Without jumping into the huge Papal debates that go on here I thought I would just try and delve into history to see can we learn from other eras that are similiar to our own. I give you: Pope Pius IX, the famous Pio Nono of the Risorgimento period in Italian history. He grew up during all the fervent of the post French Revolution era and he was initially quite sympathetic to those 'progressive' political forces of his day, symbolized by the Risorgimento in Italy and the push to have democratically accountable, constitutionally controlled, governments. So when he became Pope he embraced all that, and the politicians who supported it, and even created a civil constitution to manage the Papal States. While no doubt there was some good in those Italian leaders of that day, and their cause, the fact of the matter was that running through that political drift were some dark forces who totally hated the Catholic Church actually. People like Garribaldi and especially Mazzini were high up in the Masonic orders and for occultic reasons secretly - and sometimes openly - wanted to destroy the Church. Some conservative Church leaders knew this - partly because they had intercepted some of the Masonic, Alta Vendita, correspondence - and were trying to warn the Pope about it but no the Pope embraced all this new wave and the upshot was that his enemies eventually destroyed the whole Papal States and he was left a virtual prisoner in the Vatican. After that the Pope became very traditionalist, even publishing a Syllabus of Errors that cracked down on any liberal tendencies of that time. I guess its a well known story but I would ask two questions about this: 1) Is the Church in the long run better for having lost the Papal States? Yes I think so. I don't think the people of that district benefited from the change of government at all, because the Church was really quite a benevolent ruler, but by removing this day to day political/government intrigue of running these states from the Pope's desk I think created a purer and frankly better Papacy. 2) Was it a help in preserving the Catholic faith in Italy that Pius IX was so associated with the Risorgimento in the pre-1848 period? In otherwords if he had been all along a battleaxe who opposed all these 'progressive' forces of that time would he, and therefore the Church, have been cast aside and just completely dismissed by a whole generation of Italians and therefore leading to a much greater anti-clerical feeling in Italy in the long run? Yes probably, his naive but honest fondness for this wave at that time kept a certain sympathetic bond between the people and the Church in Italy which - to a degree, not always even in Rome - survives to this day and maybe would not have survived without him. Anyway there are obvious parallels that might be true of Pope Francis as well and the overall point is that 'God works in mysterious ways'! What do we know about what the Holy Spirit is up to, I don't anyway but I think we need to be tolerant about what the Pope is trying to achieve. If this era brings at least some people back to the faith, albeit I accept maybe a watered down faith initially, it would be great and we should joyfully speculate about the good stuff sometimes rather than getting too depressed about the obvious failings of the current Church? In any case I think we are about to enter into 'interesting times' in the life of the Church!