When experience conflicts with one's model of the world, either the facts have to be recast, or the model has to give way. The Catholic world is at a crossroads after 100 days of Pope Francis, reports NCR.
- John Allen, NCR
By traditional standards, it's been quiet on the Vatican front. To date, Francis has announced only one truly bold policy move -- the mid-April appointment of a group of eight cardinals from around the world to serve as his kitchen cabinet. Its first meeting, however, isn't until October, and it's still unclear what it might do.
Otherwise, as of this writing, Francis has named 48 new bishops and a handful of second-tier Vatican officials. Most of these appointments were in the works before his election. He's approved a few sainthood causes, erected some new dioceses, and met some heads of state, by no means a departure from business as usual. He's not issued any major teaching documents, nor has he taken any substantive steps toward a much-discussed reform of the Roman Curia.
Because there's been little substantive action, there's been little controversy. Even an April 15 statement that Francis had confirmed a Vatican-mandated shakeup of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States didn't really roil the waters except in narrow activist circles, with the most common reaction being, "Let's wait and see."
At the moment, Francis is preparing for a trip in late July to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, and afterward the Vatican enters its summer doldrums. It's likely to be September at the earliest before any decisions considered significant will be unveiled, such as the appointment of a new secretary of state.
The usual models would thus say that so far, Francis has been all sizzle and no steak. Yet at the grassroots, there's a palpable sense something seismic is underway.