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September 20th, 2013
02:16 PM ET

Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - “Rain on parched land.”

“A bold new course.”

“Revolutionary.”

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. Darlene Buckingham

    The conservatives have bought the lies of the RCC and even the Pope can't sway them – the Pope is obsolete and soon the RCC will be because lies cannot survive the test of time.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  2. Jim

    "Archbold said that he’s concerned that anti-abortion protesters and opponents of gay marriage in the United States will be silenced."

    Why on Earth would you be concerned about that? Isn't it obvious that people should have the choice to do what they want with their bodies? Derp!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  3. Hell and destruction are never full

    ALL RISE!

    You were born into a war zone. False prophets and Beastie gubmnts wanna RULE.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    WOW! That Bill Donohue is a nasty piece of work!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  5. NileCroc

    "Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks"

    Who cares...

    September 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  6. SkepticalOne

    The problem with the right Mr. Donohue is that they pick and chose from the bible and the teachings of religious leaders only those bits that support their agenda of controlling others. I for one applaud a pope who is more concerned with religion than politics and tries to understand those who disagree with him instead of flinging hatred at them as the conservatives are wont to do.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  7. xcvbb

    Conservative jews did not like what Jesus had to say either – and it did not end well for Him. Sounds like the pope is willing to walk in His foot steps – hope it ends better for him than Jesus.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Crashman

    "Archbold said that he’s concerned that anti-abortion protesters and opponents of gay marriage in the United States will be silenced." Let's hope so.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Gas chambers should be silent, too.

      Ooooh that smell
      Can't you smell that smell
      Ooooh that smell
      The smell of death surrounds you

      September 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  9. brads2sense

    Dont worry, conservatives. We know you'll continue to hate no matter what the Pope says and cherry-pick Bible quotes to support it.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  10. President of the League of Super Friends Speaks Out

    Non-issue. There are crimes to solve.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  11. aesf

    It is impossible to be a conservative and a christian – so why do we care what they think!

    September 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • AE

      Nope, God loves them, too.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • Jim

        We can only assume.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • xcvbb

        Too bad that love only goes one way. If you take care of the poor you take care of Me.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  12. dudeman

    This act of perversion is bringing this country down. The glorifying of this act in the media is harming our children by exposing them to this at a confusing time in their lives. Last year on the news they reported three young males who made a gay video at school during recess. I wonder where that got that Idea? Rewarding people for perversion isn't the way to go. It's a dead end for mankind.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Dudeman you are the only one getting confused. My children don't care if someone is gay or not.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • dudeman

        Your children have children's minds. The human brain isn't fully developed until the age of 24. You should be guiding your children and you should be a parent, not a buddy.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          My children are a lot more intelligent then you I can see that.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          that's why all religions indoctrinate the children with this bronze age fairy tale while they are young.

          teaching religion to the young is child abuse.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • Crashman

          And some not even then. Hatred isn't natural in children, they have to be taught it, as you clearly were. As the song in "South Pacific" says:

          You've got to be taught
          To hate and fear,
          You've got to be taught
          From year to year,
          It's got to be drummed
          In your dear little ear
          You've got to be carefully taught.

          You've got to be taught to be afraid
          Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
          And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
          You've got to be carefully taught.

          You've got to be taught before it's too late,
          Before you are six or seven or eight,
          To hate all the people your relatives hate,
          You've got to be carefully taught!

          September 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • dudeman

          So you children are above everyone else in the world and their brains have evolved to that of a 24 year old. Not hardley, we all think our children are the best looking and smartes on the planet. You childrens minds aren't fully developed yet.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • brads2sense

          The conservatives in government are over 24..what's their excuse?

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

          He is right. As a child, I didn't pay attention to gay or straight, I viewed it as if two people loved each other that is what mattered. My mother let me think for myself, make my own opinions and taught me to make them educated opinions. It didn't confuse me, you like who you like and that is not something you choose, as I have never chosen to be attracted to the people I am. I am a straight female, so sorry, gay doesn't rub off, just like straight doesn't. You are who you are. Leave people be. If two people holding hands confuses your kids, you have more issues to worry about.

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

          Crashman...Why is it that anyone who disagrees with you you folks alway come back with the hatred card. we are concerned about our children. I don't hate gays but I don't agree with them. I don't agree with my brother sometimes but I don't hate him and still love him. You guys really need to get off those weak name calling replies. It just shows you're a weak person.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • dudeman

          Kristen... You sound young. It's not seeing two people holding hands and you know it. It is being glorified in the media and politicians who in their hearts are against ity selling out for the gay vote. Obama even flip flopped and believe me it wasn't for a change of heart it was for votes.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Dudeman were you thinking the same thing when the Civil Rights occurred in the 1960s and 1970s?

          September 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Maybe they made the video because thay are gay. Just like people who make straight videos because they are straight.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • B

      You and your ilk will be on the wrong side of history on this issue, much like those who opposed the civil rights movement.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • dudeman

        This isn't a civil rights issue as many would like you to believe. It's an issue of rights for their perversion. Gays have all the rights we starights have. We can't help it if a few want to do something abnormal. By the way, it was democrats that were for slavery. Conservatives were against it.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • Crashman

          Yeah, a lot has changed in 150 years. The south was ruled by Democrats and the north by Republicans. The parties changed their views. Lincoln would be a liberal Democrat today.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • markus

          Yeah, there has been a party realignment since the days of slavery, genius.

          When people like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms jumped from the Democrats to the GOP.

          Now you guys get to carry the bigot mantle. Congrats.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • AE

      What is a gay video?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • brads2sense

        A happy video!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        A very happy video!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'This act of perversion is bringing this country down. The glorifying of this act in the media is harming our children by exposing them to this at a confusing time in their lives'
      Well yeah, I suppose glorifying that the pope made a statement does do that but what can you do?

      'Last year on the news they reported three young males who made a gay video at school during recess.'
      And when I was at school I once came across a group of kids playing strip poker in a classroom. Whats your point?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Kevin

    I have finally witnessed this day... that the US Conservatives have become more "conservative" than the Vatican.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  14. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    Adherents believe the Christian Bible is inerrant and hold its passages to be historically accurate, including the story of Noah's Ark, and that the Bible's internal chronology, which places the Flood within the last five thousand years, is reliable. Flood geology contradicts the scientific consensus in geology and paleontology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, cosmology, biology, geophysics and stratigraphy, and the scientific community considers it to be pseudoscience.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  15. livingston

    Everything seems to upset conservatives. If everything that is happening in the world upsets you just maybe you're the one who is wrong.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • brads2sense

      How dare you use reason and logic with conservatives!!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  16. Jimmy Mallorca

    This Pope is ranting about how the Church will die if it does not tolerate gays, lesbians, abortion......Well, I just want to correct him: The "Real Church of Jesus Christ" will continue to survive and thrive until the trumpet sounds and it is pulled out of this crazy world, while the "artificial Church" that the Pope is leading will implode and die-just as the Pope himself has predicted. Roman Catholics everywhere should ask themselves: Is this Pope preaching the doctrines of Christ and his Apostles, or is he just trying to be "extra-nice" to people he should be preaching repentance to-just to make a name for himself? Don't get me wrong: Jesus died for all sinners, and wants everyone to come as they are and receive the free gift of salvation. But He (i.e. Christ) does not want any sinner to stay as they are. Staying in the Church as a murderer, an adulterer, gay, lesbian, thief, liar, etc, defeats the very purpose and definition of "Biblical Salvation".

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

      All monotheism is fraud.

      September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Crashman

      Why is it a sin to be gay if God made them that way? Murderers, thieves, etc make the choice to be the way they are. Gay people do not. So they should be punished for the way they were born? That's your idea of a merciful god? Sounds kind of mean to me.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Winston5

      Don't you tire of being in a death cult??

      September 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  17. elliott carlin

    The RCC doesn't believe in salvation by grace alone, direct access to God and the Genesis account of Creation; but it does believe in works, earthly mediators and evolution. Topping the cake is the most recent Pope's announcement that anyone can get into Heaven.

    This is called apostasy-and it happened a long time ago in the RCC.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Stop being dumb

      September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • dudeman

        Calling names is a sign of weakness

        September 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Maybe but at least I know what the catechism of the Catholic Church actually says

          September 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • OKfine

          BD at his pompous and arrogant best, the hypocrisy is astounding.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  18. John Mann

    Hell has frozen over.

    Apparently conservatives are saying, “wait, we still want to hate gays and abortionists! How dare the pope tell us to stop all our hateful hatin’!”

    September 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Sister French Fry

      Poor conservatives. will they stamp their feet and insist that there way is the only way? Catholicism: with this new pope i thought about going back to the church, but now I see the crazed multi-spawners won't even listen to their own pope. Now go shoot out some more babies, clown cars.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Come on back Sister. There's plenty of room at the banquet

        September 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • OKfine

          BD, don't you understand, she is trying to get away from the likes of you.

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

      My biggest issue with what the Pope said was its wrong. I don't hate anyone, but Jesus has to know you if you want to get to heaven.

      Might I suggest BTW, that any unrepentant sinner may not have a relationship with God.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • John Mann

        According to the bible, God created all people...even gay people. Being gay is not a choice. God would not create a person only to condemn them to hell for something not of their own making.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  19. That's Pope to you!

    Funny how these guys are quick to comment over an interview but lack the moral courage to speak against their own molesting kids.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  20. allenwoll

    Awwwwwwwwwwwww ! ! : The Cons are upset with the Pope ! . Soooooo Saaaad ! !
    .
    Way to go, Francis ! ! !
    .
    The best part is that it gives extremists yet another way to make fools of themselves - NOT that they NEED all that much help in that ! !

    September 20, 2013 at 3:53 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.