The who-am-I-to-judge Pope marks four controversial years

National Post, 15 March 2017

Pope Francis is non-judgmental when addressing the world on sexual matters, and extremely harsh in his judgments on other matters, from economics to immigration to climate change

Pope Francis marked his fourth anniversary as pope on Monday. Four years is not long enough to make a definitive judgment, but it is long enough to evaluate the shape and texture of a pontificate. 

The Holy Father is famous for his gestures — embracing a severely disfigured man in St. Peter’s Square, mourning refugees who died at sea at the Mediterranean port of Lampedusa, eschewing the papal apartments in favour of occupying the second floor of what used to be mistakenly called (before Francis moved in) the Vatican’s “five-star hotel.” Yet in reality the pontificate of Francis is distinctive not for his gestures or governance as much as his words. Francis guides the Church by means of his words. And there are a lot of them.

Every day he preaches a homily at his morning Mass — a practice which his predecessors never adopted — and Vatican Radio sends it out. His teaching documents are extraordinarily long, the last of which was the wordiest in the entire history of the papacy. There are the stream of interviews, where Francis speaks off the cuff on a wide range of topics. His airborne press conferences routinely overshadow, in terms of media coverage, whatever place he is actually visiting.

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