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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. Cheryl

    Who knows maybe Pope Franics will get me back to church. So far so good.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  2. QS

    Why do American Catholics bother pretending to care about anything the Pope says when it's obvious they only want to hear him say what they want to hear, and if he doesn't say those things they will simply do what they want as they always have?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Sara

      The drive for community is stronger than the drive for reason.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  3. mememememe27

    waaaaa! yes, you are disturbed....

    September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      No one in the entire world could ever be more disturbed than a Catlicker...

      September 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  4. Patrick

    Hey idiot conservative Catholics, if you want to continue to go to church you need more people to go. He's reaching out to younger congregates with these statements. He's not trying to change anyone's opinions. He's trying to save the buildings you kneel in every Sunday.

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

      Good news in my area they tore down two more catholic churches and are putting in rental housing.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  5. PushingBack

    The Pope knows that the only way to keep from dying out is to evolve on these topics. Ssssshhhhh, don't tell the GOP!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      Actually, you're wrong. Throughout history, whenever the church has comprimised, that was when it died out. Whenever it stood for truth, that is when it eventually flourished. There will always be reprobates and the hostile, insolent and ugly – at least until Jesus Christ comes back and sends them all to Hell, which He will – but the church flourishes when it stands for truth nevertheless.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Yeah? You must think the inquistion was the greatest thing in history huh?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          The Inquisition was mostly perpetrated by Spanish royalty against the directives of the pope.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Does it matter Deacon? This guy basically wants a dictatorship like it was during the Dark Ages and Crusades.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'The Inquisition was mostly perpetrated by Spanish royalty against the directives of the pope.'

          what are you on about? Torquemada was the driving force behind it and he pushed the royalty to pet-ition the pope for the go ahead.....which he gave. The pope himself appointed the inquisitors, including Torquemada. The new pope sent 4 assistants to help Torquemada, with instructions to help rein it in a bit after they had so many complaints, 11 years after it had started but it still continued for a further 36 years after that.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        FAIL

        September 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • Crashman

        The "truth" as defined by whom?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
      • notea4me

        More BS, the church is dying in America.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
      • Jesus Christ

        I'm not ever coming back; that stone you put in front of my tomb the last time I was here was just too heavy to play with!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • Dawn Kieballs

        Holy Shnit! Your Jesus is like a MMF heavy weight fighter. Gonna come back and kick those sinners a$$es all the way to Hell...wait isn't that who he said you should be saving? Me thinks you might have it backwards.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  6. Joe Rockbottom

    About time. Now if he can just tell people it is ok to use condoms to prevent AIDS he'll be an actual saint.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  7. John Calvin II

    It does sadden me because it appears that the Pope is either playing politics or he's comprimising with the wicked the way a co-dependant wife would try to bargain with her alcoholic husband. And if that's not it, it's worse. He's comitting apostacy from the gospel and is in danger of the condemnation that Paul so strongly spoke of in his epistle to the Galatians. And guess what. An apostle who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write scripture infinitely out ranks a pope.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • notea4me

      Pure BS

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Too bad Paul was basically the first Joseph Smith, an opportunist who saw the chance to take a fad and capitalize on it changing it's founders message into a new power structure designed to manipulate and control the ignorant masses.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        very well said!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
      • Dippy

        Its, not it's.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Madtown

      comprimising with the wicked
      ----
      Who do you refer to, the gays? Since I'm left-handed and that was also not a choice, am I wicked as well?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  8. If I had a hammer... I'd whack you in the morning

    "“I’ll be honest; I was disturbed,” writes Matthew Archbold in the conservative National Catholic Register."
    what ever do you mean by WAS... you ARE my friend. Best watch your backdoor suzy them gays are watching it girlfriend... Bawahahaha. Conservatives are such babies!!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      Go to Hell.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • If I had a hammer... I'd whack you in the morning

        Conservatives make that happen every day my friend. love you too puddin!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Crashman

        What a nice Christian response.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Blessings

        WOW!

        September 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  9. Dan

    Convince me to accept your beliefs; don't just jump out of the gate screaming that my eternal soul is damned because I do not currently believe what you do. That turns people off and makes them think you don't have much to add to a discussion.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      But "Believe us or you will be tortured for eternity" always worked so well before... I guess the religious will need to find a new sales pitch...

      September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  10. widget01

    Who really cares what any of them think, one of their core beliefs is that men were made from mud, and women from a spare rib. (mmmm, spare ribs). I do agree with the poster who made the comment that taking children to church is a form a child abuse, since children have no defense against brain washing. Guess that's a good thing for religion or it would have died by now.

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

      Exactly right!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      Well, you're going to be abused in Hell forever... just a few more years... just a few more years.

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

        Are you a fortune teller?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        tool

        September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        " just a few more years... just a few more years." which has been the Christian mantra since the first century... maybe it's just their understanding of the word "few" that is so flawed...

        September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Blessings

        You serious?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Fish Jones

        Ah, for someone that's religious, you seem to wish horrible things on people. It blows me away how "smart" people think what is in the bible is fact. Just because it was written so long ago doesn't make it fact. The only reasons religions are as big as they are is because we are just breaking in to the era where we "see the light"....the rationality light. since it was written, it was seen as fact because either A., noone knew any better and/or 2, people were forced to believe and it was just a way of life (much like being muslim in the middle east is more than a religion, it is a lifestyle) or 3. the religion offered hope during a very rough time in peoples lives.. Then eventually, it just became tradition. The bible and the christian religions in general (as well as all modern day religions) came from other ancient religions. How can a religion that is just a mash up of several other religions be THE ONE?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  11. John Calvin II

    It does sadden me because it appears that the Pope is either playing politics or he's comprimising with the wicked the way a co-dependant wife would try to bargain with her alcoholic husband. And if that's not it, it's worse. He's comitting apostacy from the gospel and is in danger of the condemnation that Paul so strongly spoke of in his epistle to the Galatians. And guess what. An apostle who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write scripture infinitely out ranks a pope.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • notea4me

      so your a Calvinist, not a christian?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Crashman

      Or he's just coming to grips with reality – something the church should have done a long time ago.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • If I had a hammer... I'd whack you in the morning

      Here is a novel Idea maybe the Pope is waking the path of Jesus You remember Jesus the compassionate one who forgave others instead of judging them any less than human. I forgive you John because you like most can't see what you are doing.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • astroduck

        Should I arrive at the gates of heaven, the first thing I'll ask is: Is Hell real? If the answer is yes, then I'll have to give someone my ticket. I can't rest blissfully in paradise while others are burning.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Mario

    Un grande Pancho I

    September 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Blessings

      ...un gran Pancho...

      September 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    Bill Donohue is saying he agrees with the pope but he is really sowing seeds of discord and going against the pope. An evil man. Any catholic listening to him should be ashamed!

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

      Agree.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  14. Mark

    You know your'e crazy when the Pope is more liberal than you are.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      Contrary to popular belief, a pope is not infalible. There have been some, especially in the middle ages, who thought the virgin birth, death and resurection of Christ to be a myth useful only for raising money. Such men are excedingly wicked and are condemned, regardless of the color of their robe.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • notea4me

        Your right, the previous 2 popes set the church back 100 years.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • Dippy

          You're, not your.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        When was the last time the pope was infallible?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          The last time he said something that the conservative catholics agreed with.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Guest

      Well said.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  15. davidmesirow

    Good, it's about time we had a pope that would stop appeasing conservatives' outdated obsessions.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  16. KJ

    The only people who were upset were the hypocritical bigots anyways...those who are trying to living what Jesus taught us were happy to hear his words! He's bringing the chuch back to where it should be!!

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

      Agree.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    Centuries have passed but at last the amazing thing has happened ... US Conservatives have become more "conservative" than the Vatican!!! Why does any catholic listen to the catholic league's poison when they should be listening to the pope?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • notea4me

      Good question...

      September 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  18. ced1968

    He did not say drop the issues, he said there are more things to discuss than gays, abortion rights and contraception. To the best of my knowledge, Christ was silent on all of those issues per se.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Tony

      If he was silent those issues, why does the church still actively prevent gay marriage?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      If christ was silent, how do you know he was against it?

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

      ALL RISE!
      The gays were hiding in their closets when Jesus walked. When the bride showed up their fear melted away.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  19. HeavenSent

    You atheists come on these articles to spew the lies of your father the devil, who is satan. Keep following him to see where it will lead. My camel-toe is bigger now so we can take in a new family. Stand on the edge and throw rocks at my face.

    Amen.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Raffy

      Do you understand how crazy you sound?

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

        No, and he never will.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • imnalen

      Your camel-toe? Really?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Michael Girouard

        I keep geting a picture in my head that I know isn't what he intended. But what the heck did he intend?

        September 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • your to phunny

      This one here is coo coo for crazy puffs.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • trev

        coo coo for cocoa puffs you mean

        September 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  20. Winston5

    OMG, the thing that scared me the most in this article was "Catholic gynecologists." What do they do during an examination, just yell at your uterus?!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:08 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.