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.
There’s another reason the Pope has little influence over anyone: Whenever religious beliefs conflict with what we know is true — the wafer ain’t Jesus, condoms are the solution instead of the problem, homosexuality isn’t a sin, etc. — it’s just easier to ignore what the holy books and priests tell us and do whatever the hell we want. It’s why plenty of Christians have abortions and pre-marital sex.
Whatever the reason, we’re all better off when religious authorities have less power over others.