The Francis effect?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 26, 2017

How popular is Pope Francis? With the public? With bishops and priests? With young seminarians? Ask different people, and you’ll get different answers. It’s hard to gain an accurate reading.

But here’s a remarkably revealing clue, nearly hidden in a feel-good story about an American seminarian, Nick Sentovich, who is a 3rd-year student at the North American College in Rome, “and like all third-year seminarians, he was given the opportunity to assist during the papal Mass on Christmas Eve.”

Usually, a lottery decides who will serve during the Christmas Eve Mass, but there weren’t enough students who expressed interest this year, Sentovich said, so everyone who applied was accepted.

Emphasis added, obviously. But that’s not the only thing that should be obvious.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Jan. 04, 2018 12:25 PM ET USA

    This is quite interesting detail. Thanks for sharing.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Jan. 04, 2018 6:27 AM ET USA

    Phil, you have taken criticism for your observation, but I, for one, appreciate that someone has the courage to defy the "catechism of nice". I pray for Pope Francis every day. That does not mean that I think his position excludes him from error - some of them, very serious.

  • Posted by: cieslajohn7542 - Dec. 30, 2017 10:09 AM ET USA

    I did not say the numbers themselves were speculative, only the rationale for the lower numbers. My friend, I am not oblivious to the point you're trying to make. Pope Francis is no JPII or Benedict. But he is the Pope, and I believe he is trying to do the best job he can. I wish you and your family a happy and blessed 2018!

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Dec. 29, 2017 7:38 PM ET USA

    That the numbers are low is not speculative: "...there weren’t enough students who expressed interest this year." There may be another reason for those low numbers, but the fact is that Pope Francis has discouraged a large number of faithful Catholics, including many that I know. If you haven't been run off , that's wonderful. Now, try asking a few dozen other serious Catholics what they think.

  • Posted by: cieslajohn7542 - Dec. 28, 2017 9:14 AM ET USA

    Yes, I understood the point. But the conclusion you make, and the one Phil implies, may or may not be accurate. It's pure speculation, and unnecessary. It is unwarranted ANY time of the liturgical year. BTW: I'm an orthodox Catholic, Graduate of CDU, and a faithful RCIA/Adult Catechist. And Francis hasn't "run me off..."

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Dec. 27, 2017 2:19 PM ET USA

    There is clearly a point to the post: That Francis has run off those most likely to want to serve and assist the Pope, orthodox Catholics. Why that point should only be expressed at certain times of the liturgical year, I have no idea.

  • Posted by: cieslajohn7542 - Dec. 27, 2017 9:54 AM ET USA

    Phil - this is a rather pointless and uncharitable posting. We know you don't really care for Pope Francis...but enough. It's Christmastime.