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. Big_D

    Hard hearts? Wonder what that is about?

    September 30, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • Daniel Berrios

      Is not heart, just brains in use

      September 30, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  2. anonymous

    http://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/study-guide/e/4992/t/who-is-the-antichrist.aspx This will tell you through the BIBLE who the antichrist power is in the end of days. Yes Christians have said the end is near for centuries but it is true that if you die lost you will be lost for eternity because you will be destroyed for eternity, destroyed not burned forever like a lot of church's teach.

    September 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Ernest T Bass

      Big load of crap..

      October 1, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  3. Thought Purification

    "Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks"

    Well donkeys are always know to be wisher than owners.

    September 29, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  4. ElmerGantry

    Bootyfunk hits the nail squarely on the head,


    since the civil rights battle when the democrats lost the south. the republicans, long a liberal party (think A. Lincoln) became a conservative party, thus scooping up the southern states, which until then had been reliably blue. the Dems were the conservative party up till then. they switched. Dems went from conservative to liberal – and Repubs went from liberal to conservative. look up the famous quote: "We've lost the South for a generation."

    conservatives, whether democrat or republican, have always been on the losing side of social justice.
    conservatives supported slavery.
    conservatives supported segregation.
    conservatives were against women voting rights.
    conservatives were against minority voting rights.
    conservatives were against whites and minorities getting married.
    conservatives are fighting against g.ay marriage today.

    liberals in whatever time have always led the fight for human rights. conservatives want things to stay the way they are, tilted in their favor. they seldom embrace change because equality means losing power to them. a narrow-minded view that hurts them in the end.

    September 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    September 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      It is good to see you are endorsing child abuse.

      September 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
      • Louie

        Where did you manage to get child abuse out of anything he said??????

        September 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • ElmerGantry

        I was quoting you bootyfunk!

        October 1, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • mickey1313

      To True. The only problem now is that the liberals, are becomeing not so liberal. Suporting this form of healthcare over full universal healthcare, trying to get food and other items banned, not suporting the end of the war on drugs and the war of terror. All of these things liberal politicians are guilty of, showing that they are not truely liberal.. But The conservitive side is just plain trying to hose this nation of everyone except the top 1%.

      September 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  5. bostontola

    Hundreds of religions are out there with different gods or rules to live by. Why do you think yours is true?

    1) I feel it in my heart, direct witness.
    What about all the thousands of ways humans can be fooled in every sense we have, optical, audio, taste, feel, smell, illusions are easy to create and surprise.

    2) there are billions or millions of others who sense the same thing.
    We are all subject to the same illusions because we evolved from the same group. Numbers don't help anyway. At one point, a much greater majority than any religion has ever been, believed that the earth was flat and the sun went around the earth.

    3) there are so many religions is evidence that many people reject the one true god.
    The vast majority of people believe what they do because they were taught that as children. Does god punish the child for the crime of the parent? Actually it does, as in the bible god punishes 4 generations after the parent. Not a moral system I want to be part of.

    September 28, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Author Charlieg

      Hundreds of religions are out there with different gods or rules to live by. Why do you think yours is true? Because if I thought it was false, it would not be my religion. Do your investigation, come to your conclusions, and believe them. Do not fault others for their beliefs; believe they have done their best investigation, and come to their best conclusion.

      Both the Bible and reality are like a diamond, open to multiple facets. They are like an elephant held by three blind men; each holding a different part of the elephant. As an atheist, you may find yourself holding the trunk and faulting the religious who holds the belly, for being wrong about the shape of the elephant. On the other hand, you could compare notes and come up with a grander view of the elephant.

      The diamond is just another rock, until you compare facets. This same advice applies to religious nuts who hold the belly, and fault the atheist for describing the trunk.

      September 28, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • bostontola

        You didn't answer the question of why you believe.

        You can't deny that every religion that ever existed was created by man. Every one of their gods are created by man. Yours was created by men.

        If there is a god, it's not the one from any religion in existence. You can't prove or disprove the existence of a god, but the ones from man's religions are false.

        September 28, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Sara

        "Do not fault others for their beliefs"

        Would you fault someone for believing cats have six legs?

        September 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • james

          you saw him too?

          September 30, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
        • Leisure Suit Larry

          What do have against my cat? It gets me dates.

          October 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed. The other fact about religon is that all of there stories are (A) coppies of much older eg sumarian, stories. And (B) have zero base in reality. From moses and the burning bush, to jesus on the cross, there is no evidence of any of it. And it can be proven that there was no jewish population in egypt untill around 1000 CE, over 1500 years after the building of the pyrimids, thus they could not have been inslaved to build them. All monothiestic belifs are compleate BS, and there continued existance harms every man woman and child on earth.

      September 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  6. prophet

    many of those who don' believe in G-d cannot say His Name and so if there is no Go-d what are thye afraid of.

    September 28, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • bostontola

      Zeus? Odin? Yahweh? Adonoi? Horace?

      Which religion's god are you talking about? You are so arrogant, you assume everyone subscribes to yours as the real god. What a joke.

      Btw, how does putting a hyphen in for the o make any difference? The o is a symbol the – is a symbol. When combined properly with a g and a d , it means god, either way. Ridiculous.

      September 28, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      God is invisible and undetectable and, therefore, irrelevant. I'm not afraid to say any name, at all, ever. Names are just symbols made of sounds.

      September 28, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • Cpt. (not so) Obvious

        No wonder I neither see nor detect you, Captain!

        October 2, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  7. prophet

    what many on here do is quote the name jsus but they are after all christians, thye need to realise that there is no J in greek and yet jsus was a name invented by the greeks as most are antisemitic even now. So many may even use the name isous but even this is not correct,

    a word to all chrstians change to accepting that Our Saviour is Yisraeli and always was and Say His Name Yeshua Moshiach

    as jsus cannot save you, your misled and have been for about 2000 years

    many on here correct when they criticise chritians but for the wrong reasons. The christians have been lied to and so beleive and say things that are inaccurate.

    pray for the christains as they are very unfortunate misled people.

    September 28, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • anonymous


      September 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  8. mandarax

    I find that, as a general rule, if what you do "disturbs the conservatives" you are almost invariably doing the morally right thing.

    September 28, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yep. Funny how that works out.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • mickey1313

      That is because most conservitives are evil to the extreame

      September 30, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • lol??

      Why do the pwogwessives go along with shipping jobs out of the US??

      October 1, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • lol??

      The bastion of mob rata tat tat pwogwessivism Chicago, continues to spew out the likes of Hillliary, Jacksons, Obama, winfrey, wright, and U of C research BS. Their mayor has no residency requirements. Owning property is gud enuff, courtesy of Ill's supremo courtus interruptus.

      WSJ (Feb 2011),
      "............The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that during the decade ended in 2010, Chicago's population fell 6.9% to 2,695,598 people, fewer than the 2.7 million reported back in 1920.............."

      Libs are great at makin' refugees.

      October 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  9. Warning


    September 28, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • GMAB

      Floods and earthquakes in diverse places on planet Earth? Wars in the Middle East? Naaah, ***that's*** never happened before! This doofus adds some pope stuff in there too for further entertainment. Rubbish, bunk and blarney.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Christians have been claiming that the end times are nigh for about 2000 years now. Heck, even Jesus said that the end would come while some of those who were in his audience were still alive. At what point will these Chicken Little types realize that the sky actually isn't falling?

      September 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Jesus did not prophesy immediate disciples living to end times Jesus prophesied as to the coming of the Kingdom of God, which unbelieving types equate with the end times.Unbelievers really try to go out of their way to show their hatred of all things related to God.

        September 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
        • hhoari

          I have to steal people's names to get my message out. I break the 8th and 9th Commandment regularly. Plus, I'm gonna sue you.

          September 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Poor sad little troll. Stealing names because you lack even the imagination to make up your own anonymous screen name. How dull and useless you appear to be.

          September 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Ooops my bad.

          September 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Looks like the work of Apple Bush

          September 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • lol??

        Got any hysterical evidence fer yer claims ms13??

        October 1, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  10. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    lol, it smells like the prophet Ron has come to save us all, oh happy day! happy day! Oh, wait, that was just a little gas...

    September 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  11. Ron

    "When you received the Word of God..you accepted not as the Word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." ...I Thessalonians 2:13

    September 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Observer

      (Ezekiel 5:10) " Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers.” [God]

      September 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • Ron

        Observer, "those who are of God receive God's Words". Jesus (John 8) What does that say about you?

        September 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
        • Observer


          It says that I don't support the Bible when it comes to slavery, discrimination and beating children with rods. I also don't believe in unicorns, talking serpents, and dragons.

          Like you, I can throw in biblical quotes that are irrelevent to the topic of the story.

          September 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • stevepage

        Observer you clearly do not know enough to either support or not support the Bible. At this point of your life you just need to try to study it without your obvious misconceptions and prejudices.

        September 28, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  12. Ron

    "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me." ...Jesus (John 14:6)

    September 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Snow

      sounds pretty arrogant, if you ask me..

      September 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • Ron

        Snow, If He were to say there are many ways and truths...etc He would be lying. Would you prefer that He lie to you? Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other way to God. He humbled Himself to take on the form of man and to die for the sins of man which He Himself did not commit. He is anything but arrogant. He is meek and mild, but He will indeed return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

        September 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  13. Ron

    "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." ....Jesus (John 3:3)

    September 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  14. Ron

    "This is life eternal that they may know You, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent! " ...Jesus (John 17:3)

    September 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Ron

    "The heavens declare the glory of God." ....Psalm 19:1

    September 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  16. Ron

    "In Him we live and move and have our existence." ....Acts 17:28

    September 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Ron

    "Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God" ....Hebrews 3:4

    September 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  18. Ron

    "By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made." ....Psalm 33:6

    September 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Athy

      Ron, do you like the bible?

      September 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • Ron

        Athy, of course. The people of God love the Words of God. And you?

        September 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  19. prophet

    want the facts, there are more athiest child abusers and those that are dishonest than in religions.

    September 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Observer


      Please give your RELIABLE source to prove you didn't JUST MAKE IT UP.

      September 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • prophet....

      .......is a liar.

      September 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Snow

      dude.. if you actually look at number of those done by members of a single group, no one can beat RCC..

      September 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • You're a liar

      And you need to post the sources; pulling info out of your ass doesn't count, troll.

      September 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  20. prophet

    most people are trying to get the catholic child abusers out of the catholic religion, but what about the athiest child abusers, as there are many.

    September 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • prophet....

      ....doesn't realize that the overwhelming majority of women getting abortions in America at 83% are Christian. Poor, silly prophet didn't see that coming. What a useless prophet he is.

      September 27, 2013 at 6:22 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.