Vinson Cunningham at The New Yorker:
Francis seems less intent on altering the Church’s most controversial doctrines than on exhibiting boredom with the whole angst-ridden discourse that surrounds them. When he was asked about footnote 351, shortly after “Amoris Laetitia” was published, he said that he couldn’t remember it. Earlier in his papacy, while fielding questions from the Vatican press corps on a plane, he was asked about the Church’s stance on homosexuality. He replied, “Who am I to judge?” It sounded more like a plea to move past the issue than like an actual invocation of humility. (After all, when it comes to society’s market-driven indifference to the poor, or even to Francis’s pet theological causes, such as devotion to the Virgin Mary, he is not shy about offering judgments.) Francis quickly became popular in the press, and among liberal non-Catholics. After the worst years of the clerical-abuse crisis in the Church, here was a leader who embodied Catholicism’s lastingly positive, if comparatively abstract, associations. (Few of us imagine ourselves as opposed to love, mercy, and human dignity.) He sounded willing, even eager, to leave the less comfortable conversations—about divorce, contraception, homosexuality—behind.
But the appeal of the institution of the Papacy, for many, lies in its promise of constancy. According to Catholic teaching, the office was created when Christ named the apostle Peter the first leader of the Church, saying, in a pun on the Greek meaning of Peter’s name, “Upon this rock will I build my church.” The more impressive the edifice you’d like to build, the more important a stable base becomes. Today, under Francis, and in the wake of Benedict’s resignation—he is now Pope Emeritus, a title that has never existed before—the Papacy has become the site for unexpected shifts and discontinuities.