I remember someone asking me in March if Pope Francis was a liberal or a conservative. My smart-$%# comment then was, “He’s better than either. He’s a Jesuit.”
My suspicion is that Pope Francis will prove a better administrator (in the sense of the spiritual gift) than either of his two predecessors. John Paul II, for all his saintly qualities, promoted some untrustworthy persons to the curia and to the episcopacy. Was he too trusting, and liable to be schmoozed and manipulated? Did he not have the measure of careerists? And at the end of his ministry, it was just a free-for-all.
Pope Benedict had the better intellect, but still: he was colored by his own prejudices and negative experiences. That he was so surprised by the Irish meltdown and seemingly clueless about the Vatican PR gaffes did not inspire confidence.
Don’t get me wrong: good men, holy men, maybe even saintly popes. But their packages did not extend to appointing excellent lieutenants.
And you know: Pope Francis may yet prove to be a bust. I was willing to give his predecessor the benefit of the doubt until 2007. I thought Summorum Pontificum was a big mistake. And if the mission behind it was reunion with schismatics under LeFebvre and others, then six years later, that aspect of the program has to be considered a failure.
So if somebody on the “Left” thinks the current Bishop of Rome is a disappointment, my reaction is “meh.” The same would have been true of me in the summer of ’05.
The more I examine Ignatian spirituality, the more I come away impressed for its balance, its thoroughness, and for the searching and fearless quality of the examination of life. If the Holy Father manages to apply this to the curia, then maybe I’ll cease my advocacy for shutting down that whole operation. Maybe it can yet fulfill a potential to support the ministry of Peter, and do so in a heartening, evangelical, and fruitful way that serves the People of God, rather than sucking them dry.