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. Cpt. (not so) Obvious

    A remedial class will.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      That makes perfect sense and you posted it in exactly the right place, 'lil, (nut zo).

      September 21, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Cpt. (not so) Obvious

      Yes, it has been proven to help a people with challenges in a certain aspects like you do.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:06 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Coherent writing fail, again, (nut zo).

        September 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  2. Michael

    This man is a dinosaur. Five more years and this will be a non issue.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Athy

      Only to be followed by another dinosaur.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:50 am |
  3. Sosay

    Focus on ourseleves? Why? Most have that perfected to look elsewhere and lay well founded judgement.
    We can look inward or stare outward.
    Think about it.
    Should I judge too?

    September 21, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Really now

      You already do.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  4. Johnny Christian

    Gays are evil subhumans who deserve the hell they are going to burn in. What a bunch of haters they are!

    Atheists are monsters who should get a particularly nasty corner of hell. Haters! Worse than the Muslims and Jesus-murdering Jews and Hindus and the rest of those haters.

    They should all learn from us non-judging humble loving Christians

    September 21, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • Sosay

      Dick Cheney's daughter is openly gay – be careful.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:14 am |
      • Isn't that special

        That's what grown-ups call a non sequitur, l'il guy.

        September 21, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Hell and destruction are never full
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Hell ain't forever dude. It gets tossed into the lake of fire, too.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Sosay

    Understanding this and engaging in a debate with something agaisnt the ideals is like fighting zombies.
    Not much use.
    Whether theological or just philosophical.
    One in the same.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Isn't that special

      Good try, but you still didn't make any sense at all. But hey, as you parents say, the 3,469,287th time's the charm.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  6. rob

    Waaah, the Pope no longer supports our hatred against our fellow human beings, waaaah, we don't like when bigots like us become tolerant of others, waaaah!!!!

    September 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  7. Sosay

    Regardless of the faith in free will choosing, wisdom dictates humility is the key.
    Not for a man made hierarchical system of unaccountability.
    This is where science meets theology.
    The potential of the mind.
    Something programmed without the ability to be curious and searching lacks the ability to grow therefore has no respect.

    September 20, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Isn't that special

      Keep trying. You might make sense eventually.

      September 20, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        It's pretty cruel of you to get someone's hopes up unnecessarily.

        September 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
      • Sosay

        Freedom of thought yanked someone's security blanket hard.
        Truth hurts huh?
        It wasn't really that complicated if you just read.

        September 21, 2013 at 12:02 am |
        • GodFreeNow

          I think you're saying the humility is where science and religion converge?

          But humility is impossible without comparison, and that is where science and religion diverge. Religion is humbled by the imagination, science is humbled by reality.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:08 am |
        • Sosay

          Humility is the lack of judgement lending each look at ourselves and figure out why there is the negative and positive – leading to an understanding of what part we as individuals play.
          It works unless the negative wants control.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:11 am |
        • Really now

          So as you are quite judgmental, you therefore lack humility? I will agree on that point.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:20 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Sosay, just taking a shot at something here, but, you aren't., by any chance, coming down from a LSD or LSA trip, are you?

          September 21, 2013 at 12:23 am |
        • GodFreeNow

          @Cpt. Obvious, Ha!

          September 21, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  8. WE NEED RELIGION ! (Like we need uncontrollable explosive diarrhea)

    Conservatives are "disturbed" that the new Pope does hate enough for their tastes. I'm shocked! Shocked! To find gambling in this establishment!

    September 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  9. Lorraine

    ***Mary, the mother of Jesus… was not ‘forever’ a virgin.

    Mt.1:25 It says that Joseph did not know her until she brought forth her firstborn son. It does not say… only son, but firstborn. Notice Joseph did not know her (intimately) until, after she gave birth to Jesus.

    ***Now, if Peter was the first Pope……….he was definitely married: he had a mother-in-law: so, Popes can be married: thus, Priests can also be married.

    Jesus Heals Peter's Mother-in–Law
    Mark 1: 29 – 39

    September 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      And on a related note, you should be careful what brand of wax you use to affix feathers to your arms to fly; just look what happened with Icarus.

      September 20, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the word "virgin" is a well-known mistranslation. it is actually the word "young". mary was a young woman, not a virgin woman. the virgin myth is just that – a myth.

      September 20, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
      • Hell and destruction are never full

        Hell and destruction are never full
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        That's what a post resurrection poor loser scribe will tell ye.

        September 21, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      Since I interpret things in a biblical manner, I had a very awkward moment a few years back when an attractive woman I met in a library said she'd like to get to "know" me.

      September 20, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
      • WE NEED RELIGION ! (Like we need uncontrollable explosive diarrhea)

        You can always try the ole "I'm sure it was God who impregnated you and not me" schtick

        September 20, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
      • an ordinary theist

        No need to be awkward, the keyword there is "intimately". Chillax..

        September 20, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
  10. Bootyfunk

    Conservatives demand more hatred and bigotry from their religion!

    September 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  11. Mork


    September 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • TypicAtheist

      How TYPICAL.

      September 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        If that sounds like a "typical" atheist comment on these boards, then you need mental attention right away. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

        September 20, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  12. Emily K.

    Rich that so many of the posters here clearly are not of the faith, but have plenty to say about how the Catholic Church and other denominations need to reform–apparently, more to a culture which is clearly perverse and broken.

    September 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Doris

      Perverse and broken? Let's jump back a couple hundred years and listen:

      "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

      –Thomas Jefferson

      September 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
      • Emily K.

        Ah yes, TJ, the God of the "enlightened."

        September 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          at least he really existed...

          September 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
        • Doris

          Just another human being. Think of him as you wish, but just mind that wall of separation as you wind you way through Gullible's Travels, dear.

          September 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
      • Emily K.

        1 Corinthians 2:14
        The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

        September 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          cult brainwash babble. "if they say anything we do is crazy, silly or cruel, it's only because they don't understand. amen."

          September 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
        • NSL

          Complete absurdity, but I surely don't think of Catholicism as foolish. I consider Catholicism perverse, deviant, twisted and hateful and unknowing of the word of God. I look at Catholics as what they are, idolaters who are even unable to follow the teachings of their god. Jesus was a man of peace, of an open spirit, accepting of all, having charity for all, not a man of hate or war like the Catholic Church has been virtually all its existence since Jesus' tragic death.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • Inquiry & verification in the fundy mindset

      Let's take a peek inside and see how it works:


      September 20, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  13. Steve

    Your post is bit out there. Nothing your wife did or doctor did contradicts church teaching. If the operation was to stop bleeding but caused sterility as a side effect then according to Catholic teaching that's ok, it's only if the operation was done primarily for sterility would it go against church teaching. It's also permissible to take the pill under church teaching if it's for medical reasons other than trying to prevent pregnancy. I'm not saying I agree with church teaching, I'm ambivalent. But what you described about your wife is not contrary and is permissible in the Catholic church.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  14. lewtwo

    no worries - they are still protecting their priests.
    They transferred Jozef Wesolowski back to Rome so that the Dominican Republic could not prosecute him.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  15. Cebundy

    I love this new pope! He teaches love and understanding. I really don't see why Catholics want to participate in culture wars anyway. Why can't you just have your beliefs and leave others alone? Why must Catholics insist on making their beliefs law? We are suppose to have freedom in America, both of and FROM religion.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • WE NEED RELIGION ! (Like we need uncontrollable explosive diarrhea

      Do note that the love and understanding you admire has been practiced by seculars for many decades now. We call it "basic Human decency", and it is a pity so many religious people find that controversial and repugnant.

      September 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
      • Cebundy

        Love and understanding was not big on the Catholic Church's agenda. It was more judgement and damnation in my view. I think most agnostics/atheists practice more genuine love and understanding because we are't angling for some eternal reward.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:13 am |
      • Hell and destruction are never full

        Hell and destruction are never full
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        "....................has been practiced by seculars.................." Can you do yer practicin' on yer own dime??

        September 21, 2013 at 1:26 am |
        • Cebundy

          Oh Sweetie. I just want to practice all over you, until I get it right!

          September 21, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Steve

      And seculars have practiced the opposite as well. Practicing bigotry and hatred towards anyone who disagrees with them. Sorry, but seculars aren't immune either, they're human as well. Please don't say otherwise

      September 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
      • Cebundy

        True, but at least it's their own genuine bigotry, they don't have a church preaching it to them. But I think that on the whole, most "secular" people see us as equal beings just trying to get along on this big rock. They are not much for religious wars and persecution. And they're not much for passing laws to force everyone to comply with our beliefs.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:18 am |

    I think it is wonderful that the Pope is trying to bring the Catholic church forward to the 19th Century.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • WE NEED RELIGION ! (Like we need uncontrollable explosive diarrhea

      Didn't quite finish the handle

      September 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
      • Doris

        lol – I understand, use the handle and flush frequently if needed – we don't want a mess in here.

        September 20, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Emily K.

      Right, because the goal of the Church should be to reform to the current culture. (That was sarcasm in case you didn't catch it).

      September 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        The goal of the church is what it always has been. To cow the docile masses and collect worldly treasure from them by means of empty promises that it never has to deliver on. What a great scam. If only I was a sociopath, I'd start my own religion right away!

        September 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
      • NSL

        The Church might try reforming itself first. Number one would be to rid the Church of its gang banger priests who pray on children, it's pedophile enabler bishops and cardinals, and its Pope who resurrected the soul of Torquemada in himself. The church and its pope still themselves as holier than god. They are disgusting.

        September 21, 2013 at 12:20 am |
      • Cebundy

        Wasn't that the goal of the inquisition?

        September 21, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • NSL

      Don't kid yourself, they aren't out of the 3rd century yet.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Jesus Loves You

      We rather need Jesus than organized religion.

      For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      We need to acknowledge that we are sinners, repent from our sins, believe that Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, rose again from the dead to give us fullness of life. We need to turn away from our wicked ways and make Him Lord and Savior of our lives. We need to listen to His Words, carry our cross and follow Him daily. Jesus will never leave nor forsake whoever believes in Him. In times of troubles and difficulties... Jesus said ... Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

      The most rewarding life is to love Jesus and serve Him no matter what we do for a living.

      It is easy to find the right local church where we need to grow when we are already right with God as God will lead us through.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  17. ludvig

    I quit going to church when an older pope sent an old priest to our parish who said he was delivering a message from the pope that doctors were murdering millions of babies a year by prescribing birth control devices. I decided I didn't want my son raised in a cult and we've never used birth control devices as when our first son was born she wouldn't stop bleeding so they had to do an operation that prevented further births. I just might go back to church now, although I doubt that my 30 year old some son will do the same. The old popes were a bunch or right wing wackos. It's refreshing to see someone who cares about people in the job now.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Steve

      Your post is bit out there. Nothing your wife did or doctor did contradicts church teaching. If the operation was to stop bleeding but caused sterility as a side effect then according to Catholic teaching that's ok, it's only if the operation was done primarily for sterility would it go against church teaching. It's also permissible to take the pill under church teaching if it's for medical reasons other than trying to prevent pregnancy. I'm not saying I agree with church teaching, I'm ambivalent. But what you described about your wife is not contrary and is permissible in the Catholic church.

      September 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  18. dude

    Atheists will be off CNN.com for the next four hours due to a World Of Warcraft raid.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • gregrobert

      He's just being a true Christian. Something many many Christians can't even recognize. They lost the way long long ago.

      September 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Robbergreggy

        Yes, he's a Christian speaking for truth.

        September 20, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  19. Hell and destruction are never full

    Paul explained the gayness away a long time ago. He said they were the given up ones. GUO's

    September 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Jeff

      It was said Paul was latent. Thought you knew that.

      September 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
      • Hell and destruction are never full

        So what's yer definition of "it"??

        September 20, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  20. Beefburger

    You people just don't get it. He has chosen not to speak on it as those matters are SETTLED. He is closing off any inroute on the discussions about those issues, NOT "changing the emphasis". I swear, liberals always try to twist the wording to fit their agenda.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Eve

      Um....Beef? The whole article is on how CONSERVATIVES think that the Pope is changing the message. I swear, you cons can't read worth a sh.

      September 20, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Gerry Daley

      The Pope was quite clear: Leave gay people alone. What part of that didn't you understand?

      September 20, 2013 at 10:54 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.