John Allen that wonderful reporter for that horrible paper, The National Chismatic Reporter, NCR, has some sobering thoughts for irrational Catholics on the left and the right. On the left, they are just down right giddy and unfortunately, quite delusional.
On the right, you'd think Hans Kung is behind the Francis mask. Delusional too!
This is what John Allen writes today:
At the level of content, there's not much groundbreaking in the interview with respect to his hour-and-20-minute press conference aboard the papal plane July 28. He offers the same blend of traditional doctrine with a deep emphasis on mercy, stressing that the church needs to be more pastoral and less judgmental in engaging questions such as abortion, homosexuality and women.
Perhaps most fundamentally, it represented a breakthrough victory for the Catholic middle.
Truth be told, the liberal wing of the church will be cheered by the new pope's language -- his rejection of a "restorationist" mentality in Catholicism, for instance, and his insistence that "thinking with the church" cannot simply mean thinking with the hierarchy. At some point, however, they'll demand movement from rhetoric to policy, and on that front, many may be disappointed.
Francis has twice now uttered a firm "no" to women's ordination to the priesthood, and he's unlikely to radically change teaching on matters such as gay marriage, abortion or contraception. A desire to project a more merciful tone on those matters isn't the same thing as disagreement with their substance.
That leaves the Catholic middle as the pope's natural constituency.
In broad strokes, these are people generally content with church teaching and tradition, though inclined to a hermeneutic of generosity in applying it. They don't have a chip on their shoulder about authority in the church, though they're also not inclined simply to shout "hosanna" every time someone in leadership speaks. They're eager for reform, not so much for revolution.
Mostly these are people who regard Catholicism fundamentally as a force for good in the world and who long for moderate, accessible and inspirational leadership who can lift up the whole gamut of Catholic thought and life rather than a selective version of it tailored to advance a specific political or theological agenda.
In a nutshell, that seems to be more or less Francis' aspiration.