Let me be on record that I have no opinion about Dr. Marshall one way or the other. I believe he came into the Catholic Church the same year I did. Having a PhD and being from the Episcopal tradition, he found a sort of fast track into that dying vocation of 'former Protestant Clergy making a living as former Protestant Clergy.' Things were already changing by then, and I always saw his career like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones grabs his whip from under the closing door just in the nick of time.
I read some of his articles over the years. As a general rule, he seemed to be a likable fellow, good family, and sensible. Most other Catholic bloggers and apologists typically gave him kudos and thumbs up, even setting him against other more traditional Catholics as the type of person traditional Catholics should aspire to be like.
But that was then. One thing about the era of Pope Francis, we've had the emergence of an almost Protestant level of animosity and divisions within the people of the Catholic Church. Oddly, I don't remember this when I became Catholic. Despite the fact that most Catholics were decidedly left of center, most disregarded the Church's teachings on a host of social and even theological issues, and the harshest critics of the previous popes that I knew were those left leaning Catholics, it didn't seem to be a big deal with the more conservative Catholics I read. A few more traditional Catholics raised Cain, but most said those critics were merely wrong, called them out if the rhetoric became too vulgar or hateful, and then moved along. Which was good for this Evangelical coming into the Catholic Church. After all, I wouldn't have wanted to see too much zealous defense against a pope's critics.
Since Catholics questioned the wisdom of Pope Francis's famous 'who am I to judge' reaction to homosexuality in the era of AIDS and abortion, it's been all out war. Oddly, some of those who had no problem (and still have no problem) trashing former popes like Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI, are among the loudest accusers, calling those who dare question Pope Francis the worst type of Catholics. If there was ever some mythical time where those with questions or concerns about Pope Francis were treated with respect and open ears, I never noticed it. From the start, they were attacked and demeaned and ripped to pieces for their doubts.
That alone is enough to make me wonder what's so different. Why was the basic reaction to progressive Catholics ripping into Pope John Paul II one of 'You're wrong, but let's just love each other and move along because Catholic' while many of the same Catholics wade into Pope Francis's critics like soldiers landing at Normandy? It's not the tenor or tone of his critics. I heard plenty of crazy, mean, even hateful attacks by Catholics aimed at the former popes in their day.
Since the beginning with 'who am I to judge', any and all criticisms, from the crazy and extreme to the measured and thoughtful, have been blasted out of the water. They have been called reactionaries, Francis haters, alt-right Catholics, traitors, heretics, bigots, sexists, homophobes, and even conservatives! No matter how humble and meek those with questions about Pope Francis have been, they've continually been lumped into the same pile with the worst of Francis's critics and blasted away.
Why the difference? What makes the era of Pope Francis one where, with few exceptions (and those usually around his handling of the abuse crisis), no deviation or dissension is allowed or tolerated. Despite what Francis's defenders say, there has not been a case where critics of Francis, no matter how balanced they have been, have not been put into the cross-hairs and figuratively shot to pieces.
And that's just the case with Dr. Marshall. For all I know, his book is trash. Many books are. It boggles the mind how many trees have had to die for some of the books that are out there. But it's not just his book that's being blasted and impugned. It's him. A man who once was considered quite the swell guy is now thrown onto the trash heap of 'deplorables' onto which all who question or criticize Pope Francis seem to be thrown.
Since I doubt Dr. Marshall has suddenly become some horrible, foaming at the mouth, alt-right reactionary pope hating heretic Nazi wannabe, I have to assume something else has changed. And since I find it hard to believe that every Catholic, every priest, and every bishop who has questioned Pope Francis deserves the same sneering contempt and hatred, I have to look outside of the accused and wonder what is different. What about the era of Pope Francis has caused this? Is it Pope Francis himself? He does have a tendency or two that could explain it. Or is it something that Pope Francis represents? I don't know. I just know something is different.