I see conservative outlets are jumping to report Pope Francis’ popularity is slumping among American Catholics. I think it’s predictable. It may also be a good thing.
First, if the Holy Father is a real Jesuit, he won’t care about his own popularity. He will treat it as a symptom of a deeper pathology. And that might inspire discernment and action.
Second, I’m a skeptic on living heroes. It’s not that I don’t root for the man. I do. I think his approach to papal ministry is a welcome improvement over his predecessors.
Speaking of predecessors, the era 1978-2013 wasn’t a golden one for dealing with scandal and misbehavior. Revelations and suspicions have cast long and dark shadows on the modern papacy. Fangirls and boys of Vatican II retrenchment have yet to come to grips fully over what must seem a bitter betrayal. Traditional-leaning Catholicism has proven no more or less virtuous than the mainstream, or even the dreaded left. The grave sin of institutional protection has been exposed. It’s not a mafia. It’s just miscalculating managers.
Francis is a bad manager. I am fluent in Italian and Spanish so nothing is lost in the translation of streaming live videos I have seen. Nothing is black or white, but there is such a thing as conviction and in Q&A’s and off the cuff statements he lacks clarity. People in any type of organization rely on their leadership to articulate and live the “mission.”