I think that pope Francis has picked up a few ideas from president Obama. Recall that Obama came into office as the agent of hope and change, who would reverse the course of the Bush administration and bring about transparency and a commitment to end the civil and human rights abuses. Many people who hated what the Bush/Cheney regime had wrought bought into that at least partially and supported him enthusiastically.
Having made that commitment, they are now reluctant to abandon that support because it is always painful to realize that one has been had and that the person one liked and trusted was not who they said they were. Obama has skillfully used that very natural human failing to maintain his support in the face of revelations that show him saying good things while doing nothing concrete.
We see the same with Francis. He too has been greeted with a storm of positive publicity because of his seeming openness, statements about the need for concern about the poor, and his own simple lifestyle. This has endeared him to many who are not even Catholic. A friend of mine can’t stop gushing over how she loves the new pope.
But at the same time we have not seen any sign that he is going to actually change course on key issues such as the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion. In fact he has endorsed current church policy on some of them. It is not clear that he is even going to ease up on American nuns who had been targeted by his predecessor Benedict for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about the church’s teachings on sexual matters and focusing more on social justice.
So like Obama, Francis is currently riding on style not substance. I wonder how long that honeymoon will last and people start getting disillusioned.