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September 20th, 2013
02:16 PM ET

Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - “Rain on parched land.”

“A bold new course.”

“Revolutionary.”

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. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    ...sing it with me now!

    My god is better than your god,
    Your god is a ... false god...

    ooh oooh!

    My god is better than your god,
    Your god is a ... false god...
    ooh oooh!

    My god is better than your god,
    Your god is a ... false god...
    ooh oooh!

    My god is better than your god,
    Your god is a ... false god...

    ....hee hee, silly deists, living after life death is for real gods...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  2. avacon

    It's only catholics that care what this old man says anyway, and who cares what catholics think? There's fewer of them every day.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • jbcal

      There's still over 1.5 billion in the world, so I'm guessing there are more who care what he thinks as opposed to what you think.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • tc

        **like**

        September 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  3. chris

    "Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks"...

    well and that's why jesus has not returned, conservatives don't sit well with those who don't think like they do.and hate others like they love to do. when a religious leader speaks truth, they can't take it, where's the "we're better than them rhetoric" they need to hear to feel superior...?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      They've worked so hard at righteousness and it's all being pissed away by their God's grace and a socialist Pope.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    What's next, a convertible pope-mobile?!!

    September 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  5. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    ok ok ok...stop me if you've heard it before. Zeus, Odin, and Yaweh walk into a barn...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Interesting. It seems like conservative Catholics are a bit tongue-tied. Their first reflex is to support the Pope in all things, I guess.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  7. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    Everyone here needs to truly understand that the pope is infallible. His word is the new God. Thank you, and save me some fish.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Devin Parker

      How is the pope infallible? He is just a man. All humans are fallible.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  8. Pope have better humainity than pastors

    You people shut up. He finally have come to sense that you have been blinded for thousand years.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  9. James

    The sooner all the old dinosaurs die off, the sooner the world can move forward in a more positive way.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  10. oh

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

    Ah yes, as opposed to the right, who's problem is they're going to take what the pope said and sit on it..

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

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  11. Jonathan L.

    God did not " design matrimony " , sorry to disappoint you. What childish, ignrant, and primitve thinking. Marriage is an invention of man. God had nothing to do with it.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    The bible opened to ANY RANDOM PAGE has far more disturbing notions in it...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Jonathan L.

      Very true, no responsible parent should ever let their child read the Bible. It is quite an evil and perverse book in many parts. It's teachings are of an angry, evil, and vile God. It's fictional dogma is damaging to humanity.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  13. oh

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

    Ah yes, as opposed to the right, who's problem is they're going to take what the pope said and sit on it....

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

    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Dippy

      Whose, not who's.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • oh

        thank's

        September 20, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • Dippy

          Thanks, not thank's.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • oh

          its like I always include an extra apostrophe...

          September 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Dippy

          It's, not its.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • oh

          your right already!

          September 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
        • Dippy

          You're, not your.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
        • Hey! You!

          You folk's i's hilariou's!

          September 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
        • oh

          [slashing my wrist's while leaping from the third floor]

          September 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • Dippy

          Wrists, not wrist's.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  14. One one

    It's interesting when Christians disagree about what god's word is. God must be sending mixed messages.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  15. Shirley U. Cant B. Cirrius

    ...wonder if this Pope is actually not even a deist and just messing with y'all...

    September 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  16. mike

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

    So still the same old pedophilia sanctuary?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  17. Brad76

    "The Golden Rule" should be the lens to look through when interpreting scripture. Just my opinion, take it or leave it.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  18. mickinmd

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

    We never find out, because only America's conservative Catholics, called "most ardent" here, were consulted. Most of the Conservative Catholics in the rest of the world look on America's conservatives the way we would have looked on Nazi Germany's Conservative Catholics.
    Travel to other nations as I do or look at the occasional comments from people from other countries on American news sites and you'll see how alarmed and disgusted they are at the selfishness and lack of tolerance for others' beliefs in today's America.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  19. Darwin was right

    FUNNY how humans devote BILLIONS OF WORDS every year to discussing MAGIC INVISIBLE CHARACTERS with beards and long hair who live in the sky. Of course, there's BIG MONEY IN GOD & JESUS so that probably explains it.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  20. Lionly Lamb

    The Future of Weed: HIGH COUNTRY…

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhTYI3DeNgA&w=640&h=360]

    September 20, 2013 at 6:46 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.