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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. Becky

    LOL I'm a conservative and the pope's remarks don't upset or surprise me. Lies don't upset me at all. Silly CNN.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • matt

      Same here, Becky. I'm a gay conservative, and I'm in total agreement with what the Pope has said. This network constantly seeks to sway people's minds that we conservatives all are one breed when in fact, we are as diverse as any other group.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  2. nik green

    This Pope has indicated that he is pro human rights, pro civil liberties and pro egalitarianism – other words, he is following *original* Christianity, as taught by Jesus Christ. This makes his a prime candidate for assassination by personnel from the US intelligence sector. These terrorists never take too kindly to those who promote the cause of ordinary people.

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

    Who could go for some flap jacks right about now?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Zrated

      Nice Groundhog Day reference.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  4. Sara

    Some interesting statistics from Wendell's Intentional Disciples:

    · 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics (p. 25).
    · 79 percent of those who have dropped the name "Catholic" and claim no religious affliation of any kind, have done so by age 23 (p. 33).
    · In the early 21st century, among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult (p. 35).

    Even more interesting are the silly ideas these folks have for stopping the hemorrhage. The problem with the Catholic church is that it's teachings are filled with illogical and counterfactual ideas that are harmful in today's world. People stick with it for the pomp and tradition and beauty, but only a minority can shut off the more rational parts of their brains for long. It is a losing belief system unless the pope takes real action, which he does not appear likely to do. One possibility is another rift in the church, leaving the stale outdated version and a new more vibrant version which embraces both old and new.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • SamB19

      and yet further interesting is the fact that you think this is a "Catholic" issue, and not "religion" issue. LOL

      September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
      • Sara

        Several religions in the US are growing, including Islam, Buddhism and many Evangelical Christian branches. Once you eliminate the effect of immigration, Catholicism is one of the fastest shrinking religions around. Look at the PEW stats...most people still b believe in a higher power and still pray.

        September 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Aggregated the white Evangelicals are shrinking too and quite significantly – down about 6% in five years.

        But as you say, if it weren't for the growing Hispanic population, the percentage of Catholics (which is flat over the last five years) would be shrinking. Anglo Catholics are leaving the church in droves.

        September 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  5. Jeff6187

    I love this Pope. He's not going back on any church dogma at all ... (much of which I personally disagree with). He's just saying that the church and it's people need a more balanced approached. Stop spending all that energy on the hot button issues that give you that sense of "moral superiority". The Pope himself has championed other issues as more important, such as charity, kindness, equality, love. Damn him, he's acting like that guy Jesus! Who does he think he is anyway!?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      He's a sinner

      September 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      He's a midnight toker.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Dr Tom

      Maybe he is saying that those who truly believe abortion is wrong should do less to make themselves feel good (pushing for anti-abortion laws that just drive abortion underground) and more to actually decrease abortion (push to make birth control more available and to improve the economic situation of the poor).

      September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
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      GLOBOVISION ITS HIDING THE CASES.

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      GLOBOVISION ITS HIDING THE CASES.

      NO VIDEO AGENTS CLEANING WITH BLAECH88.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Left in Alabama

      Just what we have been waiting for.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, ©™

    His Holiness Francis is trying to save the Roman Church, which is becoming irrelevant to contemporary society. Conservatives should allow this wise man to work in their best interests.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • OKfine

      Joey. If you go to almost any country in Europe you can buy a fixer upper RCC church dirt cheap.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  7. seosamh

    At last a pope who sees love as the essence of God's teaching and is willing to say so publicly. The pope did not deny catholic teachings, he just reminded us that God loves all people. Mr. Donohue, on the other hand, likes to wallow in hatred. Note how he sets up his argument by telling us what those evil liberals are thinking. (How does he know this?) He separates and then spews hate. Mr. Donohue will need to make a darn strong confession before he dies, because God does not endorse hate and those who die with such sins on their soul go to hell.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      "................. he just reminded us that God loves all people.................." Really??

      Rom 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • seosamh

        Interesting. So do you believe that God creates people to allow himself to hate them, or are you just pulling some lines from literature to create some argument?

        September 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Hell and destruction are never full

    All RISE!
    A feel gud solution might be ye ol' moccasin switcheroo. Have the Pope's bishops and the Big O's czars trade places for a couple months. Then the mocking of sin can be on a higher level.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  9. La di da

    Freaking conservatives in Congress have been 'disturbed' for years. Anti-American mofos.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    So one conservative declares that they were disturbed, but CNN uses its headline to portray it as ALL conservatives were disturbed... friggin click bait. I hate this site and will likely stop coming.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      God wants you to stop coming.

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

      Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing. Way to over-generalize CNN.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  11. asdkfjasl;kj

    no one cares about conservatives

    September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  12. ajk68

    Sorry CNN...no story here. Orthodox Catholics are quite pleased with Pope Francis.
    Any controversy would be a media creation.

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

      and yet we heard Bill Donohue talking ...

      September 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      so the quotes in the article were made up then?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  13. Don McLaughlin

    Conservatives 'disturbed' by pope's remarks

    Surprising precisely no one. We could delete everything after 'disturbed' and we'd have an accurate assessment of conservatives.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  14. Michael B (former christian now atheist)

    How about Christians focus on themselves and stop trying to force their religious beliefs on everyone else? Christians aren't even 1/3 of the world population and it is shrinking every year as people give up religion as I did roughly 12 years ago.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • ajk68

      Read the pope's comments...it's precisely not about forcing one's beliefs.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • SamB19

        It's all relative.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • T-word

      Just like "atheists" keep forcing their "non-beliefs" on Christians every time we turn around, watch television, go to the movies, create new laws... etc.etc. etc.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • tony

        I haven't driven by an in your face, goofy and deliberately misleading, atheist billboartd outside of an atheist meeting house yet.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  15. Bill Deacon

    I think if there are gods, there are probably a lot cause the universe is a big place.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Very funny "Fake" BD, but I think one god did it and used magic.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Go ahead, keep using my name. You can use the bathroom for me too if you want. I would like that.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          If everyone posted as Bill Deacon would there be a real one? Just hoping.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          After all crap is crap.

          September 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  16. tony

    If there really was a god, there wouldn't need to be any churches. Especially not lots of denominations.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • SamB19

      Yeah, but then how are they going to make money? They gotta keep on planting fear and prejudice in the mind of the uneducated so as to get the business going! Just like the NRA.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  17. Honey Badger Don't Care

    I think that we need to start up a new Inquisition to root out all of these "believers" who are not in line with the Pope.

    Anyone have any soft pillows?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  18. magicpanties

    In other news, Zeus is planning to release lightning in pastel colors.
    Such a bold move.
    Clearly, a god for the new millennium.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      All colors of the "rainbow"?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • LinCA

      @magicpanties

      You said, "Such a bold move."
      Wouldn't that be a bolt move?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  19. ljjm

    We might remember that Jesus "unsettled" many things with his words, too!

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

    Someone is stealing my name again.

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

      ...and it is childish. Just stop it now or I am going to hold my breath.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Go ahead and drink Apple. You know you want to.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
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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.