Pope Francis did not have the year he thought he was going to have.
It began this way: marked by sniping about his reform tendencies, especially where Catholic Church teaching on the family is concerned. As the Vatican geared up for its 2018 synod assembly — a meeting of bishops from around the world who gather in Rome to advise the pope on different issues, this year on youth and vocations — talk that the 2014 and 2015 synod meetings on the family had been rigged in favor of a reformist agenda circulated among anti-Francis factions. Perhaps the Francis skeptics assumed they would get to press their case against the pope again when the October synod on youth came to pass. But even they couldn’t have predicted what sort of opportunities would present themselves in the meantime.
There have been plenty of those. Today, Francis’s pontificate wavers in the wake of the explosive reemergence of the sex abuse crisis. His popularity has dropped sharply among Americans at large. And though Catholics’ views of the pope are steadier, the faithful are suffering. The pope has been called upon to resign and likewise advised strongly against it.
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