Can Francis Change the Church?

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Front Cover Can Francis Change the Church?

Can Francis Change the Church?

How American Catholics Are Responding to His Leadership

Jesuit Thomas Sweetser has worked for more than 35 years with Catholic faith communities on evaluation and renewal. In 2011 he set out to interview a broad range of American Catholics, both practicing and non-practicing, about their relationship with the Church. 

A few years into the new papacy, Fr. Sweetser asked the same people again. Had anything changed with Pope Francis? The answers are enlightening for the church's future. Based on before/after interviews, this helpful resource is for everyone concerned about the Church. The value of this book lies in the direct conversations with people from very different walks of life between 20 and 80 years old. They include faithful Catholics as well as people who have left the church. They touch on hot button questions such as hierarchy, women in the church, and sexual abuse, and offer insights into the nature of a deep desire for authentic spirituality. Together these conversations offer a picture of the current state of the Catholic Church as experienced by its members.

Reviews and endorsements

“Tom Sweetser’s research has brought the voice of the people into a much needed conversation. More than anything, the People of God connect to the longing of Pope Francis to take seriously what Jesus took seriously: inclusion, non-violence, unconditional, loving kindness and acceptance. This invaluable book reminds us that we all want the same things.”
—Gregory Boyle, SJ, founding director, Homeboy Industries

“The ‘before and after Francis’ method of interviewing has opened the door to a much more creative treatment of the topic: it reveals not only what people think but also how a leader might influence that thinking and why. Though the responses of this very readable study come from only a sampling of interviewees, they provide the kind of insight that those working in and for local parishes cannot afford to ignore.”
—Dianne Bergant, CSA

"Thanks to experience both deep and long, Tom Sweetser, SJ, knows what works (and what doesn't) in parish life. He brings this wisdom to his new book about how Pope Francis is changing the Catholic Church by uncovering the attitudes and feelings of two groups: those who struggle but have remained Catholics, and those who have left the Church. This is a surprising, insightful and moving book for reflection, prayer and discussion.”
—James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

“What a wonderful combination of heartfelt reflection, significant data and assessment of timely and relevant issues pertaining to the Catholic Church. The author presents a wealth of practical, pastoral suggestions for the renewal and growth of the parish and larger Church. May we all follow the example of Pope Francis by making a difference through the faith, work, and example in our lives!”
—Kate DeVries, Pastoral Associate & Young Adult Minister, Archdiocese of Chicago

“Fr. Tom Sweetser has given us a thoughtful and accessible book on what ordinary Catholics think about their Church. With decades of experience in parish research and renewal he has listened carefully to dozens of people who have distanced themselves from church life and also who remain. The result is a revelatory presentation and analysis of the thoughts and questions of a cross-section of American Catholics both “before and after” the election of Pope Francis.”
—Brett C. Hoover, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pastoral and Practical Theology, Loyola Marymount University, author of The Shared Parish: Latinos, Anglos, and the Future of US Catholicism

“For over forty years, Tom Sweetser, SJ has been in the trenches of Catholic parish life. Here, from a host of witnesses and with hard-won wisdom, he honestly portrays the choking weeds and hopeful seeds for our Catholic faith, with the jury still out on whether Francis can ‘save the Church.’ This is a confrontational and rich resource for the nones, the dones, and those of us still hopeful.”
—Thomas Groome, Prof. Theology & Religious Education, Director of Ph.D. in Theology and Education, Boston College

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Religion, Theology