My wife and I just prayed our Rosary for Pope Francis, whose first greeting as pope I watched in the spectacularly mundane surroundings of a Goodyear, where I was having new tires put on my car. I don’t have any particular insight into the man, apart from what we’ve all read in the various news reports.
People are saying his will be a different kind of pontificate in one way or another. Maybe. I expect it to be more similar than different. Francis is orthodox on matters of faith and morals. Liturgically the status quo is likely to be maintained, which is good enough for me in light of the important changes his predecessor made. And none of the post-Vatican II popes, for all the breathless media claims to the contrary, were disciplinarians to any serious degree, and presumably Francis will follow the same path.
On economics, the news is not so good: although the new pope rejected the liberation theology that was so fashionable in Latin America, he blames “neoliberalism” for various social ills. This makes him no worse than his predecessor, and indeed no worse than most economists. The problem with neoliberalism is the “neo,” not the liberalism: central banks, fiat money, and supranational institutions managing the economy are not the free market, and confusing the two can lead to a great deal of faulty economic and moral analysis.
UPDATE: Observers at Rorate Caeli, who are far more plugged in to such matters than I am, are far less sanguine, and I fear they have good reason to be.