For me Pope Francis is still a "puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma", is he a conservative or a liberal, incredibly subtle or just crass, is he going to lead the Church into deep waters or onto the rocks? A year on from his election and there are still no clear answers.
He is certainly a new style of Pope, the machinery of the Ultramontane Papacy we have known and taken for granted for over a century has been dismantled by his predecessor, leaving it impossible for Francis to be merely a Conservative following the models set by his immediate predecessors. Liberalism too, as it is commonly understood in the the Church, as an imposed, top down series of innovations, obsessed by structures, again doesn't seem to be a possible route for Francis, though one might presume that would be his personal inclination, it is not his inclination as Pope. The only real route for him seems to be to delve into the depths of the riches of the Church's Tradition.
The reports of the last Consistory are fascinating, if 75% of Cardinals really were against the 'Kasper theorem' for resolving the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics. A friend suggested this was a way of showing to the German bishops they were way out on a very thin limb, they were after all a pain for his predecessors, and have, because of their wealth, punched well over their weight to the annoyance of many other Episcopal Conferences. Having only one speaker, a German Cardinal, who was then rounded on by his fellows, is humiliating for the German faction. And even if reports on the numbers were over blown, they show the difficulty Francis would have if this truly is his intended reform, of carrying a consensus of the world's bishops. Synods are after all about consensus.
However, every sign from Francis, given by Mueller, is that reform of the anullment process is more likely than a simple admission of those in a state of sin -defined not by the Church but by the Lord- is probably the course of action he favours. The solution will be Canonical not theological, which might account for Cardinal Burke still being in place and for Cardinal Piacenza, now recovering from his illness, being sent as Prefect to the Apostolic Penitentiary. Interestingly, the writers of the Chutch's law are convinced Ratzingerians.
Again, the public face of Francis, would seem to suggest that his major concern for the Synod might focus on the economic structures that oppress the family; in the West making children unwelcome and being seen as an economic burden, in the South leading to emigration and poor health, that disrupt and destroy the family but we have had not a word of this. Nor has he touched on the interference of the State in the family, the redefinition of fundamental relationships that constitute the family, the promotion of 'gay rights' in some parts of the world whilst heavy strictures are placed on them in Africa and the Orthodox and Islamic spheres of influence.
The family and the ecology that supports it: population growth, emigration, unemployment, education, sexual relationships, the ethics of reproduction and trafficking should be the big question of the next century, if Francis and the Synod play their cards right the Church could structure the debate rather merely reacting to it.
Our problem, and Francis' skill has been that we still only have a two dimensional superficial understanding of him, rather like his two dimensional superficial presentation of God 'the Merciful' which ignores everything else we know about God through his Son.