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. Bootyfunk

    the pope is getting credit where it isn't due.

    he didn't say it's normal/okay to g.ay. he didn't change church doctrine. he didn't say the bible is wrong about h.omos.exuals, that they are not abomination and not to be put to death (lev 20:13). he isn't welcoming g.ay priests. he didn't tell catholics to fully accept g.ays and their lifestyle. he didn't say he supports g.ay marriage and g.ays are welcome to celebrate their love in catholic churches.

    with women, he's still straight-up saying they aren't equal. people embarrassed by their prejudices often give backhanded compliments - "no, they can't be leaders, but we value their advice." lol, what a joke. how does that sit with the females out there? you aren't smart enough, holy enough or whatever to be a leader. we'll pretend we're interested in what you have to say, but since at the end of the day you have no power, only what i say actually matters. yep, based on what you have between your legs, you can't be a leader in the church. the pope didn't say women are equal, that the bible is wrong to say women must be silent and never teach men. he didn't say he was changing church policy to say women can be priests. he still supports keeping women in a subordinate role.

    basically, the pope is getting getting credit for being less prejudice and repressive than previous popes. he still doesn't think g.ays or women are equal to straight men. he's still living in 1950. all he's saying is not to openly judge g.ays. that's it. that makes him a great guy? he makes a few ambiguous comments and people act as if he changed church doctrine. he hasn't - though he has the power to do so. he gets zero credit for being less h.omophobic and just as misogynistic.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Hell and destruction are never full


    Mommie ain't as holy as some have been led to believe.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  3. Deacon Keith

    Liberals and Conservatives? I don't think it is so easy to put each of us Catholics on a side or in a certain box. We are all trying our best to live the Gospel and know the truth. It is the Journey of a lifetime. we should all pray for the Holy Father and for each other.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • OKfine

      Well at least Frankie has some endearing qualities, I hope you didn't say the same about old Ratzinger; he was one p!ss poor holy father.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  4. Odo

    No biggie – the Pope is just concerned about dwindling relevance....he wants to get his paying customers back.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  5. LGBT for Pope

    we love you Papi.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Tally

    So much hate from people who claim to follow the teachings of Christ. Jesus said, "Love one another."

    September 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • OKfine

      Tally. You should have noticed that the line love one another did not work out to well for jesus, people crucified him.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • redrockhistory

        so true!!! Seems like our religous congregations have once again reverted to those of Jesus' time. Now anyone professing love, non-judgement, compassion, and generosity will be sacrificed again. Well I am proud to say I am in the "Jesus" line.....not the hypocrites.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
      • Tally

        I'm told that was The Plan™.

        Still didn't make him wrong.

        Of course Christianity and the Jesus backstory/myth is a complete rip of Mithrism, but hey, it's only history. 🙂

        September 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  7. rufus floyd

    The definition of a conservative is IDIOT.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • LGBT for Pope

      Conservatives mean high school dropouts from South.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • mike

      another synonym is narrow-minded

      September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  8. Rodeo_Joe

    "Papa" knows best.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Truth sets u free

    When an organization that says that has the blessing of god is unorganized in all it's ways, shows that in fact the God of order is not with them!

    September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  10. John M.

    The Catholic Church, the greatest money-making machine in the history of planet Earth, is simply trying to put more butts in the pews for when the basket is passed around. Foregoing fundamental Christian and socioeconomic beliefs for the sake of profit has become an all too familiar theme in both religion and politics.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Thomas A. Hawk

      Um OK. Do you have any comments on what the article is actually about?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  11. TARA

    II see nothing wrong with what the Pope has said and continues to say.

    I'm a conservative catholic and I am nothing like all those/you here have/continue to portray. I'm guessing you don't know the majority of the "conservative catholic's" out there, what they believe, how they act, etc... Because they quietly follow the Pope, do their charity work, go to church, raise their families etc... and never get in the news. (Much like the rest of the world), only we are "conservative catholic's". You wouldn't know us from another person.

    You are seeing those that get/want/need the most attention and use shock value to get you (collective) to believe that is how we all are.

    That couldn't be further from the truth.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Deacon Keith

      I guess I would be more on the liberal side but the same would go for me and many other Catholics. We have different opinions but don't forget for a minute that we are bound together by love. the Gospel is always our guide.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  12. OwMySkull

    Jesus, save me from your followers.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  13. neastsider

    I wonder who is going to start up a collection to buy a truckload of Depends for Bill Donohue, "president" of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights (talk about a completely phony group monicker!). He's going to need them alot before all of this is said and done. Conservatives want the Inquisition back, they want to burn 'those others' at the stake, they want scalps and not to be all incllusive, they want to have their exclusive religious sect just like the baggers have their political sect.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • DandyDillmore

      Yep... those Depends better hold a shxt load for his sake..

      September 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  14. Bob-N-Frapples

    Apparently, the Pope is too liberal for the GOP. I think the GOP is too conservative for the rest of the earth.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • bakbic


      September 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      The GOP has become an unholy alliance of the rich and the ignorant.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  15. DandyDillmore

    Hey, this Pope is fairly intelligent... He thinks that people need to dwell on something other than marginal issues.. what an imagination this guy has... Conservatives ... that means you need to get a life!

    September 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  16. t2vodka

    Who cares, if they want to debate fiction then let them waste their time, I got better things to do. Then again, I did waste a ton of time by reading and commenting on this article.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  17. Ken Margo

    Finally a pope in the 21st century. As I said before, It's a long journey but atleast he has taken the first steps to reality.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • DandyDillmore

      Who would have known.. perhaps the Catholic church will survive for another hundred years... if it didn't begin to change it was doomed – in that, the Pope and I agree...

      September 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Just don't be surprised when he tells you he's serious about not murdering the unborn and only men and women should marry.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • OKfine

          I thought that is what you did before grabbing the RCC as a a crutch.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  18. AtlJack

    Dear Conservative Catholics:

    If the Pope speaks to the people as God's messenger, shouldn't you listen and obey?

    Either the Pope is divinely inspired or he's not.

    if he is divinely inspired its your duty to listen and obey.

    If he's not divinely inspired, then the Pope is just another guy and the Catholic Church should then get rid of Popes.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      They'll treat this pope like they do the bible. Hear only the statements they agree with. Ignore the rest.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • Brad76

        And if you say anything otherwise you're somehow less than intelligent.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dan

      The pope only "lays down the law" when he speaks "Ex Cathedra" – from the throne – otherwise, he's just speaking his mind.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Well, if the pope is only "speaking his mind" He's no better than anyone else "speaking their mind"

        September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Which is markedly sharper than Jack, Ken or Brad's.

        September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  19. joshua

    Dr owour is the only one prophet with the true message of God. I will only listen to Him. No body else.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  20. jimmy

    it's the conservative catholics who believe the pope is infallible...so they should either shut the hell up or self-excommunicate themselves

    September 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Doris


      September 20, 2013 at 3:37 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.