Sunday 17 November 2013

The Francis Effect

An article in The Sunday Times talks about the "electrifying" effect Pope Francis is having on British Catholics. There's even been a 20% increase in church attendance in Britain since he became pope just eight months ago. 

Having listened to every edition of Radio 4's Sunday for the last three years, I can certainly confirm the existence of the 'Francis Effect'.

In the days of Pope Benedict, programme after programme, would dwell on negative stories about the Catholic Church [extensive proof of which can be found here], and whenever Benedict's name came up there was bound to be some linguistic equivalent of a curl of the lip from either Edward Stourton, David Willey, or whoever they had on from The Tablet (usually Robert Mickens). Pope Benedict's conservatism (as they saw it) wasn't to their liberal Catholic tastes at all, and they didn't try very hard to disguise that fact. 

Pope Francis, however, has received a very good press from Sunday. Guest after guest, over the months, has said nice things about him. The audible curl of the lip from Ed and David has vanished. The negative stories about the Catholic Church are less frequent than they used to be. There are more positive stories as well. 

It's clearly the 'Francis Effect' in action.

This morning's edition closed with a discussion about Pope Francis. The prompt was an enthusiastic piece written about him in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland. Jonathan admires Francis for advancing (as he sees it) progressive messages which are music to the ears of secular left-wingers such as himself (and, by the sounds of it, Ed Stourton), especially his anti-capitalist pronouncements.

Interestingly, we did hear a negative take on Pope Francis as well. Not from a traditionalist, conservative Catholic type, naturally, but from another secular left-winger, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society. 

Terry gave a huge 'Bah humbug!' to the Pope and to Jonathan Freedland's pro-Francis fervour - though he slightly softened as the interview went on, presumably as a result of the overwhelming tidal wave of progressive optimism coming at him from the other chairs in the Sunday studio!  

Good old BBC impartiality.

[In the interests of frankness, I should add that I have a bit of a soft spot for Benedict XVI and for Francis, even though I'm no Catholic].


  1. Terry Sanderson?...on the "Sunday" programme which is one of the very few "faith outlets" for the BBC to give us the message?
    Let`s hope John Lennox or William Craig Lane get a correspondingly weighted length of time to trash lazy scientism and atheism as we`ll soon be getting on the useless "Infinite Monkey Cage"-Robin Ince and Brian Cox vehicle to make atheism cool and scientific...sheer crap...Patrick Moore taught me more science in one Sky At Night that D.Reams keyboard player/Gervais sidekick have ever done...despite their untouchable status as atheist audience figures to hand for this "show" is there|? maybe I needn`t worry about its influence,seeing as nobody listens to it.

    1. I'd bet the listening figures are fairly low. 7.10 on a Sunday morning ain't a great time of day for most people (me and Sue excepted).
      But then I used to presume that Paddy O'Lunacy's 'Broadcasting House' wouldn't have many listeners.
      But apparently Gordcasting House' (as I used to call it in the days of Gordon Brown) has much higher figures than Andrew Marr's BBC One show.
      So maybe 'Sundya' does have an influence, God forbid.
      Patrick Moore was one of the redeeming features of the BBC. It's looking though, from what I've read, that 'The Sky at Night''s days are numbered.
      Imagine that: No 'Sky at Night'. Another nail in the coffin.


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