Debate: Is the Catholic Church in its best shape ever?

Pope Francis speaks to reporters on his flight home from Rio (CNS)

Earlier this week Pope Francis told priests in Rome that, despite scandals, “the Church has never been so well as it is today”.

Since his election in March, Francis has drawn millions of young people to World Youth Day in Rio and inspired an avalanche of good press, even in some surprising quarters.

Yet the clerical abuse scandals that he alluded to continue to undermine the Church around the world. And the pews are continuing to empty at an alarming rate in many western countries.

So is the Holy Father right: is the Church really in the best condition its ever been? Or is it suffering from a profound crisis that threatens its very existence? Or is the truth somewhere in between?