Americans must keep in mind how the Church is viewed by many Europeans, especially in Italy. The Church is the bishops and priests who for the most part seem aloof from rank and file Catholics who do not take a great deal of ownership in their Church because they see the Church not belonging to them but to the bishops and priests.
There isn't the same post-Vatican II pastoral theology in Italy as there is in the USA. Priests seldom mingle with the laity and when the laity, especially those on the margins of the Church seek the ministry of a priest they are met with a cold shoulder. My Italian relatives would feel like some of the laity interviewed in the video that I link above.
Some in the video, though, seem to have spiritual Alzheimers when they fail to remember that Pope Saint John Paul II in his healthy days was quite outgoing and mingled with the laity more so than Pope Francis. Pope Benedict tried to do so in his own introverted way and made great strides at it toward the end of his papacy.
Of course the traditionalists are vilified as the sticks in the mud. And to a certain extent they deserve the criticism heaped upon them. Many comments on my blog seem to forget the good that Pope Francis is accomplishing for the Church, especially moving her away from coverage exclusively on the sex abuse scandal.
The media is becoming more friendly toward the Church precisely because of Pope Francis and he is teaching us all how being Catholic should attract not repel the world. Some who comment on my blog could learn a lesson on this virtue. Sugar attracts, vinegar repels.
Even Fr. Z who would have some issues with Pope Francis can see the good that he is accomplishing by being the face of Catholicism that is attractive rather than cynical, dower and mean-spirited:
Monday Vatican analysis.
“A must today as ever: Talking about God in light of Pope Francis’ missionary push”
Galiarducci opines that Pope Francis has had some success in polishing the Church’s image. Francis has even been able to say some tough things to the European Parliament and not get blasted in the press for it. You will recall that he tackled the problem of abortion and infertility, calling Europe a “grandmother”, that is, no longer able to bear children. He inspired the wrath of the Fishwrap’s feminists, but the secular press gave him a pass. Similarly, the UN launched a couple nasty attacks on the Church, but they didn’t stick. Teflon seems to be part of the “Francis Effect”.
On the other hand, the way that Pope Francis speaks may be taking us away from serious, or deeper talk about God, which I think we can all recognize is important
Thus, Galiarducci points out that Benedict XVI (Emeritus) has suggested as a topic for his annual Schülerkreis (study meeting with former students held in August): “How to speak about God in the contemporary word.”
Even while the Church is getting a PR boost, in large part because of Pope Francis’ style, we can’t stop talking about God. As a matter of fact, how can we use the present positive upswing in order to talk about deeper issues?
It is possible that Benedict XVI has been watching what is going on in the world and the Church in this pontificate and has put his finger on a weak spot.
I am mindful of something Card. Sarah said in November. HERE
“It’s very important to express that the hunger we are suffering today is not having God in our life, in our society,” the cardinal said Nov. 7. He explained that Benedict XVI’s encyclical insists that charity is the way we express our faith. Although giving food is necessary, “the main food is God.”
He recounted a story from one of his two trips to Syria to visit refugees. He met a small child who asked him: “does God really exist? Why did he let my father be killed?”
This child had everything, the cardinal observed, including food and medicine, but still lacked the most essential thing, which is the assurance that God exists and is close to him.
“(So) charity today is not only to act for social work, for material assistance, but really to bring the Gospel to the people.”