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. Bruce

    Jesus came to save us all. Jesus dined with "sinners" All were welcomed at his table. God is LOVE. Love for all his children.
    God created us to be with him for all eternity. Our mission on earth is to glorify God in all that we do. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. For the Greater Glory of God
    When you stand before God at your time of death, He will ask 2 questions of you.
    1 What did you do with my Son ?
    2 What did you do for your fellow man.. How did you serve and nurture and LOVE.
    Go in the Peace of Jesus

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

      Go away from me, you workers of evil.

      Oops -no place for liars at his table. Nice ignorant try though.

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

      God wont need to ask any questions about you,,Hes God, he already will know.You shouldnt speak for God and misquote Him.There are consequences for that,if you knew your Bible you would know that

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

      The first part of your utterances, as a serious 35+ year Bible student, I would classify as a contemporary English paraphrase of scripture. "How did you serve and nurture and LOVE. Go in the Peace of Jesus"; in the context of the Great White Throne judgement, where unbelievers will appear; or, upon immediate encounter with Christ for believers, that is not in the Bible.

      2 strict, non-negotiable commands from Christ to His followers:
      1) Go and 'make' disciples of the world. Matt. 28
      2) Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Spoken to young ruler, most probably Mark.)

      You can't make a disciple by teaching or tolerating strictly forbidden behaviors or life styles. You do not show very respectful love of God, by diminishing His absolute standards. You can go way overboard, in what is called the "social gospel", by either trying to appease all people or being legalistic and pushing them away, in an attempt to love your neighbor.
      I think Pope Francis is speaking to finding a middle ground with "Love your neighbor....", that does not go to either extreme. I haven't read or heard any quotations that leads me to believe he has neglected the previous absolute commands or God's standards.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  2. One one

    Has god weighed in on this yet ? We shouldn't make any hasty decisions until we hear what he has to say.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  3. Frank

    I guess God should ask Karl Rove before giving out any more press releases.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Pat in IL

    Kidding, right?? Catholic have NEVER been "the party of yes".

    September 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  5. Klean9

    Glad I'm a Lutheran 🙂

    September 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Rob

    The "religious right" that is up in arms is up in arms because they do not want to address what the Pope is insisting is more important than the petty Abortion/Gay-Lesbian issues. The issues that the Pope would like to address is poverty and greed, both are tenets of the Religious Right, but not for righteous reasons.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  7. noillusion

    Bill Donohue didn't get Hitchslapped enough.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  8. Frank

    How do we know that Jesus wasn't the devil in disguise sent to lead men astray??? How can you take that chance? Your soul is a terrible price to pay for your mistake. If you're wrong, then you just followed the devil and will burn in hell. If I'm wrong, then I'll just repent and my soul will be saved.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • paul46

      Simple. Jesus' own words state that we can tell a true Christ or a true prophet by their fruits. Fruits means their deeds, words & character. If one finds the fruits of peace, wisdom, mercy & compassion delightful, then one would do well to follow Christ. It's just that simple.

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

        You trust the word of the devil?

        September 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  9. B

    What are you 8 years old or something?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  10. drbob66

    It's getting more difficult to hate the Catholic church thanks to this pope. I hope he continues and I hope it isn't to late for the church.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  11. Jim Amstutz

    Gee, I was raised a Catholic and was taught that the Pope was infallible. Another myth exposed.

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

      So, the Pope is only infallible as long as you agree with him? Wow, how amazingly hypocritical of you.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
      • Jim Amstutz

        What part of "Another myth exposed" do you not understand? The point that I was making was that conservatives only agree with the Pope if it coincides with their agenda.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • joe

      No,just another lie exposed.You as an adult should know better.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  12. jonquil123

    You know you're an extremist, when even The Pope of Roman Catholicism is telling you to stop being so unmercifully authoritarian.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  13. Zayah V

    Of course they are not going to shut up. If Jesus Christ descended from heaven and told them gays were OK they would crucify him again. It has always been about hate. It has never had anything to do with religion.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  14. Ed

    I thought the pope was your leader? He talks to god so you better heed his words.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  15. Magister

    Why is it atheists give themselves carte blanche to PREACH tolerance, but never seem to get around to practicing it themselves? Guess that's what you can expect from people who think Che Guevara was a hero. That's why I use LAUGH IN YOUR FACE YOU FILTHY ATHEIST. LIYFYFA has nineteen thousand essential minerals, AND it angers the LEFT! That's why I use it every day! LAUGH IN YOUR FACE YOU FILTHY ATHEIST: for when you want to laugh in a filthy atheist's face.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Klean9

      Feel the love!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Zayah V

      People with your IQ is why religion is dying off. I propose when you speak, you speak intelligently as to keep the faith thing going.

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

        Thank you for making my point....and by the way....I LAUGH IN YOUR FACE YOU FILTHY ATHEIST.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Yawn another troll who thinks he is all high and mighty. Thinking he is the right hand of God.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
        • Filthy Athiest

          Atheist here. I'm laughing in your face as your worldview crumbles around you. Even the Pope of Rome is with us now.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • sam

      Back under your bridge, troll.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • One one

      There there, ...do you feel better now ?

      September 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • huh?

      You had better hope that the atheists are correct because if not, you will be the first to be judged harshly for your intolerance and hatred masked as religious beliefs. Ugh. TIme to get that GED that you have been pushing off for way too long.

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

      And why does the Catholic Church avoid dealing with the pedophile problem? They move priests from church to church rather than excommunicate them. The Church doesn't care about kids, and you dare to talk about what atheists do?

      Physican, heal they freakin' self!

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

        Sadly that seems to be the truth. How shameful pride is.It proves that we are all fallible and all finger pointers too

        September 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Aris

      Who are you talking about? How does being an atheist have anything to do with che? He was a an athiest, but his violence was to further his political goals. There are plenty of right wiing athesists out there. It's unfortunate that they're drowned out by by the religious right who are only inerested in waging, an already lost, culture war.

      Your post is bad, and you should feel bad.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • f____ religion

      Your a Idiot. laugh in your face u blind fool .your comment doesn't make any sense .cathlics are almost as intolerant as Muslims.the real laughable thing is they both stole the ideas from judaism.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • Dippy

        You're, not your.

        September 23, 2013 at 2:11 am |
  16. 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 7:17 pm |
  17. One one

    Why doesn't god just come down from the sky and settle this ?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  18. timelord7202

    What culture, apart from the one that's bought by the highest bidder?

    Based on some actions of the faction and what they protected over the years (poor kids...), that faction as well has no culture, or dignity, to other human life.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  19. Frank

    How do we know that Jesus wasn't the devil in disguise sent to lead men astray? How can you take that chance? Your soul is a terrible price to pay for your mistake. If you're wrong, then you just followed the devil and will burn in hell. If I'm wrong, then I'll just repent and my soul will be saved.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Me again

      Frank, I would encourage you to consider how different the New and Old Testaments are.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • OperationSpiritualMission

      I see it is only one way with you. You cannot repent once you are dead. We will never know the truth until we cross over, then it will be too late for repentance. Sorry Chuck that is the way the cookie crumbles.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  20. a joke

    this disgusting pervert should be hung!

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

      Jesus's sentiments exactly !

      September 20, 2013 at 7:20 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.