Conservative Catholics question pope's approach
Rattled by Pope Francis' admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay priests and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable: They are openly questioning the pope.
Concern among traditionalists began building soon after Francis was elected this spring. Almost immediately, the new pope told non-Catholic and atheist journalists he would bless them silently out of respect. Soon after, he eschewed Vatican practice and included women in a foot-washing ceremony.
The wary traditionalists became critical when, in an interview a few weeks ago, Francis said Catholics shouldn't be “obsessed” with imposing doctrines, including on gay marriage and abortion.
This month, Francis told an atheist journalist that people should follow good and fight evil as they “conceive” of them.
These remarks followed an interview with journalists this summer aboard the papal airplane in which the pope declared that it is not his role to judge someone who is gay “if they accept the Lord and have good will.”
Never mind that the pope has made clear his acceptance of church doctrine, which regards homosexuality and abortion as sins and bans women from the priesthood. Behind the growing skepticism is the fear in some quarters that Francis's all-embracing style and spontaneous speech, so open as it is to interpretation, are undoing decades of church efforts to speak clearly on Catholic teachings.
Some conservatives believe that the pope is undermining them at a time when they are being sidelined by an increasingly secular culture.
“When abortion rights group NARAL sends you a thank-you note, it's clear something got miscommunicated,” said Robert Royal, president of the think tank Faith & Reason.
Francis is “a remarkable man, no one would deny that,” Royal said. “But I'm not sure if he cares about being accurate. He gets into an (evangelizing) dynamic with people, and that seems to be the most important thing. ... In some ways, it makes people very anxious. If you do this, what's the next thing?”
During the previous three decades, Popes John Paul II and Benedict shared a focus: Make orthodox teachings crystal-clear so Catholics don't get lost in an increasingly messy, relativistic world.
Catholics also became accustomed to popes who were largely speaking to “the Church,” rather than the public. They often communicated in the language of Catholic theology, and through books, not through long, freewheeling interviews, as does Pope Francis.
“In the past, everything you heard from a pope was prepared or formally released. And that was intentional — not to say anything ad hoc. And it's also intentional that this one does,” said Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, a conservative news agency. “I think his entire focus is outside the church. That's huge.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Greek Prime Minister Tsipras in tenuous position with referendum on bailout deal
- Iraq, ISIS urge Turks to release dam water
- Pakistani military says it achieved major victory over Islamist terrorists
- Fallout of potential Greek default on eurozone feared
- Mosque bomber was Saudi, Kuwait claims
- Saudi prince will donate all wealth, $32B worth
- Egypt unleashes assault by air, land
- Russians decry U.S. description in new policy
- Wave of attacks sets Israelis on edge
- Tunisia imposes state of emergency after terrorist attacks
- Egypt foiled extremist ‘state’ in Sinai, president says