What’s Pope Francis’ Theory of Change?

I was reading Anthony Faiola’s piece at WaPo over the tense deliberations of the Roman Catholic Church’s Bishops’ Synod on the Family when I reached this jarring comparison:

As the synod races toward a close, there has been a last-ditch push to find common ground that could at least open the door to policy alterations. But some observers already are comparing Francis to President Obama — a man whose reformist agenda was bogged down by a conservative Congress.

“Francis has the same problem that Obama had,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. “He promised the world, but Congress wouldn’t let him deliver. If nothing much comes of this synod, I think people will give the pope a pass and blame the bishops for stopping change.”

This gave me a renewed sense of sympathy for Obama, and renewed frustration at those who have blamed him for what he was unable to accomplish. If the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, who in theory has the capacity to issue infallible teachings on matters of faith and morals, cannot impose his will on the church hierarchy on a matter of faith and morals (more specifically, the perpetual excommunication of divorced and remarried Catholics and the treatment of LGBT people as “intrinsically disordered”), then how can people expect more of Obama?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.