When Pope Francis was elected in March, Bridget Kurt received a small prayer card with his picture at her church and put it up on her refrigerator at home, next to pictures of her friends and her favorite saints.
She is a regular attender of Mass, a longtime stalwart in her church’s anti-abortion movement and a believer that all the church’s doctrines are true and beautiful and should be obeyed. She loved the last two popes, and keeps a scrapbook with memorabilia from her road trip to Denver in 1993 to see Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day.
But Ms. Kurt recently took the Pope Francis prayer card down and threw it away.
“It seems he’s focusing on bringing back the left that’s fallen away, but what about the conservatives?” said Ms. Kurt, a hospice community educator. “Even when it was discouraging working in pro-life, you always felt like Mother Teresa was on your side and the popes were encouraging you. Now I feel kind of thrown under the bus.”
That’s a pretty big bus.
Here, let the dead “speak ill of the dead.”
In the eight months since he became pope, Francis has won affection worldwide for his humble mien and common touch. His approval numbers are skyrocketing. Even atheists are applauding.
But not everyone is so enchanted. Some Catholics in the church’s conservative wing in the United States say Francis has left them feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled. On the Internet and in conversations among themselves, they despair that after 35 years in which the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, drew clear boundaries between right and wrong, Francis is muddying Catholic doctrine to appeal to the broadest possible audience.
They were particularly alarmed when he told a prominent Italian atheist in an interview published in October, and translated into English, that “everyone has his own idea of good and evil” and that everyone should “follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them” — a remark that many conservatives interpreted as appearing to condone relativism. He called proselytizing “solemn nonsense.”
Which indeed it is.
They were shocked when they saw that Francis said in the interview that “the most serious of the evils” today are “youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.” It compounded the chagrin after he said in an earlier interview that he had intentionally “not spoken much” about abortion, same-sex marriage or contraception because the church could not be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.”
Steve Skojec, the vice president of a real estate firm in Virginia and a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere.”
But it doesn’t at all.
“You can catch more flies with honey” clearly doesn’t occur to Mr. Skojec. Neither does the idea that a respectfully posed argument can win converts rather than the totalitarian demands of previous Popes and their bullying acolytes like Skojec
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Skojec said he was overwhelmed by the positive response to his blog from people who said they were thinking the same things but had not wanted to say them in public. He said he had come to suspect that Francis is a “self-styled revolutionary” who wants to change the church fundamentally.
“There have been bad popes in the history of the church,” Mr. Skojec said. “Popes that murdered, popes that had mistresses. I’m not saying Pope Francis is terrible, but there’s no divine protection that keeps him from being the type of guy who with subtlety undermines the teachings of the church to bring about a different vision.”
I’ve no doubt Mr. Skojec prefers murdering Popes.
And specious lies about the lives of gay men.
Most American Catholics do not share Mr. Skojec’s objections. A poll released last month by Quinnipiac University found that two in three agreed with Francis that the church was too “obsessed” with a few issues.
In parsing Francis’ statements in recent weeks, other conservative Catholics are concluding that nothing he has said contradicts the Catholic catechism, with some of his language even echoing Benedict’s. But in interviews, the words that conservatives used most often to characterize Francis were “naïve” and “imprudent.” They believe that he is saying things in ways that the news media and the church’s “enemies” are able to distort, and that there are consequences.
The “consequences” are putting the church in a far more favorable light than it has been afforded since Pope John 23rd.
Some pointed to a vote on gay marriage just last week in Illinois. Two Catholic state legislators who voted to approve same-sex marriage there cited the words of Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?” The pope said those words in response to a question about gay people during a long, freewheeling interview on an airplane in July. But Francis has not changed Catholic teaching, which holds that marriage is between only a man and a woman and that gay sex is wrong but gay people are worthy of mercy and respect.
Precisely! But for the Skojec’s of this world that doesn’t matter. He wants a pope filled with hatred, denouncing those who question such things left and right. Here’s your Catholic Ideal, Steve:
Matt C. Abbott, a Catholic columnist in Chicago with Renew America, a politically conservative website, said in an interview on Friday, “I wish that he could have chosen some different words, expressed himself in a different way that wouldn’t have been so easily taken out of context.”
“For orthodox and conservative Catholics,” he said, “the last few months have been a roller-coaster ride.” He added in an email, “I’m not a big fan of roller coasters.”
Surely an acquired taste.
Some conservative Catholics are sharing prophecies online that foretell of tribulations for the church. In one, an Irish woman predicted that Benedict would be held hostage. Others cite the German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich, who wrote of a “relationship between two popes,” one who “lives in a palace other than before,” which some now see as a reference to Benedict, who resigned as pope early this year but still lives in Vatican City. During this time there arises a “false church of darkness.”
Catherine Anne Emmerich
was a hysterical anti-Semitic nun whose delusions were recorded by her followers as “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” .
This document (not the gospels) served as the basis for Mel Gibson’s NASCAR Jesus
But some Catholics initially alarmed by Francis’ remarks are now trying to calm others down. Judie Brown, the president and co-founder of the American Life League, a Catholic anti-abortion group, said: “Pro-lifers are upset because they feel the pope is selling out the pro-life movement. And that’s not at all correct. If you read everything he’s been saying, especially in his Wednesday sermons, there’s no question that where he stands is consistent with what the church has been teaching.”
At the Pregnancy Aid Clinic in Hapeville, Ga., a Catholic-run nonprofit center where women who come for pregnancy tests are counseled against abortion, staff members gathered around a kitchen table last week and cautiously said they had been grappling with the pope’s message and were trying to take it to heart.
Cautious grappling is a Catholic specialty. Particularly when it comes to altar boys.
Alexandra P. Shattuck, the clinic’s director, said she had studied the pope’s interview in her parish’s Bible study class and concluded that the news media had taken Francis’ warning not to “obsess” about abortion out of context. She said he was really trying to teach about mercy.
“I think he was completely right,” added Katie Stacy, the development coordinator. “The focus should be not only on love and mercy, but on treating the women in these crisis situations with love and mercy.”
The room was crammed with baskets of empty baby bottles to be distributed to Atlanta parishes to fill with coins and bills as donations. The staff members said that most priests are far from obsessed with abortion or contraception, preaching against it only during “Respect Life Sunday.”
“When a pope makes a statement off the cuff or in an interview, it’s not an infallible statement,” said Chris Baran, the president of the clinic’s board. “What he said in a statement does not change any teaching of the church that’s been around over 2,000 years.”
IOW “Papal infallibility” is. . . relative.
Oh well. If you Catholic fascist can’t get with the program perhaps Pope Mel
can create a new church for you. One that has no truck with gays, abortion or “Oven Dodgers”
Meanwhile the rest of us – Catholic or not – have come to really like the Pope we have, as little Carlos shows.
Cue Judy and Chuck