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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. AtheistHuman

    Silly god lovers. Amusing.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Magister

      Silly atheist. Intolerant.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
      • One one

        What could be more intolerant than preaching that people who don't worship your god get sent to hell to be tortured for all eternity ?

        September 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Me again

          What could be more arrogant than choosing to believe there is unequivocally no higher power. It is almost like elevating one's self to an all-knowing power. No person can prove God's existence. Atheists often point this out. But I say to them, if God does exist, would he not want any mortal human to have faith? Faith is what the atheists do not understand, or perhaps, fail to appreciate.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
        • Athy

          We understand it, alright. Just don't appreciate it.

          September 23, 2013 at 2:08 am |
  2. Rich

    "conservatives" are evil. They the poor to starve and not have any health benfits. How christian is that?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chris

      Don't they ever consider maybe they are doing the devil's will and not God's?

      September 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  3. Birdyboyz

    Bill Donahue who is head of the Catholic League actually DEFENDS Catholic priests that molest children It's on YOUTUBE .

    September 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  4. The Pope

    Tough chitskis, conservatives. If you don't like it, don't let the door hit you in the azs on the way out.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  5. Dr. Curt Schmidt

    It would be impolite to tell conservatives to 'shut up.' Rather, we might ask that they simply keep quiet. We have heard all that they have to say - ad nauseum. Their 'culture warrior' persona does nothing to move those who are fed up with war. I often wonder why they don't get that. I suppose we cannot stop their incessant braying - but maybe they could do it in some soundproof room, with the door closed. Newsflash guys: we know what the Church teaches. When we want to hear you repeat it, we'll rattle your cage. Until then, you capture no one's heart - you might as well be talking to the wind..

    September 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Nicely put.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Aaron

      Amen.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Me again

      Just please do not automatically assume every Christian or believer in God is a republican or a conservative.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  6. Albert

    I'm an atheist, and Pope Francis is a pope I can like. He at least should be able to draw more people to the Catholic religion, who cares what right wing religion thinks. They'll soon find out their oppressive beliefs are driving people away.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    •  

      Godless Vagabond
      My sentiments exactly!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Kenman

      Wow, you and "godless" applaud the pope for removing those pesky oppressive scriptural rules from the church, a couple of atheists saying that THIS might allow more to remain in the church! Well, THOSE are worthless members of the church if they require that it mold itself to make them comfortable in whatever lifestyle they want to live, that was not the purpose of the church, or God's Word!

      If it offends you, the onus is on YOU, not God!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • sam

        The pope hasn't changed any rules. You need to learn some reading comprehension.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • Kenman

          I was responding to Albert's "oppressive beliefs" comments, so comprehend yourself!

          September 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  7. Dale_O

    Pope riles the rabid right!

    September 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • BrianW.

      It doesn't take much to rile them up.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  8. lizzy10

    Thank you to Pope Francis for stating what Catholic Christians should be focused on; loving our neighbors, not judging others and remembering that we are all sinners, but we will be saved through Jesus.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    •  

      I'm not a sinner. Even if I were, Jesus would not save me.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  9. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

    Oh deary me! How this world is changing so! First they try to shove electricity down our throats then telephones... no this? Why can't the world be like an episode of Downton Abbey forever? There is no need to change anything. Everything is fine as it is.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  10. OperationSpiritualMission

    Now, there is explanations such as what I meant was... or what the Pope meant was...

    September 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  11. The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester

    I have to say, I like this pope's sense of priorities. I haven't been a Catholic in 30 years, and I'm not going back, but I'm pleased to see a pope more interested in the side of the church that wants to help the oppressed rather than the side that wants to do the oppressing.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Me too.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  12. Brent Vincenzes

    As a non-denominational Christian non-right wing leaning defense attorney (I don't identify with either party) I see the worst of what life has to offer. I see people who are hurt and broken on a regular basis. Too often, the conservative Christian philosophy excludes or judges people who may be someone who has committed "the wrong sin" in their eyes. All sin (or whatever you want to call it) is equal. I am so happy to read the Pope's call to stop focusing on particular groups of who they call sinners. He is inclusive, not excluding...and I applaud him greatly for that.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Me again

      I see somewhat of a Biblical parallel here. For those interested, checkout 2 Chronicles 34. Pope Francis reminds me of Josiah and his reforms.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  13. anonymous

    Life has nothing to do with the body. God did not create the body. God is Spirit. That is what the Pope is trying to tell you if you have ears to hear and eyes to see.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  14. Hypocrite

    I've been told million times that pope was selected by god and now he welcomes gays to church. Now Catholics just offended the god. God, why you create hypocrite Catholics around me?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  15. Frank

    Who cares what conservatives think?

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

      I guess you are right, who care what conservatives think?. Besides, as long as your liberal rights are not affected and conservatives are not saying "who cares what liberals think?", then it is all fine and dandy, because no one made a thoughtless remark as yours. You must be some extremist liberal to trample on other people's rights. It's okay, I forgive you for your thoughtless comment, and may Jesus have mercy on you.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
      • Frank

        I'm a libertarian, smart guy. And conservatives have only made this country less free.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          I know libertarians and your talk is more liberal.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • Savior

          But Frank, according to him you MUST be extremist liberal because he can't count past two!

          September 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Mark in Atlanta

          Good thing OperationSpiritualMission is here to tell you what you think. And, that said, I guess I care what conservatives think. I just don't want to be forced to live in the world they seem to think they would be happiest in.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • sam

        So...you have no idea if he's liberal, but you spent a paragraph judging him then forgive him for your own BS?

        You are tiresome, time after time.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          Judging and making a statement is 2 different things. Look it up.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
        • ursrvnt

          ...and you didn't do the same? Ummm.....

          September 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • sam

          We get that you're on a mission. All you're really doing is looking silly. You're a dime a dozen and you have zero idea what you're talking about; you're a parrot.

          Run along with your sockpuppets.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
      • Masse

        You must be some extremist liberal to trample on other people's rights.

        So... he's insulting, but it's ok for you to offhandedly suggest only liberals trample on the rights of others.
        Project much?

        September 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          I said it how I heard it. I dislike both liberals and conservatives equally. I don't label myself as such because both are taking our freedom and rights away, starting with Bush and now Obama. This person made liberal statements and it deemed an answer that had to do with liberals. I say it how I hear and see it!

          September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
      • Frank

        My talk is liberal? What does that even mean? I said that you conservatives have made this country less free. You want to ban medical procedures and decide who can get married. Never mind the travesty that is the Patriot Act that you conservatives rammed down our throats. Liberals have their own issues, but you conservatives are much much worse.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          Again, you are talking like a liberal (period). EOD.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • sam

          He's been like this all week – it's barely worth arguing with him. He either makes no sense or just whines at people. Better to ignore.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jeff

      Liberals seem to think that they have the majority.....conservatives still make up half the country...the half that matters, at least.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
      • Frank

        There are more independents that conservatives. That is a simple fact.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
      • OperationSpiritualMission

        Liberals and Conservatives are both corrupted and taking our freedom away little by little.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Mark in Atlanta

          I don't really care if you (or others) think of yourself as liberal or conservative. I am glad that the Pope is saying that there is more to the Catholic faith than opposing abortion and gay marriage.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
        • Frank

          You talk like a dimwit.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
      • Feerless Freep

        Yeah, that's why you won the last 2 elections..........Moron.

        September 22, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  16. bman

    Who cares, they're all a bunch of Wasps anyways.
    After the Nazi pope I'd about had it with the Vatican, but this new guy is making waves and I like it.

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

      As long as your liberal agendas are imposed on everyone it's okay, but God forbid if it is the other way around. I forgive your thoughtless comment as well. May Jesus have mercy on you.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • Birdyboyz

        No ones imposing anything on your religious beliefs . It's YOU that imposes your religious beliefs on everyone else.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • ursrvnt

          How does one "impose" there religion on another in a free sociaty in which government does not endorse any particualr religion? Last time I checked every American has free will & has the freedom to choose whatever religion they want to belong to or not belong to. Unlike some Muslim countires i.e Syria, in which AlQaeda led rebel groups are killing christians if they do not convert to Islam..

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

        STFU nutcake. Hopefully Jesus will forgive your judgmental blathering one day.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          WHo are you judging?

          September 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
        • sam

          Oh, I was just making a statement. Look it up.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
      • FloydZepp

        No one needs your forgiveness and you certainly don't speak for Jesus.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          I don't speak for Jesus, and that is the truth, however you would claim otherwise if you were going to make a comment.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
      • KBC

        That's the problem. You say "may Jesus have mercy" but most of the followers of Jesus don't really show much mercy. They show mostly judgement without any understanding.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          Okay. Do you show mercy to others? Just wandering. I am not judging you. Unfortunately, you are correct that most Jesus followers don't show mercy, but the few that do are not recognized and thrown in the same bag with the bad christians. Don't get me wrong sometimes I don't see those people that have mercy on others either. We are to entuned on worldly splendors and riches.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • Mark in Atlanta

        As Artchie Bunker used to say, mighty white of you.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
      • Feerless Freep

        Yup, we are passing laws against Christians every day.

        September 22, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  17. 1rdd

    These 'believers' will believe anything & try their best to brainwash others into their way of thinking as long as it suits their needs. AND if they disagree with what their leader is saying then they pass it off as crazy. These religious fanatics are the people who ruin things for everyone.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  18. 1rdd

    These 'believers' will believe anything & try their best to brainwash others into their way of thinking as long as it suits their needs. AND if they disagree with what their leader is saying they pass it off as crazy. These religious fanatics are the people who ruin things for everyone.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  19. fr114

    hmm. I have, in the past, heard people say that if you don't like the church and it's way then leave. wonder if they will be leaving soon. Don't let the door hit you in the rear on your way out.

    September 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  20. Raoul Duke, Jr.

    Why is a Pope even needed?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • One one

      Someone has to talk to god and tell the rest of us what he thinks.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:01 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.