Pope Francis' statements on everything from abortion to annulment have helped transform the public's view of the Catholic Church. As for actual changes in Church policy, there have been few. Why? The pope is "grappling with a conservative backlash to the liberal momentum building inside the church," reports the Washington Post. The paper speaks with seven senior church officials who say conservatives are keeping reformers from turning Francis' words into doctrine. Francis' allies argue the pope only hopes to stir up debate, rather than a revolution, noting "he has not predetermined where this is going." But some Vatican conservatives have essentially declared open revolt: Websites focusing on Francis dissenters are springing up, conservative books are countering liberal ideas, and insiders are leaking information about Vatican reformers to the media, the Post reports.
A Francis ally says dissent is not unwelcome, but he's "afraid" of "some of what we're seeing." The hierarchy now seems "more polarized over the direction of the church than at any point since the great papal reformers of the 1960s," reports the Post; Catholic Online reports Francis' favorable ratings among conservative Catholics hit 45% in July, down from 72% last year. One Vatican official says "defending the real teachings of the church makes you look like an enemy of the pope." "Catholic priests and bishops are saying and doing things that are against what the church teaches, talking about same-sex unions, about Communion for those who are living in adultery," he notes. "And yet the pope does nothing to silence them. So the inference is that this is what the pope wants." The debate has not been missed by the public. "It's a very uncomfortable position to be in for a faithful Catholic," one woman says. (Read more Vatican stories.)