"There are expectations that the pope acts against bishops and cardinals quickly; but the pope cannot act on the basis of a grand jury report only or of media reports only," Faggioli told CNA. "There must be a formal investigation or a process."
Faggioli told CNA that for many people in the United States, used to a rolling newscycle, it was hard to understand why Pope Francis has taken so long to respond to emerging scadnals, such as the 11-page "testimony of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, something Faggioli called "obviously frustrating" for many Catholics.
"The choice of not responding immediately to the Vigano' report is hard or impossible to understand for many in the US media culture and for those who do not consider the long-term view of the Church in Pope Francis," Faggioli said.
When faced with a large-scale crisis, it is normal for the leadership of any institution to suffer a backlash. "This is especially true for those who tend to see in the pope the CEO of the Catholic Church," he told CNA.
"There is also an ecclesial factor: it seems that some US Catholics are blaming pope Francis for not doing what the US bishops should do to address the abuse crisis. The pope cannot act in total disregard of the local episcopate while the USCCB is putting together an action plan."
Overall, Faggioli warned that the drop in popularity reflected a decline in confidence not only in Francis personally but in the office of pope.
"More importantly, pope Francis' drop in popularity in the USA is here also a drop in the popularity of the papacy itself as an institution in the USA - also of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI."
While timing of the decline in papal popularity would seem correlated to the still-emerging global abuse crisis, Faggioli told CNA that Francis was the subject of "a systematic campaign of undermining coming from US conservatism."
"The papacy has become now a partisan issue in the US Church like never before - there is an increasing political polarization in the views of US Catholics toward pope Francis, in which the abuse crisis is a very important element but that element must be seen in the context of a growing distance between Rome and US Catholicism."