Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as ‘little monsters’ who ‘throw stones’ at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ He scolds pro-life activists for their ‘obsession’ with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are ‘Pelagians’ — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works. Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

Has Pope Francis Failed? – The New York Times. I think Matthew is precisely right about this. If God is perfectly happy with me as I am, then why should I do anything on Sunday morning except drink Starbucks and watch ESPN? In my heart I’m doing the right thing.