The Promise of Francis – Review

David Willey, The Promise of Francis, dust-jacket“A topical look at Pope Francis and his effect on the Catholic Church. BBC Vatican correspondent Willey (God’s Politician: Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church, and the New World Order, 1992, etc.) adds to the collection of works on Pope Francis with an inside view from the Vatican. In a narrative alternating among biography, journalistic report, and historical analysis, the author examines the church Francis has inherited as well as his early effects on the church as a global institution. Willey focuses on specific issues facing the church or arising from the Francis papacy. After a short discussion of who Francis is and how he came to this role, the author dives right into the money crises facing the church in recent years, namely the corrupt and secretive nature of the Vatican bank.

He moves on to discuss Francis’ views about women, demonstrating that in this vein, at least, the reformer has shown little signs of budging from the status quo. Willey goes on to address the worldwide sexual abuse scandal by Catholic priests and the pope’s mixed reactions toward it. Other issues discussed include the pope’s knack for communicating, both one-on-one and through mass media; his responsibility for the Vatican art collection; the church’s response toward homosexuals and divorced persons; and the future of the global church, with an emphasis on Asia. Readers looking for an introductory biography should search elsewhere; Willey’s goal is to present a more comprehensive look at the church and Francis together. His work is laden with historical discussions providing background for modern circumstances—for instance, several paragraphs are dedicated to explaining the intriguing history of Vatican Radio as background for understanding the pope’s current use of mass media). Willey’s take on the pope is certainly positive, and his views on the topics presented are always clear.

An interesting page-turner for the armchair Vatican-watcher.”

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