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. Lenny Pincus

    I love that "dignity of life" cr@p. Conservatives talking about the dignity of life as they gin up wars all over the world. What a load.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  2. fumota68

    you all bigots just like any human are just limited to breath, you are going to die in about... well a few years and God still will be. Praise be to God

    September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • shamgar50

      Write much?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Gh0st

      Your god is a fa**ot and so are you.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Sandfill

      Odin dislikes your tone. Thor taps his hammer. They both smile, they know your soul will be theirs soon....


      September 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  3. etiendelamothecassel

    Wow, the President of the Catholic League looks amazingly like Archie Bunker.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  4. JDinHouston

    Our Pope, the leader of our Church and the voice, is "wrong?" Do you understand how disgusting you sound to me? I'd say we have, oh, something like a thousand years of teaching that the word of the Pope is practically the Word. I am a Jesuit taught man, inspired by a Pope reminding us that God and Christ is love, not hate. I embrace non-believers, haters, pagans, gays, anyone who will live well and love others and renounce hate. If I can bring them to my Church, even better.

    I learned God is love, when did American "Christians" forget that?

    September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Adam C

      You are very much deluded about religion, but I praise your stance of inclusiveness with others.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Sandfill

      THERE IS NO GOD. What a sad waste of thought and precious time 🙁

      or do you actually believe that Zeus was once real?

      Ok, so you actually believe that your god is the only real god out of thousands?

      ok, so you believe that the millions of children under 5 that died this year alone WITHOUT CHRIST are actually currently writhing in agony in a pit of Hell, while your Satan watches and smiles?

      What a mess. Man I hate Pastors – no, not angry or threatening, just disgusted by ignorance. And no, I don't have all the answers but its a hell of a lot easier to find TRUE ANSWERS if boneheaded religious people would stop making stuff up all the time! YOU HAVE NO SOUL. (and don't pray for me please)

      September 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  5. mabear87

    When are we going to have real Christians in the US. Chrisitianity is the NEW TESTAMENT!! These morons who claim to be Christians do not practice the New Testament, but only the old testament which is the history of the Jewish faith. We need the Republicans in the House to go to church and become real Christians, not political phonies. The Pope is showing signs of being an educated person. Maybe we can get educations for Rubio, Cruz, Gohmert, Bachman, Paul and the other people that need togo to college along with Limbaugh, Beck and The jerk Sean somebody.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Betty

      Better just to be rid of Christianity. It is a plague on our collective reasoning, in the same way Islam is a plague on the Middle East. There can be no peace among Man as long as most Humans believe fairy tales are true, and that this life is only the first.

      As a species we are like 3 year olds. Maybe in 8000 years we will be better equipped to irrefutably show religions to be the mockery of intelligence that so many of us believe they are.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • Adam C

        Hear, hear. Religion is a very divisive force, a tool of control. Better to cast off all of the silly ceremonies, rituals, and traditions, and focus on the humanist approach of treating each other well.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      I agree. I have never been more proud to be a Catholic! My Pope rocks. He is truly a man of the people and his wisdom is amazing. Not because of "the gay thing" but because he said similar of atheists. He knows that God is love, and that even those we may disagree with have respect for the values they also follow. I know that hurts those who hate, but remember Satan is in the heart of hate, so you have to surrender that hate to find the love of God.
      The politics can be tough, but the enduring love of God goes far beyond the petty politics of today.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • aRCON

        ...on an interesting aside...

        Did you know that you have actually re-written some of the neural pathways in your brain by convincing yourself that unproveable, unknowable, metaphysical guesses are real? Like souls, afterlives, gods, demons, witches, prayer, angels etc.

        If you tell yourself something long enough, you will believe it. Hee Hee. Your faith is bizarre to any learned person of reason...

        September 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  6. Salty

    I hear a lot of "christians" saying they don't need the church OR the bible, only Jesus (and I think his love) and then they believe that they still get the life after death in all his glory bit.

    So, do Catholics need Jesus or just the Pope?

    September 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  7. Doug

    LOL... questioning a guy they held up as infallible.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Lucifer

      Doug, you must have missed the memo from the "conservative" "catholics." He is on infallible when he tells you what you WANT to hear.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  8. grafixer

    The bottom line is... NO ONE has the right to JUDGE another human being. We all have the right to believe what we believe. If you don't agree with that, you are segregating yourself from the whole of humanity. There is no way that ALL beings on this earth – from so many different cultures – from so many different heritages and histories – will ever "believe" exactly the same thing. It is the right of every "SOUL" to answer to their own beliefs. Anyone that thinks a GOD did not only create this right, but will stand behind it... Anyone that believes that a GOD that created these souls... (or not)... did not also set forth love and acceptance of the being created... is... narrow, controlling, insecure about their own beliefs, and less than worthy of being part of the whole of humanity. Think. Believe what you believe. And with that, accept that all of mankind has been granted the WILL to follow the growth of their own soul.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • jesusforpenis

      No one needs a right to judge someone. You can do that without anyone else's permission.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • grafixer

        Sorry, but no one was ever granted the right to stand in judgement of another – based on their own very narrow thoughts or beliefs. This is about one's faith in one's god. This is NOT about one's faith in the god that you believe in – or in the manner which you believe. We are all part of a whole. If you choose to be exclusive – to exempt your fellow man in order to bolster your own beliefs... then you are lacking in your own faith. It isn't about "others"... it is about YOU – not "them". Grow up. Be secure in your own faith – whatever that is. And realize that others have the right to be secure in THEIR FAITH.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • SweetMaryJaneTwiceTonightBeGood

      LOL, did you believe any of that?
      Try reading Biology, not that T.P. "good book" of horrors...

      September 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
      • grafixer

        Apparently you did not read my post. I am not a Christian – nor do I follow any book written by any group of any religion. You missed the point.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Michelle

      Better read your Bible. It never says NOT to judge, but rather says specifically who and how to judge, with love.

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


    Can't wait to see what Mr. Pope comes up with next!

    Yeah Mr. Pope, you go girlfriend!

    September 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  10. Fact Hard

    It was Pope's another way of saying....If they want to go to hell, then, the HELL with them.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • truthsayer

      hell... also known as a make believe land of eternal punishment ...playing on a persons fear. F religion

      September 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Hellbound

      Yes, they're bound to go there.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  11. New Man

    As an Atheist who does not believe that fiction is real, I AM OVERJOYED to now be going to Heaven! Thank you Mr. Pope, thank you!

    (hey, a fictional heaven is better than 2 in a bush right?)

    September 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • fumota68

      you are an atheist and really think you are going to heaven? DX devil's lies XD XD XD XD XD XD

      September 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Sarcasm... Look it up dumbass

        September 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
      • Sue Ellen


        Sarcastic much?

        September 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  12. Lucifer's Evil Twin


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


      September 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  13. Bessy the Cow...

    I love Calf-licks...
    Calf-licks make my udders all sticky...
    The Pope loves Calf-licks...

    September 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  14. truthsayer

    Religion is the god wh0re industry, run by pimps and wh0res to satisfy ignorant johns

    September 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  15. CGDoc

    Saint Malachy was correct and we are now seeing the beginning of the tribulation. The beast will rise from the city of seven hills and reign for 7 years. He will be loved by all the world and forge a great peace plan in the middle east. There will be mark that we all shall receive and it will be the Papal Seal.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • midwest rail

      The "prophecies" of Malachy are nonsense.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Lucifer

      Dude, you are doing WAY too many mushrooms

      September 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Thomas

      Ahhhh.....yeah. You let us know how that turns out, skippy.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin


      September 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  16. He said it - but you're misinterpreting it

    He said the sky is blue, but he didn't REALLY mean the sky is blue, he meant to say that it is NOT blue – you're just misinterpreting it.

    He said you shouldn't interfere with gays, but he didn't REALLY mean to not interfere with them – he didn't REALLY mean to stop harassing them and firing them and preventing them from getting housing or health care insurance or visit their loved ones in the hospital. NO – what he MEANT to say was HARASS gay people as OFTEN as possible! Beat them in dark alleys (unless they're a priest and then please call 1-800-WeProtect for our Priest Intervention & Translocation Program ®) and make sure that they get what Jesus said they had coming to them!

    Gee, can't you CLEARLY read that from his words? WE CAN – why can't you?

    September 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Thomas

      It's odd that he can take the words of the Bible as literal, but not the words of his Infallible Holiness. The devoutly religious never deal with contradictions very well.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  17. seriously

    He didnt say being gay is ok, agreeing with abortion is ok and go go for contraception.. before everyone gets all bent out of shape.. he is simply saying there is a much more important message of the catholic church.. the love and forgivessness we know in Christ... The anti-chrsotian are the ones brining attentiion the these issues.. not the church. its an anti-christ world ew live in.. anti- God.. anti-Church.. devil filled..evil reining....

    September 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      You're funny...

      September 20, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  18. Steve

    Wow. Catholics spewing hate in our little online chat here. Not really walking the walk now, are we?

    If you are a Catholic and upset by the Pope's "liberal" leanings, perhaps you should check yourself instead of lashing out at others or trying to rephrase the Pope's words. The Catholic church finally has a progressive, thoughtful, caring, humble, loving leader. LISTEN to him. Grow up. Live and let live.

    I was raised Catholic. I bolted in the other direction as I found the faith to be judgmental, fear based, anti-women, protective of pedophiles... But Pope Francis actually gives me hope for the Catholic Church.


    September 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • ronny12223

      Liked your post, Steve. I also bolted, and have no intention of returning. Nonetheless I'm pleased with the Pope's remarks.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  19. tony

    The more Christians argue about what each sub-group thinks their version of god wants, the more obvious it becomes that there is no single god that they can all imagine. And it's only one step of logical thinking here to figuire out there is NO GOD.

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

      Amen 😀

      September 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • fumota68

      logic, intelligence,reasoning = devil's lies. MAPS = God

      September 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Man made God out of clay, so that he can mold and manipulate "His" wishes to whatever the sculpter wants at the moment...

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

      so very true

      September 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  20. DemFromSC

    No one who is capable of thinking for himself/herself pays any attention to what the Pope or his "conservative" brethren say. The Catholic Church is full of unrepentant child molesters and they have literally no moral ground to stand upon. It boggles my mind that people actually give money to such an organization.

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

      Amen.....Roman Catholic Hypocrites not unlike all religious organizations!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Purple Pete

      As one of those now adult "children" I thank you.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Rollmyeyestwice

      Every government has had a hand rapin gand pillaging, yet you still pay your taxes right? That's a good boy

      September 20, 2013 at 7:56 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.