Debate Heats Up Over “Francis Effect”

Mitt Romney’s delusional 2012 pollsters got nothing on apologists for last week’s Pew Poll that found no real “Francis effect” from the pope’s first year. According to Daniel Burke at CNN.com in a lengthy, mostly anecdotal piece, “there’s more way than one to measure the pontiff’s influence” than, say, actual metrics like the number of people going to mass or returning to the church.

According to Burke, you just have to “ask around” Boston to find folks who know someone who’s thinking about returning to the church or who feels less horrible about the church than in the darkest days of the U.S. clerical sex abuse scandal, which had Boston at its epicenter.

That’s a pretty low bar, but of course no one denies that Francis is a change for the better. As Jon O’Brien, head of Catholics for Choice, told The Guardian, Francis isn’t so much “a breath of fresh air as someone who has gone into the Vatican with an oxygen tank strapped to his back. He’s got the church out of a very difficult spot.”

Patricia Miller is the author of Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. Her work on the intersection of sex, religion, and politics has appeared in The Nation, Ms., and Huffington Post. She was the editor of Conscience magazine and the editor-in-chief of the National Journal’s health care briefings.

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