focused our eyes on Jesus and contributed to the philosophical and theological solidity of our belief by his clear and accessible teaching. Pope Francis now is following the Spirit and leading us as we need to be led today. May I be as open to the Spirit.
he was so tender hearted and appealing that they killed him.
They regularly tried to kill Gandhi, but that did not stop him.
There is so much deceitful pro-religious/politically conservative propaganda in that comment.
His is, admittedly, a perhaps more benign figurehead of one of the more prevalent mass delusions.
That doesn't make it any less of a delusion.
Remember folks – Jesus did not look to teach popular principles. He was mostly rejected among the people and the fallen societies he visited. Jesus's ideas and teachings were revolutionary then, as they are now. Of course many in the world won't accept the main ideas: All life is sacred from the womb to the very end, all human life deserves respect, focus on helping others, don't focus on yourself constantly, etc – all the things the selfish people of today hate to be reminded of – so they fight the Church, mostly because they're self Centered and ego driven.
this jesus guy was probably a decent philosopher.
People are not "self-centred" and "ego driven" because INTELLIGENT humans fight the "Church", but when ignorant humans fight SCIENCE.
Fight science? Does it occur to you that you can be a believer and accept all scientific discoveries. It is just the difference of creation. For believers all around us, the wonders of the Universe are not random, but are God's creations.
You are just saying that to cover your intense HATE for SCIENCE, because it uses FACTS, which contradicts religion and comes into conflict with your religious//politically conservative agenda.
"God" contradicts the "laws of conservation"...
The worldly THINK they are intelligent.. Walk by Faith not by sight..
Let's see you walk that walk next time you or your kid gets sick.
Stay home, don't use any of that sinful medicine that foolish scientists discovered, just pray and see what happens.
"Intelligence" is a different concept to "faith".
You , of course are not saying what Jesus taught, but what the Buddha taught 400 years earlier right? No where does your Jesus character give proper credit for all of the things that were "jesus' ideas", that were actually right from the Buddha.
In other news, Zeus is planning a party on Mt. Olympus.
All imaginary beings are welcome.
"In other news, Zeus is planning a party on Mt. Olympus.
All imaginary beings are welcome."
As an atheist, I have to say this kind of spiel does not help our cause. Please drop it.
Oh stop it already. What's "our cause"? I suspect you to be a Christian pretending to be an atheist.
I don't know what you mean by "our cause".
AtheistMorons I am going to presume that you missed the article where an individual (who is straight by the way) just spread HIV to over 300 individuals in the past few years. Proves your statement is ultimately wrong and bias.
I have to say that hatred you are harboring is not going to serve you well. It's clearly festering. If you let go of the hate, you'll feel a lot better.
Hatred? I am sorry but you must have missed the comment where AtheistMorons believes that only gays spread diseases to people. The statement I made was to prove his statement wrong. I suggest you either read other people's comments to the conversation or ignore it entirely from now on if you please.
Ah, you know I misread what you wrote. You may want to write that as "@atheistmorons" as it kind of read that you were writing "Atheist morons."
Precisely which statement is "proved wrong and bias [sic]".
AtheistMorons only believes that individuals who are gay spread diseases. I was proving that statement wrong.