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. ms sad

    I find the catholic church very confusing. I was married for 29 years and had 3 children. Divorce happened due to a lot of verbal abuse and manipulation. the church granted the ex with an annulment. Are you joking? I quit the church and found the peace in a new church.

    September 21, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      1Cr 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

      So where is the altar?? Where is the sanctuary?? Where is the sacrifice?? Where is the Word of God??

      Is yer "new church" just like the old church, new boss same as old boss??

      September 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Doris

        "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you"

        Based on the content of your posts I have read thus far, evidently your body is a temple for too much of something else.
        Prunes, fiber and a healthy amount of water each could help you with that problem.

        September 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • Doris

          ( water each day )

          September 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Idjit patrol

        You are totally bereft of any kind of empathy, creepy lol??. God doesn't want His children unhappy; so why are you such a misogynist?

        September 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      There is peace outside of churches. Peace that asks a lot less of you.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  2. palintwit

    Remember those five seconds back in August of 2008, when fresh new face Sarah Palin was going to save John McCain’s flailing presidential run and revive the Republican Party with her legs and her winking and her lipstick? But then a funny thing happened on the way to the White House — she opened her mouth !!

    September 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  3. Neil DeGrasse Tyson


    September 21, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  4. Brody in RI


    September 21, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  5. Reality

    Only for the new visitors to this blog–

    Francis noted:

    “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 political stands on divisive issues."

    The cards are already falling and will continue to fall into a permanent abyss as rational thinking finally rules the globe.

    Bottom line: THERE IS NO GOD !!!

    September 21, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • M

      Congratulations, did that make you feel better? Exactly, what did that just accomplish?

      September 21, 2013 at 8:57 am |
      • jens gessner

        – He probably just wants to wake up a few theists. I hope it's working.

        September 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      On what beach bottom did you draw that line??

      September 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Spekdtrut

    "and the greatest of these is Love" None should have anything to fear if we believe foremost in Christ. Francis, the person, is certainly different and in emulating Francis of Assisi may steer the Church using a more fundamental Christ like message. That message is always more acceptable to a softer heart. Maybe the song will become more of a reality – "They will know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love".

    September 21, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • M

      I would disagree. It appears the Pope is reaching into his natural human compassion. I think he would go further if the inertia of the present establishment would let him.

      September 21, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Brody in RI

      Good point!

      September 21, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Don't get sloppy and mushy with the love, either.

      "1Jo 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

      September 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Yes, love is the key. Love God & your neighbor.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Robert, how do you love something invisible and undetectable?

      September 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        Hey Capt.,

        God is detectable. Would you like to detect God?

        September 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          So you're not going to answer my question. Ok. Yes, sure, tell me what experiment a person can do to detect god in a measurable way.

          September 21, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

          Godless Vagabond
          First, you have to buy my godometer. Only $29.95. Detects all gods. However, it is untested as we have never found a god to detect.

          September 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • Robert Brown


        As to your question, I have not seen God literally with my eyes. I have seen him figuratively & spiritually in many ways. I can detect God by the presence of his Holy Spirit & answered prayer. I can love him because he loved me first by extending his mercy & grace to me. He can do the same for you.

        As for how you can detect God, first we need to determine our starting point. Do you believe that there could be such a thing as God?

        September 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's common for people to be in love with ideals and ideas.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Arael

    "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

    4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"

    September 21, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • midwest rail

      Anything of your own to contribute ?

      September 21, 2013 at 7:17 am |
      • M

        Comments like yours do not serve us well. Recognize those that are unreachable and use civility for the rest.

        September 21, 2013 at 7:21 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Speaking of judging a person's tone in writing, I find yours, M, to be quite off-putting. Your obsession over the writing tone of others is tiresome. And, a fair point was made: If a myth believer is merely quoting verses from his own 'holy' myth book with no rationale as to why or what the reader should take away from the quotation, what, exactly, is the point? But hey, don't worry about that beam in your own eye.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • midwest rail

        Who is "us" ?

        September 21, 2013 at 7:27 am |
        • M

          Atheists promoting the cause of reason over religion. If you don't like someone being offensive in your face, why do you think someone would like you being offensive in theirs? You have to remember, when you write there are other people reading, some of which are undecided. They can recognize a zealot of either stripe, and both are turn offs. What is the purpose of you posting?

          September 21, 2013 at 7:30 am |
        • midwest rail

          Please indicate where I stated I was an atheist. My purpose in the question was to inquire whether the O.P. had an original thought that would give some indication of where THEY stand on the article. Why do you find the question offensive ?

          September 21, 2013 at 7:35 am |
        • M

          Take a look at the rest of your posts. If you are not an atheist, you sure come across as one, and an angry one at that. If you are not an atheist, then what is the purpose of your posts? Do you just get off on insulting people. If so, think about what that says of you and your obvious desire for people to take you seriously.

          September 21, 2013 at 7:41 am |
        • midwest rail

          Feel free to make all the as$umptions you wish. You also refrained from addressing the question – why do you find the question offensive ? There is no indication from the O.P. as to their opinion on the article.

          September 21, 2013 at 7:44 am |
        • M

          I am talking about the tone of your posts. It's not the question, it's the tone. Be civil. See your other posts.

          September 21, 2013 at 7:47 am |
        • midwest rail

          My apologies for the delay in replying, had a family matter to attend to, I will gladly reexamine my tone.

          September 21, 2013 at 8:10 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Midwest rail, I find nothing offensive or "wrong" about your tone. I find M's overly judgmental and obsessive, though. Grain of salt, and all that, I guess.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • midwest rail

          Agreed, C.O., still, nothing wrong with an inward look now and again.

          September 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Reality

      Thomas Jefferson omitted Revelation along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      September 21, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • M

        Well put. Thomas Paine had a great deal to say as well.

        September 21, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  8. ronvan

    WRONG AGAIN!!! i "THOUGHT" that if you were catholicf it meant that you were catholic? Now it appears that catholics, along with other religions, and our "elected children" are the same? Dems., Repubs., Hawks, Doves, Left, Right, Centrist,
    Liberals, Conservatives, Pro life, NO life, and on and on! How do you feel when you go to church and the Priest, Pastor, is saying something that you do not agree with? IF, YOUR religion is the "right one" and is teaching the way of God & Jesus what do you think when they "change" things? Is it because they have been preaching "personal beleifs" in order to keep the people coming and of course to keep the money flowing?

    September 21, 2013 at 6:13 am |
    • M

      ... or maybe it's simply a matter of our current human compassion being greater than that written in a very old book.

      September 21, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  9. AvdBerg

    Spiritual Truth about the Papacy

    Please review the picture of the Pope depicted on top of this article and it will confirm that he is a false prophet in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). He also recently declared himself to be a sinner, another confirmation that he is spiritually blind and that he deceives all his followers.

    – God heareth not sinners ((John 9:31)
    – He that committeth sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8)

    For a better understanding of the spirit the Pope serves (Luke 9:55; John 8:34), we invite you to read the articles 'Popes and the Princes of This World', 'Papal Infallibility, Contradictions and Spiritual Blindness' and 'The Mystery Babylon' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    We also invite you to read the second item (Scarlet and Purple Colour) on the Recent Revelations Page. It simply and clearly explains the deceptions that for centuries have been hidden and have now been revealed, confirming what is written in Matthew 10:26 that there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).

    September 21, 2013 at 5:58 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Nice to see you're still not capable of thinking for yourself.

      September 21, 2013 at 6:14 am |
  10. Hell and destruction are never full

    Hell and destruction are never full
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    There's no escape from the cycle.
    White horse.......Bush I
    Red horse..........Clinton
    Black horse........Bush II
    Pale horse..........Obama

    Just like the last four kingdoms, Brits, Soviets, Nazis, Diversie Beastie

    September 21, 2013 at 3:11 am |
    • Sane Person

      Horse of a different color........Wizard of Oz

      Uh, right!

      September 21, 2013 at 5:01 am |
  11. Hell and destruction are never full

    Hell and destruction are never full
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Hell and destruction are never full
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Any of the churches from Revelation still here today?? The A&A's are such fwaidy cats.

    September 21, 2013 at 1:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
    Hell and destruction are never full
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    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 3:09 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Yet another one of your personalities shining through. You're cheap entertainment, not much more.

      September 21, 2013 at 6:09 am |
  12. Hell and destruction are never full

    Hell and destruction are never full
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Why do A&A's see fairies when they think of God?? Invisible or not, they sound gay, makin' God in their own image, so to speak.

    September 21, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Atheists believe in god???? Lost your dictionary again, didn't you?

      September 21, 2013 at 6:10 am |
  13. Bag Boy

    Cover your breath
    Polish your teeth
    Cover your teeth
    Cover your mouth

    September 21, 2013 at 2:12 am |
  14. maias

    “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.”.....

    So open up the Vatican Bank and set up a trust fund which will help families, feed, clothe, medicate and educate the children that place an unbearable burden on their limited household incomes.

    September 21, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  15. Douglas

    Conservatives have nothing to fear.

    The Pope made it clear that church doctrine regarding gay intimacy, abortion, and contraception has not changed.

    What has changed is the status of these items as "top priority issues".

    When people are homeless, hungry and unemployed, preaching to them and lecturing them about gay marriage,
    abortion and contraception does nothing to change their objective condition. Resources diverted into hounding gays,
    abortion clinics and challenges to contraception as part of the health care choices for women, could be better
    utilized helping the poor.

    Pope Francis is spot on.

    Jesus said, I was hungry and you fed me...I was n@ked and you clothed me...I was in prison and you visited me.

    This is true Catholicism...Pope Francis is a good man.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Conservatives have everything to fear; it's their shtick.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Then Again

      Conservatives hate the homeless, hungry and unemployed every bit as much as they hate gays.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:10 am |
      • GodFreeNow

        I suppose they hate because of the internal mirror they face.

        They are homeless because they cannot feel peace in their status. They are hungry for truth, but refuse to eat. They refuse to work for their fellow man, which is the only kind of work that truly means anything. And of course they are sexually ambivalent because pleasure is too close to evil.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Rowdy Roddy Pepper

      Interesting that the people who claim Jesus are so totally the opposite of him.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:14 am |
      • La di da

        You'll have that.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • M

      As an atheist, I like his message. I think his human compassion is reaching beyond the limits of the compassion dictated by the Bible.

      September 21, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  16. Richard Hicks

    The pope's remarks are a result of the vatican losing more and more money every passing day.

    Their followers are finally seeing through all the BS and leaving.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:33 am |
  17. Sosay

    The same people complaining of this liberal view by the pope, cheer-leaded George W Bush "doing the will of God", as he professed with that divine "voice".
    I expect a moment of silence unless you'd like quotes.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Ain't that special

      Uh, you give moments of silence for the dead, brainiac.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:35 am |
      • La di da

        I'd say 4400 Americans killed in Iraq warrants a moment of silence.

        September 21, 2013 at 12:53 am |
        • Sosay

          Saying Bush said God directly told him to invade, I think the moment of silence belongs here.

          September 21, 2013 at 1:04 am |
        • La di da

          I believe I just agreed with you; I was talking to Ain't that special.

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

          Likewise brother/sister

          September 21, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • Sosay

      Ignorance. Bush was a Christian. Most "christians" think the only way to communicate to God is through Jesus.
      Bush bypassed Jesus and spoke to God directly.
      See any discrepancies yet?
      From your prior posts I doubt it, but it's ok, I don't judge.
      Let me guess you get paid to teach something?

      September 21, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  18. Jeff K.

    Considering how many people fervently believe in totally unevidenced supersti.tions like gods and religion, I can only conclude that the human race has a LOT of evolving to do still.

    September 21, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Ain't that special

      Born in another time and place, these same people would be raging about Zeus' demands that we must follow.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:34 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.