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. Sara

    It's a problem that people want to belong and that no one is offering them a real alternative. The Catholic church has an infrastructure, history and some good intentions...and some ver, very stupid and outdated ideas. The best world would probably be another split, after which the new division would merge with the anglicans into something like a progressive Catholicism. I give it about 10 years.

    September 23, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  2. divine insight

    Atheists are the most negative, miserable, depressed whining crybabies in the known universe.

    If they see something, anything, that reminds them of joyful living, they scream bloody murder. They r nick-named the fun bunch

    September 23, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam

      Rubbish. Besides, how much of the known universe have you seen?

      September 23, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • sam stone

      sure thing, troll

      pick a name and stick with it

      September 23, 2013 at 5:11 am |
    • weedouthate

      It is a question of detachment. In my opinion, there is too much emphasis on praying to God to change for us rather than us rooting out the limitations that keep us from feeling the continual sustenance streaming into souls. The Pope certainly has the clout to call for this kind of prayer for humanity....

      September 23, 2013 at 5:47 am |
    • Because

      They belong in the second-class minority.

      September 23, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  3. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Bill Donahue.... the ONLY member of the "Catholic League".

    September 23, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • divine insight

      Perfect example. Hey fun bunch!

      September 23, 2013 at 1:51 am |
  4. Douglas

    Conservatives...fear not.

    Everything will remain in place.

    LGBTQ will not be married in the Catholic Church, abortion other than to save the life of the mother remains
    a crime against the unborn and there will not be female priests in the near term.

    The problem with people today is that they expect everyone to "follow the trend".

    Pope Francis is not going to follow the trend established by social media for LGBTQ marriage,
    "harm reduction" drug use, and entertainment that debases women and children.

    Conservatives take heart...you stand in the gap defending the moral high ground in a world of moral relativism
    where the innocent are duped into living lives of sin and deceit.

    September 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Billy

      Keep up the good work, Douglas! Watch out for others in your midst as well. Remember, a stare longer than a few seconds at a church function is just as sinful as a quick butt-grab! Be careful and God Bless!

      September 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
      • Douglas

        Good point! Thank you.

        As Jesus said, "The sin of carnal desire in your mind is the same as that in the flesh."

        We must always be alert to Satan's efforts to tempt us.


        September 22, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
        • Bob

          Why is it that your "god" is too feeble to just deal with Satan and take him out? Or is your god one of those less-than-omnipotent ones, Douglas?

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


          Good question.

          God empowers you with free will to good or bad.

          When we obey God, we can live in peace with each other.

          When we put ourselves first we plant the seeds of lust, hate, jealousy, envy, evil and destruction.

          Know God...know peace – No God...no peace.

          September 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
        • redzoa

          "God empowers you with free will to good or bad."

          That may or may not be true, but in light of the apparent pre-emptive and/or collateral judgment of Amalekite children and infants and the ensuing command that they be slaughtered (1 Sam 15:3), what good is free will if we are judged in the absence of an opportunity to exercise it? Note, this is not otherwise natural death due to original sin, this is the brutal hacking to death of children and infants with a short sword. Are we judged by our choices, by the choices of others, or are we simply destined to inevitably fulfill a future, already perfectly known by God, from which we can not actually choose to deviate?

          September 22, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
        • Douglas


          From our perspective this seems cruel and wicked.

          But as you point out, God is all knowing. As such, God had no mercy for the Amalekites who had
          been evil to HIS chosen people as they came out of bondage and suffering in Egypt.

          If you have a cancer that is threatening your body...you cut it out...all of it...old cancer cells and young cancer cells.

          Those who post here regularly cite the case of the Amalekite infants and children as evidence of the failure of God to
          truly be merciful and compassionate. Unfortunately, this is a skewed view of an all-knowing and all-powerful Supreme being.

          Millions of unborn children are slaughtered through abortion because people decide "they don't want it".

          Where is the outcry for this modern day slaughter from the God haters and atheists who blog here?

          In summation, it is best to live our lives in sync with God, making every attempt to do HIS will.

          The case of the Amalekites is an object lesson for all of us.

          September 22, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Douglas, why do you blame "atheists and god haters" for identical actions done by your god but yet you do not blame him? Your judgments seem quite biased.

          September 22, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
        • Get Real


          No "God" slaughtered the Amalekites. The Hebrew warriors did it.

          No "God" saved 6 million Jews in WW2 Europe either. Guess what... the Nazis thought Jews were a "cancer" too.

          September 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
        • Doris

          "If you have a cancer that is threatening your body...you cut it out...all of it...old cancer cells and young cancer cells."

          So the Amalekite infants and children were like a cancer to God just because they were offspring of those who wronged God's chosen people. Hmm. That sounds like odd reasoning for an all-knowing being, but it does sound like the kind of reasoning of men of oh say the times when that story supposedly took place..

          September 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
        • redzoa

          @Douglas – You completely failed to even remotely address the question. In light of the "free will" issue which you yourself introduced, your "analogy" to cancer is nonsensical and your reference to abortion appears to simply be an attempt to avoid addressing the question. I take your non-response as your concession that:

          (1) the pre-emptive judgment of the Amalekite children nullifies the exercise of a free will choice as the standard by which mortals are judged;

          or, alternatively that,

          (2) mortals are rightly judged not by their own exercise of free will, but rather mortals may be judged by the independent exercise of free will as manifested in the actions of third parties.

          In either case, this concession renders one's own "free will" immaterial to judgment and undermines your prior claim. If there is any "objective lesson" here, it's not found in the text of 1 Sam 15:3, rather, it's found in the Nuremberg Defense offered by apologists such as yourself who willingly abdicate any personal moral judgment or responsibility in their invariable attempts to justify the brutal slaughter of the Amalekite children and infants.

          I wonder, how many children and infants would you kill if you believed God desired you to do so? Alternatively, perhaps every abortion is a similar pre-emptive judgment by God, acting through the apparent "choices" of the mother? After all, who are we to question God's infinite wisdom and power?

          September 23, 2013 at 12:26 am |
        • Just Call Me Lucifer

          You are already mine... you just don't know it yet.

          September 23, 2013 at 1:15 am |
        • Observer


          Read a Bible sometime and then report if it EVER uses the word "abortion".

          September 23, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Conservatives are too few and too weak. They can't even withstand the withering disdain of their own children.

      September 22, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Just Call Me Lucifer

      I can smell your fear from here. You will die, then your soul is mine. See? You have so much to look forward to!

      September 23, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In 2001, The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers had this to say about addiction treatment:
      "We respect this plurality -at times not very harmonious – of ways that are applied to prevent and treat drug addiction"

      September 23, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Sara

      I'm confused...is Pope Francis recommending an end to alcohol consumption? I thought the church was big on controlled drug use?

      September 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  5. divine insight

    Including the pope in debates about god's existence is like mentioning Ringo while discussing great symphonies

    September 22, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Doris

      Wow. OK. I that your area of expertise- "god's" existence? If so, how'd you come by that info?

      September 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
      • Doris

        Is that ...?

        September 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    .Prayer changes things

    September 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Actually

      Atheism is healthy. Prayer might help some in that it is similar to meditation.

      Thanks to the person that posted the video from Dr. Millican below. Very good argument by professor Millican!

      September 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  7. Felix Sinclair

    If Jesus showed up one day and started preaching about peace and love these people would tell him to get a haircut, find a job and stop spreading socialist propaganda. Eventually they would judge him as not being the "real Jesus" and then murder him.

    September 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Athy

      We don't need to worry about that, do we? We've been waiting for 2000 years and it hasn't happened yet.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  8. Hell and destruction are never full

    Catholics think they are the MOTHER church. Unfortunately for the children, mama ain't married.

    September 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Jeff in Houston

      Please stop lying. God doesn't like that.

      September 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
      • Just Call Me Lucifer

        Really? Which god told you that?

        September 23, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  9. Robyn


    Conservatives 'disturbed'.
    There is a sentence that needs no elaboration.

    September 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      You're not GREEN and know how to conserve??

      September 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Per chance are you a Pithiest??

      September 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      And LOL?? before that – same incomprehensible rants, different name.

      Watch for a couple of tells – terms like "socie" and "gubmint", a keyboard lisp, and a sentence structure that defies description. Unfortunately, I don't think this individual is a POE, and they actually are as disturbed as they appear to be. I can only hope this individual is not a gun owner, although judging by the displayed paranoia, I doubt it. Cultural clues tell me that they live nowhere near me, but I can't be sure.

      September 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
      • Athy

        I just hit abuse and ignore. Has to be a juvenile and probably a high school dropout.

        September 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  10. marytheseeker

    These comments show the innate problem with monotheism. By the definition, it is a belief system in which there is only one god, the one that the believer chooses. All others are either false, non-existent or some anti-god force. Of course, for those that choose Christianity, that god is that of the New Testament. For Muslims, it is the god described by Mohammed. For Jews, it is the god of the Torah. Since monotheism demands that there be no other gods, or views of god, believers must accept and embrace the idea that their particular sect is the only "true" sect, worshiping the only "true" god. No other beliefs should be accepted – and often not even tolerated. It is the absolutism that permitted Christianity to become such a large force around the world. When leaders – kings and emperors – realized that it was an excellent tool to control the population and establish superiority over those they conquered, they embraced it. Christianity has become less a belief than a political tool over the centuries. The mechanism is rather insidious. Ask a monotheist which god or sect is the "true" god, and they will answer whichever one they believe in. If there can be only one god, and followers of all others, are wrong/damned/misled/evil, of course whatever "I" believe must be the "true" god, because of course "I" would never follow a false god.
    As a believer in god but a non-monotheist, I find it easier to step back and look at faith systems impartially. The main differences in them are details. There is no logical way for monotheistic religions to exist peacefully with other religions; if there is only one truth, everything else must be false, and eventually a cross-roads is reached. Either the "only one" part of the faith must be abandoned, or all others must be eliminated as they are threats.

    September 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      ".................I find it easier to step back and look at faith systems impartially...................................." That's a DEAD END and not realistic.

      Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

      September 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • Jeff in Houston

        You should read the Good Book sometime and stop using it as an excuse to vent your hatred against others. God doesn't like that.

        September 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Just Call Me Lucifer

          Your "good book" condones slavery. Classy.

          September 23, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Nclaw441

      For people who truly believe, it is not simply a choice that is made. Faith is a truly and strongly held personal matter. It makes no sense to analyze religious faith as though one simply decides what one believes.

      September 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • sam stone

        For those who do not believe, it is not a choice either

        Tell us how you can believe in a story you find unbelievable

        September 23, 2013 at 5:22 am |
      • Sara

        These decisions are made more on personal inclination and need than on reason. People gravitate to world views that mesh with existing concepts and bolster their sense of self. "Choice" isn't really a relevant word.

        September 23, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Sara

      Many monotheists believe they are looking at the same god in different ways. They view it as the blind men and the elephant.

      September 23, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  11. Peter Millican on the Kalam Cosmological Argument


    September 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Yup, for humans God has to reveal and He did. He knows your desperate existence.

      September 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Doris

        "He" very well may have already. But where'd you get your info on what "He" knows? (You know, objective "truth" info, not you know, hearsay, written or otherwise.)

        September 22, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  12. Theadore Realist


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

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

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


    September 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Henryo

    Reading the conservative comments on this board – wow. Could you people be any less educated? Could you be more bigoted and narrow-minded?

    September 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Athy

      Well, hell, Henryo. That's what a conservative is all about! That's the very definition of a conservative.

      September 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  14. Henryo

    Wow, so conservatives are showing their Christ-like side by decrying the Pope for teaching peace, kindness and love.

    September 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      Under their veneer of bigotry, there are just more layers of bigotry.
      It's in their DNA. They may be on a separate evolutionary path from normal humans.

      October 1, 2013 at 5:57 am |
  15. Angelic Moron

    Time for true conservatives to dump the Catholic Church and join the Salafis.

    September 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  16. chrislosolivos

    Come on Conservatives . . . it's time to defund the Vatican!

    September 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  17. The Handwriting On the Wall

    Conservatives are definitely now seeing the handwriting on the wall that things are definitely starting to Change in the Catholic Church and that momentum is greatly building for that New Change that will have a domino effect upon Catholicism and all conservatives. Like it or not, Change is coming F_A_S_T! Shame on prejudiced conservatives for trying to keep prejudice, hate, bigotry and intolerance alive. Great Shame on them! In the end they will simply have to admit that they have been wrong all along for hurting so many innocent people around the world whom God created and they will have to swallow their pride, get on with their own lives, and will of course also have to eat crow.

    September 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  18. today

    the pope is a servant not a master ,for him to be giving his personal opinion does not reflect the principles of the bible upon which the church was found. God's words give us moral values and they can not be changed by a Pope that wants to please a modern world in order to be liked.The Pope and everyone that is reading this article will come to pass,but the word of God is forever.

    September 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Benn

      This Pope is applying Christian doctrine given by Christianity's FIRST "servant", Jesus….. Your comments are rife with assumptions that are nowhere to be found in Pope Francis' comments made in the 'Shoes of the Fisherman'….

      You also neglect to mention that YOU will "come to pass" as well….the sooner the better…..

      September 22, 2013 at 1:09 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.