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. GP

    CNN is anti-Catholic. Why doesn't CNN post everything that Pope Francis said instead of picking things out to try and make it seem like Pope Francis and his flock are fighting. Come on CNN – How about putting out the truth instead of spreading your yellow journalism against the Catholic Church?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Bk

      What did they miss? Tell us some of those.. Just because you do not like what happened does not mean you need to blame it on the messenger.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • wjs

      They ARE fighting.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • etiendelamothecassel

      Roman Catholic Hypocrites not unlike all religious organizations! It's a business bottom line, protect that income.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • La di da

      Are you crazy? CNN posts many MANY stories about the Pope. Do you live under a rock? Are people not allowed to comment on what he says, Comrade?
      What are YOUR thoughts on what the Pope said?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  2. MSSC

    So the Right Wing Conservatives are a" little" Disturbed. Every Right Wing Conservative out there is more than just a "Little Disturb" Every last one of them is a Raging Psychopath. With the pope just taking away the moral justification to brutalize others.(That is the only reason why any of these Right Wingers even have anything to do with religion) They will not be happy about this.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  3. tony

    The more Christians argue about what god wants, the more obvious it becomes that there is no god.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • fumota68

      I don't see any real Christians arguing here, don't confuse babylonians with real Christians, once again devil is a liar.

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

        Yep.. he who does not agree with me about my version of XYZ is not a real XYZ.

        Fill in the XYZ with your favorite noun.. in yourcase, christian.

        September 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
        • fumota68

          yep thanks to my Lord of Lords, you belong to the father of lies.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
        • etiendelamothecassel

          Hypocrite comes to mind....

          September 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Theadore Realist


      YES ... http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

      ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

      ... the http://www.EVILbible.com


      September 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  4. The Religion of "YES"

    YES we will burn you at the stake.
    YES we will burn you for saying the earth is round and that the sun revolves around the Earth.
    YES we will kill you if you are Muslim.
    YES we will kill you if you are Jewish.
    YES we will kill you if you are atheists.
    YES we will kill you if you are not the same exact flavor of Christianity as (insert denomination here)
    YES we have Priests that are paedophiles and whom we shelter from justice and law enforcement
    YES we insist you do not use birth control even if you do not have enough money to feed yourselves, let alone a child who will be guaranteed a death from starvation and suffering.

    YES we are deluded nutwhacks who shouldn't have ANY responsibility for voting, making laws or raising children

    September 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • fumota68

      bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots, bigots,

      September 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  5. Rosssaaa


    September 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "BEHAVES LIKE JESUS.....R !"

      Is that your signature or are you a Christian Pirate?

      September 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  6. fumota68

    the devil is a LIAR XD XD XD

    September 20, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  7. Kvjavs

    Welcome to the 21st Century, Catholics. Glad to see you finally made it out of the dark ages.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • fumota68

      you meant "getting into deeper darkness"

      September 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  8. David

    Once again Christians getting in the way of being Christian.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  9. steward

    Since the Roman Catholic Republicans in the House clearly don't seem to get the message, I wish the Pope would just say clearly: "Jesus commands us to care for the sick and the poor. Voting against food and medical care programs will henceforth carry the same penalties as obtaining or aiding an abortion." Unfortunately, Popes tend to be about as clear as the prophecies of Nostradamus.

    61 Republican members of the House of Representatives are Roman Catholic. That's more than enough – combined with Democratic votes – to support food stamps as well as the Affordable Care Act. But Catholic Republican politicians only believe in life before birth.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  10. reasonablebe

    remember, the church wanted everyone to keep believing the earth was the center of the universe? or how about that you would be damned if you at meat on friday? well. ok maybe the 1st is too far back for you to personally remember, but they did- and declared people like gaileo and da vinci heretics, and then there was Darwin, who also turned out to be right...

    but people go along... they don't want change, or any question of their personal beliefs or point of view, so anything that is a threat to their personal comfort zpne, no matter how proper, correct or necessary, is immediately branded WRONG . Religion is politics and politics is religion. any surprise?

    eventually, these fanatical 'lets stay in the middle ages in our beliefs and knowledge' people will either get over it, or leave for the hereafter and the next generation will be a bit more up to date and modern. happens all the time.

    however, i don't get it completely, because in accord with church dogma, isn't the flock suppose to view the pope as infallible on questions or religious doctrine and faith and religious action? isn't that one of those basic tenets of catholicism? do you see the irony here???

    ie, get over it. the church is moving toward a modern view of life as it should and must to stay viable... then, i don't care if it fades away, gracefully anyway.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  11. One one

    I shall now pray. Dear Heavenly Father, please give us guidance as to how much we are supposed to judge and condemn gays, birth controllers, and atheists. We prefer to condemn them all, but don't want to miss out on the opportunity to get into heaven. So, please give us a sign to let us know what you want. P.S. is this Pope for real ?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  12. Brooklyn Boy

    The part I don't get is why anybody cares what the pope says! The man lives in a world of delusions about invisible beings in the sky and going to a never-never land after we die. It's all made up anyway. So what difference does it make how the pope or anyone else wants to spin this tired fairy tale that continually holds us back as a species along with all the other fairy tales?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  13. ursrvnt

    I read the excerpts of the whole interview the Pope did. No where in the interview is he saying anything contrary to what the CCC clearly teaches. He does not use the word "obsessed", only the media pundiits do. He said "all the time." He did not say "stop doing it" either. Interesting how those who want the catholic church to change to fit their own view of a "god" of their own making versus the God of revelation spin this interview.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  14. works4me

    The Pope realizes that it's time for the Catholic Church to get it's head out of the sand or they will lose even more.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's (second one)

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

      Breaking news works4me! I am a sponsor in RCIA, we have 50 candidates in the process of being received into the catholic faith. At no time have I heard our parish priest state we are losing members ever since we have been memebers of our local parish.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  15. Chris

    If Catholics were smart, they would let the Pope be for the sake of their religion.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  16. dee3

    You lost get over it.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  17. Doug

    This Pope is such a refreshing change for Catholics!

    September 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  18. Lionly Lamb

    Scientific Research and Real Facts about the Cannabinoids in Cannabis


    September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  19. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    As of May 9, 2013, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has counted 6,275 clerics "not implausibly" and "credibly" accused in 1950-2012 of se xually abusing minors. The USCCB total omits allegations made in 2003.

    News Headline I would like to see:

    Pope Francis invites nearly 6300 accused bishops to a confrence and pull's an Oprah!

    "Okay, everyone pull the bag of feces from under your chairs and stick your head in the bag cause... Your fired! And your Fired! And your fired! That's right! Everbodys fvcking fired!!"

    Then maybe i would start to like this Pope...

    September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  20. JackBriss

    The qualifications to be a liberal are.
    Just have an IQ below 70.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Yawn. I make over a $178,000 dollars a year. That proves your idiotic statistic false.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • James Quinn

      An intelligence joke coming from you? Seriously?

      Pagan jim

      September 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      still far and away higher than a conservative who is so stupid their favorite sport is watching cars turn left...

      Here is a brain teaser for you, though it might be hard to figure out for a comedian such as yourself...

      MR Ducks
      MR Not
      CM WANGS
      LIB MR Ducks...

      September 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Feerless Freep

      The qualifications to be a Conservative are.
      Just have an IQ below 50.

      Tag, your it.

      September 22, 2013 at 11:10 am |
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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.