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. Jim

    The planet is only 6000 year old and a man made it...hahahahahahahahahah

    September 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Hell and destruction are never full

    Hell and destruction are never full
    The gays were hiding in their closets when Jesus walked. When the bride showed up their fear melted away. Bully Power.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      but when you think about it ... jesus never married and he hung around with 12 men ... hmmmmm

      September 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • Hell and destruction are never full

        Expand yer mind dog, with this book, The Pink Swas*tika.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  3. ToldUso

    Conservative Catholics are upset with a tolerant and accepting Pope? Fine, they can go be Baptists.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  4. Daniel D

    Thank goodness that that the old saying, 'What's good for Conservative Catholics is good for America', or was it 'God gives wealth and happiness to those who can make it in America'. Or some other nonsense.
    I hope that Pope Francis will soon revive the idea established by Pope John, that will renew the commitment to more active social and political involvement of Priests, nuns and the rest of the Catholic family.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  5. Ed - Spring, TX

    Now if the Pope will address the Church's goofy stance on divorce...

    September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  6. Melissa

    Give the Pope a break; he is trying to say the right thing but is held back by hundreds of years of bigotry in his religion. It is a stuggle for him to say what is truly in his heart. At least he is trying to step forward even if it is only a little step now.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  7. Troy

    How can someone within that religion possibly be upset? He is infallible, or you're not a catholic.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Daniel D

      Good point

      September 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Or you don't understand infallibility. Yeah, I'm going with that for you Troy.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  8. EPAB

    What liberal Catholics? We left the Church 30 years ago. The moderates left 15-20 years ago. All that are left (practicing) are conservatives and wacko fundamentalists. The fundamentalists will now leave too, leaving only (mostly tolerant) conservatives. Liberals aren't coming back. Some moderates may come back, but probably not in sufficient numbers to rejuvenate the Church. But all in all this is a big step forward for humanity and Christianity.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Liberals left their mother? Is that how she got muddied?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Madak

      Not true at all. Most of the young generation of Catholics is very liberal as opposed to the older, dying off generations. Look for a BIG turn around with young Catholics coming back to the church with Francis as Pope.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  9. dudeman

    CNN why are you not posting my comments?

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

      Just as with Beghazi this network is biased and un credible anymore.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Go back to high school. Your spelling is terrible.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  10. anothermuse

    It's interesting reading all of the different spins on a few words from the Pope. All sides seeming to say that his words support their view. Sort of like religion as a whole. Interpreted in whatever way suits the listener.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  11. Michael Alfaro

    It is funny how the church is acting towards the Pops message, it is the same behavior towards Jesus Christ.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • anothermuse

      I just posted pretty much the same thing.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Nino

    The church business is down, they need to increase the customer numbers, that's all...!!! Church, a tax free scam!!!!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • EPAB

      AMEN brother.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  13. Winston5

    Does Bill Donohue blink so much when he talks because even HE can't believe his own B.S.??

    September 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      he was shoveling it out pretty thick!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    This should have just been tltled "Conservative disturbed by reality"


    "Conservatives disturbed by facts."

    "Conservatives disturbed by science."

    "Conservatives disturbed."

    September 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Name*penguin

    I have several Catholic aquaintences, none of whom believe the church dogma on gays or contraception and only a few dogma concerning abortion

    September 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      They should attend an RCIA class.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • OKfine

        RCIA, if the brain washing has not taken hold you can get an advanced degree at the RCIA. The instructors have a PhD in deception and delusion, BD probably has one.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          I'm not saying it will convince them. I'm saying it will explain to them why the teachings are the way they are. Maybe they should go be Episcopalians instead.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  16. Bk

    Hurts to be shown how wrong/intolerant/immoral they had been by their own leader, isn't it! Nice..

    September 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  17. cnn@bin.sh

    So what if they're "disturbed"? He's the Pope. Word of GOD, y'all. When he speaks, you fall in line. If you have any doubts about it, save them for your next confession.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I must confess, I don't give a shlt about the Pope.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • Michael Alfaro


        September 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      If this would have been the 1500s and someone would have said something like that about the pope they would find themselves in a world of hurt.

      Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • Phil in KC

        "Nobody expects a Spanish Inquisition!"
        "soft pillows"
        Don't forget the comfy chair!
        I love the Monty Python references.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  18. HenryMiller

    "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."

    There are a lot of words that ought to be used against people who try to cram their religions down the throats of others. If this Pope is sensible enough to see that religion doesn't give anyone the right to dictate to others, great.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • notea4me

      Exactly right.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  19. cedar rapids

    'Other conservative Catholics said the media and liberals had misinterpreted the pope’s remarks'

    They claim that you could only interpret it properly if you believe and what the pope actually meant was 'burn!, you will all burn in hell you liberal deviants!'

    September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  20. Kevin Lawrence

    I'm a conservative Catholic but I approve of what Pope Francis says and more importantly what he is doing! The Church needs a kick in the rear end and that is what Pope Francis is doing. Periodically things have to be shaken up to make things better!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm with you Kevin. Vivat Jesu!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        H3LL has frozen over! Is what I'm reading true?

        September 20, 2013 at 4:39 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.