A friend asked:
Dave, you may have answered this previously, but why do you think there is such concern over Pope Francis in theological circles? We have very good friends in apologetic circles that are concerned about this Pope. I'm not talking about Taylor Marshall but others that we mutually respect. Is his reputation tainted by the media? I know many non-Catholics that get their Catholic "education" from the mainstream media.
Briefly, I think that a false narrative has been built up that kept gaining traction through the years: like a snowball rolling downhill in snow. More and more people started to believe things that weren't true (false premises), and then it became chic and popular and people were sheep and started jumping on the bandwagon, because, after all, "everyone" has a problem with Pope Francis, right? It's the ad populum fallacy.
Altogether it's a Massive Lie generated and perpetuated primarily by radical Catholic reactionaries with an agenda that long preceded this pope, that is now sadly followed by many mainstream orthodox Catholic outlets, and of course the secular liberal media, whose interest it is to pretend that the pope is a long hoped-for theological "liberal." The devil is laughing himself silly over all this; getting stomach cramps -- he's laughing so hard at our wanton stupidity and gullibility.
Another major factor in all this (perhaps the biggest one) is that this pope's style is very different from his predecessors, and many folks cannot distinguish between "different style and approach" (while remaining essentially the same theologically) and "different doctrine." I wrote in my Introduction to my book on Pope Francis, way back in January 2014:
As an apologist and observer of the Catholic scene, I have watched all these dynamics occur with two new popes: Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and Pope Francis in 2013. I calmly observed on both occasions, that there was to be no sea-change; only a change in focus or emphasis or outward style. When it was said that Pope Benedict XVI would not engage in ecumenical conferences as Blessed Pope John Paul II had done (scandalizing a fair-sized number), I said that the two men in fact did not differ in that regard at all. I was right. Those activities were continued.
The same is true today. Nothing essential has changed. What we have is a striking, even “radical” difference of style and emphasis, but not of substance. I wrote in September 2013:
For all of you out there worried about the pope: relax; chill. All is well. We have a pope who says the unexpected: a lot like Jesus. And, like Jesus, those who don’t get it and are outside looking in, will misunderstand, and those who are in the fold will grasp what is being said, in the context of historic Catholic teaching, if they look closely enough and don’t get hoodwinked . . .
That's the best I can do in a nutshell! See the related resources:
Replies to Critiques of Pope Francis (Dave Armstrong) [222 of my own articles]
Pope Francis Defended: Resources for Confused or Troubled Folks [303 articles from others]