To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism

Ross Douthat. Simon and Schuster, $26 (211p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4692-3
In this balanced investigation, Douthat (Bad Religion), columnist for the New York Times and convert to Catholicism, wonders whether Pope Francis will ultimately be helpful or harmful to the Catholic Church. The author describes his religious worldview as “conservative, in the sense that it assumes the church needs a settled core of doctrine, a clear unbroken link to the New Testament and the early Church, for Catholicism’s claims and structure and demands to make any sense at all.” Douthat explores the pontiff’s early days as a Jesuit in South America and his rise through the ranks of Church leadership. The former Cardinal Bergoglio chose the name Francis after the saint from Assisi who lived a simple life dedicated to the poor. This choice has set a tone for a papacy that has become increasingly progressive and more concerned about persons than strict doctrine. Douthat writes that many in the Church view Francis’s unprecedented choices as at odds with church tradition. For example, many have become alarmed at Francis’s statements about divorced Catholics who have not had their marriages annulled still being able to receive communion. His main concern is that Pope Francis is stirring up ambiguity regarding Catholic teaching on divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality. Douthat is never shy about sharing his staunch beliefs, but he is able to temper them with modesty and asks more questions than he answers. Those interested in contemporary Catholicism and how it might develop will be pleased with this look at the liberalizing policies of Pope Francis. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 03/27/2018
Downloadable Audio - 256 pages - 978-1-5082-5856-8
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