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. RP

    CNN always gets it wrong...

    September 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Let me guess. You read the Blaze right?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        Is it really reading when you do it there? That's like calling a trip to taco bell "dining out."

        September 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  2. obozosuxdodo

    the pope should kick some gay's azzes!

    September 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  3. DJones

    I wonder when liberals are going to start worrying what God thinks? I hate to inform them but the Bible is pretty clear on the subject and it is pretty certain that God isn't the least bit interested in changing.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • dee3

      what does the bible say about human sacrifice?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
      • Alpha

        It is only allowed to be done to your own slaves and only if they have been bad, and only if they are colored. ..and on that note, wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a law stating that no child under 18 was allowed to enter any religious house of worship? Save The Children from these wicked theists!

        September 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Changing? When did God tell your group to assault, prevent, and ridicule those that are different from you?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
      • DJones

        I didn't say I would do anything.... I simply pointed out that God is going to send sinners to hell just like he said.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Why? He created us in his image correct? That contradicts your prediction on everyone going to hell.

          September 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Dear moron,

      God isn't...the world is.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Thomas

      You should be much more worried about what Odin and Zeus thinks. After all, they have a much more extensive history of interfering with human events.

      Don't believe they exist? Why not? Doesn't your Bible say "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" indicating that other gods DO exist but that that your guy just doesn't want anyone worshiping them?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
      • Alpha

        ...its a technicality, but they didn't capitalize gods in that thing (I can't call it a b__k, it insults libraries and b__ks everywhere)
        ..talk to a christian, its hilarious. Their god gets a capital G, and the other thousands of previous gods (some of whom even had their stories and tales copied into the christ mythos) just get little g's and are considered fables.

        How hypocritical is that??!

        September 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • George

      Some people remember when Christians were liberals, helping the poor, promoting equal rights, showing love, back in the 60s and 70s. What happened? Roe v Wade allowed Republicans to hijack the Christians.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Funny how christians say we can't know god's will when it's something they can't explain or don't agree with, yet have absolute certainty on what they think.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • lnn

      You're arrogantly assuming that what you "believe" (subscribed to) is some sort of irrefutable truth when in reality it's slowly moving in the direction of being tomorrow's mythology. People are evolving, and your pope realizes this. It's inevitable. The internet is the real enemy of "religion." People aren't buying into the Bronze Age fairy tales any longer. How could a truly intelligent and wise person believe in Noah's Ark???

      September 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • J-Pap

      Don't forget you speak for only those that believe in YOUR God. For the rest of us, we are trying to make the world we actually live in a better place for everyone; Gay or straight. Trying to force people into your belief system only angers those who don't want to confirm to your beliefs. Try what the pope is saying. Believe what you feel in your heart and let others follow if they choose.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Remove the plank from thine own eye. Also, you can believe in whatever delusion you want, but, lots of folks dont. Your threat of gods impending doom is sorta like saying Darth Vader is coming to get me. I'm not all that worried.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  4. shamgar50

    Dragging the church, kicking and screaming, into the light! Guess they had to do something, since people were leaving the church in droves.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • DJones

      The Scriptures say that the truth is light, it also says that the word of God, which is truth, is a light unto our path. So any turn towards sin is not a turn towards the light, it is a trip into darkness.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
      • Sane Person

        Fred says "yabba dabba do".

        September 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        Red lobster and airport bathrooms.. hotbeds of vile sin!

        September 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  5. 1 of 7B

    boohoo, boohoo, let the christian haters show their true colors

    September 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • shamgar50

      Do you mean people who hate christians, or christians who hate?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
      • k

        Shouldn't be hard at all to find a christian who hates.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • 1 of 7B

      boohoo, boohoo, I can't find anything positive to say about my superstition

      September 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Dan

      The arrogance of you to think people hide their feelings about your cult. I've hated your bigoted kind for years. I wear my colors on the outside...just the way you wear your hate.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  6. Francis the Pedo

    Francis like kids under 12, as it shows in the picture above...he says that kids that age are more tender.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  7. mabear87

    Hello, we finally have a Pope who lives in the 21st Century, not 100 BC It is time we had someone who promotes Christianity and not the garbage of the old testament which was Jewish, not Christian. Jesus accepted everyone and taught us to not judge anyone, unlike many evangelicals and republicans. When are those people going to become Christians? On St Peter's door" Or maybe before?.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • TheTruth

      The bible is the main authority for Christians...it does matter in which century you live. If any christian organization disregards this, then its teaching are false, and will be awaiting Gods judgments on it!!

      September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
      • k


        September 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • DJones

      Do you honestly think the New Testament is without judgement? Jesus warns of the resurrection and says that MOST people will go to hell. Broad is the way that leads to destruction and MANY there are that enter there in. God has made it real simple. If we will accept Jesus as our savior, put our faith in him, we will be forgiven. But there is no forgiveness for sins that are not repented of. As such those who justify their sin are definitely not accepted, saved, or heaven bound.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  8. Jobu

    Hey, guess what???

    September 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  9. This is what the Pope said.

    In a freeway there are many cars. some are front wheel drive, some are four wheel drive and some rear wheel drive.
    that's it.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • shamgar50

      I likes me some rear wheel drivin!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  10. mike

    If there is a Devil, then organized religion is his greatest accomplishment.

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

      Personally, I think it was the bible. Where else can you get so much permission to hate? It had to be a trick.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  11. Dan

    When are people going to get over mythology?

    September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • shamgar50

      When they die.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  12. Lenny Pincus

    Seems like the rant in this article is coming from some self-appointed Catholic big mouth against the Pope. I'm siding with the Pope on this one.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  13. What is going on? FREEDOM

    You got to remember people. The Conservative Christians love to assault, prevent, and ridicule those who are different because they like to control people. They have a dictatorship mentality and they are angry that they can't control all of the United States in their image.

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

      What is most curious is... The god and book that they say they follow teaches the opposite of what their actions are.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  14. Mark

    Where did the Pope say these behaviors were okay? I love liberal spin.

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

      Read. Pay attention. Watch. Learn. Then post. Your comment shows that you are doing none of these.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • shamgar50

        And that surprises you about his type, why?

        September 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • shamgar50

      I loathe "Conservative Dogma" and hate.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • La di da

      Jesus was a liberal. Get a grip.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  15. Rustyy

    It says a lot about trying to interpret a 2000 year old book when we can't even interpret the words someone said 24 hours ago....

    September 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  16. Jim

    Getting a real kick out of reading the rants from the Catholic and Christian haters every time some religious related article gets posted on CCN. After 26+ years in the army guess I really lost track of how far our culture had degraded. Real eye opener. Thanks.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • jimbo

      After 26+ years in the army, I suggest you get a job if you can.

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

      If you really have been in the Army for 26 years, you certainly should have met more people with more diversity. I would suggest you get out of your "buddy mode" and join the human race.

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

      After 26 + years in the Army you lost track of how far our culture had degraded? How is that possible? I mean no disrespect I am just curious.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "Anti-Catholic prejudice was still very much in the mainstream of American life when JFK decided to seek the presidency in 1960. Only one Catholic, Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, had ever been the presidential nominee of one of the major parties. Smith’s 1928 campaign was dogged by claims that he would build a tunnel connecting the White House and the Vatican and would amend the Constltution to make Catholicism the nation’s established religion. He was overwhelmingly defeated—even losing much of the then Democratic Solid South." – jfklibrary.org

      People have been hating on Catholics for a long time in this country, this is nothing new. What is new is the additional voices of the unaffiliated and non-Christians who have come out of the woodwork now that a new and anonymous method of voicing our opinions has been found, aka the internet. Previously those who did not believe in God did believe, and rightly so, in angry religious zealots willing to use violence against any who, in their minds, blasphemed against their brand of invisible fairy. That is why they stayed silent. Now we can say what we want and you can rage and punch holes in your trailer wall and smack the wife but we are out of your reach and there is nothing you can do about it.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  17. sybaris

    Why do religious people care so much about what other people do with their genitalia in the privacy of their own homes?

    September 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Adam C

      Its all about control. If they can control behavior in the bedroom, they can control it anywhere.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • Care Less Whispher


      And where did you get such idea? Gays should QUIT flattering themselves, coz they are not that special,

      September 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  18. Cassidy S

    The easy road leads ever down into stagnation...

    Maybe a shake up is just what everyone needs.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  19. rudness

    The way Mr.Donohue answered the questions was pretty clear and rational to me. What part didn't the interviewer understand? Maybe they should draw him pictures.

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

      Most likely jealousy... or ignorance... or envy. Pick any two.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Gh0st

      Yes. He was clearly an idiot to any rational person.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • truthsayer

      Donahue is a crusty old turd that should and must be ignored. Anyone can see the bitterness and venom in his words and face. He has all he can do to keep his claws tame and his fangs hidden.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  20. Lainie11

    Radical departure of the Catholic Faith.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:08 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.