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. francisca mesquita

    I think the Pope is talking in the Light of Jesus' teachings and how He forgave the woman caught in adultery,

    November 1, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  2. ART

    All conservatives scare me, they are like the Taliban

    October 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Tony Manero

    Shut down the Catholic Church until the Pope does what the cons want . . . then say the Pope is a Muslim and the worst calamity facing the world, according to messages they hear from God (not sure it's the Jewish, Hindu, Taoist, Islam or some other 20+ dieties recognized by the other 5+ bilion people in the world).

    October 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  4. DENNA

    I am sure the Pope does not give a fig what conservatives say or think. After all, we know who HIS boss is.

    October 17, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  5. JR

    Do the Catholics hold the Pope as appointed by God, or is it only when they find it convenient? If they cannot agree on what a living Pope means by what he says, how in the world are we to believe that they know the truth of an ancient book, the Bible? The world marches onward, with or without the church) and I believe this Pope finally realizes this fact. Change is always hard, it has happened many times in the past and each time there is a revolt, but it still happens. John

    October 16, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  6. DNA

    HAHA liberal pope, serves them 'right'.

    October 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  7. Nunya

    How dare the pope NOT preach a message of hate and intolerance for fellow man. I mean...isn't that what Jesus taught?

    October 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  8. Rich

    The Pope speaks for God, except when his words are inconvenient.

    October 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Youtube - The Origin of Religion


    October 4, 2013 at 4:33 am |
  10. screminmeme

    One thing people should remember. He who is without sin cast the first stone. That's for conservatives.

    October 4, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • David Cramer

      That was addressed to everyone.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      Actually that verse ends with these words "go and sin no more." I'm guesing that is for liberals.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
      • Observer

        Yep. There's no sense in saying that to hypocritical conservatives who will ignore it anyway.

        October 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  11. A Simple Understanding

    How about focusing on what the Bible says about these topics? That is the REAL way to understand and KNOW God and his Son point of view. Some may think the BIble is too old and needs to be format? What does Deuteronomy 12:32 say? for tha matter what does Mal 3:6 say? “I the Lord do not change." So why should we follow opinions on these topics? I say the TRUE way to worship God and do right in his eyes is to have his same point of view on these topics?

    Many of us dont realize that ALL of the problems solutions are in the bible, if we read it a little longer and investigate a little deeper instead of someone telling us (blindly). I challenge each and everyone OF YOU to read the bible. Read it and if you dont understand it, Pray to understand it. "HE", the almightly will shed you light.

    Hechos 5:29
    Matthew 7:21-23

    October 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • americanpangea

      Catholics follow the Priests and Popes interpretation of Bible – the Bible is not the ultimate authority. If you follow your own interpretation of the Bible – then you are a protestant – like Baptists or Assembly Of God etc. etc. etc.
      That is the basic difference between this schism between protestants and Catholics – the Pope sets the agenda – not the individual.

      October 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Jack Smith

        And throughout history, popes have ordered the murders of millions of people.
        I find that to be in direct contradiction to the Bible and the Ten Commandments.
        I choose to follow God...not yet another deranged pope.

        October 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • aldewacs2

      I hope that believers stick steadfastly to their interpretation of thei bible.
      The more steadfast they are, the sooner that the church will disappear.
      Integrity has a price. Maybe the ultimate price.

      October 3, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Lisa

      Has the part about sitting in judgement of others changed?

      October 4, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • jimmy smith

        Religion is crap.
        Christianity and Islam are the most destructive forces on earth today.
        The pope is but another rich politician.
        Where's my scapular? Damn I'm gonna need it, while I roast in hell for all eternity. Idiots.

        October 4, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  12. Mary Kaye

    Oh no! A pope who actually believes and lives the words of Christ? No wonder conservatives are up in arms – they only read the OLD Testament. Yeah, you people who call yourselves Christians – the good news is in the NEW Testament. That's where you learn the lessons you're supposed to be living.

    October 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Ted Ferguson


      Plus, no one is saying ONLY gay marriages will be allowed! People need to do some soul searching and think about why you object so heavily to what someone else is doing when it has no impact on you whatsoever. Your life doesn't change one bit if two men or two women get married today. Not one bit. So why do you care what they do? Leave people alone and worry about yourself and how to improve your own life and how you can improve to live up to your own moral code.

      October 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • ARMYCSM

        HOOAH, HOOAH! Leave people the he@@ alone

        October 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  13. Pravda

    The church is going to "Progress" their way right into liberalism and humanism...

    October 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      that would be bad?

      would continuing an iron age blood cult be better?

      October 3, 2013 at 5:43 am |
    • d cordell

      Yeah. It's really shocking when the Pope says the RCC should act like loving Christians instead of jack-booted psychopaths from hell.

      October 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  14. aldewacs2

    The more I hear from this pope, the more I am convinced he is a true fellow atheist.
    Rock on, Francis, stir up that stinking hornet's nest.

    October 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  15. Eldon Cordrey

    These information are very painful reality to the m
    illions of devout Roman
    In the Philippines alone, one the most populated Ro
    man Catholics in Asia,
    the Catholic Bishop Conference Of The Philippines (
    CBCP) and the Philippine Jesuit
    Foundation will never allow the Filipino people to
    know these well-hidden satanic
    rituals inside the Vatican. Of course, they will no
    t. Because, if they will, it will be
    the end of Catholicism in the Philippines.

    October 1, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  16. Julia

    I love watching the conservatives tap dance trying to save their ass it is just pure fun.

    September 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  17. Ralph Johnson

    Catholics: Seriously messed up people. Got no reason to be breathing my air.

    September 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  18. aldewacs2

    "..the church shouldn’t be “obsessed” with culture war issues like abortion and gay marriage."
    To a wingnut conservative, that's like taking away their hunting license.

    September 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, telling rightwingers to mind there own business is a waste of time. They hate everyone who is not like themselves

      September 30, 2013 at 9:37 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.