Editor of 'First Things' religious journal declares Pope Francis a failure

First Things is an ecumenical, conservative religious journal founded in 1990 by Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent intellectual and Lutheran minister who converted to the Catholic Church and entered the priesthood shortly after the journal’s founding.
Published by the New York-based Institute on Religion and Public Life, with a circulation of approximately 30,000 copies, the influential journal is inter-denominational and inter-religious, representing a broad intellectual tradition of Christian and Jewish critique of contemporary society.
First Thingscontributors include many well-known intellectuals and religious figures such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, William Bennett, Peter L. Berger, David Horowitz, Ralph McInerny, Cardinal Avery Dulles, and bishop Charles J. Chaput. So it is significant that the journal’s current literary editor, Matthew Schmitz, in an op/ed published in the New York Times on Sept. 28, 2016, declares Pope Francis a failure.
Schmitz arrived at the assessment using, as his yardstick, “the Francis effect” — whether Francis’ papacy has increased the number of Catholics, as measured, for example, by Mass attendance. Alas, in the United States, despite the (liberal) media’s hailing of Francis, Mass attendance not only has not increased since the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope in 2013, attendance had actually decreased. And it’s not just in the U.S. but also in Italy, where the Vatican is located.
Schmitz concludes that the (seeming) popularity achieved by Francis/Bergoglio is a personal one, at the expense of the Catholic Church.
Below is Schmitz’ op/ed in its entirety.

Pope Francis hides the Crucifix meeting Israeli rabbis

Pope Francis hides the Crucifix meeting Israeli rabbis

About the above pic, see “Pope Francis is ashamed of the Cross, knows better than the Gospels“.

Has Pope Francis Failed?

By Matthew Schmitz • New York Times • September 28, 2016

When Pope Francis ascended to the chair of St. Peter in March 2013, the world looked on in wonder. Here at last was a pope in line with the times, a man who preferred spontaneous gestures to ritual forms. Francis paid his own hotel bill and eschewed the red shoes. Rather than move into the grand papal apartments, he settled in the cozy guesthouse for visitors to the Vatican. He also set a new nondogmatic tone with statements like “Who am I to judge?

Observers predicted that the new pope’s warmth, humility and charisma would prompt a “Francis effect” — bringing disaffected Catholics back to a church that would no longer seem so forbidding and cold. Three years into his papacy, the predictions continue. Last winter, Austen Ivereigh, the author of an excellent biography of Pope Francis, wrote that the pope’s softer stance on communion for the divorced and remarried “could trigger a return to parishes on a large scale.” In its early days, Francis’ Jesuit order labored to bring Protestants back into the fold of the church. Could Francis do the same for Catholics tired of headlines about child abuse and culture wars?

In a certain sense, things have changed. Perceptions of the papacy, or at least of the pope, have improved. Francis is far more popular than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Sixty-three percent of American Catholics approve of him, while only 43 percent approved of Benedict at the height of his popularity, according to a 2015 New York Times and CBS News poll. Francis has also placed a great emphasis on reaching out to disaffected Catholics.

But are Catholics actually coming back? In the United States, at least, it hasn’t happened. New survey findings from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggest that there has been no Francis effect — at least, no positive one. In 2008, 23 percent of American Catholics attended Mass each week. Eight years later, weekly Mass attendance has held steady or marginally declined, at 22 percent.

Of course, the United States is only one part of a global church. But the researchers at Georgetown found that certain types of religious observance are weaker now among young Catholics than they were under Benedict. In 2008, 50 percent of millennials reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, and 46 percent said they made some sacrifice beyond abstaining from meat on Fridays. This year, only 41 percent reported receiving ashes and only 36 percent said they made an extra sacrifice, according to CARA. In spite of Francis’ personal popularity, young people seem to be drifting away from the faith.

Why hasn’t the pope’s popularity reinvigorated the church? Perhaps it is too soon to judge. We probably won’t have a full measure of any Francis effect until the church is run by bishops appointed by Francis and priests who adopt his pastoral approach. This will take years or decades.

Yet something more fundamental may stand in the way of a Francis effect. Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

Even Francis’ most ardent fans worry that his agenda is overdue. When he was elected, Francis promised a cleanup of the Vatican’s corrupt finances. Three years on, he has started to retreat in the face of opposition, giving up an outside audit and taking powers away from his handpicked point man. Francis has also shied away from big changes on doctrinal matters. Instead of explicitly endorsing communion for the divorced and remarried couples, he has quietly urged them on with a wink and a nod.

Francis has built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads. Those who wish to see a stronger church may have to wait for a different kind of pope. Instead of trying to soften the church’s teaching, such a man would need to speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom. Confronting a hostile age with the strange claims of Catholic faith may not be popular, but over time it may prove more effective. Even Christ was met with the jeers of the crowd.

-End of Schmitz’ op/ed-

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Although I do not approve of this Pope, all the attacks on Christianity for the last 8 years here and elsewhere in the world has made me more aware of and causes me to redefine my stance on Faith.


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William Brandon Shanley
William Brandon Shanley

So, Dr. Eowyn, why do you think Jorge is doing these things? Is he 666? Is he the last Pope as prophesied?
Will Shanley


People are always quick to pounce on anything Catholic. I chock it up to having a guilty conscience. They love to feel “justified” in being separated. At any rate, I don’t know much about this pope. I’ve read a little, and I haven’t liked much of what I’ve read. I especially didn’t like what I read about his days in South America and some of his affiliations. Anyone with a history book can quickly confirm that the Church has had many Popes over the centuries and some of them have been bad. Some of them have, likewise been good. What… Read more »


I don’t consider confession a good work but rather a sacrament which increases grace and brings one closer to God. This pope truly is a man of love; that’s a good thing but I’ll take an old fashioned tough love pope who calls a sin a sin and tells us sinners what we must do to spend less time in purgatory before entering heaven.

Steven Broiles

I agree with everything Schmitz says, but I insist he does not go to the Heart of the Matter. In an interview with Joel Skousen about a year ago, Alex Jones was discussing with him the nature of the New World Order plan. Skousen (editor of “World Affairs Brief” and a practicing Mormon), insisted that the nature of the plan must necessarily be of a “Satanic” nature and origin, given the mere fact that it is able to be passed on and expanded upon, generation after generation of the Elites, for over 200 years now. Freemasonry, in its screed, “The… Read more »

Richard Raymond
Richard Raymond

The road to salvation over the centuries was not intended to be warm and fuzzy unlike today. Where we got that notion I don’t know? (soft and easy living)
If this Pope thinks being obsessed with the value of human life (born or unborn) is somehow a defect then why pray tell does he not exhibit the same obsession with the value and salvation of human souls?
Saint Paul in Phillippians 2:12 says work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Here’s why:https://www.olrl.org/snt_docs/fewness.shtml
And this sermon on the same topic:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMUPBFeI5Hc