When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, many Roman Catholics were quick to optimism. Some dared to hope for something of a church renaissance, and for relief, perhaps, in the wake of the bitter reign of "God's Rottweiler," Joseph Ratzinger. Much was made of the Jesuit pope's decision to assume the name Francis because the name recalled to mind the saint from Assisi. However, one of the order's most revered saints is (Saint) Francis Xavier too. Maybe this choice suggested hope for a church with the head of a Jesuit and the heart of a Franciscan and reflected a concern for mending fences and holding ground. I believe Francis was most shrewdly put/voted in place to serve a schism doctor -- which is not to say that the image of this pope as a man of great faith and humility is not accurate.
Pope Francis has said much that is good. He has preached firmly on the sin of greed. He has made clear his belief (a belief not inconsistent with the extant Catechism) that salvation extends beyond those who profess to be Christian. Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday mass in a prison where he washed the feet of the incarcerated. He has eschewed lavish living quarters and fine loafers. Concern that Pope Francis was on the wrong side during Argentina's (1970-80's) military Junta appears to have quieted down. The pontiff has received praise from Jewish leaders in Argentina for being a friend to the nation's Jews. Pope Francis is not a super charmer but he's endearing, the inverse, it would seem, of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
In an interview conducted in March of this year (2013) by Canadian broadcaster Michael Enright, renowned priest and theologian Hans Kung, who remains a priest in good standing but has been stripped of his authority to teach Roman Catholic theology as a result of his challenging Papal Infallibility.
In the interview Kung describes Pope Francis "... as a real Christian person."
Asked whether there might be "a danger" that the pontiff's humble nature could leave him vulnerable to "being co-opted" by what Enright called "certain powers within the Curia, the shadowy figures who run the Church," Kung answered without hesitation in the affirmative:
It is a danger.
Kung goes on to say that the man he calls the
"shadow pope... is not eliminated... I think that is not what is intended, that the new pope has the same secretary... I think he needs especially new personnel.
Later in the interview, when asked what the first task facing the new pope might be, Kung answers that the new pope must hire new personnel -- a new secretary. (Pope Francis has the same secretary who served Ratzinger.) Kung makes clear his feeling that the Pope Francis pontificate remains dogged by this not-fully-retired "shadow pope," and predicts that the church will likely swing in one direction or the other under the leadership of Pope Francis.
Much depends on "where he (the pope) stands on reform," according to Father Kung. If he the man he calls "the new pope" is open to reforms, he "will find broad support even beyond the boundaries of the Church." If not, the theologian appears to believe, the result may be something that sounds a lot like an all-out schism.
Read "Why Canonizing John Paul II Is A Mistake" in its entirety on IndieTheology.