This article from Catholic World Report is a good analysis of the current state of the Church under the current papacy and also touches, inadvertently, on the issue of globalism and nationalism.
Globalism has many definitions but I understand it to mean that the needs of the global community outweigh those of the national community and nationalism as the reverse.
Globalism tends to be more ambiguous—as it is dealing with an endlessly diverse global population—while nationalism tends to be more absolute as it is dealing with the relatively limited diversity of population in one nation.
In this article, the Holy Father can be seen as a globalist, representing the ambiguity of diversity while the Church traditionalists are nationalist representing the views of the limited diversity of the one nation of the traditional Catholic Church.
In terms of what attracts and holds people to a cause, I think most would agree that it is consistent clarity that attracts and holds, while ambiguity cannot.
The September 28th edition of The New York Times contains an op-ed by Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, which poses the question “Has Pope Francis Failed?”—and then makes a succinct and pointed argument for a fairly resounding “Yes.” Schmitz’s focus is on the famous but increasingly hazy “Francis effect”:
Observers predicted that the new pope’s warmth, humility and charisma would prompt a “Francis effect” — bringing disaffected Catholics back to a church that would no longer seem so forbidding and cold. Three years into his papacy, the predictions continue. Last winter, Austen Ivereigh, the author of an excellent biography of Pope Francis, wrote that the pope’s softer stance on communion for the divorced and remarried “could trigger a return to parishes on a large scale.” In its early days, Francis’ Jesuit order labored to bring Protestants back into the fold of the church. Could Francis do the same for Catholics tired of headlines about child abuse and culture wars?
Schmitz says that perceptions “of the papacy, or at least of the pope, have improved.” Francis is, here in the U.S., more popular than his his predecessor: “Sixty-three percent of American Catholics approve of him, while only 43 percent approved of Benedict at the height of his popularity, according to a 2015 New York Times and CBS News poll. Francis has also placed a great emphasis on reaching out to disaffected Catholics.”
But, Schmitz asks, “are Catholics actually coming back?” His negative answer to that question is based on the results of a recent survey from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggesting “there has been no Francis effect — at least, no positive one. In 2008, 23 percent of American Catholics attended Mass each week. Eight years later, weekly Mass attendance has held steady or marginally declined, at 22 percent.”
In addition, religious observance among younger Catholics has taken a notable turn for the worse:
In 2008, 50 percent of millennials reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, and 46 percent said they made some sacrifice beyond abstaining from meat on Fridays. This year, only 41 percent reported receiving ashes and only 36 percent said they made an extra sacrifice, according to CARA. In spite of Francis’ personal popularity, young people seem to be drifting away from the faith.
We can also note that the attendance numbers for papal events in Rome have not been on the rise, with a precipitous drop from 2014 to 2015 in the number of people at general audiences, Angelus, and other events. Numbers, of course, only tell part of the story, and they are not, ultimately, the primary indicator of faithfulness, fidelity, and witness. But the second part of Schmitz’s essay is not about numbers, but about the specific tone, approach, and vision of Francis for the Church:
Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.
Schmitz can only touch on some of these matters in passing, but those of us who have been following this papacy closely from the start know how the past three years have witnessed a steady stream of confusion, hyperbole, “ambiguities, inconsistencies, mixed messages, imprecisions, thinly veiled insults”—not to mention the odd use and misuse of language in the service of more confusion.