The tone of the conversation about reforming the Catholic Church has shifted dramatically since the Benedict years. Pope Francis has managed to completely change the dynamic of the Church’s relationship with its followers and the broader world community. Many folks who have been working for years to bring social justice issues to the front of the Vatican’s agenda are inspired to hear messages from the Pontiff that affirm their efforts. From his ground breaking “Who am I to judge?” comment last year to his role in the recent move to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba he has shifted the role of the church to a participant in conversation around social issues.
While there has been little evidence of increased church attendance, there have been many reports of increased enthusiasm – even coining the phrase the “Pope Francis Effect” and the social media hashtag #bestpopeever. However, in terms of doctrine, not much has really been changed. The recent report released on the state of American women religious had a vague recommendation from Pope Francis to create more opportunities for a stronger female presence in the church, but no concrete suggestions. Perhaps the largest concrete shift has been the call for the church to welcome gays, divorced and remarried couples and their families.
We welcome and appreciate the change in tone, the focus on social justice and the willingness to discuss modern concerns. However, we at the Quixote Center believe much more remains to be done. We advocate for women’s ordination and a married priesthood. We desire a democratic Church. We pray that the first female Pontiff has already been born. We hope over the course of his tenure as pope, Pope Francis will initiate some of these concrete steps to strengthen his legacy from gifted orator to a true champion of social justice.