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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

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(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. Sara

    The birth control position seems at first glance like the first thing they're going to have to change to stop people fleeing the church as they are now. This has a lower acceptance rate (about 10%) than any of their other nutty positions (on female clergy, gay marriage etc) and is frighteningly harmful. We now have enormous bodies of evidence that healthy se.xual relations increase marital happiness. We understand the harm of overpopulation and unwanted children and STDs.

    The problem is that forcing priests into celibacy has created an army of bitter old se.xless men who want to believe their is some moral superiority in living as they do. They will fight to their death to feel that superiority and ask others to live with similar restraints.

    Solution? The ban on priests marrying must go first. All the other foolish se.xual hang-ups will soon fall away when they let that one go.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Who's on top with that position??

      September 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  2. DFGSDFGdf3452345

    TO DAY NORTH AMERICAN AGENCIES KILL 376 CHILD.

    ITALIAN X MAFIA AGENTINE AGENCIES ARE PAYNG TO KILL PEOPLE.

    EXPLOTING THEYR ORGANS.

    ANOTHER AGENCIES IRRADIATE VENEZUELANS TROUGTH THEY EYES.

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRpgiorg.blog.comRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    September 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Brother Francis

    Why does CNN not report this story honestly? I am pretty well connected to the Vatican and the Holy Father's comments have been misconstrued. I am the utmost traditional and I have no fear about what the Pope said because I know the context and the meaning of the words he used. As journalist you must report his actual words and the context of them not what you interpret (incorrectly I might add) them to mean. CNN, please do us the favor of being honest.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Fuck Brother Francis too.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Brother Francis,

      in this column it is Catholic 'conservatives' who are quoted. Are they not as "traditional" as you?

      You seem to differ from the people quoted here.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Owen bailey

      Brother Francis, please enlighten us on the EXACT words the pope spoke? You are well connected to the vatican. Please Brother, give us the real gospel.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • OKfine

      In stories relating to the pope and RCC they are simply following the precedents set by the Vatican, lie and distort information of crimes of the clergy and the Vatican Bank.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Owen bailey

      "Conservatives Disturbed by Pope's remarks"

      Remove "..by Pope's remarks" from the headline and that sums it up.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    Fuck the Pope, the RCC and anything to do with it.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Oh, and fuck conservatives. Sorry.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • cwiz

        You're a big boy.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          cwiz, I am talking to YOU. Go fuck these people!

          September 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  5. boocat

    Anyone or anything that upsets conservatives I AM ALL FOR......

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

      Mature. How can you possibly be taken seriously?

      September 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Big_D

    Just proves that Conservatives that judge people are wearing Christianity on their sleeve.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Dina Schon

    Our Pope is simply following Christ's actions, which should have been what we endeared, not the powerful white man's dominating doctrine which was meant to control and manipulate. If we as Christians, as well as non-Christians look at how Jesus conducted Himself and loved so abundantly and fully, there is no other answer/conclusion, than to love and love all as God intended. The "conservatives" are so filled with judgement...to lighten their burden's they should leave those judgments to God. Signed a female, Caucasian , Roman Catholic....

    September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Why are you speaking woman? The bible teaches that you are not to speak or to teach. You are to listen to your husband or father on all things.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • Owen bailey

        "LEAD BLINDLY AND THE BLIND SHALL FOLLOW"

        September 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Dippy

      Burdens, not burden's.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  8. Colin

    At another point in the Catholic mass, the entire congregation thinks silent prayers and believes that their god reads their mind or "hears their prayers" as they call it. They even think this god periodically intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to answer their prayers – such as making sick people better, etcetera.

    I'm sorry, but what deluede simpletons. What's next, will they believe that people rise from the dead? Oh wait....

    September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • B Kreig

      You certainly do not understand why people pray. Often prayer is done not so much that God will intervene in the events of this world. Prayer is done so that praying people will be given the strength to be more loving, caring, understanding, patient, sacrificing, and if necessary, be agents of change for a better world. And indeed many praying people have contributed so much in the development and progress of education, medicine, science, law, social work, science, agriculture, and culture, to name a few.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  9. BenevolentAtheist

    It would be pretty sweet if Christians started behaving like their Christ. Love thy neighbor. Do not judge. Doesn't get simpler than that.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Des Perado

    Matt kept calling himself a “conservative” and…Matt even got on his knees
    But he found out he wasn’t when he and OTHER gays reached 2,000 degrees !!!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      LOL ... the ones who will be at 2000 degrees are people like you .... not "the evil gays". lol

      September 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  11. Phattee

    Pffft, this ain't news. Conservatives get upset over EVERYTHING.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • I was just thinking..

      LOL!!! Very funny and true.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  12. colin in Florida

    “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.'"

    In other words, typical non-thinking Catholic response: Whatever the pope says is right-just 'think' as you are told.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  13. I was just thinking..

    So, the Catholic Corp, L.L.C. got a new CEO and now people are not liking the changes he is making. That's what you get for playing follow the leader. Free your mind, think for yourself. Free yourself from the religious chains that bind you. You do not know God's plan.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  14. Colin

    Has anybody here ever been to a Catholic mass? It's really weird. At one point they actually believe that grocery store bread and wine changes into the flesh and blood of Jesus because their priest performs some special ceremony over it. And I mean – actually changes.

    Now of course there's no real change, it's all pretend and the stuff is still bread and wine after he does his magic act, but they convince themselves i has somehow changed.

    Unbelievable the garbage Catholics will swallow. And, the grown adults believe this !! It's not just a story they tell their llittle ones.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jon

      Very well said!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      I know ....

      The whole thing is a CANNIBALISTIC ceremony ...

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

      Yes, the whole eating human flesh and drinking human blood is sicko in itself. They seem obsessed with parts of dead bodies, too, with heads, hands, blood or other body parts of "saints" appearing in many churches

      September 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • B Kreig

      If you have not read the Catholic Catechism you will not understand the Mass. The Mass (also called the Lord Supper, Eucharist, and the Divine Liturgy) is sacred to Catholics and to other Christians who have the same type of Sunday worship and belief in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine after consecration (that is after invoking the Holy Spirit called in Greek Epiclesis and the words of Jesus "this is my body...this is my blood...do this in memory of me.
      The bases of the belief of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist are: Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. The real presence of Christ in the bread and wine in the Eucharist is already the belief of early Christians as evident in St Paul’s first letter to Corinthians, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we also are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ). And in 1 Corinthians 11:27, St Paul wrote: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.”

      September 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  15. Matt

    IAccording to this article, Bishop Tobin is the only one "disturbed". And guess what? I'm a conservative, and I think what Pope Francis said yesterday was great. I'm in total agreement with him. Conservatives are not a uniform group of people as some media would have you believe, we are in fact, just as diverse as other groups.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      "Just as diverse"? Hardly. Every group has diversity. 90% of conservatives don't think for themselves and repeat the talking points off TV or radio.

      September 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        I bet you heard that on MSNBC

        September 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • matt

        II'm gay, and a conservative. And I'm agreeing on an issue that I think liberals also support (lgbt welfare). Is it really necessary for you to snap at me and be so snarky?? I mean, really. Come on.

        September 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          "II'm gay, and a conservative" and obviously a confused dumbass

          September 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  16. JJ

    Maybe these useless "conservatives" want to go start their own church. Just don't let the door hit you in the ass, eh?

    September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  17. Des Perado

    In a related story…”Pope” Francis met gays at Sodom & Gomorrah and what he had to say
    Was lost in the hellfire and brimstone from God because Francis and gays just…went away !!!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jon

      Meanwhile....god tells you that you are not making it to heaven because of your intolerance and hate...and you go to hell while the pope and gays get into heaven.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Pander Bear

      Des – You really need to speak with your doctor about adjusting your medication.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  18. Reality

    Francis noted:

    “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 political stands on divisive issues.

    The cards are already falling and will continue to fall into a permanent abyss as rational thinking finally rules the globe.

    Bottom line: THERE IS NO GOD !!!

    September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Leapin' lizards. There is no God??

      September 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  19. Bill Deacon

    I go home each day and enjoy a "Hungry Man" with a single Lite Beer from Miller before turning in.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      ...and no I don't watch TV. I listen to a radio program I enjoy.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        I have rabbit ears but the rest of him got out of the snare, the lord didn't provide.

        September 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  20. madvaca

    Let's be honest here; EVERYTHING upsets conservatives.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Jack2

      Just liberals!

      September 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
      • tony

        Commnet lists like this, show that conservatives don't even know what " liberal" means

        September 20, 2013 at 5:01 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.