The People’s Pope: Francis, TIME’s Person of the Year

Washington Post reports that Pope Francis gets high ratings from Catholics:

Among Catholics, 92 percent have a favorable view of Francis and 95 percent say the same of the church, a poll released Wednesday finds. Francis’ popularity marks a large increase from former Pope Benedict’s 73 percent favorable rating in a February Post-ABC poll just after he announced his retirement. …  Ninety-four percent of Catholics who identify as moderate or liberal say they have favorable views of Francis compared with 73 percent who said the same of Pope Benedict after he announced his retirement in February. Among politically conservative Catholics, 91 percent are favorable toward Francis, compared with 84 percent who said the same of Benedict in February. … The peak in Post-ABC polling [for John Paul II] came in the weeks before his death, when 87 percent of U.S. Catholics said they had a favorable view of him…. When Benedict stepped down, 54 percent of all Americans said they had a favorable view of him, compared with 27 percent who had an unfavorable one and 19 percent who had no opinion.

And as you’ve no doubt heard, Time magazine has named Francis Person of the Year.

Pray Tell readers will be interested in the comment on liturgy by Brian Daley in Time:

“Already there has been a lot of backlash from traditionalist groups, conservative groups, people who feel he is moving too quickly away from the traditional style of Benedict on liturgy, on clerical appointments,” says Brian Daley, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. “But that’s probably a relatively small group of people.”


  1. I watched a segment on NBC Nightly News where they teased 5 candidates for the cover, and when he was one of them, I thought he would be far and away the best choice. I am usually wrong about these things, but I am glad I was right this time.

    The best thing about it is I don’t see it going to his head or changing him in any way.

  2. In terms of ultra traditionalists’ backlash, I think it is a small minority who are disenchanted with Pope Francis and his austerity but a small fraction in number compared to the the progressive to ultra-progressive’s vitriol toward Pope Benedict.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:
      Care to provide documentation on another Allan wayward projection? Let’s see – Fr. Z’s WDTPRS; Rorate Caeli; Acton Institute; Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh (as quoted by some of these); Bill Donohue’s embarrassing opinion pieces on the Catholic League; statements from any number of bishops – Dolan, Tobin, Paprocki, Chaput, etc. (to say nothing about your dribble post). And, TIME didn’t even quote you?

      And, of course, we had the brief three day traddie blowback based upon one Vatican reporter’s column that Francis was walking back some of his statements – oh yeah, that was followed two days later by his apostolic exhortation and we have not heard another word about *clarifications*.

  3. Bill’s vendetta against FRAJM is quite off the rails, inspecific as regards the O’Reilly/Limbaugh references, and condescending with the “dribble” remark.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #5:
      It’s not a vendetta except in a few eyes. He made a wildly exaggerated comment, AGAIN. When asked for documentation – nothing happens. His over the top remarks grow tiresome.
      O’Reilly – watch any of his shows in the past week or you can find them on YouTube.
      Limbaugh – go to Fr. Z’s dribble site – you will find where Z copied/pasted Limbaugh’s radio comments and then goes on to support Limbaugh and savage the pope. Haven’t seen anything that offensive since I heard historical recordings of C. Coughlin’s anti-semitism in the 1930s – oh yeah, he was a priest of the Detriot diocese.
      Sorry, borrowed the dribble word from one of the ediotrs who used it to describe Fr. Z’s website.
      Allan, when he disagrees, typically tries to either change the subject or interject some other line of thought that is way off the subject.

      1. @Elisabeth Ahn (#14):

        Probably for the same sorts of reasons that others on here gave before Benedict XVI abdicated: see exhibits A and B.

        The only difference is the perspective such things are wished from. Whether “liberal” or “conservative”, it’s all the same, and equally lamentable.

      2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #15:

        “Probably for the same sorts of reasons…”

        You mean those people, whoever they are, think under Pope Francis, that they don’t have a voice, and that the current Curia is creating a cesspool?

        That’s uh… interesting, and indeed, quite lamentable.

      3. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #17:
        I wouldn’t be bothered too much by the detractors, if nothing else for the reasons Jack cited in #16.

        Instead, consider the amusement value in watching self-styled “faithful” Catholics apply modern secular attitudes to the Church, and let’s count ourselves fortunate for the warning to our own attitudes.

        The Holy Spirit is indeed blowing again, thank goodness. Ten to forty years of station keeping didn’t dampen it. I figure we’ve gotten out breathing space; it’s time to get moving again.

      4. @Matthew Hazell – comment #15:

        I made Hazell’s “exhibit B” !

        Of course it’s way off the mark. I was arguing, as were Saur and Rodriquez that the church was in such a mess that it will take the next conclave to fix it and not because anyone wanted Benedict to die.

        In comment #22 of that post I specifically respond to another commentator:
        ‘Can you point out where I wished death for B16? The next conclave cannot come soon enough is what I said. That is the only way this church will be able to regain any moral leverage it has lost. Will there be anything left to save? Ireland and Austria are already in the tank because of his inaction.’

        But hey, why let the facts get in the way. Regardless, “exhibit A and B” are overruled. And the only thing “lamentable” was the state of the church that B16 left it in.

      5. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #14:
        Ms. Ahn I wish to ascertain that I do not wait for Pope Francis to die – may he reign as long God wills it. That would be barbaric.

        As to the second question: While I pray for the Pope and respect his authority as Vicar of Christ, I am disenchanted with the current Pontiff. His gestures, liturgical style, theology are foreign to me and leave me cold.
        The reason for this is the following: for me one of the greatest aspects of the Church is its timelessness – represented in the phrase Christus hier hodie semper. It gives me great comfort to think that on the same altar the Sacrifice of Mass was celebrated for years or that the Collect we hear was said since the time of George the Great or that the dogma we believe was already established in antiquity. I love also the soundness of doctrine found in older magisterial texts and prayers.

        I see non of this in Pope Francis – he disregards tradition, calls to “make a mess” – he does not represent the stability I seek in the Church.

        The only positive I can think of is that this Pontiff cured from radical Ultramontanism. For this moment on I plan that while I will give my full assent to the Magisterium (both extraordinary and ordinary) – for to do otherwise would be schismatic at the least – the rest I would like to pass. Catholics for hundred of years lived the Faith and did probably not know even their current Pope’s name – I find this attitude comforting.

        Deus benedicat te!

      6. @Damian Duczmal – comment #19:
        “The reason for this is the following: for me one of the greatest aspects of the Church is its timelessness – represented in the phrase Christus hier hodie semper. It gives me great comfort to think that on the same altar the Sacrifice of Mass was celebrated for years or that the Collect we hear was said since the time of George the Great or that the dogma we believe was already established in antiquity. I love also the soundness of doctrine found in older magisterial texts and prayers.”

        FWIW, I don’t see what you describe as timeless. I see it as locked in a specific time period. It is a prisoner of time. It is bound by a culture that is no more or less Christian than any other time, but which has had a stranglehold on mores and customs, and the best you can say for it is that it is comforting.

      7. @Charles Day – comment #21:

        …the best you can say for it is that it is comforting.

        I agree. And Pope Francis is asking and challenging us to go outside of that very comfort zone and into active “new” evangelization, and to reach out to and dialogue with others with openness, love and care, and not judgment or condemnation.

        So, Damian Duczmal (@ comment #19): Clearly, we do not agree on a lot of things. You seem to think of “stability in the Church” as preservation of sameness in the name of timeless tradition; I rather see it as continued growth and development in the spirit of Gospel, even if that involves “making a mess” along the way (which, admittedly, I am quite good at 🙂 )

      8. @Damian Duczmal – comment #19:
        My goodness the Vicar of Christ acting and speaking like Christ! If you accept his authority as the Vicar of Christ? What is the problem? I suspect you confuse liturgical style, gestures, and your own theology with what is essential to being a Christian. Take note of what your Vicar is teaching you.

      9. @Damian Duczmal – comment #19:

        I love also the soundness of doctrine found in older magisterial texts and prayers.

        Many of the propers of the revised missal are from the same source texts and traditions as the Tridentine propers. In recent times scholars have a much larger picture of ancient sacramentaries. The Tridentine liturgy did not have as broad an understanding of the underpinnings of late antique/early medieval liturgical texts, as the Tridentine texts developed before the age of archaeology and the historical criticism of liturgy.

  4. My sense is that Fr Allan hopes the numbers don’t compare. It’s hard to say. Can we call CARA?

    I wouldn’t hold back in my criticism of Pope Benedict, but it wasn’t because I was some kind of uber-progressive. The man was well-intentioned enough, and possibly saintly, but not an administrator. He was somewhat cruel to those who disagreed with him. (I did not like his vendetta against some theologians and a certain bishop or two.) He was wildly unprepared to deal with the cover-up of sex abuse and a scandal-ridden curia. Even culturewarriors had something to say here and there on those points.

    Meanwhile, more fodder for sad spectacle: Catholics bashing Catholics. Time, so to speak, to get to work on evangelization.

    Many critics of the last pope zeroed in, appropriately, on his errors. It had nothing to do with ideology, except in the sense of an aristocratic Church lurching to retirement.

  5. In case no one actually read the post my comment centered on agreement with Brian Daley at Notre Dame who provides no data for the “relatively small group” of those in the traditionalist and conservative groups disenchanted with Pope Francis papal austerity. That there is a larger progressive group that had a great antipathy for Pope Benedict is documented well on this blog and NCR’s comment section. Both groups are mirror images of each other (disrespect for the person and office of the papacy) just in the opposite extreme.

    “Already there has been a lot of backlash from traditionalist groups, conservative groups, people who feel he is moving too quickly away from the traditional style of Benedict on liturgy, on clerical appointments,” says Brian Daley, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. “But that’s probably a relatively small group of people.”

  6. Sandro Magister’s website reports that the new congregation for Catholic education designed by Bergoglio is less Italian, less European, but more Latin American and more Asian.

    About the congregation of bishops, It also remarks that

    Currently, out of the 33 members of this congregation, there are 12 Italians and 25 Europeans in all, 4 North Americans, 3 Latin Americans, one from Oceania. It is hard to imagine that these proportions will remain unchanged.

    Wonder what the proportions are at CDW?

    Will be interesting what part of the globe the new cardinals will be from?

  7. “(T)here is a larger progressive group that had a great antipathy for Pope Benedict is documented well on this blog and NCR’s comment section.”

    It is more accurate to say that many people had an antipathy for the various opinions of Cardinal Ratzinger long before he became pope. He was the most famous person ever to be elected Bishop of Rome. People had a lot of time to form opinions positive and negative, good and bad, of him.

  8. In some ways how long Francis is Pope (which since B16’s resignation is no longer likely to be the same as how long he lives) does not matter.

    While Francis has correctly said that Realities are more important than ideas, it is also true that Dreams are more important than realities.

    The Dream of John XXIII was much larger than his pontificate, even larger than the event of Vatican II. It lives on in many varied dreams by many, even Francis himself, of what still needs to be accomplished to implement Vatican II.

    Given its power to get this quickly to the cover of Time, The Dream of Francis, a “poor church for the poor” will have a long life, maybe even longer than the Dream of John XXIII. Most of the world is poor, and the demographics of the church have shifted strongly in that direction. The papacy may become as much a captive of the poor South as it has been the captive of the Italians and Europeans.

    The Dream of Francis will in fact be much stronger the shorter he is Pope because it will leave everything much more to the dreamers imaginations. Many more people will be able to dream many different things under the “spirit of Francis.” His broad approval ratings are evidence of that.

    Of course the Dream of SP will live on too as Benedict’s legacy. It will probably be stronger for the fact the B16 did not play out all the fantasies of people, e.g. that he would celebrate a pontifical EF Mass and reconcile the SPXX. Everyone there can dream on their various dreams. If he had remained Pope, the EF might have become one obscure annual Mass by the Pope and an SPXX firmly under the control of the CDF and the world’s bishops. That did not happen so the SP dream will live a long time even if it does not flourish.

  9. Should not Benedict have been at least #3 and maybe #2 in Times list for Person of the Year?.

    Rocco has the following humorous yet serious link:

    Time of course is in the news business and not the history business. But there has to be an historic dimension to coverage of the news.

    Benedict’s resignation likely changed the Papacy forever, and may have changed it far more than any Pope has ever done. That is a big event for a two thousand year old organization with a large share of the planet’s people.

    While Benedict’s resignation does not bind his successors, he did it in a manner and at a time that one cannot easily dismiss it as a necessity either because of health or that he was forced from office. Therefore future successors will be faced with the judgment that there are circumstances such that they too should resign. By his resignation Benedict single handedly used the power of the papacy to radically change the papacy.

    Time might have recognized this had Benedict’s successor been say a Latin American cardinal who without Francis talents had merely been hailed as the “first American Pope” and had set about appointing a new team in the Curia, continued the financial reforms, etc. In other words Benedict regardless of how well he did as Pope would have changed the Papacy permanently and enabled the cardinals to elect a pope more likely to deal with the church’s many problems.

    Certainly that accomplishment should put him ahead of a dictator remaining in power after two years, and Snowden raising the issues of extensive government surveillance. Those are likely not to be remembered let alone have many effects in a decade or two. Benedict’s decision will likely have consequences for decades and maybe centuries to come, even had it not produced Francis. Hopefully historians will make better judgments.

  10. He confuses *Tradition* with *traditionalism*

    Interesting opinion piece:

    To note:
    “That is the great paradox of the so-called Traditionalist position: namely that it is purely a product of the past 40 years and is, in that sense, every bit as “neo” as the thing it protests. The notion of a large subculture of lay Catholics who feel themselves endowed by God Most High with the authority to sit around and pontificate about the fine points of the liturgy, condemn the Pope as the author of heresy and issue dimestore bulls of excommunication against those who lack “purity” because they celebrate a liturgy approved by Holy Church is something that is a purely post-modern and largely Internet-enabled phenomenon.”

  11. We needed Pope Francis to remind us that the center of our religion is the person of Jesus, not rules, regulations and laws… as important as they are, and not to be discounted. But only given their proper due. And he insistently points to 1 Corinthians 13 to show what the fruit of relationship with Jesus is.

  12. @ Ms. Ahn: well we have to agree to disagree as you Americans like to say. I sadly cannot join you Madam in your optimism about the situation in the Church.

    @ Mr. deHass: I beg your pardon Sir but I refuse to jump into this rabbit-hole with you.

    @ Mr. Burns: Pardon Sir, but I do not understand your answer. I have been always taught that to be Catholic is to believe what the Credo states, live a sacramental life, follow Sacred Scripture and Tradition and to give assent to the dogma and doctrine of Holy Mother Church. These are the essentials of being Catholic. Did the Pope state anything new about these matters? If not than what should I take note of?

    As I mentioned it before I have abandoned the ultramontaigne idea that I must follow every word of the Pope like it were the Word of God, especially if these words pertain to matters falling under what is called prudential judgement (like His recent statements about the economy). So until the Pope, being the Supreme Lawgiver, declares a new dogma or makes a valid change in doctrine or discipline, I am not obliged to follow anything more than what is already required of me as a Catholic.

    Thank you all for this discussion. It is a redeeming feature of this blog that while one may not share most of your believes it can still be possible to enjoy a civil exchange of opinions.

    Deus benedicat Vos!

    1. @Damian Duczmal – comment #27:
      Understand, Mr. Duczmal, but it isn’t a rabbit hole – your fundamentalism is a rabbit hole – which is why I posted the link to that article.
      Encourage you to read and understand Francis – he is calling out to us to focus on the essentials – encounter with Jesus and his people (not an esoteric creedal formula); faith journey as the people of God which is much more than just *assent to dogma and doctrine (Francis speaks directly to this and to you on this point).
      Your fundamentalism is only increased when you buy into the usual traddie distinctions (cop outs) about *prudential judgment* – interesting that your prudential judgments, as Francis stated, are so much more than just prudential judgments (preferential option for the poor for example).

      Finally, most of the last few church councils have defined the pope as much more than just the *Supreme Lawgiver* (how narrow and avoids any type of gospel image, language, etc.) The Bishop of Rome is called to much more than just declaring dogmas or making valid doctrine (ah yes, inserting the *word* valid allows you to cop out when you don’t agree with any specific Pope).

      Your whole statement is an excellent example of *cafeteria Catholicism*

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #28:
        Mr deHass why with the ad hominem? Why are you questioning me being a Catholic in good standing (because calling someone a cafeteria Catholic equates to this).

        Is it fundamental to give full assent to the Magisterium? To be nurtured in the Sacrifice of Mass celebrated in the same way as our forefathers did? To encounter the Lord in the majestic beauty of His Bride?
        Countless Catholics did that throughout the ages and I do not think that they were lesser Christians because of it.

        You denigrate people who have different opinions. This makes further talk impossible.

    2. @Damian Duczmal – comment #27:
      Mr Duczmal,

      You offered a list:

      “- to believe what the Credo states,
      – live a sacramental life,
      – follow Sacred Scripture and Tradition
      – and to give assent to the dogma and doctrine of Holy Mother Church.

      These are the essentials of being Catholic.”

      What Pope Francis seems to be bringing to the fore is a missed essential of your #3, namely the commandment (which never seems to be etched in stone or in the minds of most all Catholics) of Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus’s use of the term “commandment” is rather clear.

      Economics seem to be rather that political aha! moment for conservatives, Catholic and not, where it is difficult to discern a reaction from, “I knew I didn’t like him. Now I know why.”

      The living of a sacramental life does not involve a semi-pelagian self-congratulation as Mark Shea puts it. Part of the message and the life of the sacraments is to live a self-sacrificing existence. The imitation of Christ. Or, in Ignatian terms, in being a person for others, as Christ was.

      The list given seems rather internal. Catholics saints have always been women and men of action, an active life springing from their internal commitment. Being a good Catholic is about being … not just knowing, or speaking, or doing in isolation from other aspects.

      This is where the formulation of faithful Catholicism as given above isn’t complete. It’s not wrong. It’s just not likely to get a person beyond square one. You’ve been sold a bill of goods, my friend. They gave you the starting instructions without telling you, if you will, how to use and enjoy the product.

      This brand of Catholicism strikes me as less related to a cafeteria, but more to a set of instructions for setting up a computer or a tv-dvr home entertainment combo. You put the thing together, connect all the wires, and pay the monthly bill. But you never use it.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #30:
        Mr Flowerday,

        Well this is the “brand” of Catholicism which I was taught and which I have been learning by myself (currently I am reading The Devastated Vineyard by von Hildebrand and I am fascinated by his writings).

        I believe that this “brand” of Catholicism is proper to my station in life (I am a married man) and in this context I practice it. I hope that through this I may evangelize others: I also try to practice the prescribed works of mercy (both corporal and spiritual).

        And Mr. Flowerday I wish to ascertain that I do “use” Catholicism – it gives me a personal relation to God and inner peace, the chance to feel the fortaste of Heaven. Everyday I try to convert myself to these essentials and I believe that through personal conversion I may help others.

        I do not understand why you mention pelagianism (as I do not understand why the Holy Father uses this word) – I have never stated that I doubt the need of Faith in salvation or the Doctrine of Original Sin. I never congratulate myself in my Faith – I know I still am not worthy to be called a Catholic and I try to push myself towards being one (in my prayer I often use the phrases of the Confeitor”mea culpa…” and Dominus non dignus – which both are very faithfully translated into my language).

        While I do not agree with what you said I would like to thank you for your comment – it got me thinking and I find it useful by itself.


      2. @Damian Duczmal – comment #32:
        “I do not understand why you mention pelagianism …”

        Per Matthew 21:28-32, I think it is possible to operate with a profession of belief, even a public one, but not live the deep life of a disciple or even a believer.

        That said, I believe I wrote “semi-pelagianism,” my assessment that one can say the orthodox words, but deep inside, count themselves worthy (perhaps in their unworthiness) to be counted as authentic Catholics. Or as some say, “more Catholic than the pope.” I think many good Catholics have strains of self-accomplishment where a more appropriate and more accurate self-knowledge would be to admit God’s grace. It’s less about the basic rejection of original sin, and more about the consequences of self-accomplishment.

        I don’t know that you espouse any of these deep approaches, good or ill. Catholic teaching as well as the Ignatian tradition demands I put the best possible spin on another’s words and actions. So your word in saying you strive for the best life as a Catholic, in cooperation with grace, is good enough for me.

        And as for the reaction to Pope Francis, I know others do not share my optimism. I know there are reasons why. I understand some. I don’t understand others. I think we are being urged and invited to live a deeper form of faith, and that our respective comfort zones are no longer domiciles for long-term dwelling.

  13. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” Lumen Gentium 14

    This is what we have been taught by the Second Vatican Council. The profession of faith, sacraments, etc. are necessary butt not sufficient. Choosing them alone as the distinctive qualities of Catholics misses what makes the Church a reality, the love who dwells within us.

    Which is not to say that anyone here does not have love as the reality of Catholicism. It just means that love is our source, our goal and our guide. Most descriptions that miss that point are fault.

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