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. Sharick

    Yes. You must follow all of the Bible's teachings. Especially about shellfish. Why are there not masses of Catholics protesting outside Red Lobster? I dont' get it.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • UD

      Red Lobster serves artificial sea food. That gets them in the door. On the down low.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    I get why there are people all excited about this, but what is with the dress and phallic hat?

    September 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Sorry in this pic he is wearing the "condom-cap"

      September 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  3. MilitaryAF

    You would think 'conservatives' would get the hint: If the Pope doesn't obsess over 'culture wars', why should they? If the so-called conservatives would simply mind their own business & live their own lives the way they see fit, vs. monitoring everyone else & trying to force their agenda on everyone else, everyone would be a LOT better off.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Lisa

      It's just a simple superst ition: They believe that the things they are against will upset God enough that he will some day do some serious smiting, and they may get hurt through collateral damage. That's why they blame hurricanes and tornados on the gays, feminists, and abortion. They're just trying to save their own butts.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tria MacLeod

      I think Pope Francis has gotten the message that the constant hatred towards LGTBQ and vilification of abortions has driven a huge wedge in the population regarding the Catholic faith. You now have a huge swath of people who are 'culturally' Catholic (much like the culturally Jewish) who know and understand the customs but have no interest whatsoever in supporting the doctrine.

      I am glad that he has the sense to open his eyes and actually try to mend fences. That he doesn't appear to see the wold in only black and white. It the Catholic Church is to survive into the future, this is the sort of leader they need. One who remembers Jesus preached of love and compassion, not hatred and condemnation.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Ed

        Wow, I love this pope. You are so right, Tria, because society is changing every single day and the Church needs to adapt to those changes – Benedict couldn't do it, but Francis absolutely gets it...plus he is Jesuit...they know their stuff – Who am I to judge? Amen to that, Francis.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  4. tired of your crap

    let's face it. there ARE other things to talk about. like football (not futbol).

    September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Dolphins is a very close game against Atlanta.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  5. Chaozz

    A pope that lives in reality.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no one who is religious lives in reality...

      September 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • Eric

        haha okay BOOTYFUNK, irony can be a female dog

        September 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
      • Francisco

        Says the guy who needs to accept Jesus.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  6. blf83

    Get over it; the Pope is correct. It is time for a new Reformation of both the Catholic Church and of some other denominations. But like all Reformations/Revolutions, we must be cautious that the not accept the narrowness of the conservative/talibanic forces that are all too common in organized religion today.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • MilitaryAF

      If YOU want a reformation, become a mormon. That's what they're supposedly all about, though they don't have a single thing right...

      September 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • blf83

        And they did not do a Reformation, for they only added to the dysfunction of organized religion by accepting the "prophecies" of a drunk, womanizing, snake-oil salesman, and con-artist who was murdered in Nauvoo, Illinois.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • MilitaryAF

          It's a cult, not a religion...

          September 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of people who believe it.

          September 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • Ken

          "Cult" is just what you call the other guy's religion, while naïvely thinking that he isn't doing the exact same thing.

          September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  7. mundy dundy

    The first Pope to understand what "all of God's children are equal" means. I'm a conservative and I'm straight, but this is the first Pope that I respect.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ken

      But he isn't talking about actual equality, now is he? He hasn't come out to say that being actively gay isn't a sin in itself. Until he does, he is still supporting the bigotry against a minority group.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  8. John N Florida

    I think the Conservatives and the church should double down on the commitment. Every Catholic woman who uses birth control other that the woe begone Rhythym Method,should be ex-communicated immediately from the church. Women who, in the past, have used birth control should be made to publicly give penance for their transgressions.
    If a Catholic woman has had an elective abortion she should be ex-communicated and barred from re-entry to the church and it's celebrations.
    Catholics in America MUST get their women under control. Allowing 90+% to use Birth Control methods other than those sanctified by the church create dissension and show the church as incapable of controlling it's flock.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • blf83

      Are you sure you didn't mean "incapable of controlling their frock?"

      September 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • MilitaryAF

      Are you affiliated with the Taliban?

      September 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • blf83

        Do you not understand that John N Florida was being sarcastic, even ironic?

        September 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
      • Joey

        Before I can take any Christian seriously they need to push to outlaw everything that the bible considers to be a sin. Only trying to outlaw gay marriage makes it look like Christians just don't like gay people.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
        • Tria MacLeod

          It is interesting how they pick ONE law out of Leviticus and say that one still stands true, yet the other 246 laws in the same book. It is also interesting how they, as Christians, decide that only that law from the Old Testament carries over into the New Testament. Not to mention that one man, one woman marriages were NOT the norm in Biblical times, not by a long shot. Very convenient memories they have. It's almost as if they've never read their own Holy Book.

          September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Brad76

      I don't think Catholic women in western nations need to be "put under control". This isn't India or China, I can think of plenty of other places where there are MUCH worse problems.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Anyone who gets or aids in getting an abortion is already excommunicated.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Doesn't that put god in awkward position with all the miscarriages that happen; surely they're acts of god. Or is this another exclusion that kicks in when logic fails?

        September 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
        • Bill Deacon


          September 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          So loss of an unborn child is OK as long as god does it?

          September 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          So the loss of an unborn child is OK as long as god does it?

          September 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Secular Allen

    Comedian Jim Jeffries proposed a single commandment that could and should replace all religion. I shall not reproduce it here. It is brilliant. Time to say goodbye to your imaginary friends and get on with life...treat each other with respect, tolerance and compassion. Don't need a rule book for that.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Brad76

      Says who? You? What are you going to do? Force people? I'd like to see you try that!

      September 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  10. Vince

    Isn't the Pope God's rep on Earth? That would mean what the Pope said is what God said.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the problem with that equation is that god doesn't exist, so the pope is just talking to himself.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • TigersClaw

        How do you know?

        September 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  11. They are not happy at all about this... just look at them...


    September 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • MilitaryAF

      This video looks like a GOP caucus.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  12. LGBT for Pope

    Way to go Pope, we love you.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      why would you want to be in a club with a rule book that says you are abomination?

      September 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  13. Tony

    I can't believe I'm typing this but I agree with Donohue. It's the same church, the pope's statements really didn't change anything. I don't get why what the pope said is getting all of this attention.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Fascinating isn't it?

      September 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • Tony

        It's more confusing to me than anything. All the pope essentially said was "We're still going to maintain our position on these issues, but since they're unpopular we're not going to talk about them as much."
        Nothing material has changed has it?

        September 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Doug

    Finally, a Pope that speaks with some sense, and, of course, the radicals on the right can't deal with it. The right has lost the culture wars. They are sore losers.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  15. TJ

    Pope Francis comes from a different part of the world (South America/ European viewpoints) where views are generally more lenient.. Here in the US everything liberal or conservative is viewed with hatred and intolerance for one anothers ideas and views. Let the man alone. I find him to be a remarkable pope and I tend to lean to a more traditional Catholic Church.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  16. mundy dundy

    Conservatives would be angry with god if his ideas differed from theirs.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • wrm

      Stop letting yourself be played. Of course there are going to be conservatives who disagree. You think there aren't liberals who disagree as well? CNN does this all the time – finds a few people who happen to align with a political ideology and then in their description describes them in such a way as to generalize their opinions to millions of other people with similar political leanings.

      I'm somewhat conservative and I really don't care what the pope has to say. If it allows people to live within whatever faith they've chosen and get along then more power to them. No skin off my teeth.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Ken

      As long as it's up to people's imaginations to "interpret" what God thinks, he will never disagree with them.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  17. ScienceisGod

    "nature of holy matrimony as designed by God" Oh really,, What God? The one sitting on a bed of clouds? Do you have any idea how ridiculous that idea is. Stop being sheep. You know its not true. The bible was written by men. There was no Adam and Eve. Evolution is real. I'm sorry to bother you with facts.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Name*John

      Lol, your facts are not factual.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
      • Joey

        Actually it is true that there was no Adam and Eve, and therefore no reason for your god to send Jesus to forgive it. Basically without a literal Adam and Eve Christianity makes no sense whatsoever.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • xirume

      It's that white dude with gray hair, long beard and blue eyes, wearing a toga, lounging comfortably on a cloud... that god. Hmm.. wonder how he stays up on cloudless clear days??? Must be some kind of miracle.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • Tria MacLeod

        No, no, no. That' s Zeus. I'm pretty sure the Abrahamic God sits on a golden throne. Same long white hair and beard though. Maybe he's Zeus after a make over?

        September 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Peter

      ScienceisGod, you'd be hard pressed to find anything in the Catholic Catechism denouncing evolution. Catholic's have been on the right side of scientific discovery for over a thousand years. Heliocenstrism? Catholic scientist. Bing bang theory? Catholic priest/scientist. Modern genetics? Catholic scientist. And the list goes on. . .

      September 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
      • chelle

        I'm sure Galileo would have been delighted to know that the Roman Catholic Church loved his idea of a heliocentric galaxy. What you are referring to are scientists who happened to be Catholic. Given that the majority of people in Europe up to the Reformation were Catholic, the odds were pretty strong that scientific discovery came from scientists in the Catholic faith. That is entirely different from the Catholic Church itself being on the right side of discovery.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
        • Robert

          At those points in time in those areas, there was little choice but to be catholic or at least christian. Saying they were is meaningless, especially while ignoring the historical treatment of scientist who went against doctrine.

          September 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  18. John

    National Catholic Register.- Not "Conservative" – But it is Catholic.
    National Catholic Reporter – (AKA – Fishwrap) – A Dissenting "catholic" rag

    September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • smr413

      Gee, I'd put it exactly the other way around. – the "fishwrap" is the Register.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  19. us_1776

    It's pretty bad when one of the most conservative Christian Churches is still too liberal for GOP/TEA.


    September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • niknak

      Attila the Hun would be too liberal for them.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  20. sly

    Hell, any conservative offended by the Pope's message of love really doesn't need to take any more breathes of our precious air.

    This is a great day: Conservative's in Congress calling each other 'stupid' and 'frauds', and conservative god-sters getting their panties in a bun over a decent Pope.

    These are great days for America, and for freedom. Thank you President Obama for bringing change to this nation.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • wrm

      Obama is the pope? This is all starting to make sense to me now.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      conservatives are often offended by the idea of people being treated fairly. they can't stomach equality.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:07 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.