The Francis Effect by R. V. Young

The Francis Effect

The Failure & Confusions of a More Accommodating Faith

Very soon after the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, there was a good deal of talk of "the Francis effect": the ability of this popular, charismatic figure to reinvigorate the spirit of aggiornamento, which animated the Second Vatican Council and which, implicitly, had been suppressed in the dour papacies of Francis's two immediate predecessors. Writing for the Catholic News Service (March 6, 2015), Cindy Wooden cited in support of this view a number of participants at a conference at Georgetown University, "Renewing the Church in a Secular Age" (March 4–5, 2015).

One participant, Charles Taylor, credited Pope Francis with "living the Gospel and reaching out" and distinguished between "seekers" and "dwellers," clearly favoring the former: "The seekers—baptized Christians or not—continue to question. The dwellers have found a home in a church and may have a tendency to nest there so thoroughly that they seldom reach out to others and only accept those who believe exactly as they do." Professor José Casanova is quoted as sharpening this opposition: "We were concerned by what could be called a self-referential church that had been too concerned about what could be called a 'moral confessionalism' in which being Catholic was defined by certain moral criteria more than criteria of dogma or belief in doctrine."

An Ineffective "Effect"


R. V. Young is Professor of English Emeritus at North Carolina State University, and a former editor of Modern Age: A Quarterly Review. His Shakespeare & the Idea of Western Civilization is forthcoming in January from Catholic University of America Press. He and his wife are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dunedin, Florida. They have five grown children, 15 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

more on Catholic from the online archives

35.4—Jul/Aug 2022

The Death Rattle of a Tradition

Contemporary Catholic Thinking on the Question of War by Andrew Latham

24.5—Sept/Oct 2011

A Many-Storied Monastic

A Critical Memoir of Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey by Patrick Henry Reardon

31.6—November/December 2018

Enduring Sacrilege

The Slow Vindication of Leon Podles by S. M. Hutchens

more from the online archives

29.3—May/June 2016

Health of the Nation

A Deathbed Reflection on Catholic Social Teaching & Our Future Prospects by Karl D. Stephan

31.2—March/April 2018

Reason Takes Up Arms

How Best to Face the Total War of the Anti-Culture by R. J. Snell

32.3—May/June 2019

Theodicies & Messy Desks

on the Infinite Problem of Goods & Evil by Hugh Hunter

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone