A new book by local historian William Issel explains the key role the Catholic Church played in funding and supporting progressive causes in 20th Century San Francisco, and Randy Shaw's take on it is accurate: For a while, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Church funded a lot of the tenant advocacy and poverty work in this city. The other side of that is a piece of the debate over the new Pope that we're not hearing much.
As John Paul II moved the Church to the right, he also shifted its focus -- away from concerns with economic justice and towards issues like same-sex marraige and abortion (oh, and covering up sex crimes by priests). In the process, not only did vast numbers of Western Catholics start to lose faith in their church -- the money and focus that used to help local activists fight for the poor went away.
The new Pope Francis I is known for his work on poverty -- but not for his advocacy of progressive organizations that take that fight out of the pulpit and into the streets, where material good is done.
There's a human cost to the conservatism of the Catholic Church, and it goes way beyond the altar.