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  • John Thavis

The path forward for Pope Francis and his reforms

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

The PBS Frontline folks asked me to write a piece analyzing the challenges facing Pope Francis and his reform project as his pontificate nears the one-year mark. You can read it here.

In brief, I believe the pope’s financial reforms at the Vatican will be the easiest to enact, despite pockets of resistance. The structural reforms at the Roman Curia will take more time, and for me a key issue is whether Francis is willing to bring in lay people at the decision-making level, which would do much to inhibit the climate of clerical careerism at the Vatican.

The larger questions concern the church’s mission and its role in society. The new pope wants to move the focus from identity-building to spiritual outreach and “healing wounds,” as he puts it. That approach seems to resonate with many ordinary Catholics, but I think less so with the current generation of bishops and priests.

At the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October, we will see whether bishops are willing to take an honest look at the gap between Catholic practice and church teaching on questions of marriage and sexuality. We’ll also see if Francis wants to make the synod an element of more collegial governance.

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