Looking back and Pope Francis’ first year: A Q&A with John Allen

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Lilly Fowler lfowler@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8221

Saturday, John L. Allen Jr., a prominent Vatican correspondent for the Boston Globe, will discuss Pope Francis’ reign at National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. The talk, which starts at 9 a.m., will cover the three pillars of Francis’ vision for the church.

In this Q&A, religion reporter Lilly Fowler talks to Allen about his years covering the Roman Catholic Church, the Boston Globe’s new website, Crux, and Pope Francis’ leadership so far. …

What do you see as Pope Francis’ primary strengths and weaknesses so far?

The most striking thing is the way that he’s completely changed the narrative about the Catholic Church. Eighteen months ago, the big Catholic stories were sex abuse scandals, crackdowns on nuns and bruising political controversies. Those stories obviously haven’t gone away, but they are no longer the dominant Catholic narrative.

The dominant Catholic narrative today is more like rock star pope takes the world by storm. He has created a public perception of himself as a man of genuine simplicity, genuinely caring about ordinary people, who is trying to lead the church to be a friend to the world. That’s a very attractive narrative for a lot of people, which means people are taking a more sympathetic look at the Catholic Church.

He is also a serious reformer who has, among other things, thoroughly launched an internal house cleaning operation in the Vatican itself beginning with a push for greater financial transparency and accountability. Also in terms of the personnel that he’s elevating, he clearly has a preference for non-ideological, moderate, pastoral leaders. He is changing the composition of the leadership of the church. …

There’s still a lot of news about sexual abuse. Do you think there’s going to be a point when that’s going to become the dominant narrative again?

(Pope Francis has) said all the right things. He’s created a new commission to lead the charge for reform, and he’s staffed it with people who are seen as on the cutting edge of best practices in child protection. The test really will be is he serious about accountability and more precisely, are we going to see a bishop some place drop the ball on zero tolerance held accountable? He has launched an investigation of Bishop (Robert) Finn in Kansas City. If that process ends with a bishop resigning, that is, basically losing his job, then I think some people would be inclined to say that something meaningful is happening.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.