An exhaustive look at the newest pope.
In a revised and expanded edition of Pope Francis: Untying the Knots (2013), Independent associate editor Vallely (editor: The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the Twenty-First Century, 2013, etc.) delves deeper into the first two years of the Francis papacy, providing a meaty and useful guide to understanding the pontiff. In the early chapters, the author discusses Francis’ life in Argentina, including his highly controversial years as head of the Jesuit order in the region. Though Vallely is generally supportive of the pope, he does not equivocate from examining the divisive role he played in Argentina and the sometimes-injurious results of his leadership there. However, Vallely notes that Francis underwent a transformation during pastoral ministry to the poor in the early 1990s, changing his leadership style, priorities, and personality. From there, the author delves into the papacy, from Francis’ unexpected election to his efforts at reform of the Curia. Vallely uses access to high-placed clergy, journalists, and scholars to piece together a detailed survey of Francis’ first two years in his role. He places special emphasis on the pope’s efforts to clean up the Vatican bank, reforms for his circle and the Synod of Bishops, and his handling of sex abuse scandals. On a more personal note, Vallely looks at the pope’s penchant for unscripted and down-to-earth statements, which has caused misinterpretations by the press and turmoil among church officials. The author also examines the pope’s stances on women, homosexuals, divorced people, and other faiths. Vallely discovers the pope to be a difficult figure to label, but, he writes, “Francis is at the heart of a struggle for the soul of Catholicism, and his greatest allies are the ordinary Catholics in the pews.”
Discovering a pope with a controversial past and a revolutionary style of leadership in the present, Vallely provides a highly worthwhile resource for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.