Among the many investigations attempted into the mind and heart of Pope Francis (formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio), few will be as incisive as that of George Weigel (pictured to the right) today in National Review. Weigel, the official biographer of John Paul II and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, is well-acquainted with Vatican City and the leadership of the world-wide Catholic Church. He didn't predict the selection of the new pope, but he has interviewed him and knows a lot more about his background than probably any other American observer of the Vatican (at least). His analysis is well worth considering. I have not yet read George's new book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church, but it certainly is timely.
Pope Benedict XVI made a number of valuable reforms and left a fine legacy on several matters., Like his predecessor, John Paul II, he helped transform the clergy with appointments of orthodox bishops and cardinals. Sadly, Pope Benedict did not clean house in the Curia, the bureaucracy. On financial matters, he urged Vatican "dicasteries" (departments) to find their own funding. Inevitably, finding your own funding can lead to unfortunate compromises, as when, in 2009, the Pontifical Council on Culture ran a conference on evolution that disallowed participation by supporters of intelligent design. The reason was not a policy directive from the Pope; on the contrary, the Pope did not agree to welcome the conference, let alone speak to it. No, the reason was that the staff head of the American foundation that funded the conference had made it clear to the Council, as a condition of the supporting grant, that intelligent design proponents would not be invited. Only when called by AP did I, representing Discovery Institute, decide to make this fact known.