What is Pope Francis up to?
If you read more than one piece on the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis' papacy (I'd also first recommend Paul Baumann's Slate essay) I might go self-referential and suggest a few stories that I reported from Rome that look ahead at where we may be going in this pontificate.
First is my take on how Francis' chief goal is changing the culture of the Vatican and the wider church -- converting the church, as it were -- and the three main approaches he is using to try to do that: preaching to the hierarchy; teaching clergy (and the rest of us) to talk openly and honestly again; and opening up to the world in order to make the church truer to her mission, more like Christ:
“Some in the Roman Curia” — the Vatican bureaucracy — “say, well, this pope is old so let’s wait a bit, and things will return to the way they were,” said the Rev. Humberto Miguel Yanez, a fellow Argentine Jesuit, who heads the moral theology department at the Gregorian University in Rome.
“If this is the attitude, then his words and his reforms don’t mean anything. I think conversion is the most important thing, and that explains why Francis speaks every day, why he preaches every day. Some say that this pope talks and talks and talks but doesn’t do anything. But I think he is preparing the ground.”
As Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said to me in a nice line that didn't make any of my stories, Pope Francis "wants the church to know that God really loves her." Or, "Be not afraid," as another pope said -- but don't be afraid of other Catholics above all.
Another story of mine tries to explain how Francis is still a Jesuit (yes, afraid so) and how profoundly that shapes what he is doing and is hoping to do. Not much new there to most Commonwealers, I'm sure, but I thought it important to try to explain to a wider readership why this is important, and just what Jesuits are.
That should keep you busy, or bored, until his second anniversary. Feedback welcome.