How shocking is it that the media continues to prattle on about Pope Francis being some sort of reformer? Delusions mixed with wishful thinking is certainly nothing new to either the media or religion but is getting to be rather irritating. In the past few weeks Pope Francis has provided even further indication that he will be following the same path as those who came before him. There are two unofficial yet very telling policies that he has now confirmed to be ongoing.
Francis will continue both the attack on Nuns and the stage shows referred to as the "Courtyard of the Gentiles." These were initiated under Benedict for expressly political and public relations purposes. I fail to see how either of these can be viewed as reform. Attacking nuns is particularly baffling. That the Vatican is narrow minded is not surprising but being blind to this degree is astonishing even to someone as critical of the church as myself. The best I can come up with is that this is a weird extension of the approach many Christians take with the Bible. Cherry picking what you prefer to see and then self-deluding about what you don't like is a terrible way to view anything. Many of the "positions" the Nuns are supposed to have taken actually fit within some mainstream interpretations of the Gospels. Does the Pope really want to be seen as attacking the Gospels or a group of women the public sees as virtuous?
The Courtyard bullshit I can at least see as an internally rational move on the Holy Sees part. Appearing to be grossly bigoted is generally not well received by the public in general even when it is aimed at a distrusted and disliked minority. That does not, of course, mean that there is any substance to the Pope's claim to be reaching out to non-believers. From what little I have found about the upcoming stage shows in Mexico they seem to be following the same pattern as those already held in Europe (there's little information on those either).
The European PR shows involved atheists who were so touchy-feely that the only possible reason for having them on stage was to serve as props. All they seemed to do is affirm those positions the church wanted to be presented (ex. no conflict between science and religion). A few of the "atheists" were rather questionable since I could not find any public statement or hints as to their non-belief. It would not be the first time individuals have posed as atheists, through ignorance or intent. It also is not surprising since when Benedict announce the formation of the Courtyard he made it clear that any atheist who had ever criticized the church in any way would not be allowed to participate.
If you think about it for more than a minute it becomes quite obvious that PR is the only real reason for the Courtyard. If the Vatican truly wanted "dialogue" why wouldn't they make an effort to find individuals that atheists want to represent them? There are numerous organizations, not just atheist, that would be willing to conduct polls to find such representatives. The Vatican insisting on handpicking the "atheist" speakers is a red flag. It also should occur to most that if any atheist has been uninterested or unwilling to criticize religion then they probably are not all that interested in talking about it either.
There is no significant difference between this Pope and the last.