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. Dave

    To be a good brainwashed Catholic, one must pretend to believe the pope is infallible, therefore disagreeing with anything he says is direct violation to those beliefs. Now how silly does that sound. Maybe people should stop pretending to believe in fairy tales already. This atheist pope is doing a great job for humanity, he is assisting in the destruction of religion.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • tc

      Your comment is a direct indication that you have no understanding of religion in general and absolutley cluelessness on Catholicism but it makes for a great atheist who can't make a valid point.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  2. stonedwhitetrash

    The Catholic Church has finally left the dark ages.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

    Why do you think that we publish this be cause the agencies are cauterizing your epiglottis glottis and trachea.



    Hot topic: The Spain King giving budget to built and University of Carabobo in Spain with the same name to the Venezuela University.

    Perfectly Bank.

    We develope a Bank Model in University of Carabobo.

    Tema Caliente: El Rey de España esta financiando una Universidad de Carabobo con el mismo nombre de la Universidad de Carabobo en Venezuela.

    Al parecer estan tratando que cuando mueran los testigos de los estudios de la raza humana, todos los proyecto de la Universidad de Carabobo en Venezuela parezcan de manera ilegal como de Universidades en Europa y España.

    Que sospechoso parece que construyan una universidad con el mismo nombre de la Universidad de Carabobo en Venezuela.

    Denunciamos al Rey de España por robo, asesinato, violaciones y este no emite comentario.

    Todo esto por el Banco Perfectible.




    September 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Francois

      Don't ever post something that long and stupid again.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  4. jj

    Wow, finally a Pope that Jesus would have liked.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  5. GodHimselfSentMe

    recall vote?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • KMS

      Why? Because he's not pushing hateful and divisive issues, like the RCC historically has done to alienate millions?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • bam

        yeah the TOP DOG is FINALLY pointing out the hateful bigotry of these so called religious folk...
        JESUS would never have approved of any of what the christian taliban in the USA throws down today

        September 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  6. Craig

    No wonder the "conservatives" are uncomfortable with the new Pope. After all, he's talking about the things Jesus supported....helping those less fortunate, feeding the hungry, loving unconditionally. Those are all things the conservatives don't want, because it would require them to re-think their religious beliefs. Jesus never talked about being motivated by hatred, at least not in the sense that his followers should be. He was willing to help anyone and everyone without judgement. Too bad if his "fan club" is finding it hard to go along with him.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • bam

      and that is what the GOP has become... they declare they are holier than all but they are just jealous bigots driven by hate

      September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Kathryn

      Very well said

      September 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  7. Sensible Sam

    What is it about the word "infallible" that these conservatives do not understand?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  8. Sandy Fiocca

    I love this man! He is just what has been needed for many many years and is the embodiment of a true Christian .

    September 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Lening

      definitely human beings have more faith in a man who is sinner just like everybody else, instead of searching for What Jesus have said in regards to all these topic, Abortions, Gay, Church, etc.
      P.S. Proverbs 16.25
      "There is a way that appears to be right,
      but in the end it leads to death"
      the Bible talks about us, & here is what the bible is saying to all of us.
      Romans 3.23 " for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," But thanks to Jesus
      Romans: 6.23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
      you see very simple, the men will always do & say things that want to hear, NOT WHAT THEY REALLY NEED TO HEAR.
      VERY WELL!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  9. Tom

    With all the "global weirding" going on, the Pope takes a step in the proper direction.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  10. Shawn Irwin

    Being an agnostic, I can say there has never been a pope I respect more than this one. The conservative Pharisees have to be crapping bricks on this . . . . There is not much difference between the definition of "Conservative" and the word "hater".

    September 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • tc

      Uhhhhh – yes there is. It's just unfortunate that many people who self identify as a conservative get media time to spew their hatred. That said, if one is actng justly and lovingly then what is liberla or conservative about that?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  11. conoclast

    Perfectly said! Now if only US conservatives would pay attention...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • huhb

      Bobby Jindal: Republicans must stop being the Stupid Party
      Republicans: NEVER!
      Pope Francis: Catholics should stop fussing about the gays.
      Catholics: NEVER!

      September 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  12. gahh

    Christian Conservatives need to be concerned, cause they all so perfect.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  13. Scot

    Now if we can get those Evangelical Haters to do the same we might have something !

    September 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • tc

      I agree, most of the evangelical protestants are the ones spewing wierd words and hate, like Pat Robertson. I think the Pope has a bigger agenda in Christian thihnking than just the RCC.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  14. NYVeteran

    Jesus was a liberal revolutionary. He condemned the conservatives of his day, the Pharisees and Priest Class. This Pope is a Christian and the first in ages. Most of the princes of the church need to be humbled. Its time to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. You GOP hypocrites who condemn abortion, contraception and gays, then take $4 billion in food stamps from the poor are the worst frauds of the lot. Sit in Church on Sunday, starve the poor on Monday. May you rot in your own version of eternal damnation.

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

      Amen Brother ! USN HM3 1968-1971

      September 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  15. hypocrites

    my catholic parishes have many holier than thou's, and none follow the "love thy neighbour" they thoroughly and lustfully enjoy gossipping about fellow parishioners and attacking many through their jobs as journalists...add to this that most work in jobs that the bible condemned then you have a host of hypocrites taking over the parishes...take for instance the article above...the pope did definitely say...enough discussion and focus on anti-abortion and anti-gay discussions....and yet, this article is full of it...those causes are the irish catholic charities favorite causes as well as metis canada catholic charities...time the pope round those clergy leading those societies and abolished them

    September 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Former Catholic

    Is he the coolest Pope ever or what? This Pope just might get me to go back to the church. Anyone who has a problem with the Pope's comments has no idea what Jesus was all about. Any religion who hates anyone for being who they are should not be allowed to call themselves Christians. How do you people think Jesus will judge you? Do you really think that Jesus would be on your side? How can you say that you are a follower of Jesus when there is so much hate, intolerance and judgement in what you do? You better hope that Hell does not exist because that is where you phony Christians are going before the worst sinners. WWJD?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • hypocrites

      doesnt he need to clean house in parishes worldwide first? all my parishes are filled with related familial members who gossip and attack fellow catholics, none following the "love thy neighbour", add most all work jobs that Jesus was slamming during his life on earth...adds upto what on earth?

      September 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  17. Bob

    And it's triple-quadruple! 3 pope stories after 4 Rick Warren stories. Come on CNN, make it another quadruple...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  18. Lionly Lamb

    Hemp Plants are seed and bud and stalk factories... Their abilities to grow just about anywhere a weed grows makes them a perfect candidate to be grown upon many baron fields within many food famished nations... The Hemp seeds could be harvested around villages or near today's refugee encampments in many Mid-Eastern nations and even the African nations where only weeds seem to grow and this is what Hemp is... A Weed... The overall benefits of Hemp being farmed is that the whole plant can be used... The Hemp seeds can be used for a nutritious meal for the people and can also be used as feed for the farm animals... The flower buds can be ground up and also be used as a food source... The stalks of Hemp Plants can be processed and made into all the many fabrics that are currently being manufactured in today's textile industries... Any questions worthy of being answered..?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      How Hemp Threatens the Corporatocracy | Brainwash Update


      September 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  19. Fish

    Having been an agnostic all my life, I have little use for religion of any kind yet I do have a deep respect for this Pope. He is an all inclusive Pope not willing to alienate people for reasons unrelated to their believes in the almighty God. It is how I feel everyone should be to leave the judgment of our worldly activities to our creator instead of passing judgment on everyone as habit. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone I believe is the passage. along with thou shalt not judge, pretty much sums it up in Biblical terms!!!

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

      I agree with your comment but the phrase "do not judge lest ye be judged" is misapplied and misused incessantly by all types of people. JUdging refers to a perosn condemning another to hell (only reserved for God) but most use the phrase as a way to say " do't tell me I'm wrong" or " you are a bigot or spew hatred becase you don't accept my behavior"

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

        Unless it directly affects you somehow, you shouldn't be telling people about their 'sins'.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • tc

          That's the unfortunate consequences of sin – it affects the whole world. Even a person's evil thought has negative effects on the world. To share the message of the Gospel and identify sinful behavior is important and will always need to be done but rest assured, no one whould harass you or come to your home to do this.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
        • sam

          Oh boy, negative thoughts affect the whole world, huh?

          Sin is a nonsense concept created to control the masses. Keep that kind of stuff in your own yard and leave other people alone.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • tc

          sam, no one expects a person who does not believe in a spirit world to understadn the concept of sin and thought life affecting the world but as a free human being living in a free universe, ou must accept the fact that people will share their thoughts and beliefs and will not follow your direction since we all have are own will. So to say "keep it to yourself" is illogical and unrealisitc.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Don

      I'm right there with you ENTIRELY!!!
      I couldn't have said it better myself! 👍👍👍👍👍
      Even though starting back with church is not going to happen for me. 😇

      September 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  20. AR

    William Donohue, quoted above, runs a non-profit that brings in ~3M in grants and he pays himself $374k a year in base salary. Whatever his beliefs, it doesn't seem like he's practicing the catholic way of being humble and giving to the poor. Not that catholics should be poor, but it rubs me the wrong way when people get on their pulpits and judge others, and in this case, a pope who is great because of his humility and love for people.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:11 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.