The veteran Vatican correspondent John Allen has a terrific analysis of Pope Francis, who he calls a revolutionary, and explains why. The whole thing is fascinating, especially the details of how Francis is acting firmly to break up the cozy, featherbedding world of the Curia — something that many reformers, on the Catholic left and the Catholic right, were hoping he would do. But he’s doing more than administrative reform. Here’s Allen:

Fourth, whether it’s a matter of instinct or conscious strategy, Francis seems to be repositioning the church in the political center, after a fairly lengthy period in which many observers perceived it to be drifting to the right.

Veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister recently observed, “It cannot be an accident that after 120 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has not yet spoken the words abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage,” adding that “this silence of his is another of the factors that explain the benevolence of secular public opinion.”

Yet Francis has imposed no such gag order on himself when it comes to other political topics, such as poverty, the environment and immigration. It’s telling that for this first trip outside Rome, Francis chose the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major point of arrival for impoverished African and Middle Eastern immigrants seeking to reach Europe. The pope called for greater compassion for these migrants, chiding the world for a “globalization of indifference.”

While the trip played to generally rapturous reviews, the anti-immigration right in Europe was outraged. Erminio Boso, a spokesman for Italy’s far-right Northern League, said: “I don’t care about the pope. … What I’d ask is that he provide money and land for these extra-communitarians,” referring to undocumented immigrants.

The shift to the center also seems clear in ecclesiastical terms. In Rome, the perception is that power brokers associated with moderate positions, such as Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, coordinator of the commission of cardinals, are on the ascendant, while those linked to neoconservative or traditionalist stances, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States, head of the Vatican’s supreme court, are in decline.

The church may not veer sharply in its political allegiances, but there seems a clear preference for the social Gospel over the culture wars.

Mind you, John Allen writes for the National Catholic Reporter, which is a left-liberal publication. Conservatives would look at this and say Francis is not moving the Church to the center, but to the left. Still, he’s moving the Church, and that is big news.

That said, this graf made me snort:

In just four months, Francis has revived the international prestige of the papacy and its moral capital. The Italian edition of Vanity Fair recently declared him its “Man of the Year,” including snippets of praise from unlikely quarters such as Elton John, who termed the pontiff “a miracle of humility in the era of vanity.”

Elton John? The guy is a gazillionaire rock star once known for his elaborate costumes, and still known for being a royal prima donna. What does he know about humility? That’s like Hugh Hefner praising the pope for being a miracle of chastity.

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