Is Francis a leftie?

The short answer is "No."  He has yet to change any Church teaching on abortion, homosexuality. contraception or divorce.

But he says interest things like this, spoken at Mass on October 17:
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”
This sounds to me like a loving rebuke to the "Shiite" wing of the Catholic Church, which has being in the ascendancy for the last 30 years. You know who I mean: the mean-spirited, one-issue Catholics who judge everyone (but themselves) as to whether they are sufficiently Catholic. They have no love, no perspective and no mercy. The kind of folks proud to be Catholic but uninterested in being Christian.

Now, the pope has issues them a major challenge: stop being idolators to ideology that prevents your from seeing your fellow human beings as neighbors worthy of love, respect and care. By itself, the pope's stance is a signal change to the way the Church has been run.You can already see some of the worst offenders, like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, scurrying to show fealty to the Holy Father and to claim they have always been opposed to single-issue Catholic groups.

So much for the good news.

But what does a Church look like that is nicer about presenting its teachings, but doesn't change them? Are we to expect more dialog? Perhaps a chance to explore contentious issues more fully? It's a little like visiting Uncle Buddy who used to be a violent alcoholic and a racist. He just came home from rehab. Is it safe to visit again? And what happens when we decide to discuss Obamacare?

But, first steps are important, as long as they are followed by second and third steps. The first step was to ratchet down the rage. It's possible that this alone will encourage Catholics to start dialoguing with each other. I hope this is so. But I tend to doubt that openness and dialog will happen by themselves. There is still too much room for prelates to hide their true feelings in order to advance in the system, or merely to keep their place in it. As long as priests and bishops are afraid to speak their minds (or even to have a mind of their own) there is little chance for honest dialog.As long as Catholics can stroke their sense of religious superiority by holding this belief or that, without regard to the harm they are doing to the Church, there will be little opportunity for progress.

Pray that the seed of peace that Francis has planted will throw out roots strong enough to break up the rigid pavement of ideological thinking!