September 20th, 2013
02:16 PM ET

Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

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(CNN) - “Rain on parched land.”

“A bold new course.”


That’s how liberal Catholics responded to the stunning interview published Thursday in which Pope Francis bluntly said the church shouldn’t be “obsessed” with culture war issues like abortion and gay marriage.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope said, warning that the church's moral foundations will fall "like a house of cards" unless it strikes a "new balance" between preaching the gospel and taking stands on divisive issues.

How did conservative Catholics, the church’s most ardent culture warriors, react?

“I’ll be honest; I was disturbed,” writes Matthew Archbold in the conservative National Catholic Register.

“While it's clear that the pope is not changing church teaching, he is clearly changing the emphasis. The pope with a few words has unsettled so much.”

Archbold said that he’s concerned that the pope's words will be used against anti-abortion activists and opponents of gay marriage in the United States.

But after thinking and praying about the pope's remarks, Archbold said, he decided that being unsettled may not be "such a terrible thing."

"I think the pope was reminding us that we're a religion of 'yes.'"

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

Before the release of Thursday’s interview, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island said he was “disappointed” that Francis had not spoken much about abortion. On Friday, Tobin welcomed the pope’s comments, but said it won’t change his focus.

“I have spoken out clearly about the dignity of all human life and the nature of holy matrimony as designed by God and will continue to do so whenever the situation warrants,” Tobin said. “It is a demand of the Gospel.”

The bishop also said, however, that he appreciates the new pope’s “balanced and inclusive” approach.

Other conservative Catholics said the media and liberals had misconstrued the pope’s remarks, made in a 12,000-word interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals around the world.

“The pope is a reformer, but not a revolutionary,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“This is the problem with the left," Dohonue continued, "they are trying to take what the pope said and then run with it.”

Donohue, a caustic and sometimes controversial critic of people he perceives as anti-Catholic, said the pope’s remarks won’t silence him.

“There’s nothing the pope said that should give relief to people who say all of a sudden now that conservatives should shut up,” Donahue said. “We’re not going to shut up because we’re in consonant compliance with what the pope said. “

After all, conservatives say, it’s not like the pope changed Catholic doctrine in Thursday’s interview.

To underscore that point, the conservative blog Rorate Caeli posted a lengthy quote from the pope’s meeting with Catholic gynecologists on Friday in which he strongly denounced abortion.

“Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord,” the pope said, according to Rorate Caeli’s translation. “They cannot be discarded, as the `culture of waste’ proposes.”

Father John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative Catholic blogger, said the pope urged Catholics to find a “new balance” between their moral and political missions. He didn’t say they should surrender the culture wars.

“I think that Francis thinks that constant correction and condemnation does more harm than good,” Zuhlsdorf wrote on his blog.

“Francis said `all the time," Zuhlsdorf said."He did not say `we should not talk about these things.’"

MORE ON CNN: The pope said what? Six stunners from Francis

Other conservatives said the pope's remarks are “nothing new.”

"The pope is not in any way proposing that the church should abandon important moral and social teachings,” said Ashley McGuire of the Catholic Association.

"Rather, the pope is reaffirming a longstanding teaching that reaches all the way back to the founding of Christianity: love your neighbor.”

And while most liberals praised the pope’s bold new vision, some took issue with his remarks about women’s role in the church.

“We have to work harder to develop a theology of women in the church,” Francis said in Thursday's interview.

“Breaking news, Pope Francis: There is already a profound theology of women," said Sister Maureen Fielder, a Catholic nun and longtime advocate of women’s ordination in the Catholic Church.

“There are libraries of feminist theology just waiting for you, and others, to dive in.”

Fielder said she likes the new pope, but she thinks he “sorely needs a course in feminist theology.”

For the most part, however, liberals praised Francis.

Under previous popes, liberal Catholic nuns, politicians and theologians were castigated by church leaders, said John Gehring, a writer and advocate at the group Faith in Public Life. Now “the air is starting to clear,” he said.

“Pope Francis is rescuing the Catholic Church from those grim-faced watchdogs of orthodoxy who in windowless rooms reduce Catholicism to a laundry list of nos,” Gehring said.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Culture wars • Faith • Gay marriage • Pope Francis

soundoff (1,798 Responses)
  1. tc

    Regardless of what you believe and who you are, this guy is going to change things and for the better. Americans that keep putting their faith in their precious Dem or Repub parties are what's wrong with this country – follow the Pope's example and just be for all people. Vote out your local criminal.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Bob

      Too bad we can't vote out the pope. And all other religious figures.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • tc

        Sure you can, that's what great about religion – you don't have to follow it but America's insane politics and laws you do. Wow – you aren't the brightest are you Bob?

        September 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Bob

          tc, you are really fucking stupid. The pope is a religious leader that I do NOT get to vote out of office. Now piss off and go back to playing with yourself, you puny little moron.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
        • tc

          Awwwww – did someone hurt your feelings Bob? I know these concepts are hard for you to understand but displaying your limited intelect only furthers my point. Let me break it down to the crayon level for you – if you don't follow the religion, you have no reason to care who is in charge! Does that help or do you need a picture book?

          September 20, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • Bob

          tc, you are truly too stupid to get the point. The rest of us have to live by the laws that stupid religious folks like you influence, and you are led in your ways by jerks like the pope that the rest of us do not get to vote on.

          Take your sicko religion and shove it, you stupid and ignorant fool.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. A non Catholic

    Sounds to me like the Pope just wants to be a good priest and leaving judgements up to Him who is the only one qualified to judge...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Banana Smudge

      At the end of your days, the SmudgeMeister will judge you all at the great squunching, and you will all be judged too smushy.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  3. Harry Cline

    Upset Conservatives ?!

    That's an understatement. It should upset anyone who follows the word of God, as in the Scriptures, and the Catholic religion is a faux religion with their own interpretations.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Like the part of the bible where Jesus himself commands you not to judge others?

      Or were you ignoring that bit?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Topher


        "Like the part of the bible where Jesus himself commands you not to judge others?"

        Umm ... where is that verse located?

        September 20, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • Sane Person

          How about Matthew 1:7, Luke 6:37, Leviticus 19:15... You have read it, right?

          September 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
      • Harry Cline

        I sincerely hope I'm not judging, because I myself could never pass the test myself But I sure as hell ain't making any proclamations either.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • tc

      Any person that would describe Cathilicism as faux has no understanding of Chrisitan history and likely belongs to a cult that guises under a mask of believing in Christ.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
      • Jen

        There are no true Scotsmen. The only true Scotsmen....

        Yawn. Go find a brain, or a search engine, dummy.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Banana Smudge

      There are No True Snotsmen...

      September 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
      • weedouthate

        Much more important issue: to inspire humanity to weed out hate in their hearts and souls, The world could certainly use it.

        September 23, 2013 at 4:09 am |
  4. Tray

    We as the believers of the Lord God and His word....do not have the option to change His standard on marriage and se-xual relations. Pope Francis should pick a different religion if he wants to water it down or change it. God very clearly told us to love all people....He also told us the standard in which to live ourselves – no one is being forced to live the Christian life, it is a choice. It is also not our job to judge others....but we must remain clear about the faith we serve, and the call to live accordingly. While I can understand him not wanting to talk about the hot button issues all the time.....I can NOT understand his murky opinion on the g-ay lifestyle after all the horrendous scandals in the Catholic Church

    September 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Susan

      Exactly!!!!!!! He thinks he is showing love for humanity with his comments – and reaching more people with Gods love.....but this is deception!! You can not represent the living God and twist everything HE STANDS FOR!!!

      September 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • NoNo

        Yes, you are a greater theologian than the Pope. -.-

        September 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Banana Smudge

      Guess what, Tray: gay isn't just a lifestyle. Do try to get with reality.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Unlo4

      > do not have the option to change His standard

      People can't even agree on what the Bible is telling them, that's why there's hundreds of religions that all think they're right.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Larry L

      "I can NOT understand his murky opinion on the g-ay lifestyle after all the horrendous scandals in the Catholic Church"

      Surely you know that pedophiles aren't necessarily gay people – most are actually straight. The Church has a problem with the entire culture of priests not being allowed to live a normal existence. Your Pope is trying to do something revolutionary in religious circles – he's trying to love all of the people and not spread hate and bigotry.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  5. Don D

    The church of yes... to raping children !!

    September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • *

      You are a twit.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  6. dick delson

    Finally, a Pope who gets it. He's a cool dude.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  7. Eric Feezor

    Who cares if he upset conservatives. They've been whiny and weepy for most of a decade now. They get upset at everything.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Alissa S.

      To be honest I have been a liberal until the last few years it isn't conservatives that I find whiny its the liberals the last few years. I don't want to be right wing but I can't stand the left anymore either. You have to at some point be accountable for spending. I think we have gone so liberal that we are handing our lives to the federal government like a babysitter to run each aspect for us. I am not a machine but thanks to liberals, media, and technology future generations have no hope but to be one.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • Feerless Freep

        Accountable on spending ?

        Another GOP LIE.
        Take a gander at the last 4 Republican Presidents.
        They spent money like drunken sailors.
        They also grew the size of government.
        Man, do they have you brainwashed.

        September 22, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  8. Durannie

    I wouldn't take it to heart....the Pope sees the numbers dropping...them losing relevance...he just wants to entice more paying customers back in to the fold.....

    September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • *

      You got a knack for fantasy, too bad you don't have any facts really.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Doesn't seem that way. These remarks are consistent with others he has made over the decades.

      I hate to break it to you, but I think he spoke them because that's what he believes.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Offsuit

    Pope eschews mindless bigotry. Mindless bigots react badly. Nothing to see here.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • tc

      Cite specific examples and sources? Oh that's right, you can't. And you call the pope mindless?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • Unlo4

        Since his comment was entirely about the pope NOT being mindless like the people around him, I'm betting you completely missed his point.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  10. Apple Bush

    I have seen Jesus and he has anointed me as a close follower and personal assistant. This HAS to be true because I was just inspired by God to write it down. So it is written down and inspired. True. Simple as that. Ask any Christian.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  11. haha

    haha. I knew the first comment would be some bible weirdo. some generic bible term that can really fall under any meaning.. just like fortune telling.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  12. Lionly Lamb

    “Pope Francis is rescuing the Catholic Church from those grim-faced watchdogs of orthodoxy who in windowless rooms reduce Catholicism to a laundry list of nos,” John Gehring, an advocate said... Well hells of bells JG for painting such a high and lofty view for PF to be taking such a profound podium stance upon... Are not 'lofty words' meant to be the 'sizzle' and what 'one stands upright for' in somber wordage becoming the 'steak'..?

    September 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  13. Cronus

    As I see it, people are seeing to much into what the pope said. The church's stance has not changed, all he is saying is to tone it down and to back away from that in your face style of debate and to focus on other things too that impact humanity. We Catholics and all Christains for that matter should leave the in your face acrimonial and deragatory style of debate to the angry atheists who think that man does not need God or the grace of Christ in their lives. Let them stew in their own anger and pride, not us.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This pope is backing away from judgmentalism – the believe or burn ultimatum that the old Catholic and (pretty much all the Evangelical Protestant) churches are known for.

      It is an important and a welcome step.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Sane Person

      lol, yea, all those Atheists protesting marriages, women's clinics, health care, contraception...oh wait, that wasnt Atheists.. that was the incredibly angry, judgemental and hypocritical christians!

      September 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Jon

    The Catholic League may sound like an organization, but it's mainly one man: Bill Donohue.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • JeffreyRO5

      A man making a half a million dollars a year to schill for catholic extremism, by the way.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Andrew

      Absolutely correct. How does he have any legitimacy? Why is he the go-to guy for comment on all issues Catholic? If I set up a web site and called myself the American Catholic Conference, would CNN call me for comment?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  15. no2satan

    forgive them father for they know not what they do

    September 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      That may be true, but I know what I say just fine. Usually. Ask Bill he's been bustin' my balls about my old drinking habit all day.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • rick

      damn them and their compassion, eh?

      September 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • janis

      Yes, forgive all those that stand in judgment of others, for they know what they do, and they know it's a sin, yet they do it anyway.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
      • Hell and destruction are never full

        When you vote or buy stocks do you use a dart board??

        September 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  16. Ralph

    Republican extremism is going to be the death of this country. Their so far out there, it's hard to ever see what kind of point their trying to make, other than make fools of themselves. Real people just don't think that way.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • no2satan

      like you did with your coment you sir are so far to the left you walk in circles

      September 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • Squeaky

        Too bad you turn right so much you've got your head stuck up your ass.

        September 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Feerless Freep

        People like you are so far right, you cant
        even see the middle anymore.

        September 22, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Alex in NJ

      Look I don't agree with these so called Conservative Catholics. First off they'd be wise to read Matthew 16:19..."Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven."
      But one thing the Left needs to get straight, being far away from you on opinion does not make someone extreme. Personally, I find the fact that the Left is totally okay with the amount of people on food stamps and wants more people to be on them, or even just the very notion of stealing money from some people and giving it to others, to be incredibly extreme. So extreme is in the eyes of the beholder. But, like with so many terms, racism being another, the Left has used them so often to define anyone who sways from their rigid view of the world, that you have taken any and all meaning out of the term extreme.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
      • Sane Person

        The left has a major problem with the number of people on foodstamps. They just dont see taking them away as the solution. They would rather get those folks jobs, increase in min wage, or education, so that they can earn more and get off foodstamps. Eliminating food stamps (which in most cases is a whopping $160 or so a month for food...woo ) only makes hungry children. You act like people want to be on them, cause its such a chillin lifestyle.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • janis

      So very true. They think anyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do is wrong. They are very closed minded and closed minds don't let any new information in.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  17. Ctrygrl

    Isn't this amazing, a Pope that believes the church should preach love, acceptance, and peace. A pope that believes it is a little more important to feed and clothe the poor than to preach at them. About time, maybe this will reverse people leaving the church.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Topher


      "Isn't this amazing, a Pope that believes the church should preach love, acceptance, and peace. A pope that believes it is a little more important to feed and clothe the poor than to preach at them. About time, maybe this will reverse people leaving the church."

      My disagreement with the office of the papacy aside for the moment ... and I certainly agree feeding and clothing the poor is something we should be doing ... but what if those people we feed and clothe end up going to hell because we didn't preach to them?

      September 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
      • rick

        what if they do because you DID ?

        September 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
        • Topher

          As in if I preach and they reject the Gospel and thus die in their sins? Then that was their choice.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm |

        Godless Vagabond
        It doesn't matter whether you preach to them or not. They won't be going to hell either way. There is no hell. Nor heaven either.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • weedouthate

      inspiring the masses to nurture those who need it reflects Gods intention to nurture us. We come back into harmony with the divine Intention, resisting the temptations to focus on what detaches us

      September 23, 2013 at 5:54 am |
  18. matt

    IAccording to this article, Bishop Tobin is the only one "disturbed", they named one dude. And guess what? I'm a conservative, a gay one at that, and I think what Pope Francis said yesterday was great. I'm in total agreement with him. Conservatives are not a uniform group of people as some media would have you believe, we are in fact, just as diverse as other groups.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      yes, cnn is conflict baiting

      September 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  19. Apple Bush

    Just so Bill and Topher understand me better. I am a militant atheist. I will tell anyone, anywhere, any time. I am honest and that is how I raise my children. Honest. I will engage any Christian in debate, any time. If that little old lady wanted to talk about it, and I had time, I would invite her in for tea and crumpets.

    Having said that, I have lots of Christian friends. As long as we either don't talk religion or they don't mind a debate then no worries.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You're not a militant anything. You're a drunk who was lucky to hang onto his wife after she cheated on you and you sit around thinking you're a writer but all you do is spew ignorance and create disorder.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        You're not a militant anything. You're a drunk who was lucky to hang onto his wife after she cheated on you and you sit around thinking you're a writer but all you do is spew ignorance and create disorder.

        You are correct about everything except your first sentence and the end of the last sentence. Even if I am not a drunk, I was at one time.

        Don't get mad though Bill, we are just bustin' balls here, come on and be a man!

        September 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Gosh, I am really down on myself today apparently.

          September 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Oh wow, I was just copying Bill. Whew.

          September 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • OKfine

        Apple. You know BD has a very thin skin he can dish it out but can take very little. That what comes from believing you are superior to all others but the catholic hierarchy.

        September 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Chuck

      As long as your respectful of others opinions then I agree, you have every right to put your faith in atheism.I actually applaud your faith it is much stronger than mine. I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm |

        Godless Vagabond
        You don't have enough common sense to be an atheist.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  20. Universe

    God: there is no other god besides Him, the Living, the Eternal. Never a moment of unawareness or slumber overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Who could intercede with Him, except in accordance with His will? He knows their past, and their future. No one attains any knowledge, except as He wills. His dominion encompasses the heavens and the earth, and ruling them never burdens Him. He is the Most High, the Great. [2:255]

    There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient. [2:256]

    God is Lord of those who believe; He leads them out of darkness into the light. As for those who disbelieve, their lords are their idols; they lead them out of the light into darkness – these will be the dwellers of Hell; they abide in it forever. [2:257]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    September 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • laughing lion

      please read other ideas besides religious ones. give them the same amount of thought you give your religious readings and see what happens. i think you will be too scared to honestly do this

      September 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.