You perhaps saw the recent piece in The New York Times from Matthew Schmitz of First Things, “Has Pope Francis Failed?”
It could just as well have been titled “I Really Don’t Like Pope Francis, And I’m Looking for Any Proof That He’s Failed.”
But the data doesn’t prove much. As I’ve said before, we’d need a control group unavailable to us to know how successful the Pope is. Suppose Mass attendance goes down 5% under Pope Francis. (It hasn’t – it’s pretty much stable, about which below). We really can’t know whether that’s a failure or not, because we don’t know what it would have done if Francis weren’t pope. Maybe it would have gone down 8% if Benedict had stayed in – so Francis is highly successful at reducing the loss! Who knows.
And this is assuming that it’s all about numbers, that we evaluate a pope based on sociological data, and that the main influence on church data is the pope.
But I don’t need to pull apart those assumptions and write a response – someone at CARA just did so.
This post says everything I wanted to say, but with a finger on the data that I wouldn’t have. And here’s something I’ve not seen from CARA before – satire poking fun at the misuse of data. Go read it: “Did CARA data reveal Pope Francis Failed?”
Here’s a teaser:
Since Pope Francis began to lead the Catholic Church fewer Catholics in the United States have been dying. Pope Francis did the best in 2014 with only 391,131 deaths compared to 403,886 in 2012 (a decline in mortality of 3.2%). You are probably alive today because of Pope Francis. The data above “suggests” that if Pope Francis is able to continue leading the Church through the year 2128, Catholics will essentially be immortal in the U.S.