‘The Francis Effect’–Now on Twitter!
May 19th, 2015

This story by Matthew Gambino is a classic:

A journalist who has been covering the Vatican for more than 20 years has never seen anything like the effect Pope Francis is having on the world.

John Allen, a veteran Vatican watcher formerly with the National Catholic Reporter newspaper and now with Crux, a Catholic news website of the Boston Globe newspaper, points to two facts about the pope’s huge popularity.

At 19 million followers on the social media site Twitter, the pope is “the most popular spiritual leader on the planet,” Allen said. That’s more followers on Twitter than the next highest such leader, the Dalai Lama (10 million), but in the middle of the pack with basketball star LeBron James and pop singer Miley Cyrus, also at 19 million.

A more solid measure of popularity is a Pew Foundation study cited by Allen that showed an astronomical 80 percent approval rating among all United States citizens, and 90 percent among American Catholics.

Nowhere in the piece–nowhere–does Gambino mention the fact that the attrition rate among American Catholics has dramatically increased under Francis for the first time in years. And it’s not like Gambino didn’t try to look at actual numbers:

The much-touted “Francis effect” has at this point led more to a greater curiosity in the Catholic Church, more so than in actual church attendance, although half of the pastors in the Diocese of Rome have reported an increase in attendance, Allen said.

Again: We don’t need anecdotes! We have actual numbers! And the numbers tell us that “Catholicism is losing members faster than any denomination.”

But you know, Pope Francis has totes got the Twitter working. So who needs people in the Church and receiving the Eucharist? That’s so 2005.

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