"I knew there was something wrong when he first walked out onto that balcony", I heard a priest saying a few months ago at a clerical gathering. Indeed. So one instinctively did. In my case, it was not so much that PF declined to dress as a Bishop of Rome as his choice of an unheard-of papal name. It was as if he felt the need to dissociate himself from all his predecessors in the Cathedra Petri ... even from the other 'post-conciliar popes'. In other words, it seemed to me that this was at least potentially a proclamation of papal Rupture.
But how long it took before such uneasy whispers broke out into the open in the mainstream Catholic blogs. Even when the unappealing side of PF's character ... particularly his propensity to insult and humiliate his fellow clergy on every conceivable situation ... became noticeable, and some humourist decided to make a collection of the genre ... bloggers remained cautious. After all, the Lord Himself said some impolite things about Pharisees and Pilates. We leaned over backwards to make excuses when we could; PF's ambiguous phrases and actions were glossed in as orthodox a sense as writers felt able to invent.
As late as 30 May 2016, I agonised for some time about whether to describe this pontificate as 'dysfunctional'. One's every instinct was and is to avoid writing like this about the Successor of S Peter. One has a habit of affection and, even when that had been worn away, one says to onself "Could it really be right to use such language?" Or even possibly "Such language might get me into trouble". After much thought and redrafting, I left in my draft for that day a statement that this pontificate had "some dysfunctional characteristics".
I think you might discover (to give just one example) the same sort of caution in Fr Zed; the same long reluctance to engage too directly with what was manifestly dodgy in this pontificate, until such engagement became unavoidable.
It was, in various different ways on the various Catholic blogs, an unwillingness which only gradually got eroded.
Then, of course, and with as much reluctance, we moved into the period of the Five Dubia and the Filial Correction. And now the world has had a spate of books about this pontificate by lay historians.
PF really did have to work enormously hard before the current atmosphere of frank talking was born.