Unless the local priest can be just like
Jesus Francis, why bother? Why not go to church with the flabby evangelicals?
After a television interview, I was talking with a young producer who told me of her experience. She had been raised Catholic, but stopped going to church in college. Now she is engaged and was encouraged by her fiancé and Francis to give the church another try. After going to church a few times, she felt called to go to the sacrament of reconciliation. It was a disaster. The priest yelled at her and told her that everything bad that had happened to her was because she had not gone to confession in 10 years.
There will be no “Francis effect” if when people return to the church they do not meet someone like Francis at their parish. Going to confession today is like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know whether you will meet the compassionate Jesus or some angry, judgmental crank who thinks it is his job to tell people how bad they are. This is a form of abuse about which the church has done nothing.
Nor should we limit our focus to the clergy. Parish staff can be tempted to clericalism, and parish communities can ignore new parishioners who can feel lost in a crowd of people.
Try this experiment. Go to a Catholic church you have never attended and see how long it takes before someone initiates a conversation with you. Then go to an Evangelical church and try the same experiment. The Evangelicals will win every time.
Papal audacity only goes so far (sort of like wishing after hearing White Horse Inn that Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger could be your pastors).