Negating the Francis Effect? The effect of the abuse crisis in Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this article is to analyse the Francis Effect in Ireland, defined as “the presumed positive impact of Pope Francis on Catholicism” (Zylstra 2018). The research is framed around Francis’ visit, because it provided an opportunity to explore if or to what extent Francis’ pontificate and his visit have changed perceptions of the Catholic Church and religious practice in Ireland. First, it describes secularization in Ireland, exploring how religious practice has declined so dramatically between the visits of John Paul II and Francis. It argues that even though Ireland has been secularizing rapidly, it still remains one of the most religious countries in Europe – making it potentially fertile ground for the Francis Effect. Second, it outlines the methods of the study, including narrative analysis of how Ireland’s “newspaper of record”, the Irish Times, covered the build-up and the events of Francis’ visit; and a nationally-representative poll commissioned by the author after the visit. In the month of August, 46 percent of articles in the Irish Times about the pope engaged with the abuse crisis in some way, reflecting public indignation about how the Catholic Church and Francis himself had handled abuse. The survey revealed that the most popular view among Irish people was that Francis had not done enough to address abuse, and that the visit had not been a healing time for victims and survivors. At the same time, it found significant differences in the opinions of practising Catholics and everyone else, pointing to evidence of a Francis Effect among Ireland’s most devout. It concludes by arguing that even though the Francis Effect has had some impact on practising Catholics, it has had a more limited impact on the structures of the Catholic Church. Francis’ ability to revive Catholicism in Ireland is limited by the Church itself, and especially by its failures to create robust structures for dealing with abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-357
Number of pages23
JournalResearch in the Social Scientific Study of Religion
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Catholic Church
  • Ireland
  • Pope Francis
  • abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Negating the Francis Effect? The effect of the abuse crisis in Ireland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this