There's no question that Pope Francis has Catholics and non-Catholics alike sitting up and taking notice. Posting popularity numbers that most politicians would sell their firstborn child for, Pope Francis is enjoying a Catholic revitalization that is more in words than actual deeds:
Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.
But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock. Start asking around -- here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike -- and it's easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.
There's the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church. The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last. The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass. The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.
"I'm telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you're missing the story," says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor
I suspect that conservative pundits Ana Navarro and Peggy Noonan are missing the story as well, as they gush over Pope Francis on This Week.
NAVARRO: He's the most successful non-political politician that there is in the world. That excitement is because he has brought a fresh air to the Catholic Church. And I think people like me who were disengaged, disenfranchised, and felt very disappointed with the hierarchy and the structures of the church, but we still believed in God, now have a voice that is drawing us back, because he...
RADDATZ: But what gave you that voice? Why is it so different?
NAVARRO: Frankly, that he's focusing on the people. He's focusing on what the church should focus on: serving the poor, serving the needy. That he's being inclusive, not exclusive. He's not being judgmental. He's just asking people to be part of the church family and that he's leading by example. He's talking about income inequality, yes, but he has also gotten rid of the throne and gotten rid of the Prada slippers and lives in humility.
So he talks the talk, he walks the walk. And you know what else? And he likes people. I think that's making a huge difference. I would also say that, you know, him being Latino and Hispanic...
Gosh, what does that sound like? Let me think....oh, maybe it sounds like being a PROGRESSIVE?????
RADDATZ: But, Peggy, is this just rhetoric? Some of it. Or is there really going to be a change? Do you see a future of change?
NOONAN: Oh, I see a change in the tone and the feel of things. I think Francis's two predecessors, John Paul and Benedict, felt, because of the pressures of various emerging questions, that they had to stand as the church in contradiction to modernity and the modern world. They did that. This pope says no, no, no, I don't stand in contradiction to, we embrace. This pope, it seems to me, (INAUDIBLE) the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ was the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor. That's where the pope puts his embrace, in the poor, in many ways, the lonely, the imprisoned.
When you are going like this at the world, the world can spoof you. When you are embracing the world, the world loves it. That is part of what is going on here. It's very powerful and I think it's very real.
So of course, I think we should remind the Francis fangirls that they need to now put the teachings of God's direct mouthpiece into action. Let's see Peggy Noonan champion modernity and the poor. And let's hope that Ana Navarro can pushback against all conservative attempts to dehumanize segments of the population as she does Hispanic immigrants.
In other words, act as progressively as Pope Francis has encouraged.