Pope Francis will have been the head of the Catholic Church for one year this March. In the past months, he has successfully stirred the pot with his emphasis on charity, his political tweets, and rumors of his sneaking out of the Vatican to spend time with the poor. Though many Catholics and Protestants worldwide are intrigued by Pope Francis’ revolutionary actions, many are becoming disenchanted by his lack of real change.
Pope Francis’ most significant change to the church hierarchy was the recent appointments of nineteen cardinals. Nine of the sixteen cardinals that are eligible to vote for the next pope are from the global south and Asia, and five are from Latin America, developing a church hierarchy that represents the reality of the worldwide Catholic Church.
Pope Francis has begun an investigation of the notoriously secretive Vatican Bank, employing individuals outside of the church to examine the inner workings of the organization. The pope has named five people for the commission to investigate the Vatican, including Mary Ann Glendon, an American Harvard law professor who was a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. The pope has also replaced a significant portion of the cardinals on the bank’s advisory panel, hoping to bring about more transparency.
He has also created his own advisory panel of eight cardinals to help him in bringing change to the Vatican in particular. Their most recent assignment was to determine how to deal with sexual abuse cases and the priests involved.
In the United States, many politicians and activists, including President Obama, have quoted or referred to Pope Francis and his reactions to gay rights, immigration, and poverty. The most often quoted adage of his is the reaction he had when asked about gay rights: “Who am I to judge?”
However, despite his general popularity, many in the church are questioning how much promised change Pope Francis will actually deliver on. So far there have been no doctrinal changes for homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or gay adoption. He was also reported to have said that “the door is closed” to female ordination, even though he does wish women to have a more prominent role in the church. Also, despite the recent uncovering of even more sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, the church still has yet to address the issue thoroughly.
Journalist and author Angela Bonavoglia wrote an article for the Huffington Post on February 3rd entitled “For Pope Francis: A To-Do List on Women.” Her article expresses frustration with how Pope Francis has been outspoken in his support for the poor, but has done little for women. She wrote that in Vatican meetings about women’s issues, such as contraception, women ought to be present. She also challenged the pope to keep his bishops and cardinals accountable, referencing both child sex abuse cases, as well as rumors of extravagant spending by bishops. Despite being disappointed in these shortcomings of the pope, though, she said, “I get the sense [the pope is] willing to listen. [He is] accessible to ordinary Catholics.”
For some, the radical statements of Pope Francis are enough to bring hope for the Catholic Church. For others, there will have to be much more actual change. Either way, the pope’s first year has brought up many important issues for Christianity, and many inside and outside the Catholic Church are waiting to see his actions in the coming years.
Sources: Huffington Post, CBC News