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. An Era Of Change

    It is clear that the pope has sent a resounding message to all Catholics across the globe that tolerance is the order of the day instead of intolerance as has been tolerated since the days of the Inquisition. That is a very clear message that things are changing in the church because they really need to and such changes are long overdue. The pope knows and realizes that and it is only the hard-lined insensitive, still intolerant conservatives who continue to be in denial about the new order of the day who still prefer to hold on to the status quo knowing full well that things are changing in an effort to eliminate the prejudice, discord, discrimination, and intolerance against LGBT people around the world and to truly live in a New Era where Jesus' words to Love One Another, without any conditions, instead prevail.

    September 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  2. Moses' hairline

    Religion is a choice so I don't believe it should change to accomodate all things and all people like some freakin segregated golf course. If you don't want to be Christian. Don't. Most christians are very happy leaving atheist and agnostics to their own devices.

    September 22, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Are you drunk?

      " Most christians are very happy leaving atheist and agnostics to their own devices." Have you been reading the christian's comments? Have you forgotten it is every christians god given duty to try and convert anyone and everyone they can?
      "leave AAs to their own devices" is exactly what the AAs are been asking for and exactly what all the busybody christans totaly refuse to do

      September 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Peter Bishop

    Never a more intolerant group than so called "tolerant" liberals.

    September 22, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Akira

      Could you give a few example, Peter?
      I find that it's a bit of a paradox, isn't it, that the intolerant have come to rely on the tolerance of others to get away with the stuff that they do. You know. Keeping up the status quo. Resistant to any change at all. I don't get that vibe with liberals/Progressives; do you? What are they trying to actually stop?
      Examples. Thanks.

      September 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  4. dzerres

    The right wing haters are nervous that their whole life's work, an entire industry built on hate and conning others to hate right along with them, is going down the drain. Whatever will these people do? They have no skills, the have no connection to people other than haters so how are they going to cope?

    September 22, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  5. truefact

    Conservatives are disturbed, period.

    September 22, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • SciGuy

      You are disturbed, comma.

      September 22, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  6. Ken

    Pharisees were disturbed by Jesus' message too. It conflicted with the status quo.

    September 22, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  7. Stubbs

    Ah Conservatives... The Cafeteria Christians. You take just the little bits of your religion that you like and ignore all the rest and feel free to pass judgement on regular everyday people who are just trying to live good and honest lives.

    Filthy hypocrites.

    September 22, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • SciGuy

      Why did you sign in the plural, Filthy?

      September 22, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  8. scott

    The pope doesn't like people condemning. So I guess we just sit and have compassion. What the pope doesn't realize is that his God will not hesitate to condemn those that didn't listen to him and made there on rules up about right and wrong.

    September 22, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • duhtruth

      I am so happy that you clarified God's position on things for the rest of us mortals.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • me

      Exactly. It is up to GOD to condemn and not people. We need to have compassion and love all. I think that God wants us to love people. We lead by example and show them our peace and compassion for others. They will follow because they like what they see and want to the same for their lives, not because of some fear. We can't force people to love God and follow his word.. they have to WANT to. They will want to because of compassion. The Pope gets this.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • Ken

        Well said!

        September 22, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • boredofceleb

        "People will follow because they like what they see"......Yes, in an ideal world. You don't know much about human nature, do you?

        September 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  9. Gone

    "conservative" catholics are just about as nosy and noisy and TP repugnants..

    September 22, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  10. stevie68a

    Religion is delusion. We are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old.

    September 22, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  11. Benn

    "“This is the problem with the left," Dohonue continued, "they are trying to take what the pope said and then run with it.”"

    How Christian of the fellow to reduce his fellow Catholics, countrymen, and humans to a label……methinks that HE missed the point….

    September 22, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • duhtruth

      Donohue said that he is not always right, but never wrong. He speaks for a pinheaded group. I am not condemning, merely observing.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • truefact

      That fat thug Donohue would never admit it, but he is haaaaating this pope.

      September 22, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • jack

        Donahue is a bitter cold hearted creep deserving of stage 4 colon cancer.

        September 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
        • boredofceleb

          Be careful what you wish for, Jack. It could come back and bite YOU in the a$$!

          September 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  12. 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 ARE NO GODS !!!

    September 22, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • gg

      Rational thinking says that everything has a cause.

      September 22, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Ejroyal

      Bottom line: There is only one God. Rational thought has not rescued our world from wickedness and abuse. It has given birth to rationalizations of bad behaviors, given a kiss of acceptance, and become tolerant of all sorts of immoral behaviors while also being extremely intolerant of Christianity which seeks to reconcile all people with God and each other. In rejecting God the rational thinkers of this world have simply opened up the flood gates of immoral and unethical behavior. Our youth seek answers to their questions about what is life all about, and they can not find any outside of Christianity that have any staying power.

      Reality, you obviously have a very superficial understanding of what God wants from mankind and what Christianity is actually all about. I am simply glad that God chose to come and pay your sin-debt as well, even if you choose to not believe. Perhaps one day your perspective will change, before you die and lose all opportunity for redemption.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • dzerres

        Our youth can't find answers outside of Christianity? Please. First, 4/5th of the world's population is not Christian and those people are finding plenty of answers for themselves. Second, science has a pretty good track record of finding answers – more and more each day – which explain the world and the universe in pretty good detail without all of the magic and the "miracles" and people hearing voices. Works for me.

        September 22, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Theadore Realist


        Your ... http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

        ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

        ... the http://www.EVILbible.com


        September 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  13. dennis

    2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV
    1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled , neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand .Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed , the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work : only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed , whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

    September 22, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • Reality

      Only for the new visitors to this blog:

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah/Argentine white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

      September 22, 2013 at 6:59 am |
      • gg

        Why do we care what Socrates or Aristotle said? They're even further back in historical times.

        September 22, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • gg

        God is. You will be happier once you realize you are not alone in the universe.

        September 22, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • Ejroyal

        The source of your claims is suspect. Most comtemporary experts are not even believers in God, so how much of an expert could they possibly be? Their beliefs will influence their conclusions, unless of course they take an unbiased look at the evidence and then draw conclusions. I really am unsure if you deliberately mix Aztecan religious rites with Christian practices, or else you really are that ignorant of what you attempt to write about here. 24/7 body/blood sacrifices with eating of the sacrifice is presented where in the New Testament? For I do assume that your reading comprehension allows you to comprehend that the New Testament supercedes the Old Testament. One Covenant replaces the previous, older Covenant. This is based in legal terms. The new covenant could not take effect until Christ died by shedding His blood for you and for me. Don't split hairs and try to distract others from the basic truth of the matter.

        September 22, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • duhtruth

        Actually, a better question is why should anyone care what your biased, partially founded on age-old deception, idiotic, unscientific, illiterate babble is trying to get across in a very childish manner? Only haters of religion will cheer you and place you in high regard with the idols of the New Age. Congratulations and good luck!

        September 22, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • Spong

        I just had Most Contemporary NT Scholars over for lunch the other day, and they said the same thing. If you go over to the Society for Most Contemporary NT Scholars, they'll even give you a handout with convenient, nonspecific, sweeping and non-attributable claims suitable for comment-bombing on blog posts like this. Most Contemporary NT Scholars also play a mean bass guitar, and make a lovely souffle with only the ingredients available in your kitchen right now.

        September 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • dzerres

      I love people quoting from a made up book to prove the made up book.

      September 22, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • Moses' hairline

        I love people who have absolutely no spiritual understanding of anything crying foul when they perceive that they are being judged by the bible and then turning around and judging the book, its contents and its readers.

        September 22, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    September 22, 2013 at 5:40 am |
  15. Janey Jones

    You know, the first two words of the article's ti.tle said it all. Conservatives disturbed.

    September 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Athy

      Yeah, they have stopped right there.

      September 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
      • Athy

        "Should have." Sorry.

        September 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
        • Athy

          I am as I appear to be lost and stupid.

          September 22, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  16. GOP is Greed Over People

    The GOP should read the book, "How Not To Be a Republican" (a,k.a. The Bible)

    September 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Extra Medium

      Sadly the Bilble is full of bad examples for the Republicans to emulate

      September 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  17. The Author is Wrong

    The Author misused the word "conservatives" for the word "republicans". Because since WHEN has a republican EVER been a conservative.

    Those self proclaimed religious nuts should read the book "How Not To Be A Republican" (a,k.a The Bible).

    September 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Janey Jones

      We also hear Christians claim they are not religious, trying to separate themselves from parts of Christianity that embarrass them too. It's totally bogus of course.

      September 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
      • Athy

        Christians that are not religious? Hm. That's sorta like shit that doesn't stink, isn't it?

        September 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  18. Alias

    This article would seem to suggest that the conservatives are more interested in control than anything else.
    Forget truth, or any of that stuff jesus is supposed to have said, conservatives want to control people.
    I agree.

    September 21, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told.
      Religion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right.

      September 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
      • Mariapiaw

        Couldn't have said it better myself. I might quote you sometime if you don't mind.

        September 22, 2013 at 12:46 am |
      • The_Lightbringer

        True morality is doing what is right, without the promise of divine reward, nor the threat of divine retribution

        September 22, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  19. tony

    . . . the internet

    September 21, 2013 at 8:52 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.