The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni explains why the election of a new Pope has virtually no impact on the lives of many Catholics:
In large parts of the Roman Catholic world, certainly in North America and Western Europe, most Catholics don’t feel any particular debt or duty to the self-appointed caretakers of their church. They don’t feel bound by the pope’s interpretation of doctrine or moral commands. And many regard him and other Vatican officials as totems, a royal family of dubious relevance, partly because these officials have often shown greater concern for the church’s reputation than for the needs, and wounds, of the people in the pews.
Whatever the reason, we’re all better off when religious authorities have less power over others.