Some of the papal shifts, if that's the correct term (or: adjustments, corrections, reassessments) were covered well by Italian journalist and Vatican veteran Sandro Magister in his November 22nd column, "Even the Pope Critiques Himself. And Corrects Three Errors":
The first concerns the conversation that he had with Eugenio Scalfari, set down in writing by this champion of atheistic thought in “la Repubblica" of October 1.
On November 21, interviewed at the Roman headquarters of the foreign press, Scalfari nonetheless revealed more details of the matter.
He said that the pope, at the end of the conversation, had consented that it should be made public. And to Scalfari's proposal that he send him the text beforehand, he had replied: “It seems like a waste of time to me, I trust you.”
The second matter has to do with the Holy Father's understanding and interpretation of Vatican II. In a letter sent to Abp. Agostino Marchetto in October and made public earlier this month, Francis praised Marchetto's work as a historian and interpreter of the Council, notably in his book, The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council:
And now another letter has come to light, this one from Francis to Card. Walter Brandmüller on the subject of the 450th anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent, which is December 4th. After reflecting on the great significance of Trent and its "rich doctrine," Francis writes (thisfrom the translation by Fr. Z):
Third, there is the recent homily, given on November 18th, that contained some rather startling language--even for a pontiff who has often been startling in his language. As reported by www.news.va:
And Pope Francis warned that this happens today. Moved by the spirit of worldliness, people negotiate their fidelity to the Lord, they negotiate their identity, and they negotiate their belonging to a people that God loves.
And with a reference to the 20th century novel “Lord of the World” that focuses on the spirit of worldliness that leads to apostasy, Pope Francis warned against the desire to “be like everyone else” and what he called an “adolescent progressivism”. “What do you think?” – he said bitterly – “that today human sacrifices are not made? Many, many people make human sacrifices and there are laws that protect them”.
His own emphasis on the poor, the disenfranchised (documented or otherwise), and the ill and disabled flies in the face of the political agenda of Catholic Republican stalwarts like Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum and others who vote consistently to cut the social safety net in the United States by describing such programs as economic leeches on American society. ...
But Pope Francis, whose liberal views appeal to the younger generation, is keeping Catholicism from becoming a thing of the past.
It's not that labels are bad, of course, but that when labels become lazy, self-assuring, tribal code words, they undermine any meaningful discussion or healthy argument. They also distract from the real issues at hand: the nature of truth, the actual teachings of the Church, the basic principles of Church social teaching, and so forth. Francis, for his part, is going to continue to confound the label makers. He may also have some more missteps. But he seems to be settling in and better hitting his stride of late, and his soon-to-be release Apostolic Exhortation will be another major indication of how he wishes his pontificate to proceed.