Pope Francis has inspired both admiration and concern among Catholics and Protestants in the United States, with many religious scholars and observers struggling to predict the ultimate direction and scope of his reformist ideas.
Professor Martin Marty, who was an observer and journalist at Vatican II, views the Pope as inspiring change within the Catholic community through his own actions.
“I think of him as the pope of gestures. And somebody once told me that you can’t refute a gesture. You can argue about a law and about a dogma, but what are you going to do when the Holy Father on Holy Thursday kisses the bare foot of an imprisoned Muslim woman? What are you going to do about that?” Marty said. “I think the power of gesture—the assessment of him as a human being among human beings—is the base.”
However, Marty does not foresee the Pope instituting any dogmatic changes.
“I would picture, more likely, incremental changes.” Marty said. “The direction is set but I don’t think it’s in him to say, ‘I want a new law or a new dogma.’”